teapot1

teapot1

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Do Over?

Do-overs? I’m having one now, and it’s kind of a humbling experience.


My best client e-mailed me a couple of weeks ago, asking if I could edit the second edition of a book I had edited for them back in 2001. Technically it’s not really a do-over but a do-again, as the authors have made changes and added new material.
 

In professional and scholarly psychology books, references are done in what’s called the author-date style. In the reference list, authors of sources used in the book are listed as “Smith, J., & Jones, T. (2007)”. When the book author cites this source in the book text, he or she cites it as (Smith & Jones, 2007). Part of the copyeditor’s job is to make sure that all text cites match the references they refer to and that every cite in the text has a matching reference in the list at the end of the book.

In the first chapter I found eight “floating” cites—text citations without a corresponding reference. And when I went back to the published first edition, I found that they were also floating in that one.


I took a huge gulp.

Now there are three possibilities:

1. I completely missed all of these when I copyedited the first edition.

2. I marked them all for the authors to fix but they ignored my notes.

3. For some reason the cites were inserted after copyediting but before publication.

Number 3 seems the least likely, and of course I would like to believe that number 2 is correct. For one thing, I can’t believe I would have missed that many orphaned cites spread throughout a chapter. It’s sometimes easy to miss errors that are clustered within a short passage; paying attention to one can take away from your attention to the others. But over multiple pages? and the same kind of error?

Of course, there is still a fourth possibility: that is that my skills have improved over the past ten years. That’s a much more pleasant thought. After all, this client has continued to give me steady work, as well as compliments on my work. Besides, the rest of the text that I previously edited is in very good shape, so I must have done that well.


Maybe it’s a good thing that life doesn’t offer us do-overs. We might find out that things were far more complicated than we remember. Maybe the mistakes of our past should stay buried--if others don’t remember them, why should we?

9 comments:

  1. I took a huge gulp right with you. I had to approve a brochure once as president. I sent it back with tons of changes. When I looked at the final printed brochures at an event, I found a whole paragraph that had been repeated. Huge gulp time. How did I miss that????

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    1. I'm gonna go with #3. No question and no reason to doubt yourself, right?
      Do-overs are not usually as inspiring as one might guess. That's what I think anyway.

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    2. I guess it happens to all of us sometimes, Robin. I'm convinced there's some little demon that makes us not see things in a manuscript that jump right out of the printed page. Thanks for sharing your experience and commiserating! And Jo, I agree with you. In real life do-overs would be tempting but very likely dangerous. Thanks for reading.

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  2. Mistakes of the past. ugh. They can be the WORST! I aspire to be much more perfect than I actually am.

    Happy editing!

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    1. Amy you may not be perfect, but you're pretty darn good! I should handle life as well as you do. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  3. Then there's always the possibility of it being a sprinking of all four possibilities. Who knows? I commend your do-over blog though. I started and stopped so many times I finally just gave up. I find the whole thogh of do-overs for me to be a scary slope to stand on. Too much of a domino effect in my mind of the actions and consequences when I start to play that game, so I just claim all my good and bad actions/choices as what I felt was right at the time. I'm sure as you've gotten repeated work for over ten years from this client that they are thrilled with the meticulous work you do!

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    1. Amy, I very nearly skipped this prompt, too, for the same reason; while there are lots of things I might regret in my past, I like where I am now, and who knows how all those "mistakes" might have contributed to what I am and have today? We do have to do what we think is right or necessary for us at the time, not being afforded privileged looks into the future. Thanks for the support.

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