Crapy Grammer And Speling Can Make You’re Reeders [Sic]

* * *

I’ve been reading a lot of self-pubs and indies lately and I am amazed at some of the woeful spelling and bad grammar I’ve had to wade through. This is not a good trend. If anybody ever needed to convince the reading public of their seriousness in writing it’s this particular group of writers (of which I am one).

In the former days of traditional publishing an author could perhaps lean on an editor to fix things up a bit; this is no longer the situation. Publishers are expecting you, the author, to do most of the editing yourself. And it is especially not true for self-pubs and indies, who, for the most part, don’t have an editor to begin with. Chances are that with sloppy spelling and poor grammar an author wouldn’t even have reached an editor’s desk, having already been shot down in flames by potential agents. A query letter full of mistakes is usually synonymous with an express trip to the slush pile. Even indie publishers, generally known for their wide latitude in accepting divergence from the norm, are starting to refuse manuscripts containing more than a healthy dose of typos and grammatical funny business.

 If I, as a reader,  encounter multiple grammatical errors and typos within the opening pages of a book, that book is pretty much dead in the water for me. It’s hard to suspend your disbelief when you keep getting hung up on the nuts and bolts of the story. I feel that the author is not taking me seriously as a reader and is subsequently wasting my time. What if you were listening to a song on the radio and the band played out of tune and constantly hit the wrong notes? Would you want to hear more? Or if you went  to a gallery and came over the work of an artist who just couldn’t be arsed to bother with learning technique, expecting you to look past the slovenly workmanship and  find the diamond in the rough? Would you be tempted to visit their next show? I wouldn’t. By the way – the above doesn’t apply to friends and colleagues who have asked me to beta-read an early draft of their manuscript, just so that’s clear. That’s kind of the point of being a beta-reader, isn’t it?

I make plenty of mistakes in my writing, both grammatical and otherwise, but I proofread again and again until I have (hopefully) rooted them out. And then I get a beta-reader or two to proofread it once more. The final test; I get my wife to read through it. If a mistake makes it past her it, it’s probably something wrong with the language itself. Nobody is perfect, even professional editors miss a mistake or two; however not taking the time and effort to learn correct grammar or proofread your manuscript is a sure sign of a lightweight. And more often than not, if there is something seriously wrong at the basic level, there are deeper problems higher up, too; for example jagged plots, stilted dialog and unbelievable characterization, to name a few. With thousands of new books cropping up daily, why bother with an author who doesn’t care enough about their craft to learn the elementary tools of the trade? The new phenomena of après–published slush piles (sludge piles?) are, in my opinion, mostly self-generated by sloppy writers.

In the end, it’s not about absolute perfection, because most writer’s will make mistakes that sneak under the radar no matter how many times they reread their manuscripts. A typo or two does not ruin a novel. But if the reader is constantly knocked out of the story by typos, bad spelling and crappy grammar, then that piece of writing is not yet ripe for an audience.

 

My most common mistakes?

– There/their/they’re, its/it’s, your/you’re (I know the difference; these are quick-write typos)

– Possessive vs. plural ‘s’ (see above)

– Phenomena/phenomenon (my pet peeve)

 

What  about my writing drives others crazy?

My (over)use of the semicolon; there are those who think I use way too many of them.

 

See otherwise this web page for a comprehensive list of common errors in English: http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html#errors

Btw – I intentionally left a mistake in this post; see if you can find it.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. “… most writer’s will make mistakes that creep under the radar…”

    They will, indeed Brian. They will.

    (great post though! :D)

    Reply

  2. Excellent, I couldn’t agree more. Your right on target. 😀

    Reply

  3. I hope that one was deliberate, Diane!

    😀 😀 😀

    Reply

  4. Posted by Rudolf on 07/03/2012 at 13:03

    Bruin, whil I agri wiv whot you is saying and that, and all joking aside. I have dyslexia, and I had virtually not education to speak of, (my personal story as to why is long, horrible and not needed here – except to say that i have had to teach myself ‘how to write’. The thought of making a single mistake fills me with horror… but much worse than that is when someone points them out to me; it is like having a knife taken to mt stomach and being gutted.It is a real physical as well as mental pain. I will tell you something about me, I do not EVER write anything in public. The thought of doing so can reduce me to tears of terror. I know there are typos in my novel, and that is after 10 years of working and reworking AND getting others to read it. I have not written anything since then of any great value simply because I know they are there and I am ashamed of them (believe me it IS that bad). I am not going to correct anything here. I will check, as ever, for mistakes, but I will not correct them. I know people do get worked up about these things, and its not that i don’t understand why… but it puts me straight back to those times when I was a kid, and what I was always being told about myself – and that fear gets too much. Just saying is all. Some of us are trying very hard to do what someone else takes for granted. 🙂

    Reply

  5. I came here to point out the error but I’m too late!

    Guess I’ll slump back over to my blog now . . .

    =(

    Reply

  6. Well said. I agree most wholeheartedly. And that in itself is an awful piece of English.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Garth on 08/03/2012 at 12:47

    Your treading a well worn path hear.

    Reply

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