Wednesday, 22 October 2008

On spelling, grammar and punctuation

Does it matter any more? Is expressing yourself more important than worrying about correct spelling, grammar and punctuation? I think it does matter. Spelling, grammar and punctuation that is correct, or more usefully, in the form which most people expect to see it, is a courtesy to the reader. It makes reading easier when you don't have to stop and figure out what the writer meant to say.* Proofreading is important too. It seems like it used to be unusual to find a misprint in a published work. Nowadays some publishers seem less than vigilant. Again, why does it matter as long as the story as a whole is there? Well, it matters to the reader's "suspension of disbelief". The reader is collorating with the writer, immersing themselves completely in the story and accepting what happens as part of the novel's internal narrative. Then if the writer makes a wrong step in the plot, for example, or is inconsistent, then that brings the reader up short. They are immediately brought out of the collaborative world of the novel and back into the real one. It spoils the story in other words. The same thing happens with typos in a published work - they jar on you and bring you out of the story. So that's why efficient proofreading is so important to the reader.

*Of course people who have dyslexia or similar conditions may find this just too difficult and I don't mean to criticise them at all.

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