Who's Your Author? discussion

Let's talk about... > Can spelling or grammatical errors turn you off from a book or author?

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message 1: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 2046 comments So in a discussion about Fifty Shades of Grey (I believe) someone commented that there were a ton of grammatical mistakes made within the book. I personally haven't read it, but I'll take their word for it. I have, however, read books with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Is it a total turn off for you when this happens or are you the forgiving sort? Does it irritate you like nails across a chalkboard or are you of the "he who casts the first stone" variety of readers? Let us know.

message 2: by LastBreath (new)

LastBreath (last_breath) | 241 comments Minor grammatical errors only become an issue if I'm kind of 'meh' with a story. Otherwise I can forgive their faulty Spell Check programme or enthusiasm to post unedited work.

Something that does rile me up is how the story is structured. Like if the author decides to rename characters part way through for no apparent reason. Or changes the scene three or four times in one paragraph. I've even experienced this kind of torture in one sentence!

message 3: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 2046 comments Oh no! I don't recall ever encountering a book with that kind of mismatch going on. Okay, there was the spelling of a name that changed in a book once, but other than that I don't recall seeing that.

message 4: by Marcia (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments I find spelling and typos to be the sign of a completely unprofessional editing job, which reflects poorly on the writer. It is totally the wrong impression a book should make on a reader, and many of us do know the difference. Grammar mistakes, if they are minor, may often go unnoticed, but if they are major or a completely misused word, like "he was BEEN an arse," well, I come to a complete stop. Even if I like the book, it takes me out of the story while I figure out that the author meant to say "he was BEING an arse," and then I have to make a mental edit, before I can move on. In this particular case, the author used the word "been" for "being" repeatedly, and I don't mean in dialog, where it might have been intended to be dialect or accent.

The one thing I would say to ALL self-published writers is to find a way to get your book edited, because you are likely to get slammed pretty badly if you don't. And bad reviews will have a profound impact on your sales.

I have noticed that in today's publishing world, good editors seem to be getting scarcer, and even some books by very well-known authors and publishers are going out with typos in them. I can overlook one or maybe two in a great book. But in a book that is borderline to begin with, mistakes will cause many people to not even finish the book. And I say all of this as someone who knows how HARD it is to proof, reproof, edit, and read over and over before publishing. And then find out you can still miss things. But if you don't do all of that, you won't even stand a chance of having a professional product.

Sorry for how long this is, but it is a real problem I see happening more and more. Back in "the day" this wouldn't even be an issue. Publishing houses would never let a book go out with errors in it. But today, self-published work and even good traditional houses are just not always doing the job as well as they should. I hope this will improve, and even with my own books, I'm paranoid about trying to get it right. If I find a mistake, even after publishing, I will fix it and re-upload immediately, striving to get it perfect before going to print. I may not reach that perfection, but at least it is my goal. It's not fair to ask readers to buy a book filled with mistakes.

Just my own personal views, of course, but you asked. :) Not trying to be offensive, just honest, in the hopes that writers will realize this is important, and has an impact on their future careers.

message 5: by Victoria (new)

Victoria | 16 comments Marcia, I'm with you so much. The you are and you're; there, their and they're bothers me also. Like you said they take me out of the story. You are so right, back in "the day" this would not have been an issue.

Shera (Book Whispers) (sherabookwhispers) | 127 comments Yes it can, and it has!

message 7: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 2046 comments Marcia, It's amazing how many spelling errors I see. I actually began to wonder if it was sometimes done on purpose in order to make sure the print fits all on one page so they don't end up having to have a page with one word on it.

message 8: by Sandra, Need more time to Read!! (new)

Sandra | 4506 comments It bugs me, but if the story is good enough I overlook it. Grim (Tornians, #1) by M.K. Eidem is a prime example. The editing is atrocious but I liked the story.

