Guest Author - Bluedolphin Crow
Many writers think that writing is only about creating a great story or teaching important information. They get upset when they are rejected because their manuscript has misspellings, poor grammar, bad punctuation, and typos. “Why does that stuff matter?” one writer complained to me. “I just want to teach people about this. I’m not trying to be Shakespeare or anything.”
Writing is entirely about communicating. If your reader can’t figure out what you meant because the word is misspelled, you aren’t communicating with him. Good writers are distracted by poor grammar, and will be pulled out of the content by a misplaced comma or a run-on sentence. Many readers also suspect the writer of being unprofessional, unskilled, uneducated, or even unintelligent if he finds those types of problems. Whether or not you consider this fair isn’t the issue. The reader does think those things, and it’s your responsibility to avoid causing this to happen.
Editors receive far too many manuscripts. They are desperate to cut the workload down so they can focus on the truly promising manuscripts. One fast way to cut the pile is to eliminate any manuscript that doesn’t appear professional. This means you may get rejected on the spot because you typed “loose” for “lose.” Why risk having the next best-seller rejected over a simple spelling mistake?
It’s important to always use your grammar check and spelling check program. This will catch many of your mistakes. However, these programs don’t actually speak English, and they are marking possible errors based on patterns and words that are programmed in. This can lead to errors. For instance, I once typed in:
“You may want to consider pre-homeschooling your children.”
My word processor marked it for correction because it didn’t recognize the word “pre-homeschooling.” It offered this as a suggested replacement:
“You may want to consider pre-cooking your children.”
Clearly it had no idea what the word “pre-cooking” meant either! What does this mean for you? It means you’re going to have to buy some recent grammar books, because rules change, and then you’ll have to study. Make a schedule and devote time each week to learning current rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Perfect grammar won’t guarantee a book’s publication, but it will keep you from being rejected before the editor has even read the content of your manuscript. Your manuscript is your resume. Don’t show up for the interview with soup on your tie!