I’m reading a book at the moment full of “prithee, varlet” language. It’s as irritating as Hades, but maybe that’s just me. The atmosphere of fear is building, the characters are forming and the plot slowly emerging.
But despite the over-elaborate language, the author’s grammar is spot on. And that’s what saves it.
Writing is a form of communication and when we structure writing correctly then our message is unambiguous, even in “prithee” language. The reader reads what we intended them to read. Even in a very minimalist-styled book such as any of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher thrillers, the accuracy and clarity of the writing enables the reader to see exactly what the author is saying.
If we don’t write clearly, then the poor reader has to re-read sentences and pause to work out what he or she thinks we meant. After a few jolts to continuity, it’s inevitable that the reader’s pleasure diminishes. And after too many, the reader chucks the book on the floor.
Editors can, and do, do a wonderful job, but even they get to the hair-tearing stage in the face of relentless sloppiness. If they have the choice of working on a well-written manuscript and one weighed down with mistakes, guess which one they’ll prioritise?
Poor grammar and spelling are the things that irritate readers of self-published books most, and most quickly, even in a free book. We have so much choice these days, why would we spend precious life-hours reading something that is written in a careless and sub-standard way?
However fabulous the plot, characters and narrative thrust of the story, good grammar and spelling matter.
Horrors to avoid (Any one of these makes me chuck the book on the floor.)
Can you say ‘you are’ instead? If so, then it’s ‘you’re’. ‘Your’ is to indicate something belonging to ‘you’, e.g. your book.
Can you say ‘it is’? Then it’s ‘it’s’. As with ‘your’, when used to show something that belongs to ‘it’, ’its’ doesn’t have the abused apostrophe, e.g. “Gorgeous book. I love its cover.”
Can you say ‘here’ instead of ‘there’. e.g. ‘there are /here are’? There you are, then. Remember, ‘their’ is very possessive…
‘Affect’ is an active verb. ‘Effect’ is the outcome, e.g. cause and effect. A quick way of remembering is that A comes before E, i.e. you have to affect something before you can see the effect.
‘Bored of’ or ‘bored with’?
Please don’t start me on this one. I hope you know the correct version. See me in the comments if you don’t.