12.19.2005

Man, that just blows

Every so often, I read a novel (released by a major house) that contains a grammatical error about once every 5 to 10 pages. Dangling participles and comma splices are the most common offenders, but subject-verb disagreement isn't at all unheard of. Is this a result of a conscious style decision on the part of the publisher/editor? Or did they just figure the author was such an easy sell they didn't need to bother editing her errors out?

or they just don't know any better?

Homonyms are the ones I notice. "Breaking the car" ..argh.

It could be worse though: Moby Dick is FULL of errors many of them because typesetters ran out of the letters needed so just threw in a j for a g, or because he didn't recognize a word, so substituted one he did know. And of course, there are instances where typesetters thought parts of the novel were too salacious so "cleaned them up". All this sans author input of course.

So, dangling and splicing notwithstanding, it could be worse!

15 comments:

Marlo said...

Grammar is subjective. Yes, I know, I can hear the snick of some of you whipping out machetes to carve me up for the very suggestion, but, depending on what you're trying to capture, every rule can be ripped out and thrown to hungry beasties.

I do get annoyed when a hardcover has typos though. Forty frickin dollars, plus, for a book...you think *somebody* should have read the dang thing before it went to press. But then, maybe they couldn't see them at 6pt. Everything is getting printed like a bacteria OED.

litagent said...

It is frustrating, to both reader and author alike, but ultimately the fault lies with the author. Every author gets galleys of the book, and it's up to him to go through them with a fine-toothed comb to find mistakes. Yes, I realize that it's extremely hard to do the 1000th time reading the material, but it's all part of the job. And yes, weird mysterious computer glitches do happen when something that went off to the printer perfect came back screwed up, but it's the exception, not the rule. Most typos you see in books simply weren't caught.

kitty said...

Yes yes yes, we can all agree that the errors should have been caught. Blah blah blah. But personally, such crimes don't bother me if the book is really good. Seriously, when Evanovich has Ranger just about to bed Stephanie, do you think I give a rat's tuchus about a misspelling? If I find myself nitpicking then the book probably isn't holding my interest.

Kelly said...

So it's just as I thought: simple carelessness. It's kind of nice to hear that Moby Dick has some of the same problems, though. At least it's not a recent development.

With machete firmly glued in my scabbard, I must politely disagree with Marlo. A judiciously broken rule here or there can be useful, but rule-breaking takes skill, which means first *learning* the rules. Some writers obviously haven't.

Thanks, Miss Snark. I thought you were on vacation!

SAND STORM said...

"Homonyms are the ones I notice"

Like in Brokeback Mountain...:)

Squally said...

I'm with you there, Kitty. I only notice truly heinous mistakes if the story has me by the short hairs.

Stacy said...

Sometimes an error can throw you off your stride, like a stone that you trip over as you race down the street. A f'rinstance - in a 180-page romance novel that I read recently, (I'm not ashamed to say that I read them. I'm not!) the name of the main character's love interest changed abruptly on page 120. I think I sprained my brain.

kitty said...

Thanks, Holly! But I think we're in the minority on this.

Bernita said...

Depends on where they are.
Saw a pair of writers dissing another because one of his CHARACTERS spoke in cliches.
It's very fashionable to bitch.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Come on, though. People speak in cliches in real life all the time.

I hate to say it, but I think the curse of doing a lot of writing is that you notice the writing when you read - you can't help it, it's second nature. I notice how many multi-published authors have several sentences in a row starting with the same word and whether they use 'said', 'moaned', or 'muttered' for dialogue tags. I notice where they tell instead of showing and all that jazz.

Mostly because it just justifies my annoyance when I get super-nitpicky feedback.

Carter said...

Yes, you can break most grammar rules, if you do it with a clear purpose and a clear understanding of the rule in question. There is one thing, though, that sets my butt on fire every time: dangling participles. Every time I see a sentence like "While moving the sofa, a rat scurried out.", I have to stop and cuss loudly and contemplate writing the author to ask if he really intended to write about super-strong rats. Gah.

end rant, dismount soapbox, disappear back into the shadows...

Alina said...

It really could be worse. There is a trilogy of books I used to like, well still kind of do, but it's been so long, I can't even remember the author or the names exactly. I first read the books in a russian translation and they immediately became my favourites. Then I bought them in the original English and... Wow. First of all, the books were "updated" to reflect the post-perestroika 90s, but the editors forgot to update them consistently and throughout the book the same event was cited as having happened in 79 and 89. There were several typos on every other page. And what drove me particularly nuts, my being Russian, was that the author wanted to write about a Russian character, but didn't want to do any research whatsoever. He had a young, twenty-something woman speak as if she was an old lady with his anachronisms and then when he had her romantically involved, he had her use "babushka" as a term of endearment. Um... what? Huh? "Grandmother" is a term of endearment for MEN in Russia? That's news to me! If it was the only Russian word he knew, he should've picked up a dictionary! I still liked the story, the humour of the dialogue, but I just couldn't look past the glaring negligence and obvious lack of care on the part of both the author and the editors to love the books anymore.

wannabe said...

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear had tons of typos. One paragraph even had 2-3 lines repeating.

The sequel had a typo in the first paragraph!

Bella Stander said...

I hear all the time from authors who send in clean copy that comes back filled with typos. Yeah, they're supposed to go over their pages with a fine-toothed comb. But so are the proofreaders and copy editors that the publisher employs. Or rather, used to employ. Unfortunately, publishers are skimping in that department. But then so are newspapers and magazines. I see many errors that never would have gotten through back in the Olden Days before spell-check and auto-hyphenation. (Full disclosure: I'm a recovering proofreader.)

Sponge Girl said...

Just because "it could be worse" doesn't make it okay.

I expect a certain level of accuracy from people who are paid to write, edit and so on.

If I cringe when the fifteen-year-old shop assistant writes a sign saying carrot's and pumpkins', why should I excuse an author confusing there, their and they're?