Monday, April 30, 2012

Discussion | Hello Goodbye

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on the importance of grammar, and just recently I had a bit of practical experience to go with it. I read, or anyway started to read, a book that was not merely filled but overflowing with grammatical errors. I couldn't get farther than a chapter and a half in because I was so distracted by the errors that I couldn't concentrate on the story in the slightest. When I read, I'm not really aware of the words themselves unless there's something spectacularly good or bad about them. I'm not very good at reading poetry. So seeing copious grammatical errors just makes me want to go through the book with a red pen, crossing things out with gleeful abandon. Reading it like a normal book? Extraordinarily difficult if not completely impossible.

But the broader question I'm going for here is, why should I have to deal with that? If an author or publisher or whoever can't be bothered to consistently capitalize their characters' names or the first letter of a sentence, something your computer does for you, it makes me think they put just as little effort into the story and characters themselves, and why would I expend extra effort on reading something like that?

I've heard a few people argue that a good story makes up for bad writing, but I don't see why it should. If you were on a date with someone who seemed like a great guy, but when you saw his place it looked like a hurricane spat out a pigsty and a landfill in the same room, would you go out with him again? I don't think so.

I'm not going to tell you what book this was, because it was an ARC and I assume (or at least hope) that these errors will be corrected in the finished copy. Since I have no idea of the quality of the actual story, it seems a little excessive to tarnish the book before it even comes out. But I want to know what other readers think of these kinds of problems. Are you willing to plow through poorly written books to see if their might be a diamond of a story beneath the dross? Or do you give up on the story with the knowledge that their are other, better fish in the sea? What makes you stop reading a book?


  1. I have to agree with you, Kate. I' afraid I've learned to fly right over these things in English, mostly because I got used to them from reading so many proofs, BUT it still bothers me when there are many.
    On the other hand, English is not my native language, so I figure it's much worse for you. I don't read books in my native language anymore. I am a language professor and a part-time copy editor and the editing choices often drive me crazy to the point where I'm unable to focus on the story and end up muttering under my breath about spelling and sentence structure.
    I love that you do these posts. It is my firm opinion that caring about your language is almost as important as personan hygiene. Some things you just don't write, out of self-respect. I'm self-taught in English and I'm certainly nowhere near perfect, but I try really hard, and even I notice how many silly mistakes people do. I'm done with my rant now. Sorry. :)

    1. Haha, thanks Maja! I have to say, your English is a lot better than many other native speakers' I've seen! I can even deal with a few errors – it's a little unreasonable to expect perfection – but this was a large number of errors per page, which is just ridiculous. I'm glad I'm not alone in being a little crazy when it comes to linguistic competence! :P

  2. I only put up with horrific issues like that if I already promised to review it. I just can't stand it otherwise. If it's bad enough that I have to bribe myself to read it ("One more chapter and THEN you can read ______, for half an hour") then it's probably not worth my time. You are totally not alone.

    1. I've done that! lol
      Thanks, it's good to know I'm not the only one who's a little OCD about certain aspects of writing :)


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