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The Editing Question

There are often times in life when we question ourselves and the things we do—how did I get here? What is wrong with me? Why on earth did I do that?

For me, these questions usually arise after recognising that something has gone very wrong or when I have done something completely nonsensical. The latest such example came when I had a manuscript returned by an editor and couldn’t believe all the mistakes I’d made.

Why is it so much easier to proof someone else’s work? I spend a good proportion of my time writing, editing and proofreading for others and I manage that perfectly successfully. In addition, I tend to find it quite easy to spot typos and mistakes in newspapers, books and even shop signage. In fact, I found so many typos in a true crime book I once read that I wrote to the publisher to offer my services as a proof reader. They politely declined, which I maintain they did out of embarrassment. Much like I do on getting back a manuscript I wrote and finding it littered with mistakes.

It makes me wonder whether the affliction of word-blindness actually exists. If so, I definitely have it. Does anyone know a doctor that specialises in the condition? I need a prescription.

When reading the work of someone else—especially when looking at it for the first time—it is easy to spot little mistakes. However, when it comes to one of my own manuscripts, I can get it back and look at it with barely fresh eyes only to see that I’d committed a whole range of extraordinary crimes against the English language. Or maybe it’s just easier to judge others to a harsher extent than we do ourselves.

For someone who has written many articles and several manuscripts of a variety of lengths, I should do better and, yet, I don’t. For all my efforts, I can’t see that changing, so all I can say is: editors—brace yourselves!


Mina Dorian said...

Good question and you're definitely not the only one with this affliction! I think it's really hard to distance yourself enough from your own writing to see just the language. Whenever I try to do that I get distracted and start editing the content. When I'm thinking about the content, I don't see the mistakes I made.

Leonie Milne said...

This seems common place I believe. We never see our own mistakes because when we write them they are not mistakes to us. That is the problem I think. I have an editor/publisher who picks up all my mistakes and I don't muke any...