We were sitting around the table last night catching up. That was when my father-in-law hit on something close to the heart of every editor. Apparently, he and his wife were thinking back across their 85 years reflecting on terms we no longer use. The word that got the two of them going yesterday was “reindeer.”
First, there was the big question of how to spell reindeer. Was it raindeer? I said it was reigndeer (I could have sworn that’s the way it was spelled), or was it reindeer (the correct spelling)? This of course, moved everyone and anyone who is slightly associated or connected to words, to start really thinking… Then there was the thought – just what did reindeer do anyway? And who used them?
During the process of preparing books for publication, we often come across writers having issues with homophones or homonyms. It is truly enough to drive an editor crazy. Especially when the editor’s co-editor is absolutely certain of the spelling of a particular word being correct. Such was the case about three weeks ago.
One of our writers wrote a book in which he used word “gun sight” often throughout the manuscript. One of the co-editors adamantly argued the correct spelling was “gun site.” The co-editor then meticulously went through the manuscript changing all the “gun sights” to “gun sites.”
Somehow, it did not seem correct to the other co-editor, the one who had extensive experience with actual gun sights in the attack jets he flew while in the Navy. “I was sure we always used the word ‘gun sights’ to refer to ‘gun sights.’”
“No, it just doesn’t look right,” the first co-editor said.
Taking her word for it, the second co-editor said, “Okay. But are you sure?” She said yes, but it did not look right to him. So, the incongruity spurred him into action and he went to the dictionary.
The amazing thing about words is that they can hide in plain sight in the middle of a manuscript and look perfectly normal while being entirely wrong. For instance, take the last sentence and look at it this way: The amazing thing about words is that they can hide in plane site in the middle of a manuscript and look perfectly normal while being entirely wrong. If you are reading fast, the mistake will slip by unnoticed.
It takes a different kind of mind to read through and proof a manuscript. Not only does the mind have to see the mistakes, it has to identify the correct mistakes – which can really be a job!
Of course, it should start first with the writer, who must take great pains to make certain to spell and use all words correctly. Then the writer needs to give the manuscript enough time “to fall out of his head,” in order to give the work a good, fresh edit. Then, if the writer can afford it, he or she would probably benefit from a professional editing job, something that does not come cheap at $2 to $4 a page.
Well, it is time for this blog to come to an end. In all sense of fairness, the second co-editor has called on the first co-editor to proof the work. She immediately started to look up the word “homonym,” which the first co-editor said he already did, but she continued anyway… It is always good to make sure it is correct.
Now it is time to take our gun sites out and hunt some raindeer. And if we can’t find raindeer, maybe we’ll come across some reigndeer.
Be careful with your spelling.
©2010 J. Clark