The Impotence of Proofreading
By Skylar Kade

A publishing house runs like a well-oiled machine: the author writes, the line editor checks grammar and syntax, the content editor catches errors and polishes that sucker until it is a thing of beauty. Every person has their role—but how much should a writer rely on his or her line editor?

This is not to say an author should distrust an editor—far from it. But should an author be responsible for knowing basic grammar? Should a manuscript go to edits with “there” for “their” or comma splices adorning its pages? In my humble opinion, the editors are there simply to catch what we as writers may overlook—a misspelling we always misread because we know what it’s supposed to say or a grammar technicality that only grammar geeks (I’m one of them!) even notice.

But of late, I have found myself throwing books across the room, or vehemently deleting them from my eReader, because I can’t take one more error. Minor things, like a period where a semicolon is better suited, doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But major errors, like run-on sentences or homonym confusion (peek and peak) are truly frustrating—especially when they’re repeated so frequently it can’t be excused as an “oopsie.”

My first manuscript, Maison Domine, went through two edits with me and one with a beta reader before even being submitted. After that, Samhain and my fabulous editor Laurie gave it three rounds of edits for content before going to a line editor, who found still more errors! Maybe Samhain has extraordinary standards for editing, or maybe I’m a grammar snob, but I just don’t see how multiple errors can slip through the rigorous refining process.

So what do you think? Is it the writer’s responsibility to be knowledgeable about grammar and spelling? Are frequently repeated errors excusable? And finally, what is your pet peeve in a book, that one thing that will make you chuck it across the room?

I look forward to hearing your comments, and I hope, after all this, there are no egregious grammar errors in my first release, Maison Domine (click here for an excerpt).

Skylar Kade
Twitter: @skylarkade

Maison Domine, part of Samhain’s Binding Ties anthology, released on September 29th! To celebrate, my fellow authors Natasha Moore, Jenna Ives, and I are giving away a beginner’s bondage kit. To enter, send an e-mail to

Skylar Kade’s Dominating Grammar
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11 thoughts on “Skylar Kade’s Dominating Grammar

  • September 30, 2009 at 4:01 am

    I'm an ex-copyreader and so maybe I'm biased but yeah, I think a writer has to have a basic understanding of grammar. Heck, I've found myself turned off to certain writers because of errors in their blog posts.

    To me, it shows a lack of respect for themselves, for the craft of writing in general, and for the reader.

    But… again. I'm an ex-copyreader. It's going to bother me more than most.

  • September 30, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Times have changed dramatically. I am 50. I've often thought that many people 35 and under (or thereabouts) have not had the training in elementary school as to how to write a sentence.

    Fifteen years ago, teachers told me not to worry about my child's poor handwriting skills (as my son only printed in Grade 6) because "the computer will take care of that". I beg to differ. Computers do not help with handwritten notes.

    I have been a paid typist since I was in high school. That job is better known as being an editor, it seems, as I am the one who takes a one-page paragraph and chops it into three or four paragraphs. I am the one who has trained college students about putting similar thoughts into the same paragraphs (using arrows everywhere on their draft copies). I have crossed out incorrectly spelled words and printed their correct spellings above. The list goes on and on, but I can only do this with hard copies. This was much more prevalent before the advent of personal computers for almost everyone. I rarely have typing for college students today, as they do it themselves, but "back in the day", their marks went up whenever I "fixed up" their work. Students learned from my comments and by the end of their two-year diploma program, they were able to make these changes themselves (and be proud of it!). When I make changes nowadays to computer drafts, the author has no idea what I have done to improve the draft (even though there are ways in the Word program to "compare documents") — people just don't care!

    Now that I blog, I ALWAYS see typing errors, and I too realize that many authors cannot put a sentence together to save their lives. Forget Spell Check! It isn't used in blogs. Readers will respond in the posts, and sometimes I stare at their responses for ages trying to figure out what exactly they meant. Many times I give up.

    With texting, we have taken yet another step backwards. I too am guilty of LOL and ROFL acronyms, but I hope my sentences still are grammatically correct! Most people don't care. Their thumbs are whipping along the keyboard faster than they are thinking about it. The screen is small so they can't get an idea of how long that sentence really was, for example.

    My pet peeve doesn't have to do with reading books. It has to do with reading grocery-store signs. I get really annoyed when they advertise, for example, celery for .99 cents. It is 99 cents or $0.99, but .99 cents is less than a penny! When I have called some of the stores on it, they have said that people KNOW what they mean and they don't bother changing the signs. The general public keeps seeing it done incorrectly — even in the printed national flyers sometimes — and soon they believe it is correct. How can we improve if we keep seeing grammatically incorrect examples?

