Frustrating bloody copy-editors
Just want to get something off my chest.
I have just received a hard copy of my forthcoming book The Great Philosophers. I always receive these new books with trepidation, because I know I’ll quickly stumble on something that’ s slipped through the editorial net.
The problem with writing philosophy books for trade publishers is the copy-editing.
Philosophy text is extremely easy to screw up. Miss out a quotation mark, change “a” to “the” etc. and you turn very carefully written philosophical prose into gibberish.
Copy editors make literally hundreds of such little changes (I guess more than 500 in this one). And they don’t flag them up.
In both the DK book and, to a lesser extent, this one, the copy editor, by trying to “improve” my writing, has turned it into embarrassing crap. Most of the crap I spot in the short time I am given to proof read the text (in this case, a week, while on family holiday in foreign country).
Inevitably some of the crap slips through.
In this book, for example, the section on Wittgenstein talks about ‘the way in which “pain” functions’. i.e. the way the word ‘pain’ functions. Talking about a word requires putting it in quotation marks. The copy editor obviously thought there were too many quotations marks, so just randomly took out half of them. Including from headings.
So here’s my new year’s resolution – from now on I am going to insist that copy editors flag every single last bloody change they make. Even cutting a quotation mark. I recommend anyone writing similar books do the same.
(Having said that, I’m otherwise quite pleased with the book)