Proofing and credibility


I’ve just been reading and thoroughly enjoying The House of Silk, the new Sherlock Holmes novel, written by Anthony Horowitz. My enjoyment was only spoilt by the publishers’ apparent refusal to engage the services of a proofreader.

I winced to read illiteracies such as “I remembered Carstairs telling Holmes and I that…”. Yet the grammatical glitches, typos and missing prepositions were not the most egregious errors. A character called Lord Horace Blackwater becomes Sir Horace Blackwater a couple of paragraphs later; while the villainous vicar Charles Fitzsimmons becomes Fitzwilliams on the next page. Most extraordinary of all, after one character has died in grisly circumstances with a knife embedded in his neck, his demise is referred to later on as “the shooting of X”!

I refuse to accept that my reaction is pure pedantry or pernicketiness. When a book is so lovingly written in the style of Conan Doyle, its credibility depends on sustaining that style, and those standards. Precision and accuracy are the essence of Sherlock Holmes. Fluent and elegant prose is Conan Doyle’s hallmark. Lose those qualities, and you lose the magic. It reminds us why proofreading matters.

P.S. Thank you to my own proofreader, Will, who corrected a mistake in my first draft!

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2 Responses to Proofing and credibility

  1. Chris Mohr January 9, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

    I hope Mark Gatiss reads this.

    In ‘Sherlock – a scandal in Belgravia’ on BBC1, Holmes was given the line: “…when you sent John and I in there.”

    Did nobody on set notice?

    • Rupert January 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

      I hate it too, Chris. But the BBC Sherlock is a contemporary updating of Holmes, so maybe they can take more liberties with language. The House of Silk, by contrast, was intended to be faithful to Conan Doyle in style and period, and that, I think, makes the publisher’s errors much less forgiveable.

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