With so many books being self-published these days, one vital step is often left out because it is a way to save money. Why spend money on a copy-editor when your best friend or your Aunt Mary has already read your book and said it was wonderful?
I can tell you why. It’s to save your reputation as a writer. Your best friend and your Aunt Mary will always tell you, “That’s a lovely book, dear,” but your copy-editor will tell you the truth and so spare you the humiliation of making countless small mistakes and maybe even some big ones.
I’ve frequently heard authors say, “I had my friend read it and she said it was great. She’s a teacher so she knows all about grammar and punctuation.”
Well, surprise, surprise, a lot of teachers make mistakes too. If you have a good copy-editor go through your manuscript, I can almost guarantee you’ll be shocked by the number of errors they find.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately; more than usual because of having a new Kindle. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve groaned over finding errors in the writing. One book I read recently had run-on sentences all over. It drove me crazy! Luckily the plot was interesting so I hung in there, even in spite of the many other mistakes I found, but you can be sure I won’t be reading a second book by that author.
If you’re a writer, this is exactly the reaction you want to avoid.
One of the common mistakes I’ve been finding is in the use of the past tense of certain words.
Here are some examples:
Today I lead my horse to water. Yesterday I lead my horse to water.
Unless the author meant the heavy metal, as in a lead pipe, the past tense of “lead” (leeeeeed) is “led,” not “lead.”
He sung a song as he hiked along. No. He sang a song.
He swum across the river. No. He swam across the river.
Another mistake I hear almost daily, especially in TV news reports and interviews, is “with regards to.”
This literally means that the person is sending his regards, his greetings, to someone.
The correct way is to say “with regard to,” or “as it regards” something.
Lately one of my pet peeves is the misuse of “amount.” This word is used when you are referring to something that is a mass, possibly something that could be weighed in a lump, or, at least, something that can’t be counted individually.
For example, you can have an amount of rain (tons of it coming down in rivers), or if you are referring to individual drops, you would say the number of drops (never the number of rain or the amount of drops). In last summer’s drought I remember saying, “We had about ten drops of rain, but no amount of rain would save my garden at this point.”
You could refer to the amount of garbage that has piled up in the alley, or the number of styrofoam cups in that garbage, but never the number of garbage or the amount of styrofoam cups.
In a crowd you can count the number of people, but not the amount of people, unless you are measuring them by poundage. I can imagine them on all a giant weighing platform.
These are just a few of the irky things I see in unedited or poorly edited books, and they all serve to lower the author in my esteem.
I have been copy-editing for a long time. If I have convinced you that you need me, just leave me a comment. If you don’t need a copy-editor just now, I’d still be happy to hear from you.