Author Topic: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?  (Read 2930 times)  

Offline kirstengirl

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #25 on: February 24, 2017, 07:20:17 AM »
Not really. If there are too many grammar mistakes, it's pretty distracting for me.
But if the story is bad...
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Offline Linjeakel

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #26 on: February 24, 2017, 08:19:55 AM »
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. :)

Oh, gosh! Yes, I was indeed only teasing  :o - and I agree with Ann, it's the sort of thing that's only really important in a professional setting. Apostrophes aren't compulsory on KBoards!  ;D
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Offline Lilith

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #27 on: February 24, 2017, 12:19:19 PM »
I buy a lot of books for my Kindles.  When looking at a title, I read the reviews, many if not all the reviews . . . mostly the 3 star and below.  If a reader has left an articulate, well thought out review about spelling, grammar and/or punctuation issues, I won't buy even if there are tons of 5 and 4 star review.   That is how much poor grammar and punctuation bothers me.  Incorrect word choice is another one.  And overuse of a word/several words can drive me bonkers.  One I see a lot is "quirked" - just STOP!  Right now I am reading a book where "tugged" is favorite word.  Her eyebrows tugged, her heart tugged . . . . Give. Me. Strength.

Offline MariaESchneider

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #28 on: February 25, 2017, 06:31:47 AM »
I'm more tolerant of it than I used to be.  For one, I've made my share of mistakes professionally and all over every forum where I've posted. I used to send errors to authors, but I don't anymore.  If there are too many errors, I may very well put a book aside, if only because it pains me to know what kind of a reception awaits the author in the reviews.   I also have worked with some dyslexic students.  There are quite a few people who have varying levels of dyslexia and some people even get it as they age (or it gets worse).  I also worked with and taught English as a second language.  I think all these things helped me, although I've always been a big believe in "communication" first, correct second. 

Offline Kay7979

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #29 on: February 25, 2017, 01:19:34 PM »
It does bother me. I won't read a book with noticeable punctuation and syntax errors. I recently refused to review two fellow Indie authors' books because the editing was so bad. It yanks me right out of the story.

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Offline anguabell

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #30 on: February 25, 2017, 02:05:16 PM »
I'm more tolerant of it than I used to be.  For one, I've made my share of mistakes professionally and all over every forum where I've posted. I used to send errors to authors, but I don't anymore.  If there are too many errors, I may very well put a book aside, if only because it pains me to know what kind of a reception awaits the author in the reviews.   I also have worked with some dyslexic students.  There are quite a few people who have varying levels of dyslexia and some people even get it as they age (or it gets worse).  I also worked with and taught English as a second language.  I think all these things helped me, although I've always been a big believe in "communication" first, correct second. 
It is very kind of you Maria, and I agree. There are many people on international forums or social media platforms like LinkedIn who are not native English speakers and often remain silent because they are afraid they would be ridiculed for their English (and they often are, especially among us translators). However, a book is a bit different matter. It is a "product" sold to a buyer, and as such it should meet certain expectation and standards of quality. My tolerance level of sloppy writing/editing in books is pretty low. Unfortunately, errors like that are getting way too common, not only among self-published authors. When I first started as a translator, I had an editor, an elderly gentleman with a red pencil (it was many years ago), who would mercilessly go through every single letter in my text. Nothing would escape his vigilant eye. Looking at the sea of red, I felt like crying - and he would say: "That was actually pretty good!" :)  Where did all the good editors go?

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #31 on: February 26, 2017, 12:44:18 PM »
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
I have a tendency to overuse them as a stylistic device, so I am somewhat sympathetic to the issue. ;)

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Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #32 on: February 26, 2017, 10:41:28 PM »
My pet peeve is the comma splice.  *shudder*
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Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #33 on: February 27, 2017, 12:13:24 AM »
My pet peeve is the comma splice.  *shudder*

And what is that when it's at home?

Offline Ann in Arlington

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #34 on: February 27, 2017, 02:53:16 PM »
And what is that when it's at home?

Basically: using a comma when you should have used a semi-colon or else made it two sentences. Though, personally, while I will notice such a thing, there are lots of other usage quirks that are more annoying to me.

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Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #35 on: February 27, 2017, 04:16:41 PM »
And what is that when it's at home?

I don't understand your question.

Basically: using a comma when you should have used a semi-colon or else made it two sentences.

Yep.  You can also fix a comma splice by adding a conjunction.

A famous example of the comma splice is the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities.  It's chock full of the things:

Quote
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

If I had been Dickens' editor...   >:(
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Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #36 on: February 27, 2017, 05:18:54 PM »
Quote
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way � in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
If I had been Dickens' editor...   >:(

I'd have replaced most of the commas with full stops, and been accused of chicken scratch.  :D

But that is a way too long sentence.

