Confessions of An Editor: New Year, Same Old Pet Peeves

freelance-writing-adviceIt has been a very long time since I wrote a Confessions post, and since we’re in the first weeks of 2009, I figured it was high time.

As some of our loyal readers may already know, I’ve been an editor for quite some time, starting with my work as News Director at the Naval Media Center in Keflavik, Iceland. Since then I’ve edited everything from radio and TV scripts, press releases, articles, a whole forest of paper and a river of red ink. Today, my work editing Cheap doesn’t kill any trees, but some things remain the same no matter what you’re editing.

Including one of my all-time pet peeves; sacrificing accuracy for speed. CNN was guilty of this recently when reporting a military plane crash in California. The anchor or his script writers assumed that if it had wings and an engine, it must belong to the Air Force.  It’s an easy mistake to make, but one the CNN crew knows better than to make.

Another example I found recently hit my inbox courtesy of a writing group mailing list I signed up for once upon a time. I confess, I kind of like these mailing list groups…they give me plenty of fodder for posts like this.  In one recent e-mail, a local author announced his newest fiction title, complete with a link to an excerpt from the book. I usually never click on these things, and for my blood pressure’s sake I should have followed my own policy. Clicking on the link took me to a poorly written pile of hash which included the wrong use of the word “affect”.

In case you’re wondering, you can feel the EFFECTS of a punch, but there’s no such than as feeling the “affects of the punch.”

One could excuse this mangling of the English language in a blog where standards are low and you don’t really expect accuracy, just speed.

But for a BOOK, a document which is supposed to be AGONIZED over, it’s shameful. Here’s a word of advice, folks—don’t allow grammatical errors, bad usage, or your own blissful ignorance of proper English to fly on your OWN BOOK EXCERPT for the WHOLE WORLD TO SEE. It tends to make people think you’re a chump with a pen.

This sort of lazy writing irks me for several reasons. I won’t list them all here, but I will say that it sets a very bad example for the next generation of writers–all of whom can be published quite inexpensively thanks to companies like I don’t fault CreateSpace, which truly is the CD Baby of the publishing world–a great idea. But now we are going to be FLOODED with books crammed to the gills with bad English. Not in a James-Joyce-writes-the-world’s-longest-run-on-sentence way, but in a “We don’t know any better, and we can’t use the apostrophe properly to save our lives” sort of way.

I pray for the great gods of literature to spare me from this tidal wave of amateurish crap. I truly do. But they won’t. I can hear them laughing at me right this very minute.