Wednesday, 11 May 2011

QOTW: How Do You Stop The Grammar Gremlins?

The Muse has undergone a recent transformation.

I don't usually do pity posts but I'm cross with myself for having missed an error in a recent submission. It isn't the first time this has happened, so I try to be as thorough as possible about checking and re-checking my work before submitting. So why do I still occasionally miss them?

My most common mistakes are using the wrong word and not eliminating all the unnecessary words during a re-edit. These types of mistakes are nearly always spotted before submitting, though sometimes I spot them when I'm sent the proof by the editor to check. But occasionally one still slips through and when that happens I tell myself I'm not a proper writer. I convince myself a real writer would make no errors and that I must be a fraud.

Does this happen to you? Have you got tried and tested methods for spotting and eliminating mistakes? Do you rely on someone else, such as your editor or critique partner, as the final line of defence?

How do you stop the Grammar Gremlins?

41 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I think real writers have the same problems too, Ellie. After all we are all human. Have you tried reading your work aloud and recording it then play it back and while listening to what you think you have written by following what is on your screen.

    You will be surprised by what you thought you were reading. I have a small digital voice recorder which I use when editing my work. I started doing it after getting my husband to read aloud my work while I followed on the screen, it throws up all sort of other problems than you aren't aware of too. It's because we are too close to our work and know what we are trying to tell the reader.

    It works for me, just look at the problem I've just come across :-(

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  3. Ignore that. I tried to put a link in but it didn't work.

    On the other hand I've just proved the point I was going to make. I check as I go along because I've always had to because of the tight deadlines in my work. As a journalist you don't have enough time for endless reviews. (And I should have put this into preview mode to check the link before I hit 'post comment'.) :)

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  4. Yes, definitely happens to everyone. You get a kind of word blindness to your own work. No matter how careful you are one or two will always get through. Getting someone else to read it is probably the best way to spot them.

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  5. My second cousin was a freelance proof-reader and editor for many years. He edited the manuscripts of some pretty high profile authors (no names, no pack drill) in the course of his work, and often remarked on how little attention had been paid to their drafts. Perhaps it's something you can get away with more, when you've reached best-seller status.

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  6. Oh, I know how you feel. A while back I had a story returned and the editor had pencilled in the word 'the' in the very first paragraph. I had read it and read it before submission, but I hadn't noticed I'd actually missed out the necessary 'the'. I was mortified!

    What I've started to do now is put a ruler beneath each line as I read through, like when we were learning to read at school. It helps me focus properly on what is actually written in that line - not what I THINK I've written.

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  7. If you've time, copying and pasting into a different format - font/page size etc. sometimes enables you to 'see' what your eyes have previously skimmed over 'knowing' what is written there.
    But there's no substitute for getting the self-published book actually printed and returned to see almost all the errors - and even the second isn't totally error-free :(

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  8. We all have the same problem. I think.

    I used to be a proofreader, but that experience does not help much because I'm blinder to my own work than others'

    I do read aloud my submissions, though. More than once. That catches not only grammatical but other errors as well.

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  9. We all face the same problems, and no we are not frauds. Even after reading several times, we may overlook a teenie weenie error.I do feel bad when that happens. I almost always discover it after clicking on the send button.

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  10. Never think you're not a proper writer if you make mistakes. Mistakes happen. The more eyes you can get on your ms the better. Reading out loud also is good for catching the mistakes.

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  11. Of course it happens to everyone and more than that, many published books have glaring errors in them! If the editors, proofreaders, publishers can't always get it right then how can one single writer notice small mistakes?

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  12. I looked at my published book the other day and found a number of errors, yet I checked time and time again before sending the final copy to the publishers. Still I have learned one valuable lesson, get someone else to help you check for errors.

    Yvonne.

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  13. Even published books still have glaring mistakes, something that always surprises me. I think it was Brandon Sanderson's recent novel, "The Way of Kings", that was riddled with these weird grammar errors and typos (I recall a lot of double "the"). Granted, the book is ginormous, but you would think with all the proofreading eyes on it, they would have found them all.

    I guess it's just one of those things. You do the best you can, get as many eyes on it as possible, and hope you've caught them all.

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  14. Oh don't worry - we all seem to be blind to our errors. I think our brains tell us we should be seeing something, so we do :). I believe a publisher worth their salt should understand this and forgive a small error in a submission (plus they should know how nervous we are). I suppose it's always good to get someone else to check your work for errors (but I never do :( )

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  15. Awwww lovely Ellie!!! I rely solely on my crit readers to tell me where I've gone wrong! I never ever spot all my mistakes - fresh eyes (not mine) do that for me and I am eternally grateful for them otherwise my stories would be just gobbledegook!! Hugs, hugs, hugs! take care
    x

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  16. As writers I think we all fall victim to grammar errors and several other nitpicky things we fall into.

    I try and rely on others to pick up my mistakes but sometimes they slip through. Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes they're overlooked!!!

    This doesn't sound like a pity post! You're too sweet to pull anything like that off ;)

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  17. Yes that can be annoying. Because we know what we've written we don't read it like others do. The advice I'd give is get someone else to proof it before submission for such errors or put it away for a week or more and then reread it yourself for errors :O)x

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  18. My problem is I can't NOT edit when I'm supposed to be proofing. As a result, I make as many messes as I'm cleaning up. I have to have someone else proof who's not so compulsive. =D

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  19. We all miss stuff like that! Don't beat yourself up, Ellie. And don't cry on grammar gremlins - they'll only multiply.

