There seems to be an expectation that authors have of their proofreaders, that being to get a perfect manuscript.
A manuscript with no spelling errors, punctuation errors, grammatical errors, or errors of any other kind. But your proofreader will miss errors.
Fair enough, the author might have paid a lot of money for their editor and proofreader, so they expect a good job. But there is a difference between a good, or even excellent job, and someone being lazy, missing very obvious errors. No editor means to do the latter.
What forced me to write this post was a writer’s forum I discovered yesterday. The comments shocked me, and I wanted to try to layout the ridiculousness of finding all errors.
In the forum, a writer posed the question: “My proofreader found most typos, but missed about 10 in a 66,000 word novel. How many errors are acceptable?”
This is a fair question. The author isn’t complaining about the number of errors missed, but merely asks what is an acceptable amount. But the comments!
- I wouldn’t even allow one mistake. I am a proofreader and I do not rest until every error is corrected…He obviously didn’t do what you asked. Find another proofreader.
- I agree that ten errors seems a bit much, but I’m sceptical that you’re able to ferret out every single typo in every single manuscript you work on.
- A good proofreader should find all mistakes in a proofed draft, no mistakes should be acceptable; otherwise, what are you paying them for?
Anyone else shocked?!
The first comment is by a felllow proofreader, but I wonder how much time they have. If I read a manuscript four times, I might catch all the errors. But I have other jobs, other clients. I can’t stay with one client for 10 weeks hoping to catch all errors.
It’s very well going through your returned manuscript and noticing errors, but with the amount of work proofreaders and editors have to do, of course your proofreader will miss errors. And those things are normally the most obvious: ‘its’ instead of ‘it’s’, and ‘to’ instead of ‘too’. This is because we’’re too busy looking at all the things surrounding these errors: the grammar, syntax, punctuation. We cannot look at everything all at the same time. So yes, you found a mistake we missed, but what about the semi-colon we took out, the capital letter that wasn’t on a noun and the spelling mistake all in the same sentence?
This article explains very well the standard error rates of editing. As a standard, editors and proofreaders should correct 95% of errors. If your manuscript has around 3,000 errors, which sounds a lot but is about normal, your proofreader is ‘allowed’ to miss 150 errors.
So please, before you leave us a 1* review and slate us all to your author acquaintances, don’t think ‘What errors have they missed?’ but instead ‘What errors have they found?’ Is it it within the 95% mark? If not, then go back to them and perhaps, politely, point out the number of errors they have missed.
If they’re within the 95%, then you have yourself an excellent editor who is sticking to proofreading and editing standards.
Now, did you catch the three errors I made in the text?