Monday, January 24, 2011

The Little Things

IMS00173I wrote a post on this last year, but it’s a topic that has cropped up again for me.

I tweet a ton of different writing blogs on many different topics. I’ve subscribed to blogs that have nothing to do with my particular area of interest (graphic novels, scriptwriting, etc.), but which I think other writers might find interesting or helpful.

A couple of times in the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten direct messages on Twitter from users about typos in different writing blogs that I’ve tweeted.

One tweeter said that they just couldn’t finish reading the writer’s article at all because they were so distracted by the typos. It made me pull that blog post up again on my computer and look at it with a more critical eye.

The post’s content was very helpful, I thought. The writer had a refreshing take on the writing craft and sound tips to follow that could prove useful to someone facing the same issue with their writing.

I did see typos. And there was even a pretty flagrant typo in the post’s title. Was it distracting? English Major Me would have said yes. And it still distracted me a little…but not enough to keep me from tweeting the post because I found it useful. That’s because I was searching for content.

The second time was a couple of days ago and I got a direct message from a tweeter. She said sadly that she wished typos didn’t bother her…but she couldn’t seem to stop being bothered by them. I pulled up the blog post for the writing blog she’d referred to. I skimmed the author’s blog, then skimmed it quickly again. Finally I saw it…due instead of do. Homonym issue.

Again, that person’s blog post was worthy of tweeting…this tweeter was being especially picky. The post was a list of archetypes found in a particular genre. I hadn’t seen a post like that and knew that people who wrote that genre would find it interesting.

Typos happen. I think some writers don’t have an especially wonderful grasp of spelling, either. And some could use a grammar brush-up. I was an English major and am the daughter of an English teacher, but-- I still have typos, especially in blog posts, which I tend to write quickly. I do put more time into my manuscripts, as do other writers, I’m sure.

So…the question is, how picky are agents and editors? If just random writers on Twitter can get badly tripped up by spelling, grammar, and carelessness, how badly do the gatekeepers get tripped up by reading it?

I think, if the mistakes are flagrant, they can be distracting, no matter how good the content is. It would be like a person arriving at a job interview in a really inappropriate outfit—maybe they’re an excellent candidate for the position, but the fact they showed up in torn jeans and a rock band tee shirt makes the interviewer think twice.

Former Writer’s Digest publisher and editorial director, Jane Friedman, wrote in a post last summer entitled “Why I Don’t Care About Grammar (and Why You Should Stop Worrying"). Jane’s main point was that perfect grammar didn’t necessarily mean good writing.

I agree with her and I think, in my small way, proved that we can become immune to typos, etc., in the search for good content when I became temporarily oblivious to the mechanics of the interesting posts that I tweeted.

But still, I think about all the competition out there. I wonder what goes through an editor’s mind when she sees two equally good manuscripts—but one needs a heck of a lot more editing (which equals more time and money) than the other. And I think about the poor impression someone makes when they show up at a job interview in torn jeans and a rock band tee shirt.

Janice Hardy had a nice post about areas every writer should be familiar with—great summary.

With spelling and typos, I think you just have to be super careful to check your work. And not just with the spell-check program on your computer, either—it won’t catch a homonym problem.

Here are some other resources that might be helpful:

Grammar, Punctuation, Mechanics, etc.:

Online guide to grammar and writing Daily Writing Tips Grammar Girl The Grammarphobia Blog Mighty Red Pen Crystal Clear Proofing

Usage: Common Errors in English Usage

Style: The Chicago Manual of Style Online The Elements of Style

Some writers might benefit from the help of independent editors. I know there are several who frequently comment here, including Helen Ginger, Marvin Wilson, Crystal from Crystal Clear, and Victoria Mixon.

How easy is it for you to ignore others’ typos? And, are there resources that you’ve come across that you’d like to share?