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Authors Who Can’t…Write?

Sunday, April 20, 2008
Posted in: random musings

One thing I’ve noticed in Romancelandia is the number of authors who not only struggle to get their points across coherently, but who also evidently see no benefit in using spell-checker, or just plain editing themselves.

The number of author-penned comments that I struggle to make sense of,  is quite startling.

Now I’m not talking about the odd typo here or there, because God knows, I’m pretty sure Robin is the only person I know who can write a ten thousand word post without making a single grammatical mistake.

No, I’m talking about shitloads of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and just an overall poor grasp of the English language as I know it.

I’m sure you guys will have noticed that an incredible lack of grammatical finesse is something that a lot of the publishers/owners of the e-publishers that have gone spectacularly belly-up, have in common.

Of course I’ve seen my fair share of readers who seem to think that using spell-checker is an out-of-date fad, but seeing as they don’t write for a living, it doesn’t really matter.

As a writer, isn’t it important that everytime you use your keyboard to comment in a public arena, that you make sure people aren’t questioning whether you learned anything in kindergarten, due to the incoherency of your post?

Self-editing isn’t foolproof, but hopefully, it will stop the majority from looking like total numpties in public.

Just sayin.


  • I have to agree…and be glad you’ve never been forced to chat with me on IM–it’s HORRENDOUS LOL–but when I blog or leave a comment somewhere I DO try to spellcheck myself.

    Um is spellcheck one word or two? *ggg*


  • I use Firefox, which has a built-in “as-you-type” spellchecker for text entry fields (comments, forum posts, etc). It doesn’t stop typos like “while” for “whole,” but it helps a lot.

    I’ve seen the kind of comments you’re talking about, though. If I feel so inclined, I check at who publishes them. Very frequently it’s one of the smaller or lesser-known e-pubs. Guess how that affects my opinion of said publisher?


  • cecilia
    April 20
    6:56 pm

    The problem with spell-checkers is that it won’t necessarily catch homophones – e.g., “wrapped” instead of “rapped.” 😉


  • The problem with spell-checkers is that it won’t necessarily catch homophones – e.g., “wrapped” instead of “rapped.” 😉

    Surely that’s where self-editing comes in?


  • Well, yes. I was referring to that also when I mentioned typos. A spell-checker is no replacement for an active editing eye, but it’ll catch the worst mistakes. 🙂


  • katieM
    April 20
    7:59 pm

    What I can’t stand is authors who take a description, put quotation marks around it and end the sentence with she said and some obscure adverb. Dialog should sound like what two people would really say to one another, not a quote out of a travel magazine. The book I just finished was a Silhouette Desire and technically had no editing imperfections; it was just some of the worst dialog ever written.

    Oh, and Firefox great!


  • The real issue here likely goes beyond carelessness or laziness. I get the impression that publishers, in their desperation to secure or increase their pieces of the popular-fiction pie, are snapping up too many submissions that simply aren’t publication-worthy. That may account for the appearance of more and more “authors” whose writing skills are, at best, questionable.

    The evidence doesn’t just crop up on blogs. Spend some time sampling excerpts…from print as well as e-books. Holy damn jamoly. I’ve read so much limping prose in the past five years or so that I’ve begun to wonder if it has its own charity. I mean, come on, a writer doesn’t have to be John effing Updike to show an above-average command of the language coupled with some sylistic grace!


  • cecilia
    April 20
    9:15 pm

    The problem with spell-checkers is that it won’t necessarily catch homophones – e.g., “wrapped” instead of “rapped.”

    Surely that’s where self-editing comes in?

    Yes, Karen – I was trying to gently point out the irony of that mistake in the post above. (Unless the wrapped knuckles was a boxing allusion that I misunderstood).


  • Cecilia, subtle doesn’t work here so much, you need to be more direct, I see what you mean now. Like I said though, readers get away with that shit a lot more.


  • FWIW I use WordWeb….it’s free and you can check a word anywhere (emails, websites, etc). Just highlight it and click. Yes I checked spellcheck *sigh* and Firefox rocks.


  • Robin
    April 21
    8:56 am

    OMG I make mistakes all the time, especially in the blog environment, where I am usually typing a mile a minute and feeling much more casual about what I say. And I’m a terrible proofreader when it comes to my own work.

    Seriously, though, I’ve learned some tricks for proofing/editing to the best of one’s ability.

    1. Read your work out loud, or have someone else do it. You’ll be amazed at how much you catch that way, even sentences that sound right when you read them silently.

    2. Wait at least overnight, and preferably 24 hours, before trying to edit your own writing. Your eyes won’t be as accustomed to the mistakes.

    3. Call the English department of a college or university and see if they have any listings for graduate students or even senior English majors to serve as proofreaders. Grad students, especially, are really poor and will often do a great job of proofing/editing (because they’re so often the ones who teach undergraduate composition classes) at reasonable rates. Also, English graduate students often teach comp classes at community colleges, too, and are usually eager for some extra cash.

    4. Change the color, size, and/or font of your text on the computer before proofing it, so it’s not as recognizable. And I cannot proof on the computer nearly as well as I can on the printed page. So I always have to print out whatever I’m proofing/editing if I want to catch the most errors.

    I don’t expect a pristine text when I’m reading a professionally published book, but the level of proofing and editing I see is lower than IMO it should be. Punctuation and grammatical rules are merely cues to the reader to make comprehension easier, but I think there’s sort of a reverse snobbery where detailed attention to those things is seen as needless fastidiousness instead of basic support for clear communication.


  • If one is chatting on the fly, particularly first thing in the morning or in the heat of a flame war, I can overlook minor mistakes. Bear in mind that even we who pride ourselves on self-editing don’t catch mistakes in our work until second or third draft. (Hence the purpose of multiple drafts.) Even after that, our line editors catch mistakes that we berate ourselves over. And well that’s one reason we have line editors — after you’ve lived, eaten, and breathed a manuscript for three months, your brain reads what it thinks you wrote.

    So when it comes to blog comments, I can overlook a few minor errors on other authors’ parts and personally feel no need to apologize for my own unless it is an error that changed the entire context of what I wished to convey. On the other hand, when an author’s comments are rife with errors and/or incoherent, I will say I’m left questioning their abilities as a writer.


  • Well said, Katrina. I don’t know how I can add to that.


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