Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday's Words for April 6, 2011

Recently there was a furor in the blogosphere with regard to a review offered on a book written by an “indie” author.

For those of you who are unaware, an “indie” author is a writer who, without benefit of publisher, has made their book available to be read, which the reader may purchase for that purpose. This is easily done these days using Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

I won’t mention the name of the reviewer or the author, because those facts are not really important. The review did have some positive comments to make with regard to the novel as story-telling. However, the reviewer rated it poorly because the book contained copious spelling and grammatical errors.

Shades of High School mid-terms. Every time I took a test when I was in High School, some classmate would invariably ask, “Does spelling count?”

It would seem that some of us who are authors are still asking that question. Therefore, in this essay, here and now, let me answer that age old query, for once and for all.

Yes, spelling counts. It matters all the time, every time.

Why does it matter? First, spelling errors in a story tend to pull the reader out of the story. The effect is not so different from having a glass of ice cold water tossed in your face, without warning. The author’s goal should be to hook the reader and keep their attention riveted on his/her book until the last page has been turned. Spelling and grammar errors work directly opposite to this goal.

Second, flawless spelling and grammar speak to the care taken by the author to present the reader with as excellent an experience as that author is capable of creating. When a piece contains numerous errors, it’s as if the author has posted this caveat at the beginning of the work: “I don’t respect myself or you enough to go to the trouble to make it excellent.”

Third, poor spelling and poor grammar equal poor education. Don’t get me wrong. Some of the most intelligent, and wise people amongst us didn’t have the opportunity to achieve more than a Secondary School diploma. But you can bet your ashes they’ve taught themselves, and elevated their reading level to the equivalent of college graduate or beyond. Yes, they took great pains to be the best they could be.

We, who are authors, are authors all the time. I believe that if we consider ourselves to be professional authors, then, by golly, we need to be professional in every face we show the world outside of our own bathrooms.

This means, that when we submit anything that people are going to read, we take care that it is clear, concise, and as clean in grammar and spelling as we can make it.

It means that when we receive a review for our work, we send a personal note or e-mail to the reviewer, saying, “thank you for taking the time.” If it is a good review, why then, we will publicize it and perhaps be a tad more profuse in our thanks. If it is a bad review, we will simply forget it. Seriously. The best thing you can do is to act as if it never happened.

Finally, it means we don’t rant and rave and bitch about life, the landlord, our editor, the horrible dinner we were served in the restaurant last night, the unsatisfying sex with our spouse afterwards, or the price of tea in China. It means we don’t pepper those raves with reams of profanity. Contrary to the belief of some, scattering F-shots through one’s prose doesn’t make one appear anything but vocabulary-challenged.

In short, if we consider ourselves to be professional authors, then it behooves us to behave professionally, all of the time.


No comments: