Last week I experienced the importance of accuracy.
With anticipation I opened an article submission. The topic was relevant and novel.
My excitement, however, waned as I read his opening sentence. The author stated the earth’s population was 6.2 million. I thought there are over seven billion people on our planet, so I sought confirmation. Indeed we surpassed the seven billion mark a couple years ago. His number was wrong, out dated. That’s when I realized his second error, a typo: million instead of billion.
Spotting two factual errors in the first dozen words caused me to question the accuracy of the entire piece. I almost rejected the submission at that point, but I continued reading.
Then the author wrote that Mandarin is a lesser-known language. I questioned that as well. An online search confirmed my suspicion. Around a billion people speak Mandarin, more than English and Spanish combined.
I became angry over the article and mad at the author. Surely the writer had accuracy issues or just threw something together without much thought. I knew if I wanted to run this piece, I’d need to carefully scrutinize every sentence and check each assertion. I didn’t have time for that.
Had I not caught his errors, running the article as submitted, the author would have lost credibility and my magazine would look sloppy. This would turn off readers and damage our reputations.
But what if this wasn’t an article and instead related to a book?
- If egregious errors exist in a query letter, an agent or publisher will not ask for the proposal.
- If mistakes pop up in a proposal, the full manuscript will never be requested.
- And if the book opens with the blunders I encountered in this article, the work would risk dismissal before the reader reached page two.
When you invest time and energy in writing a book, don’t let sloppy errors torpedo your efforts. Although I persisted with this article despite glaring mistakes, had they occurred in a book query, proposal, or manuscript I’d have summarily dismissed the entire project.
Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!