The Hidden Comma

I’ve spent the last three days going over the manuscript that was returned to me by the proofreader. I had sent it to her specifically for spelling mistakes and punctuation, which is not my strong point. She did a reasonable job for the most part, though I didn’t agree with all of her suggestions. 
Some of them, while technically correct, messed with the context of my sentences. It’s actually pretty amazing what difference a comma can make.
Anyway, this can happen, but unfortunately I work in Google Drive. While that suits my needs perfectly most of the time, sometimes it has trouble with displaying .docx files.
This didn’t seem like a big hurdle, so I got me a nice little copy of MS Word and opened the file in there. Now, when I screw up in a Google Doc, I get either a red line or a blue line to indicate I screwed something up and a suggestion of how I could fix it. Google is pretty good at that. 
Most of the time I can open a file from the editor or proofreader and go over the suggested changes, approving them or ignoring them. Word is less accommodating in that, I have to say.
The changes that were made looked like this:

See if you can spot all the commas

Not that big of a problem, though I couldn’t find a way to approve every change as I checked it. Fine, I thought, I’ll just open the file with all changes accepted next to it and revert the few that needed it. So far, so good, so what.
Well, a restructured sentence is pretty easy to spot. One single comma in the middle of an otherwise untouched page, with nary a blue pixel underlining its presence, is a lot harder to spot. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if all the commas were placed correctly or if I could rely on that I got them all.

They fucking aren’t and I fucking didn’t.

I expected to be done with it after the corrections-checkup and have the file off to the typesetter in a matter of days, but now I need to read the whole manuscript to find stray punctuation.
Okay, it might seem like bad advertising that not even I want to read my story, but I bloody wrote all those words. Then I read and rewrote them and rewrote them again for good measure. Then I went through most of them again to see the editor’s changes and finally I went through the majority of them again to see the proofreader’s changes.
It’s a good book, I promise, but unlike Vanishing Point I don’t feel the need to watch it on a continuous loop.

Anyway, I had to get that off my chest. The conga line that is self-publishing has a slight delay. If you need me, I’ll be reading an awesome book.

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  • […] Because of my lacking knowledge of the obtuse MS Word and my hurriedly chosen proofreader’s lacking grasp of context, a lot of corrections that weren’t necessary snuck into the manuscript. We caught a lot of them, […]