Recent reading annoyances

I write, obviously, but I also read.

A lot.

I especially read a lot of indie books–they’re cheaper and usually way more interesting.

But—

(You knew that but was coming)

No, I’m not going to complain about being bored or hating in media res beginnings–these complaints are all much easier for any author to fix.

I’ve been seeing some grammar/formatting issues lately that make me cringe. I’m not doing this to criticize anyone in particular (let’s be honest, I can’t remember where I saw any of these problems), but let’s bring a few of these problems to light, shall we? If you’re really interested, you can click on each heading to read more.

The dash issue

There is a difference between hyphens, en-dashes, and em-dashes. Please learn the difference. Nothing says amateur like a writer using a hyphen in lieu of an em-dash–and unfortunately, I see this on a frequent basis.

Also, nouns preceded by adverbs aren’t hyphenated (e.g., fully cooked). I’m telling you, once you know this rule, you can’t unsee how many times it’s done incorrectly.

It’s vs. its

Speaking of . . .

it’s = it is

its = possessive

Yes, this can be a typo and not proof you’re illiterate (I’m infamous for missing that last o in too because I have carpal tunnel and that o key is just in the wrong place for my wrist to like), but I’m surprised at how many just don’t know the difference.

Ellipses

I get that a lot of people think style manuals are expensive or for grammar geeks or only for publishing houses or whatever. I also get that some people will swear up and down that you should format your novel to APA standards. And I know some people think that because Word changes three periods to their own ellipses symbol that it’s ok to leave it like that.

No. Just no.

Three spaced periods, with a space before and after. Period. It’s clean, it’s professional, and it’s easy on the eyes.

And formatting them so they don’t break across a line in your book? Also important. Do it. With the find/replace function in Word (and I assume Scrivener), it’s easy. I won’t put down a book because of it, but you can bet I’ll be on the lookout for other issues–basically, you’ve drawn me out of the story and made me The Pickiest Reader Ever.

New paragraphs

Either skip a line OR indent. Not both. Please not both. In fact, just go ahead and indent only, because we’re writing fiction here, and that’s how it’s done. Think I’m being picky? One promotion site I use won’t even accept your book with block formatting. Believe it or not, it’s hard to read, because it forces your brain to break longer than necessary.

And yes, KDP formatting guidelines call for indents, not block formatting.

Too many italics

I get it. The lure is strong, even siren-like, and I’m guilty of using more than I should. But even I have a limit. When there are multiple italicized words (for emphasis–we’re not speaking about a language foreign to the POV character here) on one page, it’s distracting. It’s tells the reader, “I don’t think you’re smart enough to figure out the emphasis on your own.”

That’s it for now. Do any of these bother you? If not, what does?

4 thoughts on “Recent reading annoyances

  1. Yup. Ew. All the ew.

    Typographic conventions for ellipses are apparently debatable. Personally, my eyes expect spaces before and after the ellipsis. Best practice: bring the number of instances for ellipses and em-dashes as near zero as you can. They are almost never /actually/ needed.

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    1. I don’t think they’re debatable – it depends on which style guide you use. Per Chicago Manual of Style, “An ellipsis consists of three spaced periods, with a space before and after.” And no spaces surrounding em-dashes.

      I’m pretty picky about this in my novels, obviously. One of the basics of publishing is knowing that style guides exist, and that Chicago is pretty much *the* guide for fiction. But I know some will argue that consistency matters more. Unfortunately, when people don’t use Chicago, they usually don’t have much consistency is formatting.

      Just my strong opinion!

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  2. The other thing for me is using the wrong words like ‘she shuttered at the thought’ or ‘I’m riding off your debt’ (real life examples). Know your words and if you struggle with vocab, for goodness sake get someone who doesn’t to take a look before you hit publish! It’s such an easy mistake to fix *sighs*

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