It must be pure serendipity that I would discover Grammarly, which advertises itself as the world’s best grammar checker, this week. It just so happens that I was thinking that my next post would be about one of my biggest pet peeves: sloppily written books.
Now I, like most writers, spend a lot of time rereading, revising and rewriting everything I write. This goes for novels, letters and little posts like this one. I hate it when I miss a typo, or punctuation error, or any other grammatical mistake. So I try so hard to make sure I get them all. I don’t, of course.
The fact is that no writer does. The more you write, the more mistakes you will make, and the more mistakes you will end up missing when you reread your own work. Now the quantity of mistakes in a given texts often has little to do with the writing ability of the author. Unfortunately, even the best writers will miss some of their own errors, and need an outsider or two to review their writing for them.
I’m sure this is not news to most people reading this. Everyone who has tried to sell anything they wrote has been warned about the perils of sloppy writing, and the concomitant need for top-notch proof-reading. Despite how obvious this is, in book after book that I’ve read the past few months I still find mistakes that are so obvious that I wonder how the writers (or their proof-readers) could have missed them.
What do these books have in common? They are for the most part self-published or published by small presses. Perhaps these authors did not want to spend a lot of money on proofreaders, but they often leave the results on the page, like an ugly stain in the middle of a beautiful painting.
The irony is that many of these books are extremely good. These authors often show as much story-telling skill as the best-sellers or most critically acclaimed literary giants. Mainstream publishing houses can only put out so many books, and self-publishing allows readers to discover talented writers who may have otherwise toiled in obscurity. However, what can be worse than picking up a book and getting slapped in the face with typos and grammatical errors on page after page? No matter how talented the writer, or how enjoyable the story, this thoroughly ruins the experience of reading.
One of the benefits of the many self-publishing tools that are available on-line is that texts can be revised and corrected constantly. If I could be so bold as to ask a favor of all those authors who’ve received a comment from readers about mistakes found in their books: go back and correct them. Get a friend (or several) to reread your work with a fine-toothed comb if you can not spend the money on a professional proof-reading service. Make your future readers happy. Leave them savoring the great story you just told, or the wonderful ease with language that you have. Do not leave them shaking their heads at the glaring mistakes that pollute your writing.
(For those who are wondering, I have already had to take my own advice.)