Spelling, Punctuation, and Formatting Errors – What’s Your Take?

Even though my own grammar and punctuation is not perfect, by any means, I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to what I’m reading. I’m sure there’s stuff I don’t catch simply because my own skills aren’t perfect, but what I do catch is sometimes enough to drive me nuts.

So, my question is, how much is too much? For independently-published works, where do you draw the line on an unacceptably high number of errors? I give much more leniency to formatting errors because I can understand that sometimes that’s beyond the author’s control. However, in regards to grammar, punctuation, and spelling, if I see three in the first quarter of a book, I get fussy. I understand why people self-publish, and I fully support it, but if a person want to be taken as a professional, he or she needs to present professional work.

If I have to email an author and ask (and I’ve had to do this way too much recently) if they’ve had their work edited for grammar and punctuation, then it has not been a professional presentation. Especially when I end up sending that email less than halfway through the book! Talent is, to be quite frank, not enough. It doesn’t matter how awesome the plot of someone’s book is, if I have to wade through countless errors while reading it, my estimation of that author drops rapidly.

Keep in mind that I am not talking about stylistic choices. Hey, you don’t want to use the Oxford comma? Good for you. Might drive me nuts, but good for you. Is it your style to hardly use commas? Okay, that makes me twitch, but if its a consistent thing that I can easily identify as a stylistic choice I will give it a pass.

However, if I’m reading a book and I come across incorrect homophone choice and inconsistent punctuation? That screams unprofessional presentation to me.  Again, I know this isn’t something that matters as much to a lot of people as it does to me, but….but…ARGH. It drives me nuts. I can’t help it. I’m sorry, but it makes me want to bang my head against a wall!

Anyone want to weigh in? Am I too much of a perfectionist?

12 thoughts on “Spelling, Punctuation, and Formatting Errors – What’s Your Take?

  1. You’re definitely not too much of a perfectionist. I tend to give leeway to self-published authors for similar reasons to you – not having access to unlimited professional editing services,me book being first edition, whatever – but I agree that if you want to be a professional you need to present professional looking work. I recently came across an author’s work – one of my countrymen, in fact – that who had hardback and paperback copies of an epic middle grade tale that whose cover and blurb looked very professional…so I asked the author if He would be interested in a review. He kindly sent me a paperback copy (retailing at $27) and I got stuck in.
    It was appalling. There were spelling, punctuation, grammar and formatting errors on every page. I even got out a pen and started correcting the book as I was reading because the errors were so frequent it was interfering with my ability to understand the story. I contacted him to raise my concerns after the first two chapters and was told that he’d spent over $1000 having the book professionally edited. God knows what the editor did with the money because they sure as heck didn’t use it to do any editing!!
    I eventually gave up after 8 chapters and told the author I wouldn’t be able to give the book a positive review BECAUSE OF THE ERRORS – not the content, which I couldn’t really get to due to the appalling amount of errors – and that the book felt to me like a first draft rather than a finished novel.
    I never heard back from the author, but annoyingly, the book has multiple 5 star and 4 star reviews on Goodreads, none of which mention the fact that the book has had little to no proper editing.
    That’s what makes me fume: that someone could spend nearly $30 on a print copy of this book that LOOKS really professional from the outside, but in reality, it’s replete with errors that any primary school kid would be scolded for making,

    1. I kind of feel bad for the authors who are paying for editing and blatantly getting ripped off. If my own skills were better, I would start offering to do basic proofing.

      1. I nearly did for this bloke! Once I started editing as I read, I thought I would finish the book and send the corrected copy back to him – but I crumbled under the weight of the complete lack of knowledge of the English syntax, grammar, punctuation and traditional book formatting that was presented.

  2. I have to agree too many mistakes in the first few pages and I put the book down. I get that things happen but I read one recently where the main characters name was incorrect a couple of times in the first five pages. big oopsie.

  3. I own this book that has horrible page formatting, which was really irritating when I was trying to read this book. My copy of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” has really weird page ordering. I believe 179 comes after page 82 and pages 82 through 115 are missing. Now that I look back on it though, it was kind of funny 🙂 Nice post!

  4. I usually find misspellings and wrong punctuation in older professionally published books and I notice them and get irritated at them but I can live with it.

  5. No you’re not. Les my other half is actually worse than me but I think I’m pretty picky as well. If I get a book (in advance) and it says grammatical errors not corrected then I can overlook some. But if it’s published, even independently, I find more than one or two errors distracts me which in turn will make me leave a lower review.

    Pet peeve for us for sure!!

    1. Yeah – if I get a ‘proof’ book, its a whole ‘nother story. I’ll generally make a list of errors that I find that I send with my review, just as a nicety. You know? But if its published? Even if its just published on KU, then NOPE! NO excuses.

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