My day job is editing. A totally different type of editing from fiction, but editing nonetheless. So when I read Theresa Stevens’ post at Romance University, it was all I could do to keep from standing up and cheering. (If I didn’t have a lapdesk and laptop in my, well, lap, I might have done it anyway.)
In particular, this passage:
Here’s a sad truth. When I evaluated a submission, the first question in my mind was not, Is this story good enough to publish? My first question was, How many hours of my life will it take to get this manuscript ready? If every other paragraph contains a grammar or usage error, that translates into time that I could be spending on other tasks.
This is why it’s easy for an editor to equate bad grammar with other flaws: arrogance, lack of self-respect, lack of respect for us, disdain for the product you’re creating. If you don’t care enough to distinguish possessives from plurals, then we’re not going to care enough to give you anything more than a form rejection.
In other words, if you don’t worry about your grammar, neither will I.
I have never understood the lack of regard many professional authors appear to have for proper grammar and usage. I’m not talking about off-the-cuff tweets and such (although I still cringe sometimes). I’m not even talking about errors and typos; everyone makes those (me included). I’m talking about failure to take the time to make actual manuscripts as clean and error-free as you can possibly make it, before you submit.
Sure, there are many great storytellers who are terrible spellers or can never remember when to use its vs. it’s. Everyone has foibles. But authors need to recognize their weak spots and do what they can to overcome them, whether it’s studying up on grammar or finding a personal editor who’s a whiz at it to fix things before submission. (Relying on spellcheck and grammar check won’t cut it.) Heck, I’m the one people I know come to for grammar questions, and I almost never submit anything without having at least two other people read it first.
Editors can’t fix everything. Give them a hand, and everyone (including your readers!) will be much happier for it.
Pen image via http://www.sxc.hu