Mini-Rant on Copy Editing

I wasn’t an English major, but I had a few good English teachers through the years who gave me an appreciation for proper use of the language. As such, I guess I became enough of a language purist that it bothers me to see a drop in the quality of copy editing in published works.

I don’t mean the stylistic choices that authors make, or even the words that authors make up — I’ve done that myself, and I like what Orson Scott Card said about it to our Literary Boot Camp class: “I’m a writer, it’s a word if I say it’s a word.” What has bothered me recently is seeing too many wrong words, usually homophones*, left in the text.

I understand the editing process can be lengthy and we’re all human — as I mentioned, I wasn’t an English major so I’m not sure about some of the rules (and I don’t remember much of the terminology). Sometimes an author can catch errors and the publisher chooses not to fix them because of cost, as happened with my book. But sometimes the copy editor just blows it.

Is it too much to ask for a copy editor to know that “led” is the past tense of “lead” (as opposed to the soft metal, “lead”), and that an archer would have someone in their “sights” (connoting vision) rather than their “sites” (locations)?

*Like homonyms, but they just sound alike.

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