Thursday, July 12, 2012

Spell-Check Doesn't Fix Bad Writing

Being a cheapskate, I always appreciate getting something for nothing. So daily I scan the free e-books on to add to my already too-large digital library.

Sometimes I will find a gem among the plethora of freebies. More often I will find something that isn't great, but isn't horrible either. And then there are the horrible ones...

Yesterday I downloaded a very short novella that just happened to be free. (I won't reveal the title or the author of the book so as not to embarrass them publicly.) It was – like many free e-books are – written by an independent, self-published author.

This is not always a bad thing, as I have discovered several promising new authors among the indie ranks whom I would definitely read more of, assuming they write more books. But this author was not one of the promising ones. Not even close.

I very rarely write reviews for books, as I tend to like almost everything I read, at least in part. But every now and then, I will read something so horrible that I feel compelled to warn other readers about what they're getting themselves into. This was one of those books.

This was my review:

"I wanted to like this book; I really did. But with page after page after page of misused or misspelled words, run-on sentences (most paragraphs or lines of dialogue are all one mish-mash sentence), and missing or misplaced punctuation, I simply couldn't get into the story. The constant errors were too distracting. What I did get out of the story wasn't anything I hadn't read before in far superior paranormal books or seen in far superior horror movies. There simply isn't much to recommend here, other than to hire an editor – or at least ask a friend who has a good grasp of the English language – to pore over your book before you release it into the world for publication next time. Don't quit writing - it's obvious in your writing that you're passionate about it. Just prove your passion by putting your best foot forward next time. This is not your best foot. But keep trying! :)"

I know what you're thinking:  Wasn't that a bit harsh? Yes, it probably was. But it was honest. And I felt that it was important not only to let others know how difficult a read this was, but also to encourage/admonish/advise the burgeoning author to work harder at their craft in future books. I'm not a published author myself, not yet at least – unless you count this blog – but I have been writing creatively for over 25 years now and I can recognize when a better effort could be put forth, especially when the "product" is made available for public consumption.

Probably one of the most prevalent problems in this book, other than the endless string of run-on sentences (a redundancy, I know), was the constant misuse of words. The likely cause is that the author, when writing the book, made a number of spelling errors,  and attempted to correct them by simply letting a spell-check program replace the misspelled words with correctly spelled words that it suggested. The problem with most spell-check programs is that they often will suggest a number of possible words, and only one of them is the correct word that the author intended to use. If you don't know the difference, you might just let the program replace words at will. I think that's what happened here.

I know it's terrible of me, but the instances of misused words were often so hilarious, that I couldn't help but jot them down and share them with you here. I hope you'll get as much of a kick out of them (as sickly cruel as that is) as I did when I first read the book. Enjoy!

(Words and phrases of particular interest are written in bold print – my emphasis, not the author's. My snarky comments are in parenthetical italics.)

1)  "She had never been a religiously minded Person by any stretch of the imagination, quite the country..."  (On the contrary, I think you meant to say "contrary.")

2)  "She loved her mother dearly yet seeing the grief and worry on her face only made Shelly feel more empty and alone with no space to thane ignorance..."  (Was that supposed to be "feign ignorance"?)

3)  "It was loneness personified."  (Did you mean loneliness?)

4)  "Everyone had suggested she take more time off after the funeral, but she had needed a detraction."  (Did she also need a distraction?)

5)  "Her home...was far more expensive than it looked due to the extortionate house prices in the area..."  (I'm pretty sure you can go to jail for that...)

6)  "It wasn't home now though, as without Sean it felt so much more show-house and less homely."  (One "l" changes the whole meaning of that word.)

7)  "Her skin looked pale and her cheek bones where definitely more prominent than they had been a few months earlier, her eyes told the story however, normally bright aqua blue and shinning bright, they were now dull and sad."  (See what I mean about the run-on sentences?)

8)  "She distinctly remembered that they had taken out a two-year guaranty on [the TV], as they had augured over the benefits of the guarantee, Shelly had won."  (They certainly went to a lot of trouble over a television. Auguring? Really?)

