The value of a thorough copy edit

If you pay a visit to Grammerly’s Facebook page today, you’ll notice that their cover image is a tribute to the Grammarly community’s biggest pet peeve: Your constant use of “your” instead of “you’re” makes me wonder whether your keyboard is missing some keys. It seems I am not the only one who gets a little annoyed when someone misuses the language.

Yet, I also know that I am not the only person who can be completely turned off of a book if the grammar is faulty. And even if the occasional subject-verb agreement is fine with you, a confusing or complicated sentence just takes away from the enjoyment of the book. If you can’t understand what is happening in the book, then you aren’t likely to continue reading it. Constantly misusing “your” for “you’re” is a very simple representation of incorrect grammar. Sentence construction is just as much a part of good language usage as is the correct selection of a word.

We writers tend to be blind to our grammatical flaws when we’re writing. It takes a very thorough and extremely objective eye to go through our work and be able to correct our own errors. I have to admit that I would love to have a copy editor of my own sitting around. My articles and posts are sometimes littered with grammatical errors that I cringe at when they are pointed out to me. As an author, I would imagine that after spending months, maybe even years, crafting my masterpiece, the last thing I want is for someone to tell me they couldn’t get past the first page because the language was so bad. It’s just counterproductive to give your readers something that they can’t comprehend.

 

A copy edit of your work is never a bad thing; nor is it too much of an expense if the end result is that your readers don’t even notice the language and are able to focus on and enjoy the story. And while some of the experts say that a professional copy edit is a good expense to incur, when you are on a limited budget (or a non-existent one), sometimes all it takes is someone you know who has a discerning eye for language. Maybe a friend, a colleague, or even a family member can tell you when something isn’t clear enough about what you’ve written.

Consider this: every time you scan your work after submitting it that first time and find yet another grammatical or usage error is another potential reader lost. Put your best foot forward the first time and do a thorough edit first. If you’re having trouble locating someone to help you edit, ask around. You might be surprised how many people are willing to help you edit.

  • Jenny

    Please, please do not use “off of ” it pulls me up with a jolt when I’m reading!

  • uthy2004

    I so agree with you! I am an editor, and I seriously will stop reading a book if there are too many typographical or gramatical errors in it, even if it seems like a really good story. Saying that, I’m available to proofread your manuscripts!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=624465457 Kyle Janz

    “Then” and “than”? I’ve seen the wrong one on billboards! I think the problem is, too many people depend on “spellcheck”. Just learn the language, for crying out loud!

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      The NYTimes actually have a separate blog called “After the deadline” which corrects editing or usage errors in articles over a period of time in a frank, humble, and comedic way. I sometimes go over and read it just for kicks.

      Here’s the link: http://afterdeadline.blogs.nytimes.com/

  • Murali

    with SMS being the latest craze, grammar and spelling are becoming things of yore .. the only aim being that the reader should understand what you mean to convey…

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      Oh so true, Murali.

      And what I find even more troubling is that even when you know better and are caught up in bad habits, you are quite likely to find those bad habits creeping into your everyday professional life as well. As it turns out, I prefer to sound stuffy when sending texts these days just so that I don’t sound unprofessional at work.

  • preppybetty

    One of the best books I ever read was written by a man whose English language skills were very poor. Thus, the grammar and spelling were terrible and this was after he hired someone to edit his book for him!! One valuable lesson I learned is that getting the message across is the most important thing. Having meticulous grammar and spelling is secondary to the message that is being conveyed. His book was a turning point in my life, and I am grateful that this man wrote the book, even though English was obviously not his first language.

    • http://fyrfli.net Camille

      This is a very good point, preppybetty. It was fortunate that you were able to understand his message as written.

      I have seen some books in which the message was obscured because the language usage was quite poor. I had to read and re-read sentences to try and understand what it is the author was trying to say. In those extreme cases, I believe a third-party edit is an extremely useful thing.

      Thanks for writing in!