I’m a stickler for English grammar. I’m almost a down-right jerk about it—“Hey, where’s the period?”—but there’s a reason: I’m an English speaker. It’s my first and only language. I excelled at English in school because I felt that if English was your one and only language, you should know it inside and out. When it came down to grading my peers’ papers, I was always frustrated. Even now as an adult, I’m still frustrated. Whenever I see people write, “your” instead of “you’re” and “there” instead of “their” or “they’re”, I want to ask them, “Do you know English?”
Mind you, these people that I speak of aren’t just the students sitting in my English class. Writers are culprits to this violation as well. However, writers have a way around it: they get editors. Some of them are human dictionaries-encyclopedias-thesauruses with a $300 price tag.
This is a big issue for self-published writers.
Those of us who are self-published can’t afford an editor. It’s like hiring a psychologist to diagnose and treat a book. The irony? Self-published writers need editors the most.
I’ve seen some self-published books where the best compliment I could give them was, “This reads like fan fiction.” (Sadly, some fan fiction have better content and less grammatical errors than published books). It’s like many (self-published) writers simply press the “spell” button and automatically tag it as reader-friendly. Well, it’s not fun for readers. Actually, readers have to trudge through the run-on sentences, ambiguous descriptions, and ill-placed words before they reach the story. Not that I’m saying writers can’t make mistakes, but writers should keep this in mind: readers can’t read your mind. Readers need a clear, visual cue to reach the vision in your head.
Though the money may be a reason to opt out of a professional editor, sometimes money isn’t the only thing keeping an editor from improving a writer’s work. The writer decides not to get an editor because they’re afraid. The fear of being criticized, judged, and all of those insecure little verbs are enough to hold down a writer from finding an editor. Some people can’t take criticism. But in the world of writing, self-published writers need as much criticism as possible. Sometimes, the criticism comes in the form of reviews, and for writers, these are critical to the sale of their work.
Also, an inflated ego could also stand between a polished self-published work and a mediocre piece of fan fiction. Editors change the run-on sentences into shortened, refined sentences; they shovel out the ambiguous descriptions and bury clear imagery; they cut out the useless words and substitute better words. But some writers are afraid again. They think their sentences and their descriptions using their words don’t need to be changed. They’re the writers, so they know how to write their book. In actuality, it has nothing to do with the writing. It’s all about power. “Once the book is in the editor’s hands, it’s not in my power anymore.” That’s not completely true. An editor isn’t the writer; they edit the writer’s book to put it in the best light. It’s not something to be afraid of. It’s just how it is.
Self-published writers should set aside the egos, the fears, and the funds to get an editor, especially if their grammar is below a high school student’s writing level.