Big Mistakes. Big. Huge!

It’s blooper week! I feel like I’m a walking blunder most of the time, so I’m sure I could fill hundreds of blog posts with examples of “most embarrassing moments.”

Since no one wants to read that, I’ll pick the category in which I’m most likely to screw up: copy editing. Copy editing comes very near the end of the publishing process. It’s when someone who is brilliant and generous reads through your edited manuscript with an incredible eye for detail and with the goal of helping you to not look like a total idiot.

Thank God for these people! I didn’t know it before I went through copy editing the first time, but I’m hopeless!

It turns out I don’t even know if “copy editing” should instead be “copyediting” or “copy-editing.” It’s even worse because I’ve been an English teacher for twenty years. I’ve been willy-nilly teaching other people about punctuation, and yet I apparently have no idea how to use a hyphen. All the words I hyphenated in Minor Dramas turned out not to call for such punctuation, and on the flip side (flip-side??), I left them out of many-a-word that required them.

(I’m 95% sure that 95% of the hyphens I just used in the last paragraph are, in fact, incorrect. Probably the commas, too. And, that last sentence was a fragment.)

Still, my most embarrassing copy-editing mistake doesn’t have anything to do with said hyphen. Here it is:

There’s a place in the book where my main character, Isobel, is being reprimanded by her principal. Because she’s an English teacher like me, she can’t help but notice his usage mistakes even as he’s intimidating her. Here’s the passage:

You’ve already probably guessed this: As Isobel feels superior and smarter than her buffoon-y principal, I had her saying “me” instead of “I.” In the margin, there was a kind note about how I’d gotten it wrong. I covered my face in shame, and then I laughed for a long, long time. I’d already gone through 170 pages of embarrassing mistakes by this point.

I swore I’d never tell anyone about this embarrassing pronoun problem, but now here I’ve gone and confessed it on the internet for everyone to read.

I, Kathleen West, don’t know about hyphens OR pronouns, or probably thirteen or fourteen other really important things.

Author: Kathleen West

Kathleen West is the author of the forthcoming novel, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, out 2/4/20 from Berkley. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.