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Do You Cringe at Some of the Things You Write?

We may be writers, but we’re also human. And we do make mistakes. Some of them somewhat funny; others painfully embarrassing. I recall some of the comments my editor provided for my first novel. I had some doozies in that book. I was writing about a garbage dump and actually wrote garbage dumb. And then there was the fridge that became a frig. Silly mistakes, but enough to make a seasoned writer cringe.

We can only edit so much. It doesn’t matter how many people look at our work to offer corrections, there’s still bound to be mistakes. I remember a story my father once shared about a business letter being written and edited by all the managers at the company where he worked. They wanted the letter to be completely error-free. Of course, this was long before spell-checking. It was an important letter. They finally agreed to the final version, declared it error-free, and sent it off. The recipient was the one to notice the error: the letter was dated with the wrong year.

Sometimes too many eyes make the corrections turn into new errors. With spell check and track changes, there are all kinds of things that can, and do, go wrong. Going through track changes from multiple editors is like weaving your way through a minefield. The end result is not always legible in the track changes format. And, sadly, the final product may well be a mish-mash of track changing errors. I’ve had that happen with some of my recent publications.

Another problem with too many editors is that they all have a different opinion of what is grammatically right or wrong. When writing historical fiction set in Scotland, my first editor wanted me to change my spelling to the English spelling because it reflected the setting while the second editor wanted me to change back to the American spelling because the publisher was American. I think we finally agreed on the English spelling, but not all the corrections were caught in the multiple changes back and forth. The end result did make me cringe.

I remember back in the 1980s (well before spell-check), I was having an academic paper going through a series of editors in preparation for publication. There must have been six different editors. I diligently addressed each correction and then waited for the next editor’s comments and corrections. When the paper was finally published, I had to really chuckle. Why? Because it was almost identical to the paper I initially submitted, before all the editorial changes and corrections. That experience made me chuckle instead of cringe.

Another story from the 1980s, this one a food-related story, went through multiple changes with the editor until she finally decided that one of my recipes wasn’t good enough and substituted it for her own. My article was still published under my name with all the recipes, including hers, being included under my name. She confessed later, after publication, that she had multiple complaints about her recipe because it failed – big time. I laughed and cringed at that error. Why? Because it was something of a come-uppance to the editor who thought my recipe wasn’t good enough, but, at the same time, her recipe was published under my name, so it did reflect on my image as a writer.

I’m sure we all have things we cringe about. Once our work is published, there’s not much we can do about it, other than cringe. It does provide fodder for a few funny stories, though, wouldn’t you agree?

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Emily-Jane Hills Orford