Why Good Grammar Will Effect You're Chances of Getting
by Erin Brown
You've written a manuscript with enough detail to topple Gone
with the Wind, a lead character unique enough to give
a run for his money, and a plot that out-Christie's Agatha. Who
cares if you don't know the difference between "there" and "their"
or "your" and "you're?" So what if your plurals take the form of
possessives? And really, is anyone going to care if your modifiers
are misplaced? The answer is: "YES! YES! YES! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD,
PLEASE LEARN ENGLISH!" Okay, I've taken some deep breaths and done a
few yoga poses. The bottom line is that if you want to get taken
seriously as an author, you must be able to use proper
English and follow the rules of grammar.
you ask? There are copy editors for that nonsense, correct? Well,
yes, and in fact, once you find a home at a publishing house, you
get two rounds of copyediting and a proofread. But my very
strong feelings on the subject (and trust me, I'm not aloneómy
fellow editors and agents are sticklers as well) were best expressed
recently in a Harvard Business Review article: "I Won't Hire
People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here's Why" by Kyle Wiens.
Kyle Wiens is CEO of iFixit, the
largest online repair community, as well as founder of
very successful software company. All wannabe employees at Kyle
Wiens's companies must take a mandatory grammar test. Why? As he
says, "On the face of it, my zero-tolerance approach to
grammar errors might seem a little unfair. After all, grammar has
nothing to do with job performance, or creativity, or intelligence,
right? Wrong. If it takes someone more than twenty years to notice
properly use it's, then
that's not a learning curve I'm comfortable with.
So even in this hyper-competitive market, I will pass on a great
programmer who cannot write."
is true in every field, but good grammar, especially in
publishing, is essential in order to be taken seriously. The use of
good grammar reflects your competence as a writer. It shows your
ability, and it shows that you take the written word seriously. It's
virtually impossible to respect a writer whose prose is riddled with
common sense errors. Now don't get your panties in a bunchóI'm
not saying that your manuscript must be perfect, or that any
of us are perfect. Even the best of the best often let a few
mistakes slip through the cracks. That is human error. But if you consistently
show poor grammatical ability, and it's obvious that you're lacking
the basics of English, no matter how impressive your creativity, you
will not be considered a strong literary contender. That's just a
reality is that there are hundreds of misspelled query letters and
pages from manuscripts posted for a few chuckles in the lounges and
common areas of publishing houses. I don't share this to make
editors and agents seem like jerks for mocking hard-working writers.
I write this so that you will take good grammar seriously. Take the
time to learn grammar now if it didn't sink in during Mr. Peterson's
sophomore English class at Abe Lincoln High. Make an effort to buy
and study The Chicago Manual of Style; buy a copy of
Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots &
Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation; or
simply make a point to visit
Cherie Tuckerís column in
this very magazine every month.
grammar will not only help you get taken seriously as a writer; it
will also allow you to be taken more seriously in business and in
life. If you don't know the rules, you will be judged for it.
Period. There's nothing worse than someone trying to be taken
seriously for their ideas who doesn't know the difference between
"lose" and "loose," "affect" and "effect"; who hasn't ever learned
what "literally" literally means; who dangles participles and
misuses apostrophes; who never uses commas; who (please kill me if I
see this again) can't differentiate between "to" and "too."
in the case of "Let's eat Grandma" versus "Let's eat, Grandma,"
grammar can save a person's life!
More Author Articles...
Erin Brown worked as an editor in New York City for
over eight years. She recently left Manhattan to start her own
freelance editorial business. To learn more about Erin, visit her
website at www.erinedits.com