Recently, a fellow I was following on Twitter (who shall remain nameless) posted a comment that went something like this: “To all of you Grammar Nazis out there…if you are going to bash an indie novel for typos you might as well criticize the big ones too.” He then included a link to his blog that detailed all of the errors that could be found in the Harry Potter Series. For example, in one chapter, the snake blinks, and that’s impossible because snakes don’t have eyelids. I instantly took issue with his concept and was forced to unfollow him. Why? If you haven’t already taken issue with it yourself, allow me to explain.
First of all, I will admit, that I am a bit of a grammar “Nazi” myself. I’m rather proud of that fact, though I do find the term “Nazi” to be offensive. Not only does it refer to a group of truly evil individuals, but the term, when applied to grammar, implies that anyone who actually cares about the proper usage is somehow evil or inappropriate.
In addition to being a stickler for proper grammar, I am a lover of words who tends to choose them carefully, so as to paint the most vivid and accurate picture possible. When you claim grammar, typos, and content errors are all the same, I think it paints a very clear picture of the type of writer you are. I’m just not sure it’s the picture I’d want everyone to see.
For the benefit of Mr. X, the following sentence contains a grammar error:
If I was you, I would not cast stones.
(The word “was” should be replaced by the word “were” as this is technically the subjunctive mood, even though pop artists don’t believe in such a thing. Just ask Clay Aiken who sang “If I Was Invisible.)
The following is an example of a typo:
If I wer you, I would not cast stones.
(I obviously mistyped the word “were”. It is a typographical error and is therefore called a typo.)
The fact that Harry Potter’s list of school supplies listed a wand as both the first and last items is neither of the above. It is a content error just like the blinking snake. And for that matter, how do we know Harry didn’t need a spare in case of a magic wand malfunction? And what if the mythical snakes created in a land of wizardry actually do have eyelids?
I’ll stop there before I even get started on the fact that none of info on Mr. X’s blog post was actually original except for the note at the beginning, unless of course Mr. X also wrote the entire Wiki page on Harry Potter errors himself. I imagine I may have made a few enemies with this post already and by now some of you are wondering what exactly my point was in the first place.
Here it is:
Like it or not, indie authors are held (and should be held, in my opinion) to same standards as any other by consumers. They do not get a free pass just because they chose to do the many jobs of the publishing house all by themselves. We still expect readers to pay for indie published novels the same as they do any other. As paying customers, they are entitled to their opinions on content and quality of writing. If you’re going to be bitter because you were given a one or two star review based on grammar and/or typos, you may wish to invest in a better editor prior to publishing. What’s more, if you don’t even know that there is a difference between a grammar error and a typo, my guess is you may have other issues with your writing that could also be cause for such a review.
Having said all of that, I want to make something very clear. I am an indie author. My novel is not perfect. I found a “typo” in it myself last weekend. I’m sure there are other errors that I have not found. I can only hope that after years of work and multiple editors they are not glaring or numerous. Still, if a reader doesn’t like what I’ve written, I must weigh their comments and decide if their negative opinions are due to something I can fix or prevent, or if they are just that: opinions. Literature is about creating a story that will take readers on a journey. A good story will evoke emotions, good or bad. If my readers are moved to tears, I want it to be because of the drama and not due to the egregious misuse of the English language.