American proofs of The Mistress of Nothing

9 March 2010 in The Mistress of Nothing


The copyedited manuscript of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ arrived from Simon & Schuster yesterday.  When I opened it up I was amazed to see how heavily the text was annotated -  numerous red copy-editing marks on every page.  But then once I began to look more closely, I realised that most of the marks were instructions to the typesetter and not corrections to the text itself.

All the spellings have been changed from British to American, and some of these made me gulp a bit:  can ‘skeptical’ really be correct?  Doesn’t it look too much like ‘skool’?  This Americanisation of the text - which doesn’t worry me, fond as I am of the British and Canadian spellings - was complicated by the fact that the novel uses 19th century Arabic transliterations as well, some of which were Lucie Duff Gordon’s own;  for instance, one of these,’hakima’, or ‘healer’, does not correspond to any Arabic dictionaries’ current spelling.  The copyeditor also came across a number of small errors in my text, things that we did not notice here in the UK when we copyedited the book, ‘elder’ instead of ‘eldest’, ‘more’ instead of ‘most’, etc.  So that was interesting, if a little embarrassing as well. 

Many tiny red marks were devoted to my use of the em dash.  At first I misunderstood and thought that they were trying to deprive me of my beloved em dash (though before yesterday I didn’t even know it is called an ‘em dash’).  But no, the little hieroglyph actually means they are keeping the dashes but allowing less space on either side. 

So, I’ve gone through it now with my own blue pencil and added to the general mark-up mayhem of the text, and am posting it back to NY shortly. Yippee!!


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