Line editing – the painstaking, detailed process of checking every single letter, space and piece of punctuation in a manuscript – is by far the most crucial part of any publishing process.
A piece filled with typos is annoying. It smacks of sloppiness. A sloppy manuscript delivered to a potential agent or publisher won’t fare as well as one where even the tiniest details have been clearly attended to.
Readers get annoyed if they see it in published work. At worst, faulty line editing can provide an excuse – speciously – for reviewers to deny the entire competence of an author. It happens. (Actually, at worst, a typo like ‘ftumch’ might have some entirely unexpected consequences, but that’s another story…does anybody ‘get’ what I’m riffing on here?).
The rules are:
1. Line editing has to be done at least twice. Once before typesetting, once before publication. In each case it is the VERY LAST process.
2. It must be done by somebody who ideally has not seen the work before.
3. For best results, it should be done by two people. One reads the manuscript out aloud, letter by letter including spaces and punctuations. The other ticks it off against the typescript or galley proof.
Needless to say, the modern age of computing and cost-conscious publishing has every potential to foil the process, because it is too easy to change things. And making amendments after final proofing always risks introducing new errors.
Getting it right pays dividends. And it’s hard to get right – everybody makes mistakes. That’s called being human. But the onus is on us to try.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014
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