• We’re running on a new server at a new host with a new forum software called XenForo. Some things are different. Some things may not work as expected. I am working on it as fast as I can. Please be patient. Please read this post.
  • I'm going to be working on the forums for a while. Things may be wonky. I may turn the forums off without notice. Consider this a bit of a public beta test as we figure out the new software and make adjustments. But you've been much missed, and we can't wait to see you again!

I ain't gonna get no publishing! Bad grammar and the business

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Status
Not open for further replies.

ChaosTitan

Around
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 8, 2005
Messages
15,463
Reaction score
0
Location
The not-so-distant future
Website
kellymeding.com
would it still be at all possible to get published if the writer really wrote the way they spoke?

Depends. Some people speak with near-perfect grammar and sentence structure. It's how they are taught to think and speak, often from an early age. Those people would have a better chance of being published than someone who writes like Jed Clampett speaks. Unless, as we've said, the character is supposed to sound like Jed Clampett.

But two gets you twenty that any good editor will know the difference.

Or would you say it's almost 100% impossible to get their story to the public unless they either A- obtained better writing skills or B- hired a real writer?

I'd say it's about 99% impossible, because every time you make a judgement call and declare it a "rule", someone comes around to prove you wrong.

Unless the editor had some obligation to read the entire story (which rarely happens), they will probably chuck a poorly written story after a few paragraphs. If someone is serious about being a published writer, they have to learn proper grammar. Period.

Every other professional has to learn the tools of their trade, why should writers be held to a lower standard?


ETA: Posted after Sage, and we seem to be brain-sharing today. ;)
 

Dave.C.Robinson

... with the High Command
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
2,130
Reaction score
0
Location
At the computer
Website
www.daverobinsonwrites.com
Going back to the original question about a good story with horrible grammar; I would say that it not only won't be overlooked but can't be overlooked.

Grammar is a tool that is used to organize words into thoughts. Editors read what the words say, not what the author thought. If the story is riddled with grammatical mistakes, the mistakes may well hide the author's great story from the editor. That person will read what's been written, and reject that, not even seeing the great story beneath.
 

Judg

DISENCHANTED coming soon
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 13, 2006
Messages
4,527
Reaction score
0
Location
Ottawa, Canada and Spring City, PA
Website
janetursel.com
Submitting an error-laden manuscript to an editor is like hiring an interior decorator and expecting them to pick up your dirty socks. A grammatically-challenged author should hire or coerce a proof-reader first. I did extensive proof-reading for someone near and dear (academic stuff) and it was really stressful. If I were an editor or agent, there is no way I would subject myself to it voluntarily. Unless, of course, it was incredibly unique and sellable and had convinced me of that fact before my frustration caused me to throw it across the room. Not very likely.

Of course, since I'm neither an agent nor an editor, my opinion on this matter is worth squat. But I offer it anyway. ;)
 
Last edited:

benbradley

It's a doggy dog world
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Dec 5, 2006
Messages
20,322
Reaction score
0
Location
Transcending Canines
Every other professional has to learn the tools of their trade, why should writers be held to a lower standard?

Just to toss in an analogy...

There are many famous musicians who never learned music formally, but like those who speak with good grammar yet don't know the names of parts of speech, such musicians DO have an intimate knowledge of scales, chords and musical relationships, even if they don't know the names of these things.
 

Manat

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 3, 2006
Messages
312
Reaction score
0
Location
Right next to the Atlantic Ocean
Website
www.judithjamesauthor.com
I just sold my first novel, which was also my first manuscript and first attempt at writing. I have a post graduate degree and felt confident in my writing abilities, but clearly, I made a lot of mistakes. I had issues with capitalizing names and titles, proper use of ... and-”, italicizing foreign words and phrases, words written with British/Canadian spelling instead of American, overuse of that, and believe it or not, I didn't know you needed to have a comma in front of a name when writing dialogue.

It was originally rejected with a letter saying their readers loved it, but their editor felt there was just too much editing for her to want to take it on. She included a complete line edit of the first chapter. It was so marked up I felt about two feet tall. Two days later though, the acquisitions editor called and said if I used the edited first chapter as a style guide and got the manuscript back to them within two weeks, it would go straight to the editor's desk and she would look at it again. I did, and my book will be released in mass market paperback in 2008.

