Go Set a (insert missing words)

EditingA recent article in The Guardian about missing sentences in the closing pages of Harper Lee’s new novel Go Set a Watchman, made me think again about the importance of proofing, and the proofing process in general.

Apparently, a number of copies of the book’s first print run are missing sentences in the last few pages, causing readers to complain that their experience was “tainted.” Well, I guess so!

According to an article in the Independent, “… publisher Penguin Random House has revealed that a misprint in a ‘limited number’ of the initial 25,000 UK editions led to two sentences missing on six pages towards the end of the book.”

So how could this have happened? Having not seen a physical copy of the book with the missing text, I can only wonder. However, one reader reported that, “…there were several sentences that were incomplete or missing entirely….” This may have been a printing error—or perhaps this was an error that could have been caught if the book was proofread before it went to print.

Books are typeset on a computer. As anyone who uses a computer knows, computers cause glitches. Think of autocorrect and what it does to your text messages! In the typesetting process, it is almost inevitable that errors will occur, and the more that a human must interact with the file, the more likely it is that errors will happen. For example, every time a typesetter corrects an error, there is a chance that he or she won’t make the correction properly or will inadvertently cause a formatting error. Whatever happened, a read-through by a human proofreader is essential after the typesetting process is complete, as a proofreader will catch missing words and sentences and other errors. I know that as wonderful as our 1106 Design typesetters are, they are also only human, and the more corrections they must make to a file, the greater the likelihood of mistakes, and the more our proofreaders are appreciated for catching them! (Hint to Authors: Make sure your manuscript is in good shape before it is typeset!)

So next time you are tempted to save some money and not have your book professionally proofed, think of the “tainted experience” of Harper Lee’s fans.

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