Apart from the you are/you're; there/ir/'re; another one is affect & effect.

message 9: by Marcia (last edited Feb 06, 2014 05:44AM) (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments I think you can decide to ignore the mistakes, but what you are really doing is forgiving them, for the sake of the story. Your brain still sees them, makes note of them, and is distracted from the book. The last thing an author wants to do is distract a reader from the story being told. And many, many readers will not ignore or forgive the errors, so the author has lost fans. For me, if it is truly bad, I'm probably not only going to give up on the book, I'm not going to be inclined to read the author's next one, either. And judging by the reviews I've seen, I'm not alone in this.

Even editors might miss a few things, but that's no excuse for not using one. There are editors available in many price ranges, to suit limited budgets. An author really should do a ton of editing of the book's first draft, then initial revisions and rewriting, using plenty of Spell-checking, and watching for all those little wavy blue lines and solid red ones that Word (for instance) inserts on any document. Those are there for a reason, and clicking on them will alert you to many errors you can fix yourself.

After the self-editing & revising, the book should go to an editor who can help the author find (hopefully) all the rest of the typos, grammar, and spelling issues. And after that, it should be read by as many friends and volunteers as can be found. They WILL catch other things, since editors are only human, too. The more eyes, the better. Only then, after finding and correcting as many errors as possible, should an author publish the book and expect people to pay for it. Anything less is unfair to readers.

And, one more thought. Making corrections on an already published ebook is easy. You just fix them in your html document, and upload the corrected document again. Takes mere minutes to re-publish a corrected document. If an author has already received a ton of bad reviews due to poor editing, he or she can elect to indicate that the book has been re-edited, or something of that nature, so new buyers know they can discount the earlier reviews.

Again, these are just my personal thoughts, but I've done a LOT of thinking on this very issue. And I've done a lot of research, as well, reading tons of books on self-publishing. I've yet to read one that espoused the view, for instance, that it was okay to have errors in a first book, and not to worry about it. "People expect it." Really, it's not okay. Not in Book 1 or Book 101. And the bottom line is...the bottom line: Sales. They will suffer from it. And that alone ought to be motivation enough to get as good an editor as you can afford, and make every effort to turn out a professional product. I'm just sayin'....

message 10: by Sandra, Need more time to Read!! (new)

Sandra | 4506 comments Yep, I agree with all of that Marcia. I wish other authors took the time to think it all through just like you have :)

I admit that my eg above, the subsequent book didn't have any major errors, and I'd say she doesn't realise she can fix the first book.

message 11: by Marcia (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments Hi, Sandra. I'm just trying to learn to do the best job I can on my own work, and in the process, trying to figure out why some don't seem to care that much.

Hopefully, the author you mentioned will get better and better as she progresses, like all of us would like to do. But that first impression is so important. I hope someone lets her know she can fix it pretty easily. Then she can feel better about it, and it will start to get better reviews for her, too.

It's all a learning process, for sure. And SOOOO not easy! ;)

message 12: by Angie (new)

Angie | 419 comments Marcia, everything you said is spot on for me, at least from a reader's point of view, I know nothing about the publishing side. I once read a book that had the author's bio, like most do, and she had dual degrees in some pretty serious scientific fields. Too bad she skipped ALL but her most basic English courses or had forgotten them. It may very well have been the same book LastBreath read, it was so all over the place. The spelling was horrible, grammar wasn't even thought about, and all I kept thinking was how on earth can someone with dual science degrees be this stupid? And they weren't just BS degrees, it was more like PhDs. But the story was just enough to hold me in to the torture. And it was torture. I usually can't use proper grammar, but I can point out the problems 99% of the time. I try to use proper grammar, though I fall short, but I don't write books, or really anything more complicated than reviews and posts on here. But I even write my text messages with as much proper grammar that will fit in the allowed amount of characters. And I hate having to use 'U' or 'R' instead of the real words! My 66 year old mother does it constantly which grates my nerves more. But I think I'm getting off track.

