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Author Topic: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?  (Read 4514 times)  

Offline NogDog

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Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« on: February 21, 2017, 01:29:26 PM »
Not too long ago, I quit a Kindle sample after about 3 paragraphs, which consisted of a ratio of roughly 3 or 4 sentence fragments for every actual sentence. Last night, I gave up on a sample after maybe 2 pages' worth of text, after at least 4 compound sentences without a comma before the "and" or "or", along with a few other odd uses of punctuation. In the latter case it was really frustrating, as the concept of the story was interesting and it had a lot of good reviews.

Am I just too sensitive to the lack of good editing, or does anyone else share my misery (which, of course, loves company :) )?

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Offline Ann in Arlington

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2017, 01:52:38 PM »
Oh, yeah! :o :o :o

One or two, here or there, and I can deal. But if it's too much, I'm not going to read it; it just makes it too much like work ;) -- I find myself 'correcting' the manuscript as I read and, really, that's not what I want to be doing. :D

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Offline The Hooded Claw

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2017, 02:07:41 PM »
I am in complete sympathy! I have found problems of this type in a handful of major-publishers books, but they seem to be especially common in self-published or small publisher books. The wealth of available reading material has steered me away from books that didn't come from the big houses, which is a shame, I know that not all self-pubbed books suffer from this problem (just as I know books from big publishers aren't immune). But the frequency of basic failures (problems with possessives, bad word choice on things like ensure vs. insure, and other things that a smart high school student would catch) drives me to the big publishers.

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Offline NogDog

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2017, 02:18:22 PM »
I feel better already that I'm at least not all alone at one end of the bell curve. :)

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Online Gertie Kindle 'a/k/a Margaret Lake'

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2017, 02:28:52 PM »
I don't mind some punctuation errors, but I do mind incorrect word usage. My biggest pet peeve is peeked/peaked/piqued.

However, if the story is good, I'll try to ignore the errors if there aren't several on every page. Yes, I have seen a few with that many.


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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2017, 03:01:27 PM »
Oh, yes, and I agree whether it's a minor annoyance or a complete turn-off is a matter of degree. It also seems to me modern writers, or maybe writers and editors, use fewer and fewer commas. I not only notice the lack of commas but the resulting lack of clarity.

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2017, 03:31:36 PM »
Oh, yes, and I agree whether it's a minor annoyance or a complete turn-off is a matter of degree. It also seems to me modern writers, or maybe writers and editors, use fewer and fewer commas. I not only notice the lack of commas but the resulting lack of clarity.

Very true. I sometimes have to read a sentence a few times to get the true meaning if commas are missing.


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Offline WHDean

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2017, 06:43:23 PM »
I feel your pain and then some. Once you edit day in and day out for a few years, you can't turn it off anymore. You see everything. I unconsciously reach for the keyboard to make the correction, and I see the content of the comment bubble I'd be writing pop up in the margin. If the first few lines are off, I'm done. It feels like work.

As Gertie noted, it's really the usage bugs me. I can take a few typos. But poor grammar, usage, and style are like fingernails on the chalkboard. Maybe I'll call it the corporate e-mail standard: When the boilerplate mass mailings I get every week are better written than your book, I ain't reading it.

   


Offline barryem

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2017, 07:00:30 PM »
I don't mind an occasional error too much.  It makes me feel a bit cheated but it's not going to discourage me from reading the book unless it's pretty bad.  I haven't quit reading many books because of this but I have a few times over the last few years.

Not too long ago when I got a book that was really full of errors, I don't recall which one, but that I really wanted to read, I went searching for a pirate copy.  I found it and read that instead.  It was error free.  Pirates seem to be more careful about quality than publishers. :)

Keep in mind, please, that I did buy the book.  I paid for it and I didn't return it.  I very rarely return books for any reason.

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Offline SteveHarrison

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2017, 07:10:56 PM »
I always read the first few pages before I buy a book and a single typo will scupper the sale faster than if the writing is (in my subjective opinion) not up to scratch.

Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2017, 07:52:37 PM »
I find it a lot harder to read generally when I'm in editing mode.

Since I started editing my own books, I've found it much harder to read other people's, since I continually find every single mistake in theirs. Too many in a short read puts me right off the book.

In several cases, I've come across books with a good story line, but just too painful to continue reading.

Its one reason why I tend to read samples. If I get bounced out of the sample, regardless of how good the story is, I bin it.

I'm not perfect in my own work, but the better I get at editing, the less I tend to tolerate the now glaringly obvious in others.

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2017, 08:11:42 AM »
One of the reasons that I sample new authors is grammar.  Too many errors in a short span of pages will throw me out of the story - what's the point in that?
And yes, word usage, especially contractions and possessives drive me batty. It is also very easy to tell if the text was scanned and converted to an ebook without the benefit of a proofreader.  Fortunately those books have become less prevalent.

I did enjoy the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation :)


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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2017, 08:57:18 AM »
And Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is only $1.99 right now...

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Offline NogDog

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2017, 10:57:50 AM »
...
I did enjoy the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation :)


Me, too. :) (And I'm a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma. ;) )

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2017, 11:02:44 PM »
I refuse to give up on indie novels, after all I publish them myself, but I do read samples first. Of course, deliberate 'errors' for style such as a sentence fragment is different. I'll allow for an error in a sample but not much more than that. If there is an error in the blurb (yes, I have seen it) I won't even look at the sample no matter what the concept is.

