I do quite a bit of editing for other authors. These authors write every genre. But I’m also finding that most have very poor educational backgrounds. They don’t know the basics of the English grammar.
Too often, I look at a piece I’m editing and shake my head. What was this author thinking? What they wrote is nearly gibberish. A second grader writes better English. The grammar is atrocious. The spelling is…let’s not go there. Mistakes happen, but what I’m talking about is something massive and can permeate every sentence of a story. Yes, these are the authors of our day. Again, shake my head.
Who writes and doesn’t know that you put a comma after, or before depending on location, a name when used as an address in dialogue? “What are we doing today, John?” There should be a comma near John to show that he is not really part of the sentence but that it is directed at him. Most authors don’t. I had one argue with me. She said that she had never heard of doing that before. Not even in school? Nope. How about in the books you read? Well, she reads only those written by people with as little education as her. Again, shake my head.
Another author kept mixing past and present tense. As I tried to correct them, the author protested. Said I was messing with her voice. I pointed out the basic grammar rule. She moved back and forth with no consistency. She called me a liar because she never heard that in school. Too many claim they never knew such things.
Lack of Education
I was in a group and noticed a post by a fellow author. It was two examples of formatting. He asked which one was right. One was clearly wrong as it broke most rules. Some paragraphs were indented and some were not. Dialogue had it’s narrative that was to be with it in a separate paragraph, including the dialogue tags. One author pointed out how that one was the correct one. When we pointed out the issues, she said that dialogue is not supposed to be in the same paragraph as what the characters say. What? I reminded her that dialogue is what the characters say. She began screaming at me (virtually) and said I was wrong. Her publisher had told her that what characters say should always be in paragraphs by themselves. Then I was told off and reported for attacking her. Yep, I have no idea what I’m talking about.
No one had ever educated her on the basics of books, even for a reader. These are all taught in school in various grades. Many authors today are too uneducated to be writing, and they refuse to accept help. Maybe that is the biggest problem. They will not accept instruction.
I had another encounter not long after the one I just described above. One author continually wrote either sentence fragments or run on sentences. I pointed them out. She asked what a fragment was and what was a run on sentence. She had never heard of them. I explained. Then she said, “How do I fix them?” Really? And you’re a writer? I don’t think so.
Too many schools are just wanting to good standardized test scores. As long as the students memorize enough to result in decent scores, the schools don’t care if the child forgets it all. The result is graduates who do not have the basic skills in the different areas of schooling.
With the ease of publication, too many authors think all you have to do is write and publish. While that is the basics of indie and self publishing today, there is much more to the writing and publishing process. A writer does multiple drafts of their work. They work with an editor and listen to the advice given. They educate themselves in the craft and all that comes with it.
If you don’t know the basic grammar rules, please don’t try to write a book. Learn them. Learn how to use them in your writing. I don’t want to discourage anyone, but then don’t argue with anyone what what is obvious you know nothing about. If you aren’t too versed in it, work with an editor. Be willing to learn.