A Reviewer Shouldn’t Notice Grammar Errors? Since When?

I wrote, a month or so ago, a review of an excellent horror novel, “From Within.” The review was published on The View From My Kindle.  It can be found here. I gave the book a good review. I’ve promoted the book on my Twitter, my Facebook, and now here. I have told everybody in Internet-world how much I loved “From Within.”

Someone, however, commented that he thought I spent too much time carping about grammar and punctuation errors. I did mention some errors, true. I also gave the book four-and-a-half of a possible five stars. I praised the book’s many strengths. Should I have ignored the few weaknesses? I think not.

I believe a reviewer should note any grammatical, spelling, misused words, and punctuation errors because a reader will. Most readers will not be too bothered by a few goofs. A book that is full of them, though, will annoy even the most grammar unaware reader eventually. It will annoy some of us rather quickly.

Indie or self-published books must be as polished, as perfect, as well-written, as thoroughly edited as we can possibly make them. Why? Because otherwise they are apt to be swallowed up by what Joe Konrath calls the tsunami of crap. Speaking of Joe, his blog should be a must-read for any indie writer. Find it right here.

Traditional publishers seek any excuse to look down on the indie writer and indie publishing. Why give them a gold-plated reason by putting out a book that’s filled with bad grammar, random tense changes, punctuation errors, etc.?

11 Responses to “A Reviewer Shouldn’t Notice Grammar Errors? Since When?”

  1. John M. Dow says:

    As the author of ‘From Within’, (and no, it wasn’t me who complained :)), I’d like to endorse what Mary-Anne says here.

    It’s worth mentioning that a review site is primarily and advisory resource for readers, not a promotional site for writers. If the reader spends money on a book then discovers it full of unmentioned error they’re hardly likely to trust the reviewer (or the author) again.

    • MAPC says:

      I was so pleased, to be honest, by your response to my review — that you weren’t angry about it, you didn’t stomp or whine. I suspect there might have been private stomping at first (I mean, who likes to have an error pointed out?) but your public response was mature and supportive of my review. I have to add that I’m looking forward to reading more of your books, an attitude I might not have had if you’d gone all tantrum-throwing about what was, seriously, about as positive a review as I’m ever likely to hand out.

  2. J M Cornwell says:

    There is no excuse for sloppy work, and I’ve seen sloppy work in some traditionally published books. As a reviewer, when errors are pervasive, and even when they’re not, I call attention to them because they lower the quality of the book and make it difficult to read without slamming headlong into them. Anything that noticeable should be noted by the reviewer. Sorry, folks, but grammar, punctuation, and using the correct words does matter, and it does count. Publishing is not for sissies — or for whiners intent on making excuses instead of making a book as good as it can be.

    • MAPC says:

      Preaching to the choir. I’ve read some traditionally published books that prompted compulsive flinging as well. There is a saying that (fill in the looked-down-on-group-you-wish) need to be twice as good to be thought half as good. Indie publishing is like that, I think. Why should we shoot ourselves in the page and give those who say that all indie books are crap an excuse to say it even louder?

  3. demilo19 says:

    I believe a reviewer should note any grammatical, spelling, misused words, and punctuation errors because a reader will. Most readers will not be too bothered by a few goofs. A book that is full of them, though, will annoy even the most grammar unaware reader eventually. It will annoy some of us rather quickly.
    Heck yeah!

    I read enough poorly punctuated pieces. Uncle Stevie King once remarked that we only have a limited amount of time to read on this earth – why bother with poorly constructed pieces?

    Now this book had a good story and a lot going for it; great! Maybe the publishers will take into consideration your points and fix those errors in subsequent publications.

    In other words, I completely agree that reviewers should point this out. As a reader, I want to know what I’m getting into.

  4. MAPC says:

    The author of the book didn’t have a tantrum. I admire him enormously. As the book in question was an e-book, the writer was able to go into the files and fix the errors immediately. If you were to buy the book now, the errors I mentioned would not be there.

    I love Uncle Stevie. I recommend his book “On Writing” all the time.

  5. Chelle says:

    I agree with you. Lord knows I have a TON of typos that I never see. I’m always grateful when a reviewer and/or beta points them out. It’s the only way I will ever learn.

  6. I have around 20+ reviews on Library Thing and a few of them do mention some errors and where things could improve. I truly value these reviews. I mean I value all reviews and I love it when they say good things. But to find out what I can do to improve, I think that’s a good thing. I am currently going through my novel to get rid of errors and republish it. So I thank my reviewers for that feedback!

    • MAPC says:

      Unless the errors are truly dreadful, I don’t believe in harping on them. I do believe in noting them. How will anyone improve if no one mentions where they went wrong? Thanks, Lindsey, for your comment.

  7. I can just hear the English teachers of my past scaling the heights of their soap boxes to espouse the virtues of proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling even as I read the title of this entry. Their collective answer is that these things should never go unnoticed because within every error is the potential for learning and improvement.

    Personally, when reading a book review I know was written by another professional writer, I’d much rather know ahead of time that I’m going to run into some grammatical and/or punctuation errors.

    As both a reader and a potential writer, having prior knowledge of the existence of errors in an otherwise good book (4 1/2 stars out of 5 is quite the compliment!) serves at least two purposes. The first being that I won’t get so hung up on an error (or on attempting to determine if it is, indeed, an error) that I miss out on the simple enjoyment of the actual story. The second purpose is that, as one who may choose to write fiction someday, the pointing out of such things by a writing professional can and should be viewed as a teaching resource since it has the potential to aid in preventing me from making the same mistakes.

    • MAPC says:

      I always notice errors. It’s the editor in me. Someday I’ll earn as much money from my writing as I have from my editing of other people’s writing. Maybe.

      These days, I assume there will be errors, both in indie books and traditionally published books. Usually, it’s just a matter of misplaced commas or whatever. Sometimes the problems are bigger. Unless it’s something eye-roll inducing, I mostly notice and then ignore it. If it’s an eye-roller, I’ll make a note and see if it pops up again. Then we have a writer who just doesn’t understand some principle or another.

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