Nothing screams, “I’m not really a writer,” like bad grammar. I don’t mean the occasional typo, because I’m the world’s worst for typing something in a hurry and sneaking in a few mistakes that I fully knew better about. I’m talking about the full-on lack of grammatical convention.
This one kills me: “A policeman can only be pushed so far, because a cop has their limits.” Oh, heck no. How many policemen were mentioned in the previous sentence? HINT: does it end with “mAn” or “mEn?” The word used was “policeman.” Singular. Therefore, the possessive pronoun used at the end of the sentence can’t be “their” but should rather be “his.”
This is only one stand-alone example of some of the horrible grammar I’m seeing actually making it to print in the world of publishing today. Whether it’s from the overabundance of writers who decide to self-publish without hiring an editor, or whether it’s from the traditional publishing industry that has admittedly grown very rushed in their attempts to stay on top of the market, the end result is the same: there is some crappy grammar in published works.
There are no barriers to publication now, and sadly, there should be. I wish the industry as a whole had a task force of elderly, retired, red pen-wielding English teachers who would stop and inspect each and every manuscript on its way out the door. It’s not so you can’t be published, it’s so you don’t embarrass yourself.
Sadly, this is an era of all things digital when everyone decided he could be a published author (see what I did there? everyone=singular=he, not they). Just because you have the time on your hands and the available computer, that doesn’t make you an author. So, what does?
Education, first of all, and I don’t mean a snooty Master’s degree in Creative Writing. Just learn your craft. Study other writers. Edit edit edit. (yes, two of the previous four phrases were fragments…it was for effect). Don’t even think of making the leap from writer to author without first knowing your stuff. Grammar, style, voice, then passion…in that order.