Pub Rants

The Importance Of Proof Reading

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STATUS: Hubby got me XM radio at the office for my birthday! I’ve wanted this for a while. I now have access to fun stations such as Indie/College/Unsigned and UK Pop hits. If I’m in the mood for maudlin, I could play love songs 24/7. How about Spa: New Age. Oh this is going to be fun.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? 40 DOGS (LIKE ROMEO AND JULIET) by Bob Schneider

As all writers should already know, spell check is your friend but it’s not a savior. If the typo is one that won’t be caught by a simple spell check program, you might be in a world of trouble.

A fact that Penguin Australia recently discovered when they had to reprint 7000 copies of a cookbook…

Most people should laugh as that’s quite the whopper of an error but part of me thinks that maybe Mr. Sessions should have consulted with a PR person and just admitted some mortification over the snafu rather than making a statement that he didn’t understand why people might find the error offensive. Err on the side of sensitive I’m thinking.

Just an observation. Grin.

35 Responses

  1. Marie Lu said:

    Yikes–what a typo! I’ve always been amused and occasionally terrified by what auto-replace will do to some of my mistyped words in Word. This makes me want to grab something and proofread it. 🙂

    And Happy Birthday!!

  2. Debra L. Schubert said:

    I heard about this earlier today. Oh boy, BIG mistake! How he could wonder why people might find that offensive is beyond my comprehension.

    Moral to the story: You can never proofread too much.

  3. Nicola said:

    Bwahahaha! As someone who works in the underappreciated – in my opinion – editing and proofreading field in Australia, I can’t help but smugly point out that this kind of thing is only to be expected when publishing houses decide to scale back on proofreading in a misguided attempt to save on costs.

  4. Kristi Helvig said:

    Although it was a doozy of an error, Mr. Sessions attitude appears to have compounded the issue. His utter lack of grace in addressing the problem is only drawing more attention to it. Now, I’m off to double check my pasta primavera recipe. 🙂

  5. Kristin Laughtin said:

    I was just reading about this! I also loved the statement that they wouldn’t recall the books already in stores, because it would be kinda hard.

    But yes, definitely a good example of why you want to reread and not rely on spell check. Spell check can’t catch homonyms or wrong words that are still real words.

  6. Suzan Harden said:

    Oh, that was so worth snorting strawberry margarita out my nose. Luckily, I missed the keyboard.

    On the other hand, maybe Mr. Sessions needs to talk to my son who just finished learning about the American Civil War and Reconstruction Period. Maybe he’d understand from a nine-year-old why some folks would find that offensive.

  7. Alli said:

    Oh man, what a major slip by Penguin. A PR person would definitely been helpful, for sure. Now I’m off to check my query letter again…

  8. Shannan said:

    I saw this the other day and had to laugh but I agree it’s prudent for the publisher to err on the side of sensitive.

    This is the danger of relying too heavily on spellcheck – “people” is spelled correctly, but was not at all the word intended =D

  9. Jeannie said:

    Oh, my.

    Methinks the blogosphere will be feasting on some freshly ground Mr. Sessions for some time, and rightly so.

    I’d bet his PR people are looking for a hole where they can crawl in and bury themselves–or else a nice quiet storage room where they can hide his body.

  10. therese said:

    I agree. Mr. Sessions should have just been mortified that such an error could occur, and left it a that. Then it could go down in history as the fault of some unnamed proofreader.

    Instead, more focus will be on his pompous comment and that will fuel indignation.

    This was one of the moments when “just the facts, ma’am” was the best route. Too bad he didn’t stick with that.

  11. Anonymous said:

    Since when are cookbooks on how to cook people being sold? I thought the general populace /wasn’t/ supporting cannibalism anymore. o.O My bad.

    If only I PRed cookbooks. *shrugs* They aren’t my thing, though. I can hardly stand reading them for actual cooking as it is.
    I think I’ll stick with fantasy and other fictiony books.

    Great blog.

  12. Hannah said:

    Whilst obviously you don’t want to be offensive, I can’t imagine anyone finding it offensive either.

    I would understand people complaining because it’s annoying having a typo (though worth getting a whole new book for? I doubt there are that many books on my shelf without a typo or two – you work out what it means and deal with it) but when it’s clearly a typographical error why would it cause offense? It’s not made a swear word or anything so I cannot imagine how anyone could take offense.

  13. Joseph L. Selby said:

    That was my thought as well. He just brushed it aside, and my mouth fell open. I then had to remind myself that he’s in Australia and race relations/perceptions are different there.

    America’s history of slavery and civil rights creates a different perception for us than it does for people from other countries who did not experience the same social evolution, especially Australia and its own checkered past with the Aborigine population.

    I wonder if that quote was taken by a local newsperson. Was he thinking locally instead of globally?

    Still face -> palm.

  14. Philangelus said:

    The problem there is the wiring of the human brain. 🙂 If you expect to see “black pepper” and you see “black pe” you automatically fill in the rest of the word, especially because there’s another p in it so the shape of the word appears correct.

    I’ve managed to slip “post offal” past people who were proofreading my work because they expected “post office”and almost saw the right word and moved along. That’s why when I was working for a newspaper, they had me proof-read articles backward.

    It would have been hilarious if they’d made the mistake with green pepper. 🙂

  15. Nicole Chardenet said:

    Copy editing or maybe print setting seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur lately in publishing. Have you read Andrew Sorkin’s “Too Big To Fail”? You would not *believe* how many cheesy typos, missed commas, strange symbols in the middle of a word, etc. there were. The first half of the book is way worse than the second half but either way, seriously, that’s the worst I’ve ever seen, including several self-published efforts.

  16. Yvonne Osborne said:

    People rather than pepper? It would almost seem intentional rather than a typo. Mr. Sessions comes across as inept given his casual take on the snafu. I can’t imagine seeing such an error in a cookbook! It would have me questioning the conciseness of every recipe. Trust. In the final taste test it’s all about trust, isn’t it? Trust in a publisher’s eye for detail.

  17. Moggypie said:

    Oh my goodness. Very funny typo, stupid editorial response. Also indicative of how copyediting and proofreading have been sidelined in the rush to get books out the door in recent times. I can’t believe the errors I see in books lately, many of them obviously the result of relying on spell-check; the current work of nonfiction I’m reading is replete with words divided by a hyphen in the middle of a sentence as if they were originally line breaks.

    But harking back to 25 years ago when I worked at a NY publishing firm…I recall our company publishing a book on public speaking, and how hard people worked to make sure the obvious “pubic” typo did not appear–yet when the book was published, there it was, smack dab in the middle of the second page. Oy. As for nowadays, you wouldn’t believe how many people gallop away on hoses instead of horses.

  18. A.E said:

    As a black person I also found it a funny error, but even though the first two letters in people and pepper are the same I find it hard to believe that someone could mis-type that and not catch it!

  19. JEM said:

    Yes, I also found his surprise to be more than a little naive. Clearly an error (oh gosh we hope), but still. Act like you know why it’s a big deal.

  20. Natalie C. Markey said:


    Thank you for your blog and this is a great reminder to writers. I’m currently going over my YA one last time before submitting to agents. I’m terrified of “stupid” mistakes but it is humbling to see that they get made and make it past people in this industry. It won’t happen in my book though!! I look forward to following you and reading more read posts on this industry.

    Natalie C. Markey

  21. Danisidhe said:

    I wanted to thank Joseph L. Selby for pointing out that as an Australian, Mr. Sessions does not share the “history of race relations and civil rights” that Americans do, nor does he need, when addressing the issue for an Australian audience, to temper his remarks for Americans.

    An Australian (like me), and probably a European or anyone else in the world, would consider anyone who claims to be offended by that to be far too tightly wound about race relations – or looking for a spurious law suit.

    Seriously, there is white pepper and pink pepper, too and they would have been equally as funny.

    Sometimes a typo is just a typo.