Friday, 17 January 2014

False positives

Last night I had a "There are errors in your book" email from Amazon. No big deal - if there are, I'll fix them and that'll be that. I know there's nothing gregarious in there as it's been proofed several times. One error, in the 'day one' edition was corrected, and an editorial note had to be taken out. For those, I apologise - it's one of the reasons we went for a relatively soft launch as lingering errors do slip through even the most stringent checks.

So when I got an email saying there are 42 spelling errors, I was rather shocked. But, it seems that it's mostly a case of false positives. This is despite the automated checker showing zero possible errors on publication.

Here are the words they dislike:

arrival (used in the context of "dead on arrival")
bastard
bed (Really?)
been
book
can (noun - drinks can)
ciggie (colloquial - fair enough if they think this is worth flagging)
community
declines (used as a noun - "soft declines" referring to credit card processing)
demands (again, as a noun - "final demands" as in overdue bills)
economy
fegato (as in 'fegato alla veneziana' - italicised to emphasise language change)
hours (as in "four hours"
"Keepers" (as in "Finders, keepers")
"lie" (as in "truth or lie")
"lie" (again)
minutes (as in "fifteen minutes")
minutes (as in "a few minutes")
mister - used within speech
negative ("The toxicology report was negative")
now
nowhere
offences (as in "inchoate offences" - surprised they didn't flag the Latin)
officers
out
own
parents
possible
services
sweetener
talk
that
they
this
veneziana - still in italics
way
why
years
yet
you
yourself
yourself

These have clearly been done by hand - the email misquotes the text, often removing some or all of the punctuation, which begs the question "Who compiled this error list?"

I'm not saying Cleaver Square is error-free - it won't be. But it's been through a rigorous process with multiple people reading it at each stage. The quoted "errors" simply aren't errors at all. Some of these are going to be genre specific - which could be false positives due to applying a generalised dictionary to a specific genre.

Or it could be human error. I'm very curious to find out - anyone know how these are compiled?

2 comments:

  1. Apart from the fact that these so called errors are not errors, without being facetious, where does Amazon's policy leave "No Country for Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy?
    It's almost tempting to report Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass" – words like 'Brillig", "frumious", and "frabjous" just ain't proper.
    Hope Amazon sort this out quickly, even a quick glance at "Cleaver Square" will alert them that someone is being mischievous, to say the least.

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  2. Wish I could enlighten on how they are compiled. But after hearing this I wish I had never complained about my copyeditors of yore. (is copyeditor one or two words?) Those guys - yes, more should have been gals - who really did look like they came directly out of The Front Page - always found the real mistakes. No doubt there are a number in this comment alone. I am gearing up (belatedly) to read Cleaver Square. Can't wait.

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