Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Proof's in the Reading.

Some time back I mentioned that my least favourite part of this writing game is the correction of proofs of my own work. I don’t have a mind for it, I think. Checking other people’s efforts is a lot easier and the problem seems to lie in the fact that you already know what you meant – and therefore your brain allows you to skate over the words without actually reading them.

This becomes even worse if you are habitually what is sometimes called a “speed reader,” where the object of the exercise is to grasp the meaning of a line or paragraph without registering the individual words.

This was all triggered by the arrival of the galley proofs of my latest book. In the good old, bad old days, these would have consisted of a bundle of pages that one could sit back and leaf through at your leisure, making notes in the ample margins. You could do it from your bed or, if you happened to be Winston Churchill, standing at a lectern that looked as though he had just nicked it from the local parish church.

But no more. Once again the march of science has contrived to make the business as inconvenient as possible for you. Now your galleys arrive either by E-Mail or on a CD Rom as an Adobe file.

In this labour saving age, you have to print this lot out yourself, using your own toner and paper, a process that, for a good sized MS will take you quite a while. Having gone through it, you are then expected to make any corrections to the file and send it back from whence it came. There are no longer inky fingered printer’s devils to help you out.

Reading the file off a computer screen is a sure fire way to miss something. It’s inconvenient and inefficient even though it does seem to be a timesaver.

And having done all this, your book is finally published and you find that you have made an egregious error when your brain skipped over a vital couple of words.

There’s a lot to be said for getting someone else to proof read your own work.


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