9)  "Next Shelly phoned her friend Lara, who she hadn't seen since the funereal as she didn't want to be alone today."  (Missed it by one letter.)

10)  "Sean was trying to communicate with you while the vial between here and there is still thin."  (If it's such a thin vial, how could he be expected to communicate through it?)

11)  "As soon as she placed her hands on the old lady's work worn wrinkled hands, the lady let out a glass braking unearthly, high-pitched scream that was heard down the whole street."  (Slow your roll, old lady! You're causing glass to stop moving.)

12)  "What was she going on about I don't devolve in voodoo-ism for the god's sake Lara." (But apparently she does devolve into using the name of "the god" in vain.)

13)  "Funny as she had never been one for the drink really, but any means of escape seemed tempting lately so she tried to avoid it, but tonight she had company, so she had divulged herself."  (Ooh, I wonder what juicy bit of gossip she decided to share?)

14)  "Sweat formed on her brow with the excursion..."  (Must have been vacationing in the tropics...)

15)  "Only the sound of the girls' rapidity beating hearts could be heard."  (I quickness started laughing when I read this sentence.)

16)  "He had sent Fresh flowers to her office every day for two weeks, each day a different kind. Each time with the same message in the card; phone me angle, you know you want to."  ("Phone me, Angle" has to be one of the unsexiest pick-up lines ever. I mean, unless you're actually a living, breathing geometric shape, in which case this might be a compliment?)

17)  "Lara burst into the room in a ridicules bright blue hippie tent like creation, that swamped her tiny frame."  (The author of this blog "ridicules" you for your poor skills at basic sentence structure.)

18)  "She had never intentional hurt anyone."  (She had, however, accidental hurt people plenty of times.)

19)  "She was someone who needed to be doing something constantly, could not bear to sit ideal."  (I can't bear to "sit ideal" either – I prefer to "stand imperfect.")

20)  "She then gently placed a kiss on her check. To her amazement Lara rubbed her hand against her check and smiled."  (No, this is not a lesbian love scene. The first "she" – Shelly – has recently died and is kissing her BFF Lara goodbye. Apparently, they were simultaneously settling an old debt, since Shelly kissed Lara's "check" and Lara rubbed her "check" and smiled. Incidentally, who – other than this author – misspells "cheek" more than once in a paragraph? It's a pretty simple word...)

21)  "The thought of Sean spurned her on. She stood up and began looking around the room for an exist."  (First of all, what did Sean ever do to Shelly to "spurn" her? Secondly, Shelly is dead here, so looking around for an "exist[ence]" just might make sense.)

22)  "He stood there for a moment then stepped forward and reviled himself, it was Sean. Tear's of relief ran down Shelly's checks."  (First, he reviles himself – I don't even want to know what he did to accomplish that. Second, "tear's" are not possessive – unless, of course, they are running down Shelly's "checks.")

23)  "Darkbrown hair cropped close to his head, and bright blue eyes shone bright with unshod tears..."  (First, if "darkbrown" is a legitimate color, then "navyblue," "burntsienna," and "cherryred" must also be. Secondly, should we really be surprised that Sean's tears WEREN'T wearing shoes? Most people's tears are "unshod," aren't they?)

24)  "I am so happy you approve, manna go check it out?"  (Thumbs up for bread from heaven – let's go grab a loaf or two...)

25)  "She had long  black hair plated down her side in a fish tail. She wore a pair of glasses perched on the end of her nose. They looked like they where for show, or to make her look more intelligent, though the most remarkable feature where her eyes, they were an unnatural violet colour, they had to be contacts Shelly thought, they could not be natural, neither could those impossibly long eyelashes."  (Another great bunch of run-on sentences here – with the added bonus of a girl with a plate of fish on her head. Or is that a fish's tail with black hair? I'm confused. [I think the author meant "plaited" here.] "Where" in place of "were" is all too common not only in this book, but in "the real world," too, I'm afraid.)

If you really need a good laugh and don't mind wasting an hour or so of your time, send me a message privately and I'll tell you the name and author of this book. It's still free on Amazon. Of course it is. Who would pay money for this drivel? I'm sure glad I didn't.

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