eBooks and the constant fight for grammar and spelling perfection

On Free-eBooks.net, our readers often comment that the spelling and grammar errors in books are far more than annoying – sometimes it is positively off-putting. In fact, there have been comments that the number of spelling and grammatical errors have dissuaded many a reader from even finishing a book.

The problem

As I understand the print publishing industry, books are proofed by a team of editors and/or proofreaders who are usually adept at finding the spelling and grammatical errors. But I am willing to bet that the expenses that these teams incur is part of what made the publishing industry so expensive and so exclusive in the first instance. If you have to pay someone for each book they proof, then you are likely to keep the number of books you send to them to a bare minimum – which by extension means you are going to be more selective in what you choose to publish.

Frankly, as somewhat of a perfectionist myself, I believe this proofing should fall on the writer. In a perfect world, the writer will read and re-read a thousand times before submitting for publication so that ALL the grammatical and spelling errors are corrected before the publishers even see it. As a writer myself, I understand that when you read your work over and over and over again, you are more likely to miss the errors because the brain has a funny way of inserting what we expect to see where it isn’t.

I, too, have been annoyed by the spelling and grammatical errors that seem more rampant in eBooks than in printed books. And while I groan at the errors, I still have a need to finish the story and get to the end. Unless you have a team of proofreaders at the ready to proof your writing, be prepared to hear about the errors in your work from those who read it.

On a personal note, I try to use as many tools as I can find and are available to me when writing to help me weed out as much of the pesky typos as I can. My Macbook has a native read-to-me function which is extremely helpful when I have been writing something for a long time and can no longer actually see what I’ve written. Looking away while the computer reads it all back to me usually points out the typos and grammar errors immediately.

Tools you can use

Nothing works better than having a second person proof your writing for you. However, unless you pay someone to do this for you, it is unlikely that your friends and family will be willing to proof your every word, everyday for an indefinite time period.

I did a google search and discovered Grammarly.com; I submitted this piece to them for a review before I had done any proofing of my own and got this report back:

The downside is that they require a monthly subscription in order to get detailed reports regarding the errors (they have to make money somehow, right?), but consider the fact that you would probably pay someone the same price per piece that you would pay Grammerly per month for the service. Seems like a bargain to me.

Microsoft Word and many other word processors have settings that allow you to automatically check for spelling and grammatical errors in your text. Take for example the sentence I just wrote:

Turning on those will help too.

While the Apple Mac OS X operating system has a built-in “read it back to me” feature that I use consistently when I am writing, it seems as if Microsoft has either discontinued their development of the feature or just hasn’t taken it past the initial developmental stages – my research couldn’t tell me which. I was able to determine that there are third-party solutions that can be used, however, such as NaturalReaders from NaturalSoft.

I also found a plugin for WordPress (for all you bloggers) that claims to do some proof-reading for you. I haven’t tested it out so I am not sure how well it does what we need it to do.

You CAN do it, if you try

At the end of the day, there ARE tools writers can employ to help them deal with the problem of grammatical and spelling errors. Its just a matter of diligence in searching for and using such tools. If you are serious about writing, I would suggest that you invest in one of the tools that are out there to help.

The upside is that the more you use these tools, the more spotting the errors will come naturally to you.

12 thoughts on “eBooks and the constant fight for grammar and spelling perfection

  1. This is a great article. I too was wondering why there were so many errors in the books I’ve read. Now I understand. And as an editor/proofreader, I know you don’t always see the errors you make because you expect it to be correct. I’d be willing to proofread some of these books for free for people if they wanted me too! Just to get them error-free!

  2. “unlikely that your friends and family will be willing to proof your ever word, everyday for an indefinite time period.”

    I think you meant every word :)

  3. I went to a journalism school that deducted a full letter grade for every uncorrected spelling error or typo. This was before word processors. We even used manual typewriters and had to correct by hand. We quickly learned how to proof when A papers were coming back marked F.

    As a librarian, I frequently get solicitations to purchase books from local “authors” who have self published. They are usually riddled with grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors and typos. There are no excuses for this as far as I’m concerned. This ruins their credibility.

    And off topic – most self-published authors are not nearly as good at writing as they think they are. That’s another reason for professional editors and publishers.

    • These days, punishment that harsh is met with disapproval. Then again, there were FAR more opportunities to make grades up back then too – unlike now when students are required to do 1 or 2 “papers” per subject – and most of them are open book or assisted.

      This sounds like yet another reflection on a softening education system – would you agree?

      • Our education system these days is just crap. So is the prevalent attitude of criticism is bad. You thanked me for mine, and corrected the problem. At work (software) I ASK people to look over what I write. We are not all perfect people, accepting that is a huge step forward in personal development.

  4. [It’s] “just a matter of diligence.” Very true and interesting article. Thank you! I also cringe at grammatical errors in the spoken word, especially by the TV news anchors. Are adverbs a thing of the past? An example is “so fun.” Does it mean so funny or such fun?

  5. I like your article and your effort in trying to correct a problem. English is not my mother tongue and for this reason, I seem to SEE every typo or spelling error and I find this to be a “book closer”. My daughter is in high school. Their works get graded on the subjects. She can get a B+ grade but because it’s geography and not English (or French), the fact that the paper is loaded with mistakes doesn’t affect the grade. She isn’t even aware of the fact that she has made all of those errors because it is not even highlighted. How can one ever hope to improve if you have no way of knowing that what you wrote contained errors!

  6. Oh boy. Where do I start? The misuse of the words “used to” just irritates the heck out of me when I see it written as such. I know the dictionary has it listed as “used”, but as far as I’m concerned it’s “USE” and not “used”.

    If you listen to a person when they ask the question, ie: “where did you USE to work”, or, “where did you USE to live”, etc. they do not voice the letter “d” at the end. So why would one do so when they write that same question, or others like it?

    The word “SUPPOSED” is another one that (in my opinion), is written incorrectly. Once again, if you listen to how it’s spoken in a sentence, ie: SUPPOSE, the letter “d” is not voiced.. so why do so using the written word?

    Of course, my rant wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include the word “PROLLY”. Sorry gang. The correct word spelling and pronunciation is.. “PROBABLY”! Why don’t you try using it the next time.

    Nook Lover

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