Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Almost perfect words

I got a very rude awakening the other day.  I learned that the Kindle Direct Publishing platform has instituted some changes.  More than likely, these changes were announced and explained in the e-newsletter Kindle distributes, but after finding too many errors in the first issue of that periodical, I confess I haven't been diligent in reading subsequent issues.  Not that I have a whole lot of time for that, but it is unprofessional of me, so I will try to do better.

Due to an issue that had arisen while I was formatting Legacy of Honor in preparation for Kindle publishing, I thought I would recheck the three books I had already published online. 

When I published those three, the Kindle program offered only limited emulation for the author/uploader to see how the document would appear on the Kindle.  Over time, that emulation has been expanded to include Kindle Fire, iPhone, iPad, and several other devices.   I strongly advise any author who has published via KDP to re-examine their documents -- and continue to do so on a routine basis -- to see if there are any formatting glitches that may come to light with this expanded preview capability and changes in device software.  For example, I noticed that the paragraph indents on one of my books should probably be adjusted to make for a better reading experience on all the various devices.  This adjustment is very easy to make, and of course can be checked before hitting the final "publish" button.

What I didn't know until a few days ago, however, was that KDP now has a spellcheck feature.  How long this has been there, I don't know, but I admit with some embarrassment that it was a surprise to me.  And it wasn't a pleasant surprise, because it brought up a list of misspelled words from one of my books.

I pride myself on my proofreading skills.  Do I claim to be perfect?  No, of course not, and especially not with my own work.  I know that it's far too easy to see what we expect to see when we're reading something we've written.  I still find errors in my stuff when I've gone back to reread weeks or months or even years later.  Not a lot of them and not all that often, but I do find them. 

Most often, however, those errors are misused/wrong words.  "That" for "than" or vice versa, or "from" for "form."  Or just a word left out.  But I'm a pretty good speller and a fair enough typist that I can rely on autocorrect and spellcheck to catch a lot of the basics and on my own good eye for the rest, even if it takes two or three or more passes.

Seeing that list of misspellings pop up from the Kindle spellcheck software rather alarmed me.  Then I read through the words that had been flagged.

An invented name.
A slang word.
An invented descriptive word.
A contraction.
A misspelled word.

In other words (pun intended), out of approximately 110,000 words, I had missed exactly one simple typographical error.  One. 

Needless to say, I immediately checked both of the other books.  Again there were invented names and slang and contractions, but this time not a single misspelling in either book.

Out of roughly 350,000 words, ONE was misspelled, according to Kindle's own spellcheck.

All three of these novels were uploaded from my original digital manuscripts, not from anything any publisher had edited or fixed or formatted or typeset.  These were not OCR scans of printed pages.  I will take the blame for any errors, but I will also take the credit for very, very clean writing.

The point of this?  Oh, partly it's just to brag and pat myself on the back.  But it's also to put the lie to those lazy and incompetent writers who defend their self-published pieces of crap with the old "It's impossible to catch all of one's own errors."

Kindle will do at least part of it for you, if you weren't diligent enough or competent enough on your own.  Can't you at least do that much?

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