Saturday, July 19, 2008

Never Trust Another Scholar

So, I've been going through my chapters, filling in square brackets and checking problems in the footnotes. One of the things I ran across to check up on is the fact that, in one paragraph, I refer to a particular law, but give it two different citations in two different footnotes. Strange. Especially since I knew this paragraph was one that I had originally used in an article I published a couple of years ago, and I checked all the citations before it went to press.

So, I went back to the law book to look it up, and found my problem. Let's pretend this particular law begins with the phrase "Ad astra per asperem." Turns out that I had indeed checked out the source and verified that the reference in question actually began with this phrase. The problem is, I didn't read further – I just trusted the citation that had gotten me there, and the quick check I made.

Apparently, this law code has TWO laws that begin "Ad astra per asperem," separated by about ten pages. And within the space of three sentences in my book MS, I managed to cite them both. I've corrected it now, but the older article is in print, with the error.

And, I would lighten up, but this particular law is a very well-known and important one. And I screwed it up in print.

The only comfort I have is that the scholar from whom I backtracked the original erroneous reference – someone much more established than I – made the same error, and is also in print as such. So, the responsibility lies partly with Established Scholar, but mostly it's my own fault for not doing a thorough enough reference check. And while this is embarrassing, at least it's a lesson I've learned with an early-career article, rather than a book.

Still… ::cringe::


Bardiac said...


So put a note in your book/article to help the next person?

Susan said...

We all do it. In print. And you just say, I can't believe it! I almost miss-spelled the name of an American icon in my book, and it had got past two readers, the copyeditor, the indexer. I caught it proofreading hte index.

Sigh. We are not perfect, time is not infinite.

Anonymous said...

Yep, been there. I recently discovered an error in one of my own published articles: I cited a scholar with a foreign and therefore difficult to spell (at least for me) name. Needless to say, I misspelled the name but, worse yet, I got the gender wrong and referred to a "her" when it should've been a "him". Past the readers, editors, proofreaders -- to my everlasting embarrassment.