Cheryl Lemmens Indexing and Editorial Services

Cheryl Lemmens - Indexing and Editorial Services

Book Indexing • Web Site Indexing • Editing


Editing: Introduction — or why everyone needs an editor

American Pharoah

Poor American Pharoah. I mean, he had just become the first horse in 37 years to win the American Triple Crown — and all people were talking about was his misspelled name. "Pharoah" should have been "Pharaoh," but the name was submitted, and duly registered, with the incorrect spelling. "That poor horse's name is spelled incorrectly," lamented one person on Twitter, while another predicted the inevitable: "American Pharoah win ensures that Americans will never again spell pharaoh correctly."

Marsha Baumgartner, the Missouri nurse who submitted the colt's name in an online contest held by Zayat Stables in 2014, later said that she didn't remember how she spelled it. But she did check it: "I looked up the spelling before I entered," she said, although her source remains unnamed. That might have been the end of it if American Pharoah had been an ordinary horse. When his career took off, however, the misspelling molehill turned into a mountain.

As reported by the New York Times, owner Ahmed Zayat's son Justin initially stated that the mistake had been made by the Jockey Club. Prior to the 2015 Kentucky Derby, however, Jockey Club president and CEO James L. Gagliano released a statement that read in part: "Since the name met all of the criteria for naming and was available, it was granted exactly as it was spelled." Jockey Club registar Rick Bailey confirmed that there had been "no data entry on our end." In fact, once the Zayats had selected Baumgartner's name, they submitted it electronically to the Jockey Club as is (that is, without checking), and realized the error only when it was too late.

Now, of course, American Pharoah has become one of the most famous horses on the planet, and not just for winning the Triple Crown. His misspelled name will go down in history alongside grammatical gaffes such as Mitt Romney's smartphone app — you know, the one that promised "a better Amercia" back in 2012. And there seems to have been an ongoing problem with the name of the nation. The latest typo: "Unites States," right at the top of the response submitted by Donald Trump's legal team to the charge of inciting an insurrection. At least they got "insurrection" right.

Surveying the damage in the wake of the Amercia incident, the Washington Post's Sandra Fish said it right at the beginning of her commentary: "Everyone needs an editor." An editor, a proofreader, someone to double-check — or maybe even triple-check — that troublesome word. Someone to say "yea" or "neigh," if you will.

At the end of the day, "Amercia" was probably a real typo, keyed in hastily in the heat of the moment (as was "Unites States"). "Pharoah," on the other hand, was an error that missed being corrected twice — first, before the name was entered in the contest, and second, before the name was submitted to the Jockey Club. Still, if anything, the publicity generated by this story has led to an increase in dictionary consultation; two days after the Belmont Stakes, "pharaoh" was the second-highest search term on And we can all be grateful that this splendid colt was not named "Amercian Pharoah"!

My editing experience
I have been editing, and writing, for most of my professional life. (I'm also a horse racing fan. If anyone needs to check a name before registering it with the Jockey Club, or to have a horse racing book edited or indexed, feel free to contact me!) My editorial experience has included work in many different fields, as listed below:

  • 1998-2001: Serving as senior Web site editor for a Toronto Internet consulting and development firm. This position entailed writing and editing for a number of different clients in the financial services industry, including Bowne & Co., Fleet Bank, Investors Group, New York Life, and Summit Bank. During this time I also learned the basics of search engine optimization, and took on the task of registering a bilingual Web site the company had created for Thomas Cook with a number of French search engines.
  • 1990-1998: Serving as production editor for a number of law reporters (i.e., journals) at a major Canadian legal publishing company. This position entailed preparing case law (court cases covered by the reporters) for publication — working with legal editors to ensure that explanatory headnotes and lists of cases, statutes, etc., referred to were accurate and error-free, and occasionally querying judges or counsel when necessary. Reporters on which I worked during this period were those covering municipal and planning law, real property law, and environmental law.
  • 1982-1986: Editing committee transcripts at the Hansard Office of the Ontario Legislature, Queen's Park (part-time).
  • 1980-1981: Editing and writing for the Canadian Automobile Association magazine (previously known as Leisureways and, before that, Canadian Motorist).
  • 1978, 1979: Reporting work at the Toronto Star while a journalism student at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. After a brief stint helping with municipal election coverage in 1978, I worked as a summer reporter at the Star's North York bureau in 1979. I also wrote a number of paperback book reviews for the Sunday Star during this time.

I put this varied editing experience to work for my book publishing clients, whether working with managing or project editors or with authors themselves. Accuracy, attention to detail, and completion of projects on time are the hallmarks of my editorial work.

© Cheryl Lemmens. All rights reserved.