This is a comment posted on my story in Gloom cupboard:




It’s tough when Word 2007 can’t catch your horrendous grammar, eh? I suppose you’re the teacher’s pet anyway since you can write so passionately about such dark territory as track marks and roofies (that’s a word you can use instead of Rohypnol for a second time, did you know?).

A+ for the depiction of a drug addled assassin fantasy.

F- for a complete tense, grammar and narrative clusterfuck.



This comment sounds bitter and personal, but in the name of “no censorship”, it will post. If you read prior issues, you’ll note that many of our stories have a unique voice, often using run-on sentences, poor grammar, lack of punctuation, or repetition as a means of setting a tone or pace. We work with writers to edit obvious flaws, but there’s a point where the author’s voice needs to be heard. We find this type of writing refreshing. This issue was meant to be Noir, which is cynical and sometimes considered cheesy by those who don’t appreciate good Noir. Someone always dies in Noir and the reader always sees it coming; the journey to death is the adventure.




Ok, so I made a few mistakes. The majority were deliberate, although some weren't (this was pointed out before the story was published and they were corrected). Still - it's a little harsh, right? That story involved drugging a girl, practically raping her and then blackmailing her afterwards and this guy is getting his knickers in a twist over run-on sentences?


This was my first published work and this is the only comment I've received. Is this all I can look forward to?

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Bad grammar walks a thin line with me. When/if it becomes distracting, I'm gone.
If it's a careless mistake, it absolutely kills the book for me. If it's intentional because that is the way a character speaks, then of course it's proper.

Poor management of the language unfortunately robs a writer of credibility. If you care about writing, learn the rules. You have to know the rules before you break them."
IJ's got it right: if the grammar fits the character who's speaking, or if it's a first-person narration in which ungrammatical speech or dialect is an important part of the voice, that's one thing. Such characterizations might be annoying at times, but they can also be made to work, and even work brilliantly (see Huck Finn). If grammar errors are present in authorial narration or descriptive passages and are clearly unintended, then they reveal our imperfect grasp of the language--not what you want in a story that's posted in a public forum, obviously.
I was never properly trained in grammar, which is why my first attempts at novels were first-person PI stories. I figured, as Jon notes and IJ implies, that any grammatical errors I missed could be blamed on the character/narrator.
First, some people are jerks. I'm sorry one landed on you like that.

Second, it's probably not wise to ask someone who reads books about grammar for fun if grammar is important. If you didn't learn it in school, take the time to learn it now. All your future editors will thank you for it.

You think this is harsh? No this is NOT harsh. You wait until you become published and your book is bought by complete strangers and book reviewers. Then and only then will you see harsh. Oh and let's not forget how some agents and editors will tear your work apart and make you believe you have no business to even THINK you can write.

So don't let this comment bother you. It is not that harsh to what you will hear in this business. This is where the thick skin comes in, during moments like these.

I hate it when people are "mean" for the sake of being mean and not helping. I believe you can criticize without being mean and that's helpful. Writers should expect folks to be honest and unfortunately some folks care nothing about the effect their words have on someone else.

But this is the BIG part of being any kind of writer, new or veteran. So as for the comment, don't let it get you down. Try to scrap through the harshness of it and see the point. In a roundabout way, they are telling you that your grammar killed the story for them. It might hurt but it's important to know and it will help you get better.

The worst critiques are often the ones that help the most because they are the ones you pay more attention to. I think the person could have been more tactful and polite but you can't expect that from anyone. Also, some folks just like to tear people down.

As for is Grammar important, of course it is. Have you ever read a book with horrible grammar? Pick up a self-published book that hasn't been vetted some time and you'll see how much impact grammar has on a book. I've read some very good self-published novels, some great ones I actually loved. The author knew their stuff and took time to hone their skills. But the majority of self-published novels are full of grammatical errors or just plain bad writing. It's not even simple errors but it's like the writer doesn't understand the fundamentals of grammar.

I think most writers (us published ones too) aren't natural grammar experts. No. You learn as you keep writing. Not even English teachers know every grammar rule by heart, LOL! This is where research comes in. If you're confused on grammar, get you a Word program (that will do wonders and can cut out your grammar problems by 90%) BUT you still have to know the basics of course because you can't rely on a program. You have to be able to catch the program's mistakes and sometimes even Word makes mistakes.

Grammar is a very important part of writing. If you plan to get published one day, your book is going to be available for a price. People aren't gonna spend money on story that might seem interesting with BAD writing and grammar.

I've put down books I thought could have been wonderful just because of the lack of decent grammar. There are many excuses for people not to like or buy a writer's work. I think we as professionals can at least make sure that bad grammar isn't the main reason, LOL!

DISCLAIMER: (Oh and let me make it clear. If any self-published authors are here, I'm not putting down self-published authors as a whole. I meant the ones who try to self-publish something that is obviously a first draft and they don't know anything about grammar or the technicals of writing. I wasn't speaking of the ones who do put in the hard work and have produced a well-written story.)


Best Wishes!
By the way I read the editor's comment or whatever. I'd been more offended by that! If I did something wrong, I want folks to tell me my mistakes instead of taking up for them. The fact that they explained they take on things with run-on sentences and bad grammar is more insulting to me as a writer (if they'd published my stuff) then anything a reader said. I also find it insulting that they try to pass off stories with these elements as "unique". That gives new writers the wrong idea. There is nothing unique about crappy writing. I think the editor's comments made things worse! An author's voice has to be full of errors to be unique? Puhleese don't get me started on this ridiculous notion.

What kind of editor would make this statement anyway? I can't see this coming out of any normal editor's mouth but anyway...

Is it just me or did anyone else pick up on that? I don't want someone excusing me if I'm not doing the best job I should be doing. That's like my agent reading one of my WIP's and excusing something that really needs work.

Jessica, you gotta have a thick skin but realize too that critiques DO help you become a better writer. People aren't always gonna be nice unfortunately. I think the most harm is when someone sugarcoats or excuses a writer's mistakes because they are being coddled instead of being taught to be better.

I'll also add it's like these darn Grammar rules change everyday if you listen to editors, LOL.

Best Wishes!
Deliberate mistakes walk a fine line. If they're in quotes (i.e. dialogue) then they can work if sprinkled sparingly. It's a bit tougher to pull off in a first person'll rarely see it in any mainstream works, mostly because it's tiresome to read and sends a subliminal message of unprofessionalism.
Your question is akin to asking if you need legs to be a dancer. Language is the fundamental material of the writer; it's the one thing we absolutely must understand and use correctly. Failure to do so will just result in more comments like the one you received.

To be brutally frank, I don't understand writers who persist in poor grammatical habits. To me it suggests a disinterest in language which is completely at odds with what the word 'writer' means. Have you ever sat down and read the dictionary? It's fucking fascinating. Words and language are amazing. To be a writer is to love language enough to know everything you possibly can about how to use it.
Minerva and IJ have it in a nutshell - or two.

Ignore the comment. The publisher's comment defends the piece. The person making the comment has no comprehension of well constructed stories that break the rules with intent. In others words, to me, the person commenting needs to go back to school. Put on that armadilao skin and laugh at those foolish comments.

Thanks Bob


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