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Suppose I'm in charge of getting a three hundred pages book published. I'll do all reasonable things to get it proofread, but still there is chance that some errors will persist.

Now the book goes to the bookstores and readers start reporting errors. I'd like to know whether the rate of errors is "acceptable" or I haven't really done my job.

Is there any standard or any informal rule for how many errors are "acceptable"?

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Heya! Good question; we had a near-identical question recently: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/6702/… . I'm closing this as a duplicate. Take a look at the link; hope it helps! – Standback Dec 4 '12 at 10:15
@Standback: I've seen that question, but it's not a dupe of this one. That question asks about hiring one proofreader and the expectations from that process. This question asks about the ultimate result - no matter how many proofreaders. Could you please reopen it? – sharptooth Dec 4 '12 at 10:40
Ummm. The distinction seems academic to me. How many proofreaders would you go through, and why would the second catch different errors than the first? I'm not familiar with practices of hiring multiple proofreaders for a single MS, which means the two questions are the same: how many errors should the MS have once a proofreader's done with it?. If I'm mistaken here, I'll happily re-open. But I'd need some sort of reference or clarification. – Standback Dec 4 '12 at 13:31
OK, Google turned up references to multiple proofreaders, so I'm reopening. – Standback Dec 4 '12 at 13:47
@JohnSmithers: You can see I was concerned with the similarity as well. But one question is basically asking what a proofreader's contract covers, while the other is asking what responsibility the editor has. I'm persuaded there's a difference here - though, honestly, I don't see answers to either beyond "here's a little-known metric" and "there's nothing precise, it just shouldn't feel like too many errors". – Standback Dec 5 '12 at 22:37

Some errors will always remain, no matter how many proofreaders go through the manuscript. I've yet to see an error-free book.

Some readers will always be critical. If it's not the proofreading, it's the editing. If it's not that, it's the fact-checking, and so on. Just steel yourself for the critics, and hope they find happier ways to amuse themselves, soon.

I'm not sure there's any "error rate" to share with you. A single-letter error -- leaving an "s" off a plural, for example -- isn't the same as using an entirely incorrect word (accept, except), and some errors are more glaring than others.

A book that's been hastily proofread by just one proofreader may display 1 typo per 1,000 words. In my opinion, that's too many, but it's not unusual among published books I've been sent to read and review. I'm more comfortable with 3 typos (single-letter errors or two letters, transposed) per 10,000 words.

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True. Most readers who are also writers, can't take off their critique hat long enough to review a book properly. They will always find a fault, and usually end the review with "...a good editor could have fixed that". Good editor meaning themselves, of course. So yeah, can't avoid the "critics" – Shantnu Tiwari Dec 5 '12 at 15:40

No errors are acceptable, period.

If I were to write out three paragraphs of text on here, I would check each paragraph for errors until I was satisfied they were all correct before I clicked the 'Post Your Answer' button. If I found errors, I would not be satisfied with what I'd written until it was correct.

Why would a 400 page book be any different? As far as I'm concerned it isn't.

However, living in the real world and being the pragmatists we are sometimes compromises need (and have) to be made.

How much money are you prepared to spend on proof reading those 400 pages over and over and over and over again to ensure there isn't one single error left? Because you can do that if that's what you're prepared to do. However, for most people, business people, writers, publishers etc that simply isn't financially viable.

You have to draw a line somewhere and accept that given your budget for publishing that 400 page book you cannot spend all your money on proofreading and for the project to be financially viable you will have to accept that some errors will slip through the net.

So what it really comes down to is a cost v error acceptability rate. What that rate will be will almost always come down to how much money you're prepared to spend on it and the quality of the people you spend it on.

You're 'worried you haven't done your job', as far as I'm concerned just getting the 400 page book published means you've 'done your job'! If it contains any errors, log them and correct them on the next reprint!

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I guess a few errors always pass, that's unavoidable, no matter how good you are. Specially because as a writer you read the same page over and over and sometimes your brain just can't detect small mistakes anymore. In my opinion and experience, at some point, you need somebody else to help with the proofing. I guess you are being too much black and white here. – Psicofrenia Jun 11 '13 at 18:51

With self publishing these days, errors are inevitable. I wouldn't mind too much to 3 or 4 errors as long as the flow is there. Anyway that is me. I am an author as well but even after reading my books over and over many times, it was disappointing to find errors.

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Three or four errors per page acceptable? (For the OP's 300 pages, that's a thousand errors.) That's a lot in my mind. – Michael Kjörling Oct 21 '15 at 13:31
If I saw that, I'd complain about the culture of blogging and text messages corrupting the print business! – JDługosz Oct 21 '15 at 18:27
this is true, sans editor, mistakes are inevitable. – Tapper7 Feb 17 at 13:09

Errors abound in everything from Stephen King novels to The LA Times. Daily newpapers get sort-of a pass from me, because they are on tight deadlines, but still it drives me nuts seeing errors in the 'A' section every time I read it. With books, there should be -

  1. more editors
  2. more time
  3. multiple editions

This makes prose, style, spelling, grammatical and clarity-type mistakes harder for me to swallow. Maybe it's because I have some form of OCD and I catch errors w/o looking for them.

to answer - the number of acceptable mistakes is zero. Pro musicians are expected to sight-read at a 100 percent proficiency. That means; it has to be perfect the first time else--> get fired. In Process Improvement we identify action(s) that drag "on-time-delivery" (usually of widgets), We call it a finished-project once we deliver 'dem widgets on-time & error-free over 98.5 percent of the time. Only in baseball is it ok for pros to accomplish their main function less than 30 percent of the time.

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