Hey! My cable guy’s a proofreader too!

I once edited a charming memoir written by a gentleman whose mother grew up in a North Dakota sod house. He wrote his book as a gift to his brothers and sisters, and he had it professionally published and bound. The final product will look great and is grammatically correct, so his family can concentrate on the content and not on the misuse of commas or the confusion of the words “then” and “than.”

I was impressed that this man cared enough about his project to hire a professional editor, even though he’s not seeking a readership other than his loved ones. Why is it, then, that people who should know better, people who write books for commercial use, routinely neglect this one little detail? Instead, they have their mother-in-law, or their mechanic, or their dentist who did really good in English in junior high edit their masterworks.

Two people whom I really respect, and whose work deserves to be read by a wide audience, recently released books with glaring punctuation, grammar, spelling and usage errors. And even more unfortunately, each profusely thanked his “editor,” earnestly trumpeting the “eagle eyes” of same in the acknowledgements section. Both chose people who are either “good writers” or “good at English.”

Look — I know plenty of people who are good writers but whose command of the tools of writing (punctuation, grammar, spelling) are less than stellar. And having a general English degree doesn’t qualify you to be an editor any more than having a general medical degree qualifies you to be a neurosurgeon, n’est-ce pas?

It’s a fact that even the best editors and proofreaders make mistakes — of course they do*. But their mistakes are mistakes of omission rather than ignorance. I’m not getting up on my rickety old soap box to bully you into hiring me for all your editing and proofing needs (although, ahem, you could do worse). I am, however, strenuously suggesting that you make the investment and employ a reputable, knowledgeable, professional editor/proofreader to make your magnum opus all it can be.

Okay. I’m done.



  1. At 1k per novel, I’ll take my chances. -.- I want good grammar too, but writing is my favorite hobby because…well…it doesn’t cost anything.

  2. […] I’m still confused by good vs. well — note the above. I see you wrote “their dentist who did really good in English in junior high edit their masterworks,” […]

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