… or why a good proofreader is part of the creative process of your book.
I recently read in the Observer a wonderful interview with Mary Norris, who does what I do for a living, i.e. she’s a proofreader and copy editor; the difference being that she’s worked for the last 20 years at the New Yorker, which makes me greatly in awe of her. I revere the New Yorker more than almost any other publication, not only for its content, but also its covers, its history, and its famous building, the first sight of which a few years ago gave me goose bumps.
Mary explains the value of copy editing and proofreading in an inspiring way that makes me want to share it with you, so I quote:
‘Some might wonder why we still need copy editors when we have spell-check. It does catch typos. But the reason that the spell-checker will never replace the copy editor is that it doesn’t recognise the context. The English language is full of words that are just waiting to be misspelled, and the world is full of sticklers, waiting to pounce. Ours is not a phonetic language, like Italian, Spanish and Modern Greek, where certain letters and combinations of letters can be relied on to produce consistent sounds. English has many silent letters. And its motley origins make it fiendishly difficult to untangle.
‘One of the things I like about my job is that it draws on the entire person: not just your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and usage and foreign languages and literature, but also your experience of travel, gardening, shipping, singing, plumbing, Catholicism, midwesternism, mozzarella, the A train, New Jersey. And in turn it feeds you more experience.’
I could not agree more. Every time I begin working with a new client, I learn page by page what their personal idiosyncrasies are. As I do so, I learn what I can bring to the table, in terms of suggestions, alterations that improve rather than merely correct, and an understanding of the author’s unique style. You see, we proofreaders aren’t just sitting there waiting to pounce on the misplaced apostrophe; with our experience we are able to help your book be the best it can be, in ways we don’t even know until we’ve met you.
Here’s what some of my clients have said about my behind-the-scenes contribution to their work: My Testimonials
And to all proofreaders, copy editors, editors, authors, and lovers of the English language, I recommend this book: Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris.