Rerererereading (Mistake #88)

I’ve just spent a productive month or so revising one of my books for a new edition, due out later this year. I wrote the book four years ago, and a lot has changed in the field (coeliac disease – ie a severe form of gluten intolerance) in that time, which has involved a lot of work to update. 

That I expected. What I didn’t expect was to find the mistakes in the first edition. Not because I consider myself flawless (anything but), but because books go through editors and proof-readers, then come back to you for another read once typeset, and with several sets of eyes involved in the whole process, you’d think any bloopers would be picked up. 

One minor example concerned this string of words, about information printed on a food label which “… many people ignore, or misunderstand, or both”. 

‘Both’? It’s impossible to misunderstand information you have ignored. Four years after I wrote that line, I read it again and it made me stop in my tracks. It’s not a biggie – I imagine some would barely notice it (none of the editors did, after all) – but the fact that I must have read it dozens of times during the whole process of putting the book together, and didn’t pick up on it, really amazes me. 

Editors – who miss mistakes too – do not expect flawless material every time. But you know that moment when you’ve written, read, rewritten, read, read, reread and reread yet again and can’t face rereading any more – and so you just send the article to your editor so you can get your life back again? 

Most of us will recognise the feeling, but if you can, and you have the time: walk away from the article or chapter and go work on something else – for at least several days. Keep your marbles, and come back to the piece – for one final, considered, careful read-through – when they’re settled, and not still rattling around, clamouring to escape. 

And if you can’t, and you don’t have the time: then send the darned thing off. Life’s too short. We all make mistakes. And we all miss having made them. Work at minimising them – it’s what this blog is all about – but not always so hard that your bottom comes off, and your marbles roll out of it. 

What mistakes did you make which you only discovered much later?

Comments 6

  • I have to confess I'm always reluctant to look at anything of mine that's been published – including the book that came out last year – because I'm terrified of finding an error that was missed!

  • I can relate to that – rarely look at anything these days – unless I'm asked to, pre-printing. But in my case not only because I don't want to be annoyed at spotting the inevitable error that always sneaks in, but also … laziness!

  • I can relate to this too! I have just spent many weeks writing a health-related article, as my first assignment for a writing course that I started in around 1995 but I have just picked it back up again. I spent several days editing it, then after I sent it in I realized that I forgot to redo the opening paragraph! I was very annoyed, to say the least, but at least if the tutor says that the opening is rubbish at least I will know why, lol. If it happened in a book that I wrote I would probably feel the same way that you do, Alex. I would want it to be perfect. There's nothing that can be done though now but you could change it if it gets reprinted. 🙂

  • Ha – as I said to Lucy above, I hardly ever check printed work now! Much less annoying … Although I've learned to live with imperfections and mistakes more as I've aged in this business! But blimey – 20 years! Stick with it this time, won't you?! 🙂

  • LOL, probably best not to check then you won't see any mistakes! 😀 Thanks Alex, I intend to stick with it this time. I seem to be writing a lot already so I'm getting in a lot of practice. 🙂

  • Exactly! Good – do. It becomes a habit, and it all counts – articles, diary entries, blogs, shopping lists, blog comments … ! Just keep the words coming …

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