I’ve spent a long time studying the English language. I am neither an expert nor a novice. I like to think I know enough to call myself sufficiently educated, and I have a Diploma of Publishing (Proofreading, Editing & Publishing) if you need some hard proof, but like all facets of life, my knowledge on the matter is only limited by my own ignorance. I openly embrace the fact that I have more to learn, and I welcome every new literary tidbit that trickles into my life. I’m sure Socrates would be proud.
When I edit one of my stories, I employ all of my tools to ensure I produce something worthwhile. I make sure all sentences are capped with a capital letter and a full stop; I double-check particularly crafty words in the event that I’ve used the wrong spelling; I even use an audio tool to play back the entire work to draw my attention to any sentences that are left hanging or don’t flow quite right. In essence, I do everything I can to provide my dear readers with something I can be proud of, and I think for the most part I succeed.
That being said, however, a handful of errors always slip through the cracks, like cockroaches hiding in a tight nook. It’s not a phenomenon unique to independent literature. Every single professionally published story contains similar mistakes—stories that have passed through countless hands and been checked by several accredited editors. Sometimes a word or letter has been dropped, at others, the incorrect spelling has been used. Trust me, if you look, you’ll find more than a few. In fact, the first assignment I had to undertake for my Diploma tasked me with finding and correcting an error in a published work. It didn’t take long.
If proofreading errors are so common then, why are independent publications almost always slandered for even the most minuscule of errors? Understandably, I can think of more than a few books that could do with another pair of eyes to look over them—and sometimes an amateur author absolutely needs to realise that one edit simply isn’t enough—but does the occasional gaff warrant critical, and often vitriolic, words?
Approximately, only 97% of errors are picked up by an editor’s eye. That’s not such a bad statistic, though not very many independent authors are editors. Hell, most professional authors aren’t editors either, but they’ve got several resources at their disposal. Independent authors aren’t so fortuitous. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast. It’s the difference between taking a road trip across the country with a bunch of friends—one who happens to be a mechanic in case anything goes wrong, and another who knows the right routes to get you to the other side in a timely fashion—and embarking on a great solitary journey. In the end, you’ll get there either way, if you’re determined enough, but if you’re going by yourself, you need to know how to patch a radiator hose or improvise when you take a wrong turn. Not a bad metaphor, certainly.
What we need to realise is that independent publications are here to stay. They aren’t just a gimmick; they are a part of the new medium, and entirely viable, providing we give them a chance. A few misspelled words aren’t going to ruin an otherwise flawless story, and I believe it’s time we were a bit more forgiving for the occasional gaff. Granted, there should still be an emphasis on keeping literature a respected field, with an essence of intelligence behind every written word, but no one should let a few dropped letters spoil what might have very well been a bestseller if it had had an exorbitant marketing campaign behind it.
There are some real gems out there, but sometimes you need to look behind the big brand labels to find them. Don’t be discouraged. Everyone makes mistakes, and no book is perfect. If you give independent literature a chance, you might just find the story you’ve been waiting to read your entire life.
And if you happen to pick up a couple of proofreading mistakes, why not privately message the author and let them know? I’m sure they’d be grateful. I know I would.