Bedsit Disco Queen by Tracey Thorn (Marine Girls, Everything but the Girl and in her own right, among other things) is a really good book. If you spent a disproportionate amount of the 1980s in record shops hunting down Belgian imports of Durutti Column 12-inchers – though you probably didn’t – you’re not going to emerge from this unscathed (and you’ll probably want to go back). Highly recommended.
Her final paragraph got me thinking: “And so, the book ends in 2007, and because of the gap between the starting and the finishing… timings shift around a bit; the age I say I am ‘now’ isn’t always consistent. I’ve let the inconsistencies stand. You’re a grown-up, I know you won’t mind.”
I must confess I hadn’t noticed (though I did notice a rein/reign error, which I hope they’ve put right for the paperback). And yet consistency is supposed to be a big thing with proofreaders and editors. Tracey and her editor clearly didn’t think it was worth the effort, or really mattered, in this instance. She was probably right, and I was on holiday, so maybe at least an element of that part of the brain was on temporary shutdown.
A proofreader’s natural instinct is to aim for complete consistency – so if you hyphenate ‘decision-making’ on page 62, you do the same on page 383. And if you can do it (by compiling a comprehensive style guide as you go, for example), then why not? Some clients appreciate it, and can give you the time to do it. Others, well, don’t really mind that much, as long as the spelling and grammar are good and you’ve met their perhaps really tight deadlines: maybe they think that not many folks will compare page 62 with page 383.
So, I think it’s probably OK to be Tracey, and also not to be Tracey. Depends.