Marcia, you said that with Word it shows you the misspelled words and makes those easy to fix, but Pages, Mac's word processing program, even has a grammar checker. It's not perfect of course, but it's still a bigger start than what a person would have before. It makes the editing process that much easier. I've helped some friends with fanfiction and the such, and usually I run spell check, then grammar check, THEN I read it. That way hopefully the majority of the issues are taken care of.

message 13: by rachel (new)

rachel (rrr98) | 82 comments i suck at spelling i cant even spell becouse and im in 9th grade and when i notice when something is wrong then its really really bad

message 14: by Marcia (last edited Feb 06, 2014 01:06PM) (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments Hi, Angie! Word does a basic grammar check, too, and it alerts me if I've asked a question and used a period instead of a question mark. Probably most good (current) word processing programs will do at least that much. Plus I have a little proggie that I run each chapter through, and it alerts me to all sorts of things, from too many adverbs (I don't belong to the school of thought that says ALL adverbs are forbidden), to how many times in one page I've used a certain word. It's very, very helpful, and you can tell with some books, the author hasn't even bothered to do those basic checks herself. Much less hired an editor to look at the bigger picture.

My editor is very good, and she not only edits for mistakes, but she reads like a regular reader would. And if something doesn't make sense to her, or doesn't ring true for a character, she will point it out to me, and ask if I really want to leave it like that. Once in a while, I do, but often, I realize she's right, and I go back in and make revisions.

I just wish new writers would understand that self-published books don't have to be substandard books. And I wish traditional publishing houses were still providing strong editing. I've read that sometimes they will publish a book exactly as it was submitted to them. If that's true, it's no wonder I'm seeing errors even in books by the best in their genres.

I think it's part of a general laziness that seems to be running rampant today. I know that makes me sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but that doesn't make it any less true. I just think if you want to make a career out of writing, you should be willing to go the extra mile for your readers. It will pay off in the long run. If you self-publish, hire that editor before you upload. And if your trad publisher isn't going to provide one, hire one before you submit to them, too.

It's a matter of pride AND dollars and sense.

message 15: by Marcia (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments Also, while I too try to make my posts and texts read properly, it's forgiven if they don't. You aren't trying to sell them to make a living, after all. And you are usually doing them on the fly, without a lot of time to edit. Most of us understand that, and overlook errors, as long as we can understand what you mean.

message 16: by Dawn, Desperately seeking new worlds (new)

Dawn (dawnv) | 4054 comments My first experience with wacky grammar was Twilight. I never knew it was a problem for me until that book. I think what annoyed me the most is how teenagers replicated the issue unintentionally. For example they would write something like 'there is alot' instead of 'there are a lot'.

After that it has become quite the pet peeve. There are certain things that annoy me to no end for example you start of with the " but never end it. WTH who is talking?? Also beginning a sentence with but. OH and run on sentences. One book I read had them in spades.

So Marcia I applaud authors like you. Personally I think you spend so much time working on a story and bringing it to life .. you work to market it and design covers think of titles why not take the extra step and find someone to edit it??

BTW on the post thing I am sure I make all kinds of mistakes especially because I often use my phone or kindle to respond and swype has a mind of it own plus periods are a pain like now lol

message 17: by Angie (new)

Angie | 419 comments Dawn, the kindle is the WORST for changing words! It will autocorrect for something not even close! And I'll forget to double check what I've written until later and then have to go back and edit it. And I will admit to using the abbreviations you just used in your post, BTW, WTH and then they go down hill in propriety ;-) But that's really to save space! (See you can start a sentence with 'but' sometimes!) I completely agree with alot though. It makes me want to scream! If I had to learn it, you have to learn it ya little brats! Altogether is another one, just because you and your friends went all together to the beach, doesn't mean that's not an altogether different word. I do usually give a pass on affect and effect unless it's super obvious, because I get them mixed up and have to go over it in my head exactly why it should be on or the other. Then and than, however, NEVER get a pass! One is time and one is comparison, how freaking hard is that??? And as much as I like to get indignant about there, their and they're, I mess them up in my texts and Facebook post all the time, embarrassing me to no end.

