(This post could have been titled “Sometimes, he has to tell someone off for being deliberately, unspeakably stupid.”)
Warning: contains metaphors, sarcasm, and cussing. Also contains logic. Read at your own risk.
I find it both disheartening and immensely annoying to see so many new novels full of objectively bad writing. As a reader, I am offended by these novels, because the authors clearly didn’t care enough about either their craft or their audience to have the errors corrected, one way or another. As readers, none of us should have to wade through a half-dozen (or more!) foolish mistakes in grammar and punctuation per page in our search for the complex characters, fascinating settings, and exciting plots we were promised.
Yes, I know (nearly!) all books contain at least one or two mistakes. In fact, the industry standard for professional editors/proofreaders says that as long as the error rate is below five percent, it’s fine. Five percent means about one mistake per page… although, as readers, we hope to see far fewer than that. I’m not talking about the occasional typo, though. Believe it or not, word order alone can greatly affect the meaning of a sentence. Whether or not there’s a comma after a word can affect its meaning. And meaning matters. A single sentence or paragraph that doesn’t say what you think it says can have a huge undesirable effect on how readers perceive your plot, characters, or setting.
Perfect grammar and spelling used to tell a trite, tedious story, the proverbial plotless wonder… That’s not something I have any interest in reading. Chances are, neither do you. (There was a pseudo-steampunk novel set on Mars… Beautiful prose, both flawless and poetic. Music played in lines of ink. Too bad the plot, characters, and even setting were so uninteresting. I think I read about half of it before giving up.) However, ‘You care more about grammar then story, you just want perfect grammar and you don’t care is the story good!’ is a straw man argument. It is deliberately misrepresenting everything I and people like me (fiction-making people who do respect our craft and our audience) say about the importance of good writing mechanics, claiming we’ve said the mechanics are all-important and everything else is irrelevant.
If this is your argument, point out one time I’ve said flawless grammar/punctuation is all that matters in the quality/readability of a work of fiction.
Also, if this is your argument, fuck you.
I don’t have time for such nonsense; I have rational, creative writers to educate, encourage, and socialize with. People who espouse disdain for the tools of the craft are not welcome.