Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Spelling? Grammar? Who needs them?

I may personally be done with traditional publishing, but I am writing this for those who are still interested in it. On a LinkedIn board, I actually saw someone say that grammar and spelling are not important if you are going the traditional publishing route because there are editors to take care of that for you. 

Uh, no. That isn't how it works for several reasons. First, those editors have many manuscripts to get through by a deadline. As an editor, let me tell you, the more mistakes a manuscript has the longer it takes to edit (or even read through to determine if you are going to accept it). If I were in charge of a publishing company, I would probably be nice and send the manuscript back with a note like - "Sorry, I would have loved to read your manuscript to see if it was a good fit but only was able to make it to page 2 because of all the typos. Feel free to send it for a second try after you've had it edited."

[I know, it probably sounds heartless, but I am not really the editor of a publishing company getting ready to send that note out to anyone - if I were, I would have my husband write it so it would sound nice but not too hopeful. He is a much better PR person. My friends like me because I am loyal - his friends like him because he is funny. (I am not funny - except to him, but he is loyal.) In addition, I feel my response is much kinder than the standard rejection without any explanation. And that is what you will get from most other editors when your manuscript has too many typos.]

Aside from the excess time that a first draft will force an editor to put into your manuscript just to read it - and aside from the negative feelings the editor will associate with the same manuscript because he or she will be only thinking about how long it will take to edit - there is a very good reason why you want it sent in 100% polished.

Spelling and grammar errors can ruin your message. Many sentences punctuated incorrectly mean something entirely different. Words that are misspelled not only look unprofessional, but also may mean something different. And, there is always the occasional word that you might not really know the definition for but decide to use it anyway because it's 'cool' and then it didn't really mean what you thought it meant.

[I did this for a while - I went around telling people I was a "kept woman" jokingly. I thought it just meant that my husband took good care of me, and I liked the way it sounded. Then one guy started talking about doxies when I told him. So, I did a little research and found out that I am not a "kept woman." My husband takes care of me because he loves me - not because I am attractive.]

So, officially, you should hire a professional editor to go over your work before you submit it. But, that is pricey, especially if you want to go a traditional route and do not have a publishing budget. So, the next step down is beta readers. However, remember they are volunteers. I would recommend trying to find several and having each one edit only a chapter or two. Be sure to put in your post that is what you a looking for.

Why is another person so important?

In real life, I frequently say things like, "Dear, I need the thing so I can do that thing we have to do." Now, my husband has no clue (a) what the thing is or (b) what thing we are going to do. My sentence meets all grammar and spelling requirements, but you, my reader, probably also have no clue. If you are not clear in your writing, the editor won't know what you are trying to say either. I really try to be clear in my writing, but I know that I am not always
[Hence my new method for designating 'asides' in my post.].
I already know all the ins and outs of my work, just as I know what I am asking my husband to get and what we need to do. So when I talk about "things" I don't even realize I have skipped the name of the object(s). The same thing happens in writing. A second pair of eyes will see that.

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