I realize I was very lucky this particular editor took the time and interest to do what she did, and I have really learned a lot from her. I have since acquired an agent, but I had no luck before that despite lots of requests for fulls and partials. I shudder to think how many agents and publishers might have turned it down because of errors that took me two days to correct once they were pointed out and I understood them.
 
Last edited:

Sage

Supreme Guessinator
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 15, 2005
Messages
60,368
Reaction score
3
Age
41
Location
Cheering you all on!
Just to toss in an analogy...

There are many famous musicians who never learned music formally, but like those who speak with good grammar yet don't know the names of parts of speech, such musicians DO have an intimate knowledge of scales, chords and musical relationships, even if they don't know the names of these things.
A carpenter doesn't need to know what a hammer is called to know how to use it, but he still has to learn how to use it correctly so that he doesn't hit his finger or make a mess out of a project he's working on. A musician doesn't need to know what a chord is called to master it, but he still needs to learn how to put those notes together to sound nice, then mix them with other chords to continue sounding nice so the audience doesn't run screaming with their hands over their ears. A writer doesn't need to know what a prepositional phrase is called to use it correctly, but he still needs to learn whether it needs commas around it & how to string other parts of language with it to make a coherent sentence that doesn't throw the reader off.
 

ErylRavenwell

Banned
Super Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2006
Messages
852
Reaction score
0
Gemmell's Waylander (at least the earliest edition) is full of mistakes (typos mostly though. Looks like it wasn't professionally edited.) However, the plot is so brilliant that the mistakes don't erode the credibility of the writer. But you're not Gemmell.
 

scarletpeaches

Banned
Super Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
47,986
Reaction score
-2
I'd lose respect for anyone, even Gemmell (whom I've never read anyway, and isn't on my TBR list) if they couldn't spell. Their editor should have spotted those errors so at best, he's represented by an illiterate idiot.
 

Jamesaritchie

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 13, 2005
Messages
27,863
Reaction score
0
Spelling

I'd lose respect for anyone, even Gemmell (whom I've never read anyway, and isn't on my TBR list) if they couldn't spell. Their editor should have spotted those errors so at best, he's represented by an illiterate idiot.

Spelling is not grammar, and many excellent writers, and excellent grammarians, are lousy spellers. And don't automatically blame editors for typos. A bad typesetter can screw up the best manuscript.

In the end, however, it is up to the writer to eliminate typos. He gets to read the galley proofs, and this is when it matters.
 

scarletpeaches

Banned
Super Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2005
Messages
47,986
Reaction score
-2
Spelling mistakes are as irritating as grammatical errors - that was my point.
 

Silverhand

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
262
Reaction score
0
Location
Portland, Oregon
Website
www.ericfogle.com
First, I agree with James. How bad are the grammatical errors we are talking about? What one person considers poor grammar another will consider acceptable.

Second, I think if the story "Is" good enough, grammar will be overlooked. Maybe it won't be overlooked by an aquisition editor...or the person's peers, but are either of them "really" the appropriate judge? I say, no. The people who decide whether poor grammar is acceptable or not are the readers. And, lets face it...there are certainly best-selling books out there that have horrid grammar---books many of you hate or bang on. Of course, these same books have sold millions of copies and are beloved by readers. Note: I said "readers" not other "authors". In my opinion, once you pick up a pen and decide to critique the words of another person, you stop being unbiased.

Saying that, if the words are completely indecipherable there is a major problem for everyone involved and I can certainly recognize that fact.
 

Cat Scratch

The Peacock Next Door
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Mar 22, 2006
Messages
672
Reaction score
0
Location
A Little To The Left
I just sold my first novel, which was also my first manuscript and first attempt at writing. I have a post graduate degree and felt confident in my writing abilities, but clearly, I made a lot of mistakes. I had issues with capitalizing names and titles, proper use of ... and-”, italicizing foreign words and phrases, words written with British/Canadian spelling instead of American, overuse of that, and believe it or not, I didn't know you needed to have a comma in front of a name when writing dialogue.

