Reading poor writing desensitises you to it, and if you’re not careful soon we’ll all be drowning in custard.
This might be a short post because I’m trying to review five books and a camel today. Okay, it’s not that bad, but I have a few things I need to do before I can sit down and edit my work in progress.
If you pay any attention to the self-publishing world, you’ll have heard the frequent cries of outrage about how badly edited some self-published fiction is. I’m not going to argue that point. I’m going to assert some self-published fiction is terribly edited and some is not, and if you don’t agree with me you can go play on the see-saw on your own because I’m not going to play with you.
Glad we got that out of the way.
Now that we’ve established some self-published fiction is poorly edited, here’s my claim:
Reading it is bad for your health.
Even when it doesn’t lead to accidental ingestion of Grandma.
Maybe not your physical health.
Poorly edited fiction is bad for your English health. It interferes with your ability to sense when a sentence is correct.
Don’t believe me? How did you learn to write and speak English correctly (assuming you’re a native speaker)? I bet it wasn’t by memorising endless grammar rules. You learned by reading and listening to people speak, and over time you internalised the rules of the language.
If you’re human and have a fallible memory like most of us, you gradually forget these rules and refresh them by reading more. Fortunately there’s always plenty to read.
It’s a perfect system.
Until you start reading stories in which I went home and laid in bed and we needed to keep the secret between you and I. Now if I got laid in bed that might be a secret worth keeping, but that’s entirely different.
Maybe you can overlook these slips, or maybe they drive you mad.
If you read enough poorly edited writing (and remain sane) you develop defence mechanisms.
The most effective of these is to stop noticing the errors.
They no longer make your “bad writing!” alert flash. Your reading eye does not judder to a halt. After a while they begin to sound normal.
You’re one misstep away from plummeting to a state of not being able to tell if a sentence is right or wrong.
You probably won’t entirely lose you sense of correct and incorrect grammar, but you won’t be as attuned to it. More mistakes will slip through as you edit, and soon we’ll all be drowning in custard.
So every time you open a badly edited book ask yourself, “Can I afford to read this?”
Have you noticed your ability to spot errors being eroded by reading bad writing? Do you think I’m too much of a stickler for correct grammar?
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