Editing and mistakes

do whatever you like

I just read a good blog post by internet-friend Victoria Grefer on typos, and it got me thinking about editing in general. On the issue of typos, the more casual the writing, the less typos bother me. In my own writing, they bother me more than when reading someone else’s. These days, most traditionally published novels have typos and other editing errors in them. Budget cuts or carelessness? I don’t know. If I’m into the story, it rarely registers beyond a tiny blip on the radar.

But I’m in the editing phase of IXEOS: Rebellion, and so this is pertinent point. I’m not a grammar nazi, although I know some, and I don’t strive for grammatical perfection. Grammar doesn’t matter one whit in dialogue, which is my favorite thing to write, and a lot of grammar is somewhat subjective. Don’t believe me? Try an experiment: run your document through at least three spelling/grammar checkers and see what happens. I use Scrivener to write my first drafts, and do the preponderance of editing in that program. When I’m about to move it to Word, I run the spelling/grammar check. I fix things, move the document to Word on a pc, and run the novel through Grammarly. What do you know? There are now more, new things, or things correcting my corrections back to the way I originally wrote it. After Grammarly, I move the document to Word on my Mac for a final (or two) read-through and edit. When that’s done, I run the spelling/grammar check a final time. And… you guessed it. More/new things show up, often to go back to a formerly “corrected” version. Sometimes words that didn’t show up as misspelled before pop up.

What does this tell you? That, for fiction at least, the rules are flexible. In fact, they aren’t even so much “rules” much of the time. They’re suggestions. (Kind of like the pirates’ code in Pirates of the Caribbean.) While people, even the best of editors, are incapable of total objectivity when it comes to editing and proofreading, computer programs have no such issues. They are incapable of subjectivity. If three programs, all respected and widely used, vary in their use of grammar rules, then what does that say about those rules? Now, I’m not saying we should all be ee cummings and use no punctuation or capitalization at all. Obviously, grammar is a necessity for the reader. But if you want a comma somewhere that your editor or your grammar program doesn’t like, because it puts a mental pause in that spot (or vice versa), use the comma. If you don’t use ellipses exactly how “the experts” say to use them, but you always use them the same way, trust your reader to be smart enough to figure that out.

As indie authors, we owe our readers our best product. We have to take the time to edit, proofread, and edit some more. But you will never get it perfect, because such perfection doesn’t exist. There is too much subjectivity. A friend of mine recently confessed that she “always” edits books she checks out from the library. In pencil, thank God. Her daughter, who used to work in a library, had a conniption fit at this disclosure and (supposedly) my friend has stopped this practice. But she’s done it for decades, and has even written letters to authors to tell them about their grammar. Obviously, these are all traditionally published books. And we’re not talking about a typo or two. What does that tell you about the subjectivity of grammar?

The above meme says it all… Write whatever you like. Edit. Proofread. Then let your imperfect child loose on the world.



Filed under Publishing, Self publishing, Writing

8 responses to “Editing and mistakes

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for pointing out that grammar rules don’t apply in dialogue!!! They definitely don’t. People don’t talk how they write, and they don’t talk grammatically, so for dialogue to ring true, it can’t be grammatical.

    I enjoy throw comma splices every now and then into dialogue, because the natural pauses there are perfect for speech.

    Also, appreciate the link back! 🙂

  2. I am a freelance editor myself, but I know that grammar rules can be broken for stylistic purposes, and I look at with the thought of, “If it works, it works.” Of course not all can be broken for stylistic purposes, such as serial commas, but fiction is looser than academic writing, so there is more fun to be had.

    • Agreed! My husband is a serial comma offender (then, if I point it out, he uses too few!). I tend to use but, and, and just with reckless abandon in my first drafts. I love your “if it works, it works” philosophy! Thanks for reading.

  3. My grammar and punctuation suck! But I am learning slowly and I am not going to let it stop me from writing.

  4. Oh, so true. There are times when using the “proper” sentence structure would just look/sound ridiculous! I say know the rules so you know how to break them properly. 🙂

    As for typos, mine have given me enough Freudian giggles in the past that I consider them friends, though they’re friends I ruthlessly murder when it comes time to edit.

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