We all have that one friend who is an avid reader and a bit of a grammar fiend, right? He or she is the one prone to point out (while skimming through an e-book) things like this:
- The author’s spelling is deplorable.
- The author has homophone issues—saying things like a particular character has a pension for something rather than a penchant.
- The author is too wordy.
- The author even (dear God in Heaven, please stop the insanity) uses commas inappropriately in sentences.
Do you pay attention to them or roll your eyes and get on with your life?
If you’re a self-published author or a writer who is not an English major submitting any portion of your manuscript in the hopes an agent or publisher will want to read more, the answer is more important than you think.
Before I go any further, let me acknowledge something. Yes, there are talented copy editors out there, and you can pay one (if you wish and your budget allows), but that’s not the purpose of this blog post. It’s about being better equipped for success on your own. Not so coincidentally, that’s also the cheaper route.
You will notice there are links in the grammar fiend statements above that take you to resources, including grammarly.com, which is a favorite of mine for editing. I also love grammarbook.com for general rules of punctuation, grammar, and syntax—when in doubt, check it out.
Now, for grammar fiend illustrative purposes, I’ve written a before (A) and after (B) sample below. I want you to picture an agent picking them up from their slush pile or a person who paid for an e-book reading one vs. the other:
A) “Dot! Come take a look at this.”
Paul’s voice bounced off of the rust, and wreckage of old vehicles in the corridor. It soared high to rattle the rest of the broken skyscrapers still towering like the skeletons of dinosaurs above them.
“Your yelling,” Dot hissed at her brother. She was worried he was going to bring what was left of the world crashing down on them.
“Fine,” he replied in a stage whisper, running his hand through a patch off wavy, jet black hair. It was still streaked brown with dirt from crawling through tunnels and ditches to check there rattraps earlier in the morning. “Now, come and see this.”
B) “Dot,” Paul shouted. “Take a look at this!”
His voice bounced off the rust and wreckage of antique vehicles in the corridor. The sound soared, rattling the broken skyscrapers that towered like dinosaur skeletons above them.
“You’re yelling,” Dot hissed, worried the remnants of the world might come crashing down on them.
“Fine,” he stage-whispered, running a hand through his jet-black hair. It was streaked with dirt from crawling through tunnels and ditches to check their rat traps earlier that morning. “Come and see.”
Is B easier to read than A?
Does it look more professional to you?
Are you starting to think that fewer words can convey more meaning and see some of the silly little mistakes (like missing dialogue tags) we often overlook as writers?
Does what you see here make you think about taking a second look at something you’ve written?
Note: If you’re not certain why something was changed or want to learn more, I encourage you not just to ask me but use resources like Grammarly, Grammar Book, and copy editing blogs for tips. When in doubt, never shy away from Googling your question (like “Should I use off of or off?”) to find the right answer.
Your writing is your creative baby, right? You’ve spent so much time giving birth to it, already. Why risk it dying in a slush pile or the hands of a potential reviewer because of preventable errors?
Next time you sit down to write or edit that manuscript, remember that there are free resources out there to help you—and they’re only a question away.