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How important is editing/grammar to you? NO author bashing allowed, please.

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Initial post: Sep 11, 2012 3:11:38 PM PDT
HJ Leonard says:
This seems to be the theme of the day lately. With all of the self-publishing books that are released daily on Amazon thanks to the capability to upload anything and everything, there are thousands (hundreds of thousands/millions) of books out there, including many free ones, that we all are exposed to.

How important is proper editing to you? How many grammatical/punctuation errors can you take before you say enough?

Is the story the most important thing? Can you automatically decipher the meaning without being jerked out of the story every time you see a mistake?

Please keep this thread animosity-free. The intent is not to gripe about quality issues, but to discuss how different our perceptions of the written word can vary.


In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2012 3:24:08 PM PDT
Grammar is very important to me, and so is credible dialogue. In fact, I think that bad dialogue is one thing that is just a deal breaker for me.

A few typos don't bother me.

For me, it's really the whole package of professionalism. A great plot/story isn't enough for me - it has to be told well, too. But at the same time, I don't necessarily read just because I like pretty words put together in pretty combinations. I am a plot/character driven reader, so a meandering, pointless book, even if it is really well written, isn't going to do it for me.

In other words, I want it all. But, I'm also willing to pay for it.

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 3:38:06 PM PDT
HJ Leonard says:
I find that I'm not particularly sensitive to formal grammar mistakes. I'm good if a book is written how we speak. For the most part. And like Mayhem, a few typos here and there do not bother me.

My pet peeves:

Homophones, for one. Their/they're/there, role/roll, peek/ get the idea. I can take one or two, but when a book is riddled with them I start to lose patience.

Consistent narrative issues. This is HUGE for me. If a book is in 1st person, it needs to stay in 1st person. 1st person means that the narrator cannot POSSIBLY know the internal thought processes of another character. Point of views should not change every paragraph, and certainly not mid-paragraph.

Tense issues: Lately I've read a few books that jump back and forth between present tense (he holds my hand and we walk up the stairs), and past tense (he held my hand and we walked up the stairs). There IS a huge difference, and if this is inconsistent in a book, it's an automatic DNF (did not finish) for me.

Those are my technical issues.

The rest, to quote Mayhem:

"A great plot/story isn't enough for me - it has to be told well, too. But at the same time, I don't necessarily read just because I like pretty words put together in pretty combinations. I am a plot/character driven reader, so a meandering, pointless book, even if it is really well written, isn't going to do it for me."

Yup, that's me, too.

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 4:10:46 PM PDT
Lord Rose says:
Grammar is very important to me, as well. I can look over typos and spelling errors (unless there are a lot), and formatting errors, as well, but if the commas are misplaced, or the sentences aren't grammatical, then that's it for that book. (Or I'll spend all my time drawing in commas where they should be. The fact that I can't do this on my ereader is quite annoying.)

Dialogue is definitely important. I read a book recently where one of the H's first comment to the h, after not seeing her in over a decade, was, "Not only have you grown into a beautiful woman with your raven hair and clear blue eyes, but an astute one as well." As most of the dialogue in the book was along those lines, I abandoned it pretty quickly.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2012 4:19:31 PM PDT
Both your consistent narrative/tense issues strike me as issues that would be common with very new writers who don't spend a lot of time reading. Both of them are very jarring - if Diana Gabaldon had, for example, jumped out of Claire's head to tell us all about Jamie's internal dialogue, it would've been incredibly disconcerting. Like Claire was psychic or something.

Picking a narrative perspective/tense is limiting, and it seems to me that a lot of new authors don't understand that those limitations require discipline to maintain. They just write whatever pops into their heads without regard to whether or not it is consistent with the story framework that they have chosen. A good editor can help them to develop the discipline that they need to work within their chosen style/form.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2012 4:23:19 PM PDT
HJ Leonard says:
I completely agree with you on this. There are many books that have been recd lately that have many of these issues, which is one reason I started the thread. I've been struggling to get through some of these well-liked books, and decided that all of these issues clearly impact readers differently.

Everyone has different tolerance levels, and I was curious.

