I know you’re out there. You’re the readers who take note when the wrong to/two/too (or there/their/they’re, roll/role, past/passed...) is used. The first time you might roll your eyes, but you’ll keep reading. Twice in the same page and you might cringe and send a silent message to the author to spend more time proofing. But more than that, if you’re like me, you’ll stop reading.
That happened to me the other day while I was reading an author’s promo blog. (It wasn’t any of our authors!) When I came to the first misused word (an error so bad, I actually laughed, until I was hit with a wave of sympathy), I almost started an email to let the author know there was a bad (really, really bad) error in the blurb. The second stopping point came courtesy of a misplaced modifier (a body part was doing something it shouldn’t be doing). But when the point of view started hopping from head to head so quickly, mine started spinning, I X’d out of the site.
This was all within a couple paragraphs. What do you think the odds are that I’ll purchase that book? Yep. Zero.
We all make typos or grammatical errors from time to time. There could be a few in this blog post, even though I’ve read and re-read to look for them. I’m so embarrassed to discover my own, or when someone else points them out, but I think something bigger is going on. I think there has been a slippage of general grammar knowledge over the past few years. Auto-correct features that seem to have been trained by the untrained masses don’t help.
|Thanks to Bizarro cartoonists for the timely quip!|
Or maybe it’s not that writers today know less, but that more are publishing poorly edited content. It used to be that published texts—books, articles, etc.—were vetted by editors, probably several layers of them, before reaching the reader. Today, those layers have largely disappeared. Many self-published authors go cheap on editing because, let’s face it, most of us don’t make a lot of money in this business.
Today it takes an instant to post a piece that could be filled with typos and those cringe-worthy errors. And the more they appear in public, the more those errors are ingrained into the collective lack-of-knowledge base. Maybe that’s how language changes over time—too many people making the same errors over and over until the error becomes the accepted form!
So what, if anything, should the grammar nerd do when stumbling upon those error-filled pieces? (I’m not talking about a single instance. I’m talking about those so bad, we can’t keep reading.) Do we just wince behind our screens and post something benign in the comments? Or do we send a private message to the author so he/she can make corrections?
Maybe something like: Dear (name of author), I noticed you posted what was probably a draft of your blurb on your blog. I spotted several errors. I hate when that happens to me!”
I tell myself that I would want to know if that were my post....maybe. I think that for most of us, any unsolicited “corrective” contact, no matter how well intended, would come across as condescending, resulting in either embarrassment/humiliation or anger, or both. It could generate more bad will than any benefit to the greater grammatical good is worth!
As for the example I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t know the author, so I chose to wince behind my screen and post a benign comment. But those awful errors keep lurking in the back of my mind, and I wonder if I should have tried to contact her.
What do fellow authors and readers think? Let sleeping errors lie, or offer a hoping-to-help hand?.................
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. She is a true grammar nerd who sometimes finds herself mentally diagramming complex sentences. Learn more about her work at her website. Or visit her on Facebook where she posts occasional tidbits about writing and life. (For more Bizarro, go here.)