When I was at the South Dakota Festival of Books, I heard a couple of editors (literally, they are a couple) speak, and one of their tips was that you should always read your entire manuscript out loud as you're in the final stages of editing. Word for word, whatever is on the page you should read out (preferably with a partner in the room listening to you).
Well, today at work, I found that to actually be a helpful technique.
You see, sometimes, when I'm editing, I'm working with authors who might rely just a tad too heavily on spellcheck to do their dirtywork. So you get the wrong versions of it's/its or their/they're/there, but you also get words that are a little less common.
You might have someone telling you that he checked his suite in the mirror before leaving. Or that a fax had gotten into the chicken coop the night before and eaten all of the checks.
Seriously. I've seen some doozies. And, about 98 times out of 100, I can usually figure them out pretty quickly and substitute in the right word.
Today, however, I was stumped. I read the sentence about 5 times, trying to figure out what the author meant. I put the questionable word into an online dictionary to see if there was an alternate meaning I was missing - or whether just maybe there was an "often confused with" suggestion that would clue me in. I was completely at a loss.
Finally, I turned to my office mate and said "I have no idea what this means. You have to help me."
Here's the sentence:
"He licked the gelato where it started to melt down, then sat at a table under the big canapé."
When I got done, I said, "I have no idea what that is supposed to mean."
She laughed, and said, "When you first read it, I heard it as 'canopy.'"
"OHMIGOD. That's it! It's supposed to say canopy!"
I could have sat there for another hour and never figured that out, since in my head I kept reading it the way it was spelled, and not letting the context take over.
Here's hoping the author realizes how much we're going through for him - and just how hungry the manuscript is making me.