Lately I’ve read a few reviews and comments on Amazon and elsewhere that seem to explain away horrendous volumes, and I mean that in more than one sense, of bad grammar as a glitch in the ebook conversion. Yes, that’s right. When you upload your ebook file, it is immediately transferred to a team of howler monkeys with keyboards and between them they may or may not reproduce your file in the perfect, error free state it was in until then.
From where has this myth arisen? Well, it has to be writers who can’t own up to a bad job. ebook publishing systems are fully automated. They copy, byte for byte, what you submit. If the formatting is ‘squiffy’, guess what? You’ve missed something in the guidelines they all provide. If incorrect words appear, yeah, you’re with me now, you put them there.
I make typos. I miss words out that I don’t intend to. I can make a pig’s ear of a paragraph just as easily as anyone else. Sometimes software does ‘helpful’ things that mess up your code or corrects typos to something with an entirely different meaning. But if you don’t spot them, someone else will and when they do, it’s no good saying the computer did it. You didn’t check that it hadn’t. The computer really isn’t clever enough to know what you mean. Only what you entered.
The difficulty for anyone publishing an ebook now is the reputation that others have spread to us all by means of this myth. I’m reading one at the moment and for the first ten percent, I really wasn’t sure English was the guy’s first language. But apparently it is and he’s been writing for years. It really bothers me, not least because of this OCD grammatical nervous tic of mine, but mostly because it gives everyone publishing to ebook a bad name by association. Perhaps the process is too easy. Perhaps we need to crack down by means of review and stop worrying whether someone might take it badly to get two or three star ratings. It’s why we’re given grades in school. It’s why we have appraisals at work. It’s why it used to be very hard to get published.
Writing is art. Art will never exist without criticism. Artists must learn to take criticism and use it to improve their work. But we must stop molly coddling one another and tell it like it is. Everyone is allowed to write, but not everyone can. I can pick up a paint brush but I can’t produce a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt and if anyone tried to tell me I was good, they would be doing me a disservice by encouraging me to keep coming out with the same shoddy workmanship. Would you tell the department store their clothes were wonderful if the first thing you noticed was the buttons hanging off and a sleeve set upside down? You’d let them know it wasn’t up to standard and they’d do something about it or the reputation of their entire chain is at stake.
You must see what I’m getting at by now anyway! Writers must take responsibility for their writing. Readers, among whom will be writers because we can’t only ever read our own work, must regulate the system and help each other out with realism. If we don’t this brave new world of publishing will quickly collapse as people grow tired.
Note: I’ve read this back several times and run spellcheck as well. The first one to spot a mistake wins a JAM point and will make me laugh for at least an hour. JAM points have no pecuniary value, cannot be redeemed at any retail outlet in the known universe and are worth only as much as you attribute to making someone smile.
…and prevents law suits. Saw a sign today. Not a mystical sign. A public information sign, and on the news otherwise I’d have to have left the house. It read “KEEP OUT DANGEROUS CLIFFS”. So, I thought, I can go in there but anyone named Cliff with anger management issues can’t. Or perhaps it means Cliff Richard, it being almost Christmas and a cheery single no doubt approaching. I don’t think it does mean him though as it’s nowhere near a tennis court. I can’t imagine it means actual cliffs because, well, they aren’t likely to be wandering by to be told keep out.
No, the instruction is definitely for the public warning them to keep dangerous cliffs out.
As a friend pointed out it’s along the lines of “SLOW CHILDREN PLAYING”. How much more would it cost and how much more sense would it make if they’d only put a simple colon or even a dash to delineate instruction and reason?
I wonder if I could fall off a large rocky structure and claim compensation because my name isn’t Cliff and even if it were I posed no threat and so didn’t think the warning applied to me?
If you want your meaning to be clear, punctuate it properly. There are stupid people out there who’ll misunderstand if you don’t. And facetious, pedantic, OCD ones like me who will deliberately misunderstand just to make a point.