Tag Archives: grammar

Terrorised by punctuation

Now, this probably isn’t going to be what you think. While I wouldn’t describe myself as an expert I’m quite comfortable with grammar and I absolutely know where to put an apostrophe, so punctuation actually holds no horror for me.

What prompted this post was a blog I read about reading with your children, how important it is to read with your children (no argument there), and how vital it is to still keep pace with your children’s reading when they get too old to be read to (as someone who has never outgrown YA fiction, no problem with that, either).

I had no issue with the points made, but the writer had underlined their passion for the subject by peppering their post with exclamation marks! Loads of them! Really, it was extraordinary how many they could fit into a paragraph! I felt as though I’d been shouted at! Repeatedly!

As a keen reader I read an awful lot but I rarely notice punctuation. And I think that’s the point. Punctuation should fade entirely into the background, guiding the reader to interpret the meaning behind the assembled words correctly, but drawing no attention to itself.

I’m curious, has anyone else had punctuation jump out in front of them like this, or am I the only one to be ambushed by an exclamation mark?

The Devil’s in the details

Today’s blog was prompted by a discussion I had with friends about reviews and whether they’re actually any help to readers and whether anyone (except paranoid writers) pays any attention to them.

Opinions varied with some readers always using reviews to help them decide whether or not to buy/read a book, while others paid no attention to them and used other factors.

While I don’t use them slavishly, I do tend to glance over reviews as part of my decision-making process, and the reviews I’m most likely to stop and read are the 1* ones. This is because, with the not-that-common exception of trolls, I’ve found them the most useful at flagging up proofing and editing errors (or, more accurately, the entire absence of proofing and editing of the book concerned) which make a book (for me) unreadable.

The only book I’ve ever given a 1* review to was for exactly that reason. It was by a New York Times bestselling author, published by an imprint of the big 6 publishers and it was so poorly proof-read as to be unreadable. I was constantly pulled out of the story when a “that” turned into “than” and “is”, “if” and “it” seemed to be considered interchangeable.  I threw down the book and vented my spleen on Goodreads, absolutely infuriated that either the publisher or the author (or both) had so little respect for the reader that they’d let something so shoddy out of the door.

So if I click through to a book on Amazon and see there’s a 1* review I always have a quick look. On several occasions this has helped me decide to take a book no further.

There are so many books out there, why would a writer want to damage the chances of theirs being successful for such a petty (and so easily corrected) reason? I’m not sure whether it’s arrogance, ignorance or poverty that leads to poorly-proofed books being released, but these are explanations, not excuses. It’s a condemnation most usually levelled at self-published books, although it’s not exclusive to them. In traditionally published books I’ve read lately I’ve come across flaunted/flouted used incorrectly and a poor historical character being “hung” when it should be “hanged” if it’s from the neck until dead. Both of those books did get finished because they were single errors in otherwise fantastic books, but they dragged me from the story for long enough to tut and sigh, which is never a good thing mid-book.

So I’ll keep on reading 1* reviews, and being grateful to those who post them to warn the unwary reader away from those books whose creators really couldn’t be bothered. If nothing else, they give me comfort that there are other sticklers out there and I’m not the only person remaining whose heart sinks when disinterested and uninterested get muddled, or who grieves at a poorly-placed apostrophe.

Any other hardliners out there, or is everyone else more tolerant of writer frailty?