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 4:55:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 11, 2012 4:56:19 PM PDT
Bill Bee says:
There are plenty of good books that are well edited. If I see a review that says a book is not properly edited I won't buy it. - Bill

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2012 5:02:05 PM PDT
If I find numerous grammar errors and more than a few typos I will stop reading the book, no matter how interesting. I feel that an author loses credibility when he/she allows a book to be offered for sale before it has been properly edited and proofed. IMO, if I pay for a product, I expect to get what I paid for -- and I make enough mistakes myself without paying someone else for their mistakes.

So authors, if you want to build your reader-base, take the time and effort to give your readers a product you will be proud of. (oops, I ended a sentence with a preposition)

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 5:02:11 PM PDT
Aussie Girl says:
Great topic Jo.

I'd have to agree it is becoming a huge thing when reading Indie/self published books. I find myself shying away from buying them now and wait for discussion on these forums regarding those very issues. Bad grammar, spelling mistakes waffling on and non continuity of plot - just a few things that hinder the reading experience. It made me realise how important the services of a good editor and the rapport between writer and editor must be.

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 5:08:44 PM PDT
D. Arnold says:
I judge each book separately. If the story is really interesting, I can overlook a lot of the errors. I read better than I right (He!He!) so many of the errors whether grammatical or spelling roll right off and I don't let it bother me. If the book is a struggle for plot, then I will have a hard time with the errors and it all becomes more than I want to deal with.
IMO, if an author is placing their name on a published work, then they need to make sure the book is edited to its fullest.

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 5:36:41 PM PDT
Wasn't there a thread on here once about grammar nazis?

I find to a large extent, my tolerance toward poor grammar depends on the author and the style of writing. Overly pretentious writing had better have good grammar *all* the time, otherwise I'm going to complain.

That said, there are limits to what I will torture myself by attempting to read.

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 5:47:43 PM PDT
i notice mistakes. they take me out of the story. when i get kicked out of the story a few times, i reconsider my reading decision-if i was moved by it, or very curious, i will start reading again, and may finish if i don't get kicked out of it again too soon.

i don't have an arbitrary line though, sometimes deleting a book with typos, sometimes not. i hate when the tenses are messed up and usually quit the book. i also delete when the story is just too stupid or innaccurate. horses do not usually eat straw(oat straw?) regency gentleman did not wear hessian boots in the ball room. the closer to the beginning of the book the errors, the more likely i am to delete the whole thing.

i give thanks to the beings that gave me the power to STOP reading a book. yay me! life is aggravating enough without torturing myself.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2012 5:59:49 PM PDT
cathyr says:
"they take me out of the story"

That's the key. Is it sufficient to draw you away and break into your credibility cloud?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2012 3:05:54 AM PDT
Taylijane says:
"they take me out of the story"

That's the key. Is it sufficient to draw you away and break into your credibility cloud?"

I have to agree. I cannot concentrate on the story when I am too busy correcting the mistakes or looking for them, which is worse!
Turns me off if it takes me away from the story.
Once bitten, twice shy in regard to the author. I won't bother buying that author again.
My advice to authors - get a good editor for goodness sake.

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 3:14:04 AM PDT
yellowdognc says:
I have deleted books bc I could not read even a good story concept with grammatical errors. I want the characters in my books to speak intelligently.

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 4:35:48 AM PDT
for me that is the key - while I might pick up on the grammar etc, if it doesn't take me out of the story, I might subtract a bit of a rating, but not a lot...if it takes me out of it, then the review will likely be a bit harsher. Ditto with dialogue - if its chunky, or redundant (huge pet peeve of mine) I'll likely comment on that

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 4:39:32 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2012 4:46:13 AM PDT
Ian Fraser says:
I think there're a lot of self-pubbed writers who grew up watching TV and never read much, given the school-essay level of their mistakes.

Your/you're, there/their etc.

Same goes for klunky dialog and sentences full of redundancies. These aren't (or shouldn't be) mistakes that educated adults make when writing.

Those are acceptable for kids essays - not acceptable for commercial product.

Unfortunately, one is dealing with a genre of writer that believes 'editing' mostly means 'removing typos.'

Good editing and grammar are vital in telling a story properly.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2012 5:54:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2012 6:03:07 AM PDT
Dog Lover says:
I am extremely sensitive to proper use of the language - both written and spoken.

Although I can handle a few typos, repeated misuse of terms or flagrant repetition of misspellings of the same word (indicating that the author/editor don't KNOW the correct spelling or the mass-change feature hasn't been validated) will make me throw a book down in disgust.

Difficult to see the "story" if it is communicated badly.

That being said, one of the things that some posters about this forget is that idiom (modern-speak, for example) is appropriate only for dialogue (which can be character thought.) Grammar/spelling are not expected, in most cases, to be correct in that part of a novel. In non-fiction, errors are even less acceptable.

I do believe that the "story" is very important - possibly most important. However, I can be thrilled by the musical use of language in even the most inane of plots. The reverse, however, is most definitely NOT true! If a story-line is extremely good, I still will find it nauseating if the book is poorly structured, grammar is fractured with the most basic of failures, and, above all, spelling is atrocious. Analogy is a beautiful woman who disdains hygiene: Might be attractive but the smell is off-putting.


In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2012 6:08:34 AM PDT
TravelingGal says:
Well, you pretty much captured all of my pet peeves right there. :-) The only one I would add is using a "big word" incorrectly. Don't try an impress me with your vocabulary unless you are actually sure you are using the word appropriately!

Now as far as tolerance level, I can actually tolerate some pretty poorly written books if they have a really compelling story line and they are relatively short. Because I read quickly, I will zoom through a short poorly written book if I really want to know what happens.

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 6:12:54 AM PDT
I am not a paragon of punctuation but I am pretty damned good at spelling. I believe that the basics I learned I learned early from reading as a child. That's why I froth at the mouth when I encounter children's or YA authors who can't spell, use commas like confetti, have no idea of the definition of a word they have misused. Then when called on it they bleat that it's the story that counts.

Please. Keep saying that when your own kids come home with a failing mark in english because you have less acquaintance with it's proper form than a lot of non-english speaking people.

So, yes, punctuation and spelling matters because maybe the story is something different when the commas are in the wrong place.

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 6:26:03 AM PDT
Willread says:
It all depends on how much the storyline catches me. I`m forgiving if the book is a pageturner but especially the homophones can annoy me to no end if the book isn`t that good to begin with. So I`m not going to throw away a great book just because it has a few mistakes.

I like the fact that we have so many self-published books because they bring in new blood. And, to be honest, even "edited" books have plenty of mistakes. So many of the smaller publishers have freelance editors who are paid almost nothing. Not all of them are very thorough.

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 6:42:57 AM PDT
Confucius say, when posting complaints about spelling/grammar, it is imperative that one be aware of one's own spelling/grammar, lest it be noted. This does include homophones. ;q

I read a book a while back, an older book written prior to all the publisher cutbacks. I was bemused by the sheer quantity of homophones in the book. How did the editor miss that? Or was the original manuscript so bad, the editor was just glad it made sense now?

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 6:49:31 AM PDT
I think there are computer programs for correct grammar, especially made for journalists and authors.I would guess they are easily available, so that professionals of speech can use them everyday.Or am I wrong?

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 7:06:11 AM PDT
Ian Fraser says:
There are a number of software options on the market for writers, but English, she is a tricky language...

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 7:09:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2012 7:11:29 AM PDT
CLG says:
Erratic punctuation is my worse problem. Punctuation is meant to be an aid to understanding a written sentence (Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!). When the author just sticks punctuation in any where, as I have seen in two SP books recently, I usually give up in disgust.

The other problem is the misuse of words. Words have a meaning and if the author does not understand the meaning then do not use that word-- use some other word you do understand. I am not impressed by a multisyllabric word that does not mean what you think it means. Simple writing is often good writing.

I will point out also that one of the worse books I actually read all the way through on my Kindle was put out by Kensington. I was on a plane and did not have anything else to read. I finally starting counting the errors about half way through and ended up with 49 instances of word misuse, punctuation errors and OCR artifacts.

ETA: Because I am not charging for this comment I'm not holding myself to the same high standard. :)
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Discussion in:  Romance forum
Participants:  32
Total posts:  57
Initial post:  Sep 11, 2012
Latest post:  Sep 14, 2012

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