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Offline ThomasDiehl

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2017, 01:27:33 AM »
Frankly, the experience is a very different one for me. English is a foreign language to me, and many of its punctuation rules are downright opposite to those of my own language. E.g. putting a comma before "and" or "or" in any situation is among the gravest mistakes you can make in German (a comma is thought of as a replacement of these words here, thus they are mutually exclusive).
Add to this the fact that English has several rulesets or style guides contradicting each other, and without help, I get hopelessly confused what even constitutes an error.
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Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2017, 02:00:41 AM »
Frankly, the experience is a very different one for me. English is a foreign language to me, and many of its punctuation rules are downright opposite to those of my own language. E.g. putting a comma before "and" or "or" in any situation is among the gravest mistakes you can make in German (a comma is thought of as a replacement of these words here, thus they are mutually exclusive).

I look at the comma as a pause. If you say something out loud, and then write it down, where you paused while you said it, is where you put the comma. A lot of the time, but not always, its immediately after an and or or.


Offline Ann in Arlington

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #17 on: February 23, 2017, 03:45:17 AM »
I look at the comma as a pause. If you say something out loud, and then write it down, where you paused while you said it, is where you put the comma. A lot of the time, but not always, its immediately after an and or or.



From my perspective, that's not a universal rule.

For me, commas set off clauses. In your sentence above,* the comma between "it" and "is" is absolutely not needed -- it's between a subject and verb. And there's often not a need for a comma either before or after "and" and "or".

That said, the flip side of your thesis does work for me. When I read a sentence, I tend to think (or speak) a slight pause when there's a comma. But, no, it definitely doesn't work the other way round in all cases.

Commas aside -- as I know there are many schools of thought and the rules are a bit fungible -- I'm more concerned with incorrect usage or weird sentence construction. Too many commas will annoy me -- I find it exhausting to read. But that's not going to kick me out of the narrative as fast as some truly odd word choices or interchanged homonyms. I don't mind sentence fragments too much either. Unless it's ALL sentence fragments. ;)

Bottom line, for me: it's dead easy, nowadays, to find someone to help you get your book properly proofed and/or edited so these sorts of foolish mistakes get fixed before publication. Of course, a pristine manuscript from a technical point of view does NOT necessarily mean that the writing is going to appeal. But that's a separate issue. :)


*FWIW, I debated removing this comma -- but it clarifies that I don't mean "the sentence above the comma". ::)

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Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2017, 04:07:51 AM »
For me, commas set off clauses. In your sentence above,* the comma between "it" and "is" is absolutely not needed -- it's between a subject and verb.

I agree, but its the way I think, so its where I put the comma. When I edit, I tend to remove quite a lot of of these. But I also put some in as well.  ;D
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Offline WHDean

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2017, 05:46:46 AM »
The easiest way to avoid comma problems is to learn where you absolutely cannot put a comma. Once you have that down, you can refine the positive side.


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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #20 on: February 23, 2017, 06:06:46 AM »
I agree, but its the way I think, so its where I put the comma. When I edit, I tend to remove quite a lot of of these. But I also put some in as well.  ;D

What about apostrophes?   8)
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Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #21 on: February 23, 2017, 06:12:55 AM »
What about apostrophes?   8)

Depends on how fast I'm typing. And if I can be bothered fixing them. Half the time here I dont notice them at all. Or really care, although that's changed in the last year.

Its one of the things I pay attention to in editing. But there are a few blind spots I have, so a few get through which are not supposed to be there, and the odd one gets missed.

I rely on Word a lot to point them out to me, but it's not always reliable.

It is my weakest area, but at least I know that.

Offline barryem

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #22 on: February 23, 2017, 09:08:44 AM »
For a long time I let myself worry about commas and such but I decided it's a matter of style and expressing myself so now I use a comma where it seems to be useful and don't worry about it.

I've always been a terrible speller so i work at trying to get spelling right but commas are okay.  I retired to rural Arkansas where grammar is largely unknown and I find that kind of expressive and even though I tease people about their usage a lot the fact is that I enjoy their way of speaking.

I remember from reading linguistics the phrase that dictionaries are descriptive and not prescriptive and I think that should apply to grammar as well.

When Microsoft Word first came out with a syntax checker I ran it on a piece of program documentation I'd written and it said my writing used the passive tense too much.  I tried teaching myself to be less passive for a while and finally decided Microsoft was mistaken.  Word was too aggressive. :)

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #23 on: February 23, 2017, 10:38:15 AM »
I refuse to give up on indie novels, after all I publish them myself, but I do read samples first. Of course, deliberate 'errors' for style such as a sentence fragment is different. I'll allow for an error in a sample but not much more than that. If there is an error in the blurb (yes, I have seen it) I won't even look at the sample no matter what the concept is.

I agree that there are times and places where deliberate sentence fragments work. However, I sometimes see them used so much that I suspect the author does not even realize that they are not sentences. If they do realize it, then they are diluting the impact that a judiciously used sentence fragment can add to a narrative.

http://charles-reace.com/2017-01-08_sentence_fragments

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Offline Ann in Arlington

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #24 on: February 23, 2017, 04:07:43 PM »
Depends on how fast I'm typing. And if I can be bothered fixing them. Half the time here I dont notice them at all. Or really care, although that's changed in the last year.

Its one of the things I pay attention to in editing. But there are a few blind spots I have, so a few get through which are not supposed to be there, and the odd one gets missed.

I rely on Word a lot to point them out to me, but it's not always reliable.

It is my weakest area, but at least I know that.

And that's o.k. with informal writing such as posts on these boards . . . . we're not really picking on you -- think of it as friendly teasing from big sisters. ;)

But, for sure, you want to fix that sort of "oops" in something held out for sale. :)

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