It's time for a grammar rant.
Not a huge one; I am, I think, finally reconciling to the fact that just because a person is a SERIOUS WRITER or a PUBLISHED AUTHOR or an EDITOR that they will, yanno, have a firm grasp on the basics of grammar.
Like getting verbs right. Like not mixing up lay and lie. Ever.
I understand that our spoken language is informal, rule-free, even dumbed-down. I get that different regions have different "isms" that usually don't line up with grammatical correctness. But it's hard to swallow glaring errors in published books. Glaring verb errors that really shouldn't be there.
Yes, something set me off. I just finished reading a really good book. A 2012 debut that I've been wanting to read for months, and which I received for Christmas (how wonderful, the husbands who bestow books upon us during the holidays!). And right in the middle of this very good book there sat a MISUSE OF THE VERB "LAY".
I yelled. I threw the book to the other end of the sofa.
No, really. I did. Mr. A looked up from his laptop with a confused expression. After which I bellowed, "THERE IS A MISUSE OF THE WORD LAY!" Then, "I CAN'T READ THE REST OF THIS!"
And then I picked up the book and kept reading. Which was probably my quickest recovery ever.
It bothers me when writers don't think harder about which of the problematic verb forms is right for a given sentence. It bothers me even more that writers have to think hard about lay/lie and sit/set. That's seventh grade grammar, as basic as it gets. If it wasn't your strong point in school (and it certainly isn't everybody's), then make the time to fix it now.
My take is this: If we, as WRITERS (users of WORDS), can't hold the English language together, then WHO WILL?
*pause for deep breathing*
You don't have to be a grammar goddess (or god, as the case may be) to be a darn good storyteller. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the STORY is the MAIN THING. But your MAIN THING will be crippled if you don't have a grasp on your language.
I'm not talking high level grammar stuff. I'm talking BASIC VERBS.
And here's the thing. If the author misses a lay/lie error, and all her critique partners missed the lay/lie error, WHY DIDN'T THE EDITOR CATCH IT? And if the editor didn't catch it, WHY DIDN'T THE COPYEDITOR CATCH IT?
I understand "overworked". I understand "imperfection". But errors like this are so slap-in-the-face BIG that it's hard for me to fathom. This isn't in the same league as a missing emdash or a wee typo. This is big time, I-don't-know-which-verb-is-right, in-your-face BOO-BOO.
I ranted once before about the novel that had SEVEN lay/lie errors (and honestly, I said I'd never read this author again, and I haven't). So today's rant is nothing compared to that.
Still. It's disconcerting.
In the end, though, it was certainly all about the story. I will definitely read this author's next book. The story was good, the writing was good. I'm invested in the main character. I'm over the grammar error.
And there you have it. We all have our hot buttons, yes? Moving on!
Info for this month's Secret Agent Contest will post on Monday. And the Critique Partner Dating Service entries will post on Tuesday. There are 99! So I think we'll see some good pairing taking place.
One more thing: If you entered the dating service and have now realized you've made a mistake, please send me an email at facelesswords(at)gmail.com with your entry number in the subject line. Tweeting at me or leaving a comment isn't going to ensure that it gets done. I rely on email requests to keep myself organized. Thanks in advance!
And have a wonderful, grammar-error-free weekend.