Now you said something about having no end quotation mark. I need some feedback on this one. If it's at the end of a paragraph where someone is speaking, my oh so very long ago English comp classes seem to have said that if the next paragraph immediately start with the same person speaking, you are indeed supposed to NOT put an end quotation mark. I sometimes forget or mix things up, so I could be wrong, but Marcia? Does that sound right? If the way I described the rule doesn't make sense, just let me know and I'll use an example. Otherwise, no there should always be quotation marks and really hardly anyone follows the rule I described. I think I've read one author in the last year that's used it.

message 18: by Angie (new)

Angie | 419 comments Marcia, the Pages grammar check goes so far as to say "this is a commonly used phrase, you should use this instead". But it's made more for work presentations than fiction. It's quit annoying at times actually. It even complains about contractions sometimes. It really gets grumpy when but and and are used to start sentences! Though with every computer program that I've worked with, the human still has the final decision.

message 19: by Dawn, Desperately seeking new worlds (new)

Dawn (dawnv) | 4054 comments No Angie the quotation mark you describe makes total sense. Unfortunately it goes like this...

"Hi Angie, how is that new book I am not sure why I asked her that I probably should have asked her what she is reading first.

"Oh Dawn it is really funny you should check it out".

So I am thinking wait did she say all of that or....

On the kid thing though I did turn it into a classroom project they told me their favorite scenes from the book and then we edited them. That learned them LOL

message 20: by Sandra, Need more time to Read!! (new)

Sandra | 4506 comments ROFL

message 21: by Lisarenee (new)

Lisarenee | 2046 comments Has anyone seen this:

message 22: by Victoria (last edited Feb 06, 2014 05:20PM) (new)

Victoria | 16 comments Lisarenee, Funny :)

message 23: by Marcia (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments Angie wrote: "Dawn, the kindle is the WORST for changing words! It will autocorrect for something not even close! And I'll forget to double check what I've written until later and then have to go back and edit i..."

On the quotation marks, you are correct that if the same person is speaking through several paragraphs, you do not put an end quote at the end of each one. Say you have 3 paragraphs of dialogue from one talky person. You start paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 with quotations marks, but only end paragraph 3 with one.

Hope that helps on this particular issue.

message 24: by Marcia (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments Angie wrote: "Marcia, the Pages grammar check goes so far as to say "this is a commonly used phrase, you should use this instead". But it's made more for work presentations than fiction. It's quit annoying at ti..."

I believe in checking out what the program wants you to change, but I also believe in the judicious use of OVERRIDE if you know for a fact that your way is correct, or sounds better.

And never forget that dialogue is a whole different animal. It doesn't have to follow all the rules because people don't speak that way. If you want realistic dialogue, you have to talk like your character would, even to include their mistakes.

I often write stories that include downhome, country characters, and I try to be true to their mannerisms, expressions, and grammar. But that would never work in the narrative parts of the story.

message 25: by Marcia (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments Lisarenee wrote: "Has anyone seen this:

I love that, Lisarenee. Oh, what a difference a simple comma can make. :D

message 26: by Marcia (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments When in doubt on grammar rules (a whole different ballgame than mere typos or using the wrong word), I always check with Grammar Girl. I find her explanations are so clear and easy to understand that I don't usually have to copy them down. If you've never checked out her website, Google it, and then bookmark it for the next time you have a question. It's brilliant.

I find that many times I'm typing so fast, I use there instead of their because my fingers made the decision for my brain! :) So spellcheck and usage apps within Word save me every time. Angie, Word tends to just underline problem areas and offer you a selection of choices when you hover over the underlining, including the option to ignore. Word 2013 required an adjustment period for me when I first got it, but now I love it. So many wonderful things it saves me time with! Saving time is a good thing when you're my age. :) Especially right now. As I work on my new novel, I've got a 3rd one poking at me, so I'm always busy. My eensy brain can only hold so many sets of voices yelling to be heard!

message 27: by Marcia (last edited Feb 06, 2014 06:40PM) (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments Oh, I wanted to say one other thing about correct grammar vs writing styles. While the basic use of spotlessly correct grammar doesn't change, writing styles do. Many things that would have been frowned upon a few decades ago are considered perfectly acceptable today, and most editors and grammarians are okay with them. Starting a sentence with the word "But," for one. It used to be a no-no. It isn't considered one today, except in the most formal of writing circumstances. There have been a lot of other changes based more on style than actual rules, too. You kind of have to have a feel for what you can do and what you can't. It's a bit of a gray area, but there are a lot of good books out there to help determine when you can break the rules and when you can't.

