Media Mistakes Are Mangling Meaning and Turning Readers Away

Have you noticed how often errors creep into the media these days? Even after a news article has been fact checked and edited, after manuscripts are proofread and TV and radio producers check their copy and their facts, glaring mistakes still filter through to the published product.

Alexandra Phillips reads a lot of e-books, published novels, and online media and finds mistakes “all the time”. Alexandra finds “errors with homophones” to be the most common errors. Homophones are each of two or more words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling, like “their”, “they’re” and “there”.

Some e-book authors care about their mistakes, some don’t.

Some authors, particularly the ones who have work published in print, are responsive to feedback, while others seem to not care. Alexandra says that after becoming horrified at the number of mistakes in one author’s e-books, she wrote them an email. She told them she was “troubled by the amount of errors” and that “there are errors every few pages”. The author never replied. Alexandra’s stopped reading this author’s books and moved on. So many e-books are self-published and don’t pass through the layers of editing that print media does. The e-book author is often the only person involved in the editing process. It’s a dangerous and error prone path to publishing. Errors in self-published books can turn readers away from buying any more of an author’s work.

What’s the worst error?

Alexandra’s pet hates are errors that demonstrate “a complete lack of care” and “change the context” of the story. The worst error she’s come across is an author mixing up character names. “When a character is kissing the wrong person it completely ruins the story,” Alexandra says, adding that upon finding a mistake she’ll then end up reflecting on it, instead of the story. Sometimes it interrupts the flow so much that she’ll stop reading the story altogether.

Online media makes mistakes everyday.

Alexandra also reads a lot of online news-media and finds mistakes “every day” in mainstream online news outlets like the Daily Mail. Sometimes even in the headlines!

Alexandra doesn’t remember finding any errors in printed novels and attributes this to the robust editing processes involved in real life publishing. Alexandra finds it harder to pick up errors in TV and radio “because it’s spoken”.

Why do these mistakes happen?

Alexandra is a teacher and knows that homophones are taught from reception level. She notes that mistaken homophones are a sign of dyslexia and suspects this sometimes plays a part, along with poor quality editing, rushed editing, or no editing at all, in how mistakes make it all the way through to publishing. Alexandra finds proofreading her own work hard and boring so she can understand the odd error in others’ work. She suspects that there’s such a rush to get online articles and e-books published quickly that work isn’t proofread properly.

As a final word, Alexandra said “the authors I return to and recommend to others are the ones who edit”.

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