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  20. It isn't just you. I have the exact same problem. Sometimes it seems the more I read over the same material, the less I can see what's wrong with it.

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  21. At least once a week I spot an error in the newspaper, or in a book I'm reading. Sometimes they slip by no matter how carefully you edit. But I think that the more beta readers you have, the better off you'll be. Like Angela said, the more I read over my own work, the more of a mess I make. I edit once, then post it (if it's a flash) or give it to my trusty readers to ferret out the glaring mistakes. (And mistakes can be toe-curling; just last week, I used 'write' instead of 'right'. I mean, honestly......)

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  22. As a dyslexic person I often have letter blindness, or rather more like letters seem to jump willy nilly into words where they are not meant to be. Most of the time a spell check seems to find them, it’s just odd ones they don’t, but where they don’t I rely on other people to spot them for me.
    I don’t have to work to hard, there are a number of people who just love to find fault in others work, but I sometimes find that those that criticise the spelling, think to hard on the spelling and the grammar and forget to read the message!

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  23. I think that reading aloud and having other eyes take a look helps tremendously. Somehow they'll always be a sneaky bot in there, happens to everyone :-)

    Love the piccie but cannot believe it's pretty you!

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  24. Don't be hard on yourself if you were perfect then you would be putting a lot of people out of work (the editors) :) I make so many mistakes it is unbelievable. I use my critique group to help me with the many mistakes.

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  25. Typos are the bane of my existence.

    Have you tried reading it from back to front? In different fonts? Those are my methods.

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  26. I am so glad to read this post and all the comments. I wondered the same thing. Am I a writer when I need so much major editing.

    A fresh pair of eyes to look things over is never a waste of time.

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  27. Everyone has the little issues with writing. I have to many to mention therefore I won't. However, I noticed you said you notice them when you get the prove from the editor. Why don't you print it and read the print as your final editing. Continue editing as you normally would, but use the printed copy as your last resort.

    If you have a close writing friend you can exchange your novels for a last edit. I don't have the money to hire an editor, and I've been struggling with the same fear.

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  28. If I read my work top to bottom, I notice that no matter how many times I try, I still miss something. I think we're naturally disposed to knowing what we want to say and therefore tend to miss it. My trick? Read it backwards. I always catch one or two errors that way.
    Ava

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  29. I know what you mean. Trust you gut instincts and the creativity will flow like a volcano.

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  30. I increase/decrease and change the font, which usually helps me spot mistakes. But just a week ago I submitted a story I'd originally written in first-person and changed to third... and you can probably guess what I found. A very naughty "I" who avoided detection. Bah.

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  31. I can't proof read on screen. No matter how many times I've re-read and checked everything as soon as I grab the hard copy the ridiculously obvious errors just jump off the page - much the same as when posting, even after using preview, I see them as soon it's published. But hey - finding errors means you've written!

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  32. Reading the manuscript from back to front or editing at random sections help me.

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  33. It happens to all of us, Ellie. I find errors after reading and re-reading. I found a glaring error AFTER publication...even the editor missed it. I had read the piece two dozen times before submission, then through the editing process, and then...there it was in print and the error jumped out at me. It is frustrating, but inevitable. All we can do is proof our little brains out and hope we didn't miss anything!

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  34. I always have my writer friend read my stuff before I send AND read out loud! But it still can happen, that's being a writer!

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  35. I learned much from my editor on my first book, so I do a pretty good job of cleaning stuff up before sending him new material. But I still rely on my editor to battle thos evil grammar gremlins.

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  36. Everyone makes mistakes and they certainly aren't all caught. Chain that gremlin up. (and keep him away from the microwave)

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  37. Second line of my MS: "The stranglers edged by the two men."

    I had read, re-read, re-re-read, etc, that line.

    It was only after I transferred the MS to my Kindle that I saw the error.
    'Stragglers' works sooo much better.

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  38. I've gotten pretty good at proofing, but even I still have an occasional typo or two in a final draft. It's very normal, and you are liable to find one or two errors in any published book. Perfection is beyond human capacity.

    Until you are Borg, you must accept imperfect compositions, and should you ever become Borg, I fear you will no longer care about writing, so stick with the imperfection, I say.

    Juts long so itdosent reed lik this, your okay!

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  39. I have a final line of defense, me, but after it has gone through several edits by other people. And occasionally I still find one or two after a work has gone to print. I'm embarrassed because I know I should have caught that.

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  40. I'm a grammar fascist - I try not to be, honest, but missplaced apostrophes just leap out at me! But I still make plenty of spelling and grammar mistakes too. I admit it. It's amazing how you miss them. The only way to catch them all for sure is for someone else to proofread, I think. Even then they get missed. I've lost count of how many mistakes I've spotted in successful, published novels.

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  41. I need to have someone else read my stuff. I'm normally pretty good at finding errors, but the more i look at my work, the harder it is for me to find the errors. And I don't rely on spell check, I can always tell when someone else does just by the types of errors they have.

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