Many times, the rules are broken to provide emphasis. And certain things have gone out of style. When was the last time you read a book with very many--if any--semi-colons? They used to be very common. Now you are much more likely to see them replaced by an em dash, like the one in my preceding sentence. I think this change makes sense. An em dash adds just the right amount of emphasis to some phrases, and is not nearly so stuffy as a semi-colon.

Language is always changing (just think of all the words in the dictionary today that weren't there last year. Twerking and selfies come to mind.) You still have to master the basics, and then you can bend or even break some of the rules, when it works better to convey your intent.

Again, I'm just sharing my personal opinion. No one left me in charge of this. But I've been trying hard to learn what works today and what is totally unacceptable, and why. I think it's all pretty interesting, and it's stuff that a good editor will know how to guide you with. (Look...I ended a sentence with a preposition! Haha.)

message 28: by Dawn, Desperately seeking new worlds (new)

Dawn (dawnv) | 4054 comments You know Marcia you bring about an interesting point. First thanks for the well thought out explanations. I agree with a lot of what you have said when I read books where literature and anthropology come together I do not mind it at all.

For example when I read books like Their Eyes Were Watching God or Mules and Men by Zora Neal Hurston it fits. Or even books that bring in slang from other cultures. In short I have no issue with poor grammar or even misspelled words in dialogue as long as it is a deliberate use of dialect.

My issue is with poor grammar, poor syntax and poor use of vocabulary. For example their instead of there, their or they're each of these things mean different things and I see a lot of authors using their instead of they're then sometimes it is just a plain old typo and I will read there. I was just reading something and they used 'retched' (vomiting) instead of 'wretched' (miserable person). These are the types of things that send me running for my red pen. The other issue is when an author makes an observation about something pointless. For example ' it was a long trip about twelve hours, I was going to have to rent a car then catch the train and hitch a ride the rest of the way, the train does not bother me' why are you telling me the train does not bother you? What does that tell me??

Now a word or two even a phrase or two in a novella or a book... I will barely notice it. However when these actions become repetitive it distracts me from the story and I start looking for mistakes or I just get bored and move on. Typically these become authors I avoid in the future.

Now if the book is nonfiction book and there are these types of issues I tend to discount the accuracy of the book in its entirety.

message 29: by Marcia (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments Dawn wrote: "You know Marcia you bring about an interesting point. First thanks for the well thought out explanations. I agree with a lot of what you have said when I read books where literature and anthropolog..."

I agree, Dawn, and this goes back to the beginning of this discussion. These are the very kinds of things an editor will find and help an author correct. No excuse for poor grammar in the narrative portions of any book. Tiny errors are usually easy to overlook, since most readers aren't English teachers, but glaring ones (there/their/they're, then/than, or he were instead of he was) are just unacceptable. And it all comes back to editors, editors, editors.

And I totally agree that when these types of mistakes occur in a nonfiction work, the author loses credibility.

BTW, I've seen the retch/wretch thing, myself, and the other day, I read about it being time to send in the Calvary. Ummm? Not sure the location where Jesus was crucified is going to be much help in an emergency, being a place and all (Golgotha). What she meant, of course, was that they needed to send in the CAVALRY. Again, this would have been caught by any decent editor. As it was, it pulled me out of the story and left me sitting there going, "really?"

I wish I could send out a personal message to every new writer and tell them that even if they have to postpone the publish date of their work, they need to scrimp and save until they can get it edited. It could make or break their writing careers. My budget was very limited, believe me. (Like none). I chose an editor who would work with me, and we did it on a chapter by chapter basis, paying as we went, and with the option to skip a week or two if I needed to. It took a month or so longer, but I felt much better about my book when it was done.

And even after that, I had about ten more people read the book, cover to cover. That was my final, final revision time, when I could still make changes if I needed to. (And any I did make were double checked by my editor, as well.) I'm not sure any book is perfect, being a product of imperfect humans, such as we are. But that's what you strive for. If you don't even make the effort, you have failed not only your readers, but yourself, as a writer.

