I chose the topic of grammar and spelling because I suck at them. Really. I have a mind that often sees what it wants to see, not what is actually on the page. My manuscripts are filled with typos and spelling errors. Anyone who has read one will tell you I speak the truth.

How then, you ask, did I get published? I wonder that myself sometimes.
The truth is that a wonderful friend who was an English major proofread my first manuscripts. With her help, I polished those pieces to within an inch of their lives. I do not believe I would have sold those stories otherwise.

Editors are busy, busy people. It’s their job to make sure a manuscript is clean and ready to be published when it leaves his or her desk for the printers office. Editors don’t want to do extra work. They want the author to make their job easier. Would they pass over your good story because it was full of typos and misspelling? If it was a choice between two good stories and yours was the one with mistakes, they might. Why take that chance?

I still have errors that slip into my work, but my editor knows I’ll fix those when I do revisions. Even with both our eyes on the manuscript, I’ve had a few slip into the actual book.

Do readers notice? YES.
Do they write and point out the page and line? YES.
Do they say they won’t buy another book by you? YES.
Is grammar and spelling important? YES.

Are you uncertain when choosing between "who" and "whom," "affect" and "effect," "lay" and "lie"? Your use of language tells people a great deal about how you think, and how you communicate. Making simple errors in writing can make you seem less sophisticated, even less intelligent, than you are.

So get a friend, co-worker or family member to read your stuff. Two is better than one. They’ll each catch different things.
Invest in a good book on self-editing and grammar and study it.
Polish that story and send it out.
Your dream is waiting to come true.


Becky A said...

Oh Miss Pat,

You are taking away all my excuses. G!
Grammar and punctuation--aacckk!!!!!


Joan Vincent said...

How true the information you give in this post! Grammar is extremely important whether you have a sophisticated character or a local yokel. Don't always trust Word's grammar either. Typos--you can search and search and still not find them all--until after you send that manuscript off and reread. I always set a manuscript aside when I think it is "finished" and then reread for typos a week later. The eye does see what the mind thinks is there so some are devils to find. Also remember that spell check doesn't care about homonyms--bear and bare, eye and I etc. It's dirty work and we all get to do it!

Pat Davids said...

Sorry, but Joan is right. It's dirty work and we all get to do it.
She's also right about word usage for our charachters. Poor speech and bad grammer is okay if your character is two years old, or something of a hick. More elequent speech will tell readers your heroine is refined.
Grammar and spelling are just tools we need to tell good stories.
A little practice with them will help you improve your craft.

Reese Mobley said...

Don't you agree that since we've become so used to using slang and shortcuts in our language that it seems natural to write that way? Having several sets of fresh eyes is the best plan to correct our mistakes. We just have to learn to not be offended when people find mistakes. Better our friends and family members discover the errors than an editor or agent you are trying to impress.

Starla Kaye said...

I have to agree that it is necessary to be very careful with proper grammar usage. I, too, struggle with it and have to proofread time and again to get it as clean as possible for submission. And Joan's comment about setting the manuscript aside for a week or so before you read it once again is right on the money.

Rox Delaney said...

I'm one of the lucky ones. English was my favorite subject in school, so grammar hasn't been especially hard (most of the time) for me. Spelling is okay, and I'm a real stickler about it, unwilling to misspell something when I'm not sure and can easily look it up. is my friend. ::grin::

Commas are my downfall. I tend to use them too much, so I've had to study up and keep an eye on them. And if I look back at copy edits, I find hyphenated words give me trouble, too. I'm still working on the difference between affect and effect, but I think I've made progress with who and whom. LOL

So we all have our weaknesses when it comes to grammar, spelling and punctuation. The best thing to do is learn as we go. I have one book that I often fall back on for grammar questions. Although I like Strunk & White's Elements of Style, I've found that Essentials of English is much easier to understand.

And if you have a friend who happens to be good at grammar, spelling and punctuation, see if she/he might be willing to read through your pages for errors.

Just be sure not to let your feelings interfere with constructive criticism. Just one more thing to learn...

Rox Delaney said...

An addendum to my comment yesterday:

Thanks to technology, there are countless websites addressing grammar, so there's no need to go out and buy a book. I'll add that I LOVE books, so adding one is a plus for me. ::grin::

A good place to start for online grammar questions answered is
Guide to Grammar and Style by Jack Lynch. He offers links to even more sites, so don't be shy. If you still can't find what you need, google 'grammar'. Or use your favorite search engine.