It was originally rejected with a letter saying their readers loved it, but their editor felt there was just too much editing for her to want to take it on. She included a complete line edit of the first chapter. It was so marked up I felt about two feet tall. Two days later though, the acquisitions editor called and said if I used the edited first chapter as a style guide and got the manuscript back to them within two weeks, it would go straight to the editor's desk and she would look at it again. I did, and my book will be released in mass market paperback in 2008.

I realize I was very lucky this particular editor took the time and interest to do what she did, and I have really learned a lot from her. I have since acquired an agent, but I had no luck before that despite lots of requests for fulls and partials. I shudder to think how many agents and publishers might have turned it down because of errors that took me two days to correct once they were pointed out and I understood them.

Sound to me, Manat, that your basic grasp of language was still good enough to make the manuscript readable. If someone forgets not only a comma, but entire quote marks, and uses endless run-on sentences I bet they wouldn't have had the luck you had.

Congrats, by the way!
 

ErylRavenwell

Banned
Super Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2006
Messages
852
Reaction score
0
I'd lose respect for anyone, even Gemmell (whom I've never read anyway, and isn't on my TBR list) if they couldn't spell. Their editor should have spotted those errors so at best, he's represented by an illiterate idiot.


Well, you might change your mind one of these days. Waylander has at time two mistakes per page (there's even confusion about the name of one of the Generals at one point (his worst crime I recon)). Initially, I couldn't help but feel slightly superior to him, but after 50 pages or so I was in awe. The plot whetted my interest and couldn't stop reading. I stopped reading critically and the mistakes didn't bother me.

It's not that Gemmell couldn't spell, he was simply negligent. And yes, the editor's a complete tool; assuming the first edition was actually edited.
 
Last edited:

Kentuk

I want to write what I want to write
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 24, 2006
Messages
1,059
Reaction score
0
Location
The mud hole in the middle of Margins
Think it interesting to move thread to songwriters, see what they say.

Maybe a thread where we discard the tiresome rules of grammar yet strive to communicate effectively.
 

Silverhand

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 15, 2005
Messages
262
Reaction score
0
Location
Portland, Oregon
Website
www.ericfogle.com
Sorry Silverhand, but could you give some examples of these books with bad grammar? Seriously just curious.

The Dinvici Code and Eragon are the two that come directly to mind. You may disagree with me...and when you do, I will point out that there are 1327 (made up #, I know) writers on this forum who are disgusted that either of these writers are published, let alone best-selling.

Theoretically, you can also add some of the ancient work in...as those have been redited about 500 times (again an arbitrary number) to make them MORE grammatically correct by today's standards.

Finally, if you have not read The Return of the Shadow, then I would recommend you do. Why? Because it was the first draft of The Lord of the Rings...and each book shows Tolkien's progression on his masterpiece. Ya, I know the dude was a linguist and genious. However, read his son's notes of the first draft of LOTR sometime. If I remember correctly, (it has been awhile since I read the first draft books) Tolkien submitted them to the publishing house as is....and in some places his book is almost unreadable. (In my humble opinion at least)
 
Last edited:

Toothpaste

THE RECKLESS RESCUE is out now!
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 18, 2006
Messages
8,745
Reaction score
0
Location
Toronto, Canada
Website
www.adriennekress.com
I find that the distaste for Eragon and the Da Vinci code by other writers comes from mediocre writing techniques and not bad grammar. There is a difference. Eragon is wordy, and Da Vinci is cliche. As for technically bad grammar . . . it's like with JK Rowling. A prevalance of adverbs doesn't mean that the grammar is bad. Just that the writing technique is (for the record I love her books, but she is always called on her adverb usage so that's why I brought it up).

I wouldn't really count writers in history, like Shakespeare etc, as a viable example of works being published despite bad grammar. The tradition in history was that story telling was oral/aural. The majority of people couldn't read. When things were published it was after the work was already popular. And anyway, the language then had no rules spelling or grammar wise, Shakespeare himself couldn't decide how to spell his own name.

However that is very interesting about Tolkien submitting his work as almost unreadable. I did not know that. So I guess you can be published if you have horrible grammar. If, you know, you're as good as Tolkien.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.