I have a confession to make: I’m still a little bit terrified by the writing rules.
Yes, even though I have an English degree and have worked in editorial for nearly four years, every now and again I’ll trip up over some quirk of English grammar or spelling and have a crisis of confidence. Effect or affect? Compliment or complement? Less or fewer? Stationary or stationery? The more I think about it, the less sure I become…
The point is, we all make mistakes – none of us speak or write in perfect English all of the time (and it would be terribly boring if we did) – and so you shouldn’t let nervousness about the writing rules stop you from writing or from submitting your work. After all, agents, editors and readers are looking for talented authors with an original idea, not for something that gets Microsoft Word’s tick of approval.
… before you click send on a submission, you should be aware that publishers have a keen eye for errors. We’re the kind of people who will point out a grammatical mistake on a supermarket sign or use semi-colons to punctuate a text message. If you send in your novel or proposal littered with mistakes, we’ll find them as hard to ignore as the strings on the Thunderbirds puppets.
And so we should, because spelling and grammar are incredibly important – without them your reader will have to work twice as hard to make sense of your writing. As the old joke goes, bad grammar is the difference between ‘Let’s eat, grandma!’ and ‘Let’s eat grandma!’
So if you’ve finished your masterpiece, it’s worth taking the time to polish it up: