The Bullshit in Books (Stop Using Latin!)

We’ve all seen it, or we’ve all been it. The person who puts  something like “there wrong” instead of “they’re wrong” – a grammatical slip-up if ever there was one. Because I blog at night, I sometimes find myself correcting my “there” “their” and “they’re”‘s, but at least I re-read my stuff (most of the time) and correct myself when I make a mistake. Is it so terrible to write something with grammatical errors and not even bother to correct yourself? Maybe. But I’d rather read an argument by someone who can’t distinguish between same-sounding words than an argument peppered with overtly colourful language.

When a person is trying to get their point across, and does so with poor grammar, it usually voids the argument. Why bother reading something when it’s so filled with stupidity? Does poor grammar even get their point across? It should, but it doesn’t. There are so many people quick to point out a spelling mistake or grammar mistake than people who actually think about what someone is saying. If I’m having a debate with someone, and they spell something wrong, I do tend to think “idiot” and “why would I spend my time debating with someone who can’t even spell?” But there must be extenuating circumstances. Circumstances, for instance, where their point is actually pretty valid, and circumstances where you know it must be a typo. If someone puts their point across in a way that makes people understand it, so what if it has a few mistakes?

On the other hand, eloquent language in a debate or argument is something I dislike over poor grammar. Using flamboyant language (see what I did there? ;)) doesn’t help you get your point across, and it actually makes you look a bit like a pompous twat. It doesn’t mean you’re more intelligent, or have a more valid point simply because you’re well-spoken, or well-read.

Books however, are a completely different entity. If I see a spelling or grammatical mistake in a book, my opinion of both story and author goes down from about *really like it* to *ugh, this sucks, let me read something else*. And it doesn’t matter what the book is about. There’s just something about mistakes in a book, or slightly-off formatting that pulls me away from the world I’m trying to get lost in, and makes me realise that I’m only reading a book. It’s like playing a game and it having “co-op only” plastered all over the place (no mentions, DEAD SPACE 3; courtesy of Dan). Sure, fighting mutant creatures in space is probably as most fantastical as it gets, but the point of it is to MAKE you feel like you’re living it. You want to feel like you’re really fighting creatures, that if you don’t kill it before it lays eggs, the entire race will die because of you. When I read a book, I want to feel like I know that character, that I’m really living the story, and one minor blip pulls me away from it where I think I might as well be reading Heat magazine on the loo.

I’ve written a status or post before and gone “oh, shit I spelt that wrong/wrote that wrong.” So I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be an award-winning author, like J K Rowling, to open your new published book and read the first few chapters and see a blatant grammatical error, for all to see. It would suck. You’d be like “fuck. There’s three million copies of this.” But it’s also something that can’t always be avoided. Of the some average 400 pages per book, it’s not always possible to see mistakes and correct them, because the human eye can only see so much. And we all know spell check on word is a joke.

One grammar mistake didn’t stop me from reading Harry Potter, but I gave up reading anything more by Jodi Picoult. Picoult is a really bad writer for mistakes. She gives birth to a book a year, maybe more than this. Now, when I read My Sister’s Keeper way, way back, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was really gripping and well written. When it came to reading Picture Perfect around 2010, (I had already read about 6 of her novels by then) it was like seeing a retard trying to imitate her work. But no, it was just Picoult, yet pushing out another ridiculously overrated book about a woman losing her virginity or what not. It wasn’t just the mediocre story that was bad, but the mass amount of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Not just one or two, no, that’s excusable. Pages and pages of absolute shit. There is even one page where she changed the name of a character, but I guess that’s easy to do since she’s written about five hundred characters, the names must all mash into one.

It just shows you that she’s only bothered about the story and money. It shows me that she doesn’t care about the book or the characters, that she doesn’t put herself in her readers shoes. This complete lack of understanding of simple writing basics just makes her look desperate and terrible. The whole point of book publishing is for the reader, and when you can’t even make the basic effort to tell a story right, where does that put authors?

I’ve never been able to stand poor language, yet I’ve also never been able to tolerate language abuse. You can do this two ways, using it poorly, or using it too much. Like I mentioned before, using language excessively to “impress” your readers just makes you look like a pompous twat. I don’t care if you know how to describe a sunrise in more ways than a hundred, if it’s not imperative to the tone of the story, it’s dead knowledge, and it needs to be cut out.

Using research extensively also annoys me. This is when you’re reading something, and it’s clear the author has a lot of knowledge (like forensics, history, art, law and latin). And because they’ve done tons of research on it, they feel that they need to include it in the story. They really don’t. Use of Latin annoys the fuck out of me. Latin is a dead language, so why use it in a way where a character looks like a git because he asks for a coffee in Latin? This is of course excusable if the story includes the history of the language, or history which includes Latin, but is it really necessary to include it in modern settings? Art and law is also another thing that’s unneccessary. If I wanted to know the ins and outs of the Mona Lisa or the drug unit at so-and-so police department, I’d read up on it (again, unless the story is based solely around this, like The Da Vinci Code).

It is disheartening and down-right frustrating to have done tons of work and not be able to show any of it in your writing, either because there is no place for it, or because there is too much already. But so what? Your reader doesn’t care how much time you spent writing a book, and neither does your character, so why are you dampening your story with your bullshit?

There’s probably a million and ones things I see in “writing advice” posts everyday that annoys me to hell, but perhaps that’s for another post.

One thing though, is research. Many writers will tell you it is the most important thing, but I’ll tell you it isn’t. I do minimal research when it calls for it, because the rest of my writing comes from my own experiences and how I view the world. Guess that’s the difference between a writer and an author.

Anyone can be an author. A good writer, however, takes practice, skill, confidence and knowing when to add some flavour, and when to leave the bullshit back in the paddock where it belongs.

Luna

<GrammarGripe>

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