If you’re like me when you consider buying a book on Amazon you go to the “One Star” reviews first. If it is some drivel from an embittered old fart who is pissed at his ex-wife, or the IRS, or Donald Trump and his review doesn’t even relate to the book, I ignore it. But the majority of negative reviews have to do with typos and just plain rotten grammar. However, that book may have a bunch of Five Star reviews, so one wonders why so many people overlook typos and bad grammar.
The answer to that may be that most of those readers don’t even know bad grammar when they see it. And that is shameful. But it’s a reflection of the lousy educational system we have in this country. According to the National Center for Education Statistics only 32% of America’s eighth grade students are proficient in language skills. That’s 1/3 of the whole student body. And that leads me to believe that the teachers themselves don’t even know the difference between good and bad grammar, which is unacceptable and unforgivable.
A Marketing Consultant, Debra Murphy, said, “Being able to write without error, be it grammar or typos, is an important skill for anyone who wishes to be taken seriously in business.”
The data back her up. A study in England found that 74% of consumers pay attention to the correctness of the prose on a company web site and 59% said that they would avoid doing business with a company that made obvious grammar errors. That’s some serious ramifications of having illiterates write for your web site.
And all of the above goes double for someone who wishes to be successful in the writing profession. My novels are read by “beta readers” a dozen times before they are even turned over to a professional editor. And even then, it takes a printed copy to ferret out those last few typos and unnecessary commas. Even with all that effort, there will still be the errant typo that slips through. The point is, every humanly endeavor is made to “get it right” before the material is turned over to the reading public. The educated reader deserves nothing less than our best efforts.
So if you are a writer don’t make the mistake of thinking that educated readers are going to “overlook” bad grammar and typos because you story is so marvelous. It’s not going to happen. Make sure you know the rules of grammar before you commit to paper that hilarious story about grandma in the outhouse. Your characters are permitted to use bad grammar but not the narrator.
The best definition of grammar I have found came from the wordsmiths at somecards.com: “Grammar – it’s the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.”