Why employ a proofreader.

One job search website/app in Australia bases its advertising on the comprehensiveness of its job listings. The words complete and incomplete crop up a lot. One ad shows a woman walking up an incomplete flight of stairs. The following text then shows on the screen:

No one likes an incomplete job?
Why do an incomplete job search.


Effective English

… more important than so-called good English [is] effective English. English that clearly, strongly and unambiguously ‐ unless you’ve a penchant for ambiguity – conveys from writers’ brains through their typing fingers and onward to the imaginations of their readers what it is that writers are attempting to communicate.

Benjamin Dreyer is “is vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief, of Random House”. He has just released a book called Dreyer’s English AN UTTERLY CORRECT GUIDE TO CLARITY AND STYLE, which I am neither endorsing nor not endorsing. I am less likely to buy it after finding myself described as a “godless savage”, and Dreyer obviously didn’t proofread that job title himself. And I would question three things about style in the quotation itself. But I fully endorse effective English.

Today on the Sydney Morning Herald website is this article, from which the quotation comes.

(Checks post very carefully in case there’s any mistakes: Muphry’s Law.)

Grouching about editing

It is disappointing when an otherwise interesting book shows signs of being edited badly or possibly not at all. I am re-reading a book about Captain Arthur Phillip, the commander of the First Fleet and first governor of New South Wales. I don’t want to name and shame the author and publishing company, but without really trying, I spotted two main groups of errors.

Marine Lieutenant Ralph Clark wrote two diaries which give a very personal account of his time in the colony. He was newly married with a young son in England, and spends most of his first diary pining for them. The book says “despite which he was quick to take an Aboriginal mistress in New South Wales, who bore him a child”. She wasn’t Aboriginal; she was a convict. Later, the book says he “later had a daughter with Mary Burnham, sent to Botany Bay for stealing clothes”. Later again, he refers to “Mary Branham”. The index has two different entries, one for each spelling. Some convicts used different names, or have their name spelled differently in different sources, but a modern author can and should choose and stick to one spelling. The Australian Dictionary of Biography and the Dictionary of Sydney both use “Branham”. He also writes about Clark’s vegetable garden on “a small island — still known as Clark’s Island”. Actually, Clark Island. (The bigger Garden Island got its name in the same way; it is now joined to the mainland and mostly covered by a naval base. Nearby is Farm Cove.)

Elsewhere, the author refers to “Count Jean-François de Galoup de Lapérouse”, a French explorer whose two ships arrived at Botany Bay just a few days after the First Fleet. Later, and on the same page, he refers to “La Pérousse” and “Lapérouse”. Likewise, there are two index entries, both of which have a spelling mistake and a language inconsistency: “Lapérouse, Count Jean-François de Glaoup and “Pérouse, Jen-François Galoup, Comte de la”. The Australian Dictionary of Biography calls him “Jean-François de Galaup La Pérouse” and the Dictionary of Sydney “La Perouse, Jean-Francois”. So what is the correct spelling? I don’t know, but if I was writing a book, I would check very carefully. (Note that the present-day suburb on the shore of Botany Bay is officially spelled La Perouse.)

I hesitate to criticise an author who has written at least 24 more books that I have, and an established publishing company, but these were glaring, and make me wonder what else the author(, editor) and publishing company have missed.

[edit, 8 Oct: reading onward, there’s another (unindexed) reference to ‘Pérousse’. Elsewhere, the king’s birthday was celebrated on 4 June 1788 and 2 June 1789. More  seriously ‘two rush-cutter women were speared and killed’ v ‘a 19-year old convict, William Okey, was killed while cutting rushes … The body of his companion Samuel Davis was found nearby’. If women were allowed out of the camp at all, it wasn’t in pairs. I won’t add any more that I find.]