Offline barryem

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #37 on: February 27, 2017, 05:31:23 PM »
I learned in this discussion what a comma splice is.  Thank you!  I'm not really sure how much I care.  Style is a pretty personal thing.  I'm probably one of the few literate people who's never read Dickens but I know that opening line very well and I like it.  Hooray for comma splices. :)

Barry

Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #38 on: February 27, 2017, 09:18:21 PM »
I learned in this discussion what a comma splice is.  Thank you!  I'm not really sure how much I care.  Style is a pretty personal thing.  I'm probably one of the few literate people who's never read Dickens but I know that opening line very well and I like it.  Hooray for comma splices. :)

Lol... glad I could be of service, Barry.   ;D

Technically, a comma splice is when you use a comma to join two or more independent clauses in the same sentence.  That's all it is.  Fortunately, there are many easy ways to fix them.  For example, just substituting in a semicolon will suffice in most cases:

Quote
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light; it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us; we had nothing before us; we were all going direct to Heaven; we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

That sentence is now grammatically correct.  (In addition to the comma splices, I had to remove the comma after the word "period.")  Of course, it's still a run-on, and that should also be fixed, but at least the punctuation isn't objectively wrong.

To fix the run-on, I'd break it up like this:

Quote
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom; it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief; it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light; it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope; it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us; we had nothing before us. We were all going direct to Heaven; we were all going direct the other way. In short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

That way, each opposite-clause pair is its own sentence instead of lumped in with all the others.

But Dickens is world-famous, and I'm not, so what do I know, right?   ;)
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Offline Valerie A.

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #39 on: February 27, 2017, 09:42:06 PM »
I learned in this discussion what a comma splice is. 
I don't believe Dickens ever had your opportunities. Many of these rules and recommendations are quite recent compared to the classics they're applied to by way of anachronism.

Somebody should try teaching proper punctuation to Emily Dickinson.  :)

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Offline ThomasDiehl

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #40 on: February 28, 2017, 12:07:33 AM »
That sentence is now grammatically correct.  (In addition to the comma splices, I had to remove the comma after the word "period.")  Of course, it's still a run-on, and that should also be fixed, but at least the punctuation isn't objectively wrong.
Okay, that just looks weird. The sentence is probably supposed to be a run-on one, it very much looks like a deliberate stylistic choice setting the mood to me. I'm under the impression Dickens was going for a stream of conciousness part before that was even invented.
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Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #41 on: February 28, 2017, 01:20:09 AM »
Okay, that just looks weird. The sentence is probably supposed to be a run-on one, it very much looks like a deliberate stylistic choice setting the mood to me. I'm under the impression Dickens was going for a stream of conciousness part before that was even invented.

That's possible.  It's hard to say for sure--as Valerie alluded, the rules of grammar were a bit more fluid back then, and one editor's way of doing things often didn't match another editor's.  *shrug*

In another decade or two, most books will probably be written in text-message shorthand anyway, making this all a moot point.   ;)
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Offline ThomasDiehl

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #42 on: February 28, 2017, 02:23:13 AM »
In another decade or two, most books will probably be written in text-message shorthand anyway, making this all a moot point.   ;)
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Offline NogDog

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #43 on: February 28, 2017, 07:49:44 AM »
Frankly, I don't care how you punctuate that notorious Dickens opening, I'll still hate it. :) ("Hmm...let's see...I get paid by the word.... I know: I'll just list a catalogue of opposites, and it will be considered art!" ;) )

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Offline NogDog

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #44 on: February 28, 2017, 07:58:41 AM »
In summary, my note to authors is:

First, learn the rules. Yes, you are allowed to intentionally break the rules for artistic reasons, though you should make sure you have a really good reason before doing so (and I'll admit that not all rules share the same level of importance to me, at least). If you continually break the rules out of blissful ignorance, there exists, it seems, a non-trivial set of readers whom you will lose as potential readers/customers.

If you hate learning the rules of syntax and punctuation, do not even consider becoming a computer programmer, where there is zero tolerance from your readers (the computers). ;)

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Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #45 on: February 28, 2017, 02:47:01 PM »
If you hate learning the rules of syntax and punctuation, do not even consider becoming a computer programmer, where there is zero tolerance from your readers (the computers).

Good point.

I started out writing Cobol, where the placement of a decimal point was everything. Missed one out, or put it in the wrong place, and the whole logic structure changed dramatically. A lot of bug chasing ended up with the placement of a single dot to fix some massive screw-up.