BTW...do you know how to offer comfort to a writer whose book isn't selling? You pat them on the shoulder and murmur, "There, their, they're."

message 30: by Angie (new)

Angie | 419 comments Marcia, I think part of the issue is that now that self publication is available and so "easy", every aspiring writer with the dream of the next great American novel can toss a book out there on the internet and wait for the big bucks to come rolling in!! They don't think far enough ahead to worry about silly things like editing and presentation. I've seen quite a few with terrible or no covers, and I know what the saying is, but people do still judge books by their covers. Or even having misspelled words or really bad typos in the description on the online retailer. I'm sorry but if the description is filled with errors, that gives me absolutely no confidence in that book. I won't even get it if it's free! All of these things tell me that the writer is either overconfident or lazy. I've seen ads online for editors, so I know they aren't difficult to find. And if a writer can't afford an editor, friends, family or even enemies should be utilized to their fullest potential. Even the "greats" in the genres that brought all of us together, PNR and UF, thank beta readers and first reading groups for their input on books in addition to their editors. Of LKH, Kim Harrison, Chloe Neill and others use a process of that sort, than it must be a pretty good system! They didn't get to the point that I know their names off the top of my head by having poorly written books. I know a young lady that I met through her fanfiction (I've given it up, please don't judge me ;-), and after I read several of her stories, I pestered her to write something original and publish publish publish!!! I'm very happy to say she has two of a YA UF trilogy published, an adult PNR coming out any time now and then the finale of the trilogy coming out soon after. She is going through a small publishing house that treats her very well, is very supportive even when her husband was in the hospital and they weren't sure he would make it. That happened right about when her second book was due out, so her editor and some of the other writers finished up anything that needed to be done, with her permission of course, and got her book out on time even though she was personally in crisis mode and couldn't deal with hardly anything to do with the book at that moment. She was so worried that if she signed a contract the publisher would be the opposite, treating her like a work horse and pushing her toward a deadline constantly, so she hit the lottery payout with this company!! I bought her books, but they are still on my TBR list so I can't say for certain that the great work that I saw before is still there, but I'm not too worried. I plan to continue buying her books as soon as they come out, even if I haven't gotten to the first two yet. Which reminds me, Marcia I got the sample for your book, because the premise is a bit out of my norm, but I'll probably get it after I finish the book I'm on.

message 31: by Marcia (last edited Feb 07, 2014 09:12AM) (new)

Marcia (marciameara) | 161 comments Wow, what a great publishing house your friend found. Congrats to her, and I hope you will really enjoy her book. You are so right that people judge books by the cover. It might not be their only criteria, but it is certainly what catches their eyes in the bookstore. I can't imagine publishing with a really shoddy looking one, much less none at all. (I've been known to buy books strictly because I couldn't resist the cover art, especially if it's by Chris McGrath.)

I was so lucky to have a best friend who's a very talented graphic designer. She took my idea and ran with it, and I love the cover for Wake-Robin Ridge.

You are right that a lot of the crap that we run into is due to laziness and a complete lack of knowledge about writing, the writing industry, itself, and publishing. Coupled with a lack of desire to learn. I have to assume those people aren't remotely serious about making a career of writing. If I were a younger person starting out with all these wonderful resources and options in front of me, OH, what fun I would have! There's no excuse not to excel today, if you really do have at least some writing ability.

By the way, thanks for checking out the sample of my book. It has a lot of different things going on...murder, some spooky, woo-woo bits, a really bad guy, a really HOT guy,and two very different women, 50 years apart, who struggle to start their lives over. But I have to say, it's the love stories that made me want to write it. I'm a die-hard romantic at heart, and I enjoyed writing about the contrast between Ruth in the 1960's and Sarah, today, as they dealt with all the changes in their lives, and in some cases, some pretty horrific things they didn't expect at all.

I hope you'll give it a chance, but not to worry. I'm very well aware that not all books work for all people. Even my favorite authors sometimes write a book or two that I just don't like. So if you end up not enjoying mine, I won't shun you, I promise! :)

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