On Being A Writing Snob

2014-11-11 10.02.40I received a very cool postcard from Oldest Junior Hall who’s still over in New Zealand, doing his thing.

First, I read the card like a mother, smiling at the message, my heart missing that grown-up boy. But then I read it again, proofreading the note like a writer. And thank goodness, I still smiled. (He should’ve capitalized Lego, but he did get the apostrophe right, so it’s all good.)

Now, before you start thinking that I’m some kind of writing snob, I’ll bet you do the same thing, if you’re a writer. We can’t help it. We’re all about the words and the grammar and the sentence structure and we can’t just turn that part of our brain off and on like a spigot, right?

But it’s more than just being a writing snob.

I mean, I’d still love that boy, even if he wrote “their” when he meant “there.” But I’d correct him, too. I wouldn’t want him making mistakes in business emails or professional letters, or even social media posts and postcards, for all the wide world to see. Because a mom may overlook errors, but others may not judge so nicely.

I think people–and when I say people, I mean writers and non-writers alike–need to be able to express themselves correctly and effectively through the written word. So I want middle school teachers to take off points when a student uses “there” instead of “their.” I want college professors to demand error-free papers, even from Physics majors. And I want my kids to write lovely postcards all the way from New Zealand without grammar mistakes.

I guess I am a bit of a writing snob. But I’m a snob who appreciates how hard it is to put words to paper, so keep writing. But proofread your work, okay?

(How about you?  When it comes to writing errors, do you correct friends and family, or do you let it go?)



What Not To Do Wednesday on Proofreading

ImageI used Grammarly to grammar check this post because sometimes, even a grammar geek like me (or is it I?) could use a proofreading hand.

So, grasshopper, we meet again.

I really hoped we would not meet again. Hoped that I had, finally, exhausted all the What Not To Do’s which one writer could actually manage to do. But alas, such was not the case.

It began with an email, an email that was, in fact, a query to an agent. So you can see that right from the get-go, this was a terribly important email. Because when one is querying, what one is really doing is trying to convince an agent to say, “Yes! Yes! A thousand times, yes! You are the one for me! Send me your manuscript immediately!”

One might even settle for, “Well, possibly you are the one for me. Send me a bit more of your manuscript and we shall see.”

But I think it goes without saying that one wants to send his or her absolute best query. Something bright and shiny and irresistible. At the very least, one wants to send a mistake-proof query. And that’s not difficult, grasshopper, is it? Not when one proofreads an email ten times before sending it.

Except that when one proofreads one’s work, over and over and over again, one might get so used to seeing the same mistake that one doesn’t actually “see” it at all. One might just hit “send” and whoosh! Out rockets the email with an egregious mistake.

Perhaps it’s a glaring grammatical error. Maybe it’s a misspelled word, or a misplaced modifier. Possibly (and I’m not admitting to anything here), it’s the name of two of the characters in your book but you have changed their names several times so that when you send the query the names might be A and B, but in the synopsis following the query, they are C and D.

Sometimes, grasshopper, you need another pair of eyes to proofread and find those egregious mistakes, especially when one is querying.

In writing a query, as in life, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Better make it a good one.

P.S. On this particular post, I scored a 91 out of 100 when I grammar checked on Grammarly. I also checked the afore-mentioned query/synopsis email, just to see if, say, a name snafu would be flagged (They were names with unusual spellings.). It was—along with a comma that didn’t belong in the OPENING sentence.

So, grasshopper, I suppose I can either write a blog post with my query and synopsis and hope that an agent reads it—or use Grammarly to proofread before I hit “send.”