An American Editor

June 29, 2010

Hall of Shame Nominees 2

Below are the second round Hall of Shame nominees received from readers. These are all the nominees I have received since posting Hall of Shame Nominees 1. If you want to participate, send your nominations to hallofshame[at] and be sure to follow the format shown in these entries.

1. Star Trek (movie tie-in) by Alan Dean Foster

  • Format: print
  • Problem: poor editing
  • Samples of errors: Captain Kirk’s father, under attack, discovers he’s restricted to “manuel control.” This is right after the word “manual” has been spelled properly.
  • Solved: No, the current run of this best-seller still contains the error.

2. The Poison King, Adrienne Mayor

  • Format: print (Princeton University Press)
  • Problems: poor copyediting and proofreading
  • Samples of errors: (1) inconsistent spelling: Sea of Azov/Asov, Damogoras/Damagoras [in the same paragraph!], Lucullus/Luculus [same paragraph], Heniochoi/Heniochi; (2) typos or misspellings: ensuring [ensuing] months, unable to chose [choose], tassled [tasseled], seige [siege], Bibliotheque National [Nationale, several times], artemesia [artemisia], ro [to] become invincible, vistory [victory], putrify [putrefy], Mithrdates [Mithradates], A.E. Houseman [Housman]; (3) faulty past tense: everyone … spit [spat] on the memory; (4) missing word: caused it [to] fill; (5) wrong word: staunched [stanched] the flow of blood, enormity [enormous size, vastness] of the land and sky; (6) faulty punctuation: Mithradates’ died
  • Frequency of errors: occasional
  • Overall quality: neutral

February 13, 2010

Hall of Shame Nominees 1

Below are the first Hall of Shame nominees received from readers. Remember that if you want to participate, send your nominations to hallofshame[at] and be sure to follow the format shown in these entries.

1.  Permed to Death (Bad Hair Day Mystery 1) by Nancy J. Cohen. 

  • Format: ebook
  • Publisher: E-Reads. 
  • Problem: Poor editing
  • Samples of error(s): Character named Marla written as Maria or Mar1a, incorrect punctuation (e.g. question marks instead of quote marks), incorrect words given context
  • Frequency of error(s): Often
  • Overall Quality: Poor

2. Flatlander: The Collected Tales of Gil “The Arm” Hamilton by Larry Niven

  • Format: eReader ebook
  • Publisher: Del Rey
  • Problem: Poor OCR/Formatting
  • Samples of error(s): “of Ms skull” instead of “of his skull”; No Table of Contents; Misplaced and repeated chapters.
  • Frequency of error(s): Often
  • Reported: To Fictionwise in March and November 2009; To Del Rey in November 2009
  • Solved: Yes. Fixed sometime between November 2009 and February 2010.

3. Who Does What & Why in Book Publishing/Writers, Editors, and Money Men, by Clarkson Potter.

  • Format: Printed book
  • Publisher: Birch Lane Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55972-056-5
  • Problems: Very bad manuscript editing and layout production
  • Samples of error(s): Design and production: The title page is page 1 (i.e., there are no l.c. roman FM page numbers). Many loose lines. Paragraphs ending with the last word hyphenated on two lines (i.e., the last line contained only part of a word). A paragraph that ends with the verbal phrase “take up” broken onto two lines, i.e., the last line contains only two letters and a period. A page that begins with an ellipsis that ends a quotation from the preceding page.
  • Poor editing: “To try and thank the many people …” “To try”? Should be “To thank the many people…”; “The first was a large group of mostly seniors… together with a few graduate students … who were both attending Brown University.” Both is more readily construed to mean individuals, not groups. Cf. this mistake:”This book…centers on the authors, the editors and the publishers themselves. Together, these three people make…” Three “people”? Three groups. Many many errors of punctuation, such as putting a comma between two parts of a compound predicate; not closing a non-restrictive appositive or putting the comma in the wrong place; ending a sentence with a quote that ends with an ellipsis with only three periods (should be four). Repeating unusual words in close proximity, such as “ostensibly” and “ostensible” within three paragraphs. “…Thirty years ago, the ratio…was about fifty-fifty, whereas now it’s likely to be two or three to one.” Use one form of comparison or the other. Writing large numbers in words, not numerals, e.g., “…in excess of forty-five thousand new book titles…” (And then later he writes “… is approaching the multiple 100,000 mark”).
  • Frequency: Often on every page
  • Overall Quality: Very low

February 8, 2010

Hall of Shame: An Introduction

A major complaint readers have is the declining quality of books. As publishers of all stripes hope to maintain or increase pricing, especially with ebooks, there is the constant friction between pricing and quality — they are in disequilibrium.

To help both readers and publishers, I have decided to start the Hall of Shame, a place where readers and publishers can both come to see what books have quality problems and readers are complaining about. Let me say upfront that this is not a place to

  • review a book,
  • say that the author is a great or poor storyteller,
  • complain about availability, or
  • argue the merits of pricing by dissing a book because you do not like the price.

Rather, it is a place to point out where editorial and production quality has fallen down, creating a disequilibrium between price and quality.

The format will be as follows:

Book title, book author, edition (that is, print or ebook), publisher of the edition.
          Problem: e.g., poor editing, poor formatting, or both
          Samples of error(s): (if appropriate)
          Frequency of error(s): e.g., occasional, often, very often
         Overall Quality: e.g., very poor, poor, neutral, good, very

Here is the first nominee for the Hall of Shame to illustrate the process.

Look to the Sky, Margaret D. Van Tine, ebook, Live Oak House
          Problem: poor editing
          Sample of error(s): (1) wrong word use, e.g.: “You don’t call Paw ‘Reverend,’…”; (2) improper and inconsistent use of double and single quote marks; (3) failure to capitalize sentence beginning, e.g.: “I was shouted down! on a vital issue.”; (4) misuse of punctuation marks, including random punctuation marks in the midst of sentences.
           Frequency of error(s): often
            Overall Quality: poor

By spreading the word about poor editing and formatting, readers will become knowledgable consumers and speak with their wallets, declining to purchase inferior quality books, thereby shaming publishers into fixing them. Should a publisher undertake to fix a book’s problems, that, too, will be noted, assuming the publisher lets us know.

To participate in the Hall of Shame, please send the requested information via e-mail to: hallofshame[at]

If you have suggestions regarding information that should be included (or excluded) let me know. Remember that this is a part-time blog so Hall of Shame entries won’t necessarily go up immediately.

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