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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

In the Pudding

There’s an old saying that the proof is in the pudding. It’s also in the reading.

Do authors really need proofreaders? To quote Rocky Balboa: ABSOLUTELY! Examples:

An online news article November 2021 included these words: “He didn’t suffer from mental illness, and did not have a history of suicide.” Unless I’m mistaken, an individual cannot have a history of suicide. That’s like saying someone didn’t have a history of his parachute not opening.

An August 2021 CNN article used the line: “We can prevent this from ever happening again in the future.” My understanding is that something can’t happen again unless it’s in the future. Obvious unnecessary redundancy.

One of the more famous bloopers is in Mark Twain’s celebrated The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the 1885 edition on page fifty-seven one finds: “I took the bag…and ripped a hole in the bottom of it with the was.” I’ve heard of a buzzsaw but never a buzzwas. Twain (and the publisher) didn’t notice that the consonants had been accidentally swapped; it should have been “with the saw.” Luckily, later editions of the book fixed it.

Editors of the Good Book are under a lot of pressure. They wouldn’t want to mistakenly make people think that bed-hopping is condoned by the Ten Commandments, right? Well, that’s exactly what a 1631 edition of the King James Bible did. The edition, printed by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, listed the seventh Commandment as “Thou shalt commit adultery.” I’ll bet a few philanderers were pleased to find this justification for immoral behavior.

I used to think that after going through the manuscript for one of my novels several times that I would have caught and corrected all my errors. Time and experience have proved me repeatedly mistaken.

Going over (for the third time) my most recent manuscript, I discovered that I had a character alive and well who I had killed off several chapters earlier. Obviously, this glaring inconsistency would have significantly lowered the quality of the storytelling.

On the fifth revision of one of my manuscripts, I found over two hundred needed corrections . . . and then I sent it to a proofreader who found a few more.

If one has a contract with a commercial publisher, the latter will likely have their own proofreaders to do the task. If self-publishing, the option is to recompense a professional or to fashion an agreement with a trusted acquaintance. The former can be expensive, but one must have a fair bit of confidence in the abilities of a friend who agrees to proofread.

It is disappointing to be reading a book or online article and be hit with glaring errors or inconsistencies. Although no guarantee of perfection, an able proofreader will greatly decrease the likelihood that one’s literary product will include distracting mistakes.

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