Sunday, May 18, 2014

Failure of the Editors

kw: proofreading, solecisms, grammar, usage

Not to overly embarrass the author of the book in the prior post, I decided to put my complaints about a number of textual errors in a separate post. An author may be forgiven for occasional errors in a book's text, but the editor ought to have caught them. I suppose it is too much to ask that book publishers employ proofreaders. Most do not any more, trusting a computer spell checker and even the grammar package to catch most errors. The following baker's dozen items would not have been found by the software. The "misspelled" words are correctly spelled "wrong words", and certain punctuation errors might raise a flag in a grammar software, but the correction might be as bad as the original mistake. So here we go:
  • About using apples in bird feeders: "…it helps to peal away a bit of the skin…". The proper word is "peel". To peal is to ring a bell. (p18)
  • "Well-manicured lawns are basically green desserts to birds." Here is a homonym with exactly the opposite meaning of "deserts", the proper word to use. (p24)
  • About small prey impaled on thorns: "This is also known as a shrike, larder, or cache." The comma highlighted in red is misplaced, misleading and must be removed. A shrike is a bird; the string of impaled bugs or small critters is a shrike larder or shrike cache. The comma after larder is not really needed either, but is permissible. (p38)
  • "…the female lays her eggs on the branch and raised her young there." This is a tense error caused by hitting a "d" instead of an "s". It is a frequent error, the letters are adjacent. The word ought to be "raises". (p56)
  • "…a hairy woodpecker has set its sites on your home…". The proper word is "sights". This is an idiom from shooting; you aim through the sights on the gun. (p103)
  • Concerning cryptic coloration, the bird can "…stay hidden in plain site…". No, it is "in plain sight". (p128)
  • "…out of site, out of mind…". Yikes! Everyone should know it is "out of sight, out of mind"! (p188)
  • "Not all birds are so cutthroat in the nest, some birds actually raise their young in family groups, …" These are not clauses, but independent sentences. The highlighted comma must be either a semicolon or a period. (p191)
  • "If food is plentiful, some of the siblings will survive, if food is scarce, only the cowbird chick will survive." Another run-on sentence. The comma after "survive" must be replaced by either a semicolon (that's what I'd prefer) or a period. (p193)
  • Another run-on sentence: "Some field guides may call them northern orioles and others will call them Baltimore orioles, it's confusing and will only get more so in the future." Here, a period would be best, but a semicolon is also acceptable. A comma is not. (p206)
  • "…it can be tagged on to a visit to Disney World…". The appropriate synonym for "attached" is "tacked". (p215)
  • "Because of it's location, …". One of the most common pronoun errors. The literal reading of this phrase is "Because of it is location, …". "Its" is the possessive neuter pronoun, while "it's" is a contraction for "it is". Just remember "his, hers, ours, its, yours, theirs". (p215)
  • "…for people who plan to go out at all hours of the day and want to see as many birds as possible; these scopes are worth every penny." This is a breakage error. The last six words are a dependent clause, thus there is no need for a semicolon. A comma is perfect. (p222)
This may seem like nit picking to many. Yet I have read many a book without encountering even a single error of spelling, word usage or punctuation. The editor at Running Press, if there even is one, is overpaid. Considering that good spelling, good punctuation and good proofreading have become foreign to many American schools, I fear that errors of this magnitude and greater will only increase. Perhaps, one day, a few nit-pickers might persuade Microsoft and others to substantially beef up the grammar checking capabilities of word processing software. Yet no matter how "smart" such software becomes, we will still need a remnant of properly educated people to check it.

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