Only in grammar can you be more than perfect. - William Safire
I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July.
Last Monday at Mystery Writing is Murder, Elizabeth Spann Craig blogged about "Little Mistakes - How Much Do They Matter," which got me thinking (as good blogs should and hers always do) how much do they matter.
I’m not talking content errors – I discussed those in a previous blog titled “Bloopers.” I mean simple little mistakes that have to do with typos, grammar and word omissions. So I began my intensive internet research. OK it wasn’t really a thorough search—more of a diversion to keep from working on a different writing project. Although minor errors are more difficult to track down, I thought I’d share some of what I discovered.
Omitting a three letter word made a big difference in one edition of the Bible. Printed in 1631, the now infamous "Wicked Bible" contains the phrase, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” (News headlines make me wonder if we are still handing out this version to our politicians.)
There’s a theory that the name 'Imogene' from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline was most likely supposed to be the old Gaelic name, Innogen. It seems that a printing error in 1623 created the new name.
In more recent accounts, the books in the Twilight series popped up regularly. It seems along with numerous reports of content mistakes there are also many typos and word omissions. Readers don’t seem a bit put off by the mistakes as the books keep selling. Errors also didn’t keep the books from being made into movies. I can’t imagine Stephenie Meyer is losing too much sleep over any of the slip-ups.
Since the 1950s there’s been an omission of an “a” in Chapter 2 of an educational edition of Lord of the Flies.
Someone thinks the use of the word “Enamored” in Chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird is a mistake as the definition doesn’t make sense in the way the word is used.
There’s a report that six professional proofreaders failed to catch the mistake in a new edition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet which read, “To be or to be.”
There are 75 instances in Jane Austen’s six novels where she used ‘their’ instead of ‘his’ or ‘her.’ (For Jane Austen fans, there’s a great site call Jane Austen Information where I ran across the article “Jane Austen and other famous authors violate what everyone learned in their English class.” )
In May of 2008 Princeton University Press recalled all copies of one of its spring titles when they discovered more than 90 spelling and grammar mistakes in the 245-page book. You can read the entire article here.
Other than the above example, what I got out of my research is that if you’ve got a good story, don’t sweat the small stuff. Though I’ll continue to make my writing as error free as I can, I am determined to quit beating myself up whenever I find a mistake in my own work.
I admit it doesn’t bother me if I run across a few grammar errors, typos or word omissions when I’m reading, but if the mistakes become excessive, I do lose track of the story and focus more on finding another error.
Do you have any examples of proofreading oversights in popular books? Have you ever quit reading a book because of mistakes? Are you bothered more by your own errors than those of others?
By the way, I suggest stopping by Mystery Writing is Murder to read Elizabeth’s blog on this subject, and while you’re there you’ll probably want to read a lot more of her posts. They’re always entertaining, interesting and informative.
Thanks for stopping by today. I hope to see you next Monday.
Tags: William Safire, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Shakespeare, Wicked Bible, Jane Austen,Stephenie Meyer