Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Mark Twain on proofreaders

It has been fascinating looking at the publishing business from, as it were, the other side of the fence, and tonight I intend to finish the first assignment of my proofreading course if it kills me – and get on to the next.

Mark Twain

Writing being such a personal business, I'm aware that writers' attitudes to copy-editors and proofreaders are often ambivalent. Mark Twain was downright hostile - the Giles Coren of the nineteenth century - and in a letter from 1889 he had this to say:

'Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray.'

This is a passage from a letter he wrote in July 1897 to his publisher, Chatto & Windus:


I'm assuming that when it comes to the copy-editing course I intend to do next, there will be a whole section devoted to diplomacy, or at the very least how to avoid being shot on the orders of the author.

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