    Thanks for allowing me a forum to complain. In answer to your questions, though: (a) I think it IS the writer's responsibility to be knowledgeable about grammar and spelling — but a good editor is worth his/her weight in gold; (b) I do NOT believe that frequently repeated errors are excusable — they indicate an "I don't care" attitude (to me); and (c) the only time I have chucked a book across the room was when it didn't have a Happily Ever After ending, as I felt that ALL books, at least in a romantic genre, should have a HEA ending. (I wish I had kept that book from 20 years ago so I could bask in the knowledge that the author only had that one book published — at least I hope that is so….)

    Have a great day. Try to keep your blood pressure down….

  • September 30, 2009 at 6:10 am

    Thanks for the comments, Laney and Susan! It's good to know other agree with me. If you want a laugh, look for Taylor Mali's "The Impotence of Proofreading" on YouTube. He's an English teacher-cum-spoken word artist.

    And Leah, a big thanks for having me back on your blog.


  • September 30, 2009 at 8:46 am

    I love your title. Heh.

    I'm not sure where the responsibility should be, but as a reader, when I purchase an ebook (or any book, but ebooks have had the most egregious mistakes), I expect to read a final product, not a beta product.

    For example, I just finished reading the collection Because of the Brave (Aspen Mountain Press). Two of the three stories had serious editing issues – extra words/phrases, inconsistent naming, etc. These were distracting and annoying.

    Another pet peeve is overused phrases – especially when those phrases are odd to start with. Two examples come to mind on this one. I can't read Christine Feehan because she overuses "channel" and "her feminine channel" in her sex scenes. Good lord, a single use per book would be plenty, but in one book, I counted six uses in three pages. The other was the latest from Lucy Monroe – in the first third of the book, she described the hero's abs as adamantine and defined it within the next sentence or two as "diamond-like"… three times. Totally overkill on both the word and defining it…

  • September 30, 2009 at 9:17 am

    I guess I think that the author needs to have some understanding of proper grammar, spelling, etc. Although, and I am probably wrong in my thinking, but isn't that what an editor would do…make doubly sure everything is correct? It does drive me crazy if something is spelled wrong or the punctuation is wrong, anything along those lines. But what really gets me going is if the author uses the wrong name. I have read books, and this is totally a made up example, where the chatacters Jack and Jill are in a scene, and then the next sentence it is John and Jill. Like, hello, where did that come from??

    But, then again, everyone make mistakes, and I could never be an author. I use books to work up my imagination. I am not a creative person, so although things might bother me once in a while in a story, I am still in awe that authors have the creativity to come up with any type of story line!!

    Amy M

  • September 30, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Amy, I completely agree — the editor should double-check. But should they be responsible for changing every "there" to "their"? That is the real question.
    Chris, I know exactly what you mean. There are certain phrases that just… squick me. Especially when repeated. But I guess no author can please everyone (but here's hoping! :P)


  • September 30, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Those are examples in which I would have expected an editor to pull the writer aside and gently point out that perhaps they're overused…

  • September 30, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I am not the greatest at grammar but I too find myself looking at a book with a higher level of expectation as of late. I do not expect that the writer should be able to be a perfect grammarian. I have more trouble with the use and reuse throughout the book of the same synonyms…. LOL The reason for editors are to edit the books for errors and beta readers are another added bonus for authors to utilize… please feel free to use me as such… LOL 🙂

  • September 30, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    HockeyVampiress, that is exactly why I love my editor. She not only caught picky grammatical errors but style problems as well.


  • September 30, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    I always thought I was reasonable with grammar, but I found the stuff I'd learned at school is different. I don't know – maybe it's the different country. I'm so thankful to have such wonderful editors. I think it's the job of the writer to turn in the best copy they can. I also try to learn the grammar rules to the best of my ability.

  • October 1, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I definitely think a large portion of the grammar responsibility lies with the author. If the author is consistently misusing words and/or punctuation, then there is a problem with the writing to begin with. So, no, frequently repeated errors are not excusable. In fact, I almost stopped reading a book I had gotten for review because the grammar was so atrocious and the same mistakes were made over and over. Like you pointed out, Skylar, an editor cannot be responsible for changing every 'there' to 'their' for the author. In my mind, an editor's job is to help polish the work, not try to find the work within an avalanche of errors. At that point, the writing becomes more the editor's writing than the author's.

    Shelley, the stuff taught in school, at least the schools I went to, is much different than what goes into writing a novel. Most of what I was taught in school has very strict, practically unbreakable rules and is all about critical analysis, not the creative process. When writing a novel, grammar and punctuation rules are more flexible. An example is that sentence fragments, which are fine in novels as long as they're not overused, are not allowed in writing for school unless a student is in a creative writing course. But, being in a different country from where you're submitting can also make a difference. Word usage and spelling is definitely different, as I've learned from helping out a friend in a different country.

    Laney, your pet peeves with acronyms and 'text-speak' mimic my own. I write in complete sentences when I text someone. I just can't bring myself to butcher the written word that way.

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