Offline SerenityEditing

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #46 on: February 28, 2017, 03:22:38 PM »
That sentence is now grammatically correct.  (In addition to the comma splices, I had to remove the comma after the word "period.")  Of course, it's still a run-on, and that should also be fixed, but at least the punctuation isn't objectively wrong.

If it were a run-on, it wouldn't be grammatically correct (and it is). (c; It's rambly, but not a run-on.

I've had lots of clients tell me "I know I have a problem with run-on sentences," only to have it turn out that they think a complex or compound sentence, or simply a long sentence, is a 'run-on.' Seems like lots of people have trouble parsing complex*, layered sentences these days, and I'm not sure if the decline in comma usage is a cause or an effect of that (or not related at all).

This is a run-on sentence, it's a short one.

This sentence, however complex it might be - and, depending upon the subject matter, the target audience, the author's intention, and, indeed, a host of other issues, it might be very complex indeed - is not a run-on sentence, despite having an abundance of commas; there might also be several ideas all being expressed in the same sentence, but that does not, in and of itself, create a run-on, since many ideas or thoughts can be expressed in the same sentence and, as long as everything is properly punctuated (although, with commas, I suspect there is no single 'proper way'), the meaning will still be clear - though the reader will probably have, by now, completely forgotten what the topic was at the beginning of the sentence.

And it seems to me British/Australian authors use way fewer commas than US authors. I wonder if there's been a shift in what they teach in UK/AU schools.

*In the sense of intricacy or complexity, not in the sense of 'complex sentence = a sentence with at least one subordinate clause'
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Offline barryem

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #47 on: February 28, 2017, 05:03:25 PM »
I remember an argument with the teacher in my first month in my assembly language class.  In those days everyone learned assembly language first.  I had punched a line of a program into a punch card and got it almost correct.  I have no memory of my mistake but it was probably a single letter or punctuation mark.  The computer rejected it.  My contention was that if the computer wasn't smart enough to catch that little mistake and figure out what I meant what was the point of it!  The problem was the computer and I just found it's weakness.

I don't really remember how serious I was about this but he took it with good humor and used it to lead into a discussion of precision and care.  But I do remember thinking, serious or not, that I was right.  The computer was wrong. :)

By the time the course ended I probably understood a little better. :)

Anyway I've just been googling comma splices and as far as I can see they're not considered grammatically incorrect although Strunk and White did condemn them in most cases.  They seem to be considered more of an error of style.  I'm not sure how much I really believe in errors of style.  Guidelines and standards are a good thing and I have no argument with them.  But my attitude toward rules was always that they're not really a good substitute for responsible behavior.

I did find one cute idea on Wikipedia's discussion of comma splices, that whether they're incorrect depends on your fame.

"Lynne Truss observes: "so many highly respected writers observe the splice comma that a rather unfair rule emerges on this one: only do it if you're famous." She cites Samuel Beckett, E. M. Forster, and Somerset Maugham. "Done knowingly by an established writer, the comma splice is effective, poetic, dashing. Done equally knowingly by people who are not published writers, it can look weak or presumptuous. Done ignorantly by ignorant people, it is awful.""

Barry

Offline Mike D. aka jmiked

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #48 on: March 01, 2017, 09:10:18 PM »
I'm very sensitive to punctuation issues in particular.  My reading comes to a full stop when I run across a mistake. In books that have been scanned and converted by OCR (by major publishers), I see things such as reversed curly quotes at the end of a sentence and sometimes missing quote marks.  It may as well be a flashing red light or siren. It's the same for its/it's. I was reading a book this week where the OCR app had put "be" instead of "he", so I catch those kind of errors also. I also have a thing about using proper dashes: em dashes and en dashes. Using a hyphen or a double-hyphen as a substitute for either is guaranteed to earn a few curses. One of the few places I'll yield a bit is accepting a breaking space around an em dash or en dash, so the Kindle can do a line break there if need be.

Oddly enough, reading a book published in the UK that does not put periods after titles such as Mr, Mrs, and Dr doesn't trigger my detection circuit. And I'm fine with the older books that use the double quotes inside of single quotes for dialogue, instead of the reverse.

And I insist on proper use of the ellipsis, not three periods in a row. I can see the difference most of the time.

Yeah, I'm too picky. But I've been conditioned by 60+ years of reading properly done books.


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Offline Susan Alison

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Re: Anyone else get turned off by grammar/punctuation issues?
« Reply #49 on: March 02, 2017, 02:00:20 AM »
You are not alone. Obvious typos etc put me right off and as I read for escapism I don't want to have to work really hard to stay in the story. I expect that many of the things that I can overlook are probably grammar-no-nos that have names of which I'm unaware so I'm not going to care about them unless they're too clunky. This includes fragments - sometimes they work for me - in which case I'm not going to notice them.

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