I’ve read a couple of different posts and even in a couple of books recently about people “pouring over” documents or books.
I wondered at first if this was one of those things Americans do with words that nobody else does, but I checked, and it’s not. It’s simply an error caused by confusion by words that sound the same even though they are spelt differently and mean completely different things.
What the people in question should be doing is poring over their books. To pore over books or documents is to be completely absorbed in what one is reading or studying. It suggests thoughtful application and concentration. The gerund is poring.
To pour over books is just going to make a mess, and probably ruin them completely. It’s really not advisable.
Most of the time, when people protest about the way the English language is abused, it’s a case of the language continuing to evolve as it has always done.
One such example is the practice of verbing, which takes the noun form of a word and transforms it into a verb form… like ‘verb’ and ‘verbing’.
Just last week, I was talking with a friend about how annoying she finds it when people say “I’m going to action that.” I’m sure she sought me out for the conversation because I’m both a word nerd and an English teacher.
“Action is a noun! A bloody noun! How can so many otherwise intelligent people get that wrong?”
“It grates on us because it’s recent,” I said. “We’ll get used to it.”
“No, I won’t! It’s just wrong!”
“You know Shakespeare did it?”
“Verbing. He did it all the time.”
“You and your Shakespeare. It’s like he’s the answer to everything.”
“You know he invented the word ‘friending’, right?”
She rolled her eyes and walked away. She didn’t even flinch at my use of the term “verbing”, which is exactly the same thing as “actioning” in terms of the language. After all, ‘verb’ is a noun, too.
It is the recent examples of verbing, such as “actioning” an idea, that we notice because we’re not used to hearing them yet. When Facebook was new, people complained the same way about “friending”, but these days nobody thinks twice about that. At some point in time, someone decided that it was okay to talk about bottling fruit, or shelving books, and now those terms are just everyday language.
It is also true, however, that some things people commonly say are, quite simply, wrong.
My pet peeve is when my students are talking about sport or some other kind of competition, and they say “We versed Team X”.
This is a common bastardisation of the Latin versus, which means ‘against’. It is commonly used for sporting matches and legal cases, and is generally abbreviated as v. or vs., as in Black v. White or Blue vs. Red.
My first response is always to ask whey they wrote poetry about another team. “You played them. You opposed them. You clashed with them. You competed with them. You did not write poetry about them.” Then I explain how the different words work, and what they actually mean.
The reason “versed” is wrong is because the words ‘versus’ and ‘verse’ have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Because ‘against’ is a preposition, it simply doesn’t make sense to say “We againsted them”. It is not verbing, by any stretch of the imagination.
The first time we have that conversation, they look at me with confusion. Some have a glazed look of fear, like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. This never fails to entertain me. The second and third times, they roll their eyes.
Over time, the tedium of having the same grammar-nerdy conversation persuades them to start using the language correctly. They learn, I win, and so does the English language.
I’ve read a couple of books lately that have been rather good, although plagued with something that is becoming the bane of my life as a reader: sentence fragments.
There was one book I started reading a couple of weeks ago where this was rampant, along with other issues, to the point where I couldn’t continue.
A sentence fragment is something that presents as a sentence in that it starts with a capital letter and ends with a period, but doesn’t actually make sense on its own.
A sentence fragment is often added as an afterthought when it really should be tacked onto the previous sentence with either a comma or a semicolon.
Consider the following example:
Jack went into his bedroom and closed the door, preferring privacy for reading his new book. Which was something that he knew annoyed his little brother.
That last sentence fragment actually makes no sense without the previous sentence.
If this happens just once or twice in a book, it’s still too often. However, it happens a lot. To be completely honest, it’s something I mark my senior high school English students down on. It’s what I consider quite a basic error: it’s not that hard to read something you’ve written down and ask yourself if it makes sense.
I understand that some readers don’t notice it, but many others will find it very frustrating indeed.
The exception is in direct speech or train of thought writing. People do speak like that, and they often think in fragments of thoughts, especially when under stress or in pain. If it’s something a character is thinking or saying, there is no problem. When it is part of the narrative, however, it really is an issue.
I don’t want to come across as being all finicky and fussy. My intention is that writers might recognise and self-correct this problem in their writing, even if it means revising an entire manuscript so that their book reads better.
This is also another argument for having any manuscript thoroughly proof-read and edited before you publish anything, especially as an Indie author who wants to be taken seriously as a writer.
In the end it will earn you more stars and more readers.
When your story is great, and your message is important, please don’t allow something that is easily fixed to compromise the success of your book.
Instead, take the time and effort to make sure that your writing, and the overall quality of your book, is the best it can be. You owe it to your readers, and you owe it to yourself.
For the first time in a long time, I’ve recently abandoned reading a book. I’m usually fairly persistent, but I couldn’t get past the second chapter. It’s so full of basic errors, I’d be giving any of my students who wrote it a D. That book – any book – has no business being for sale on any platform, Indie or otherwise, until it has been properly edited and corrected.
The same goes for what authors – and any other professional writers – put on social media.
If I had a dollar for every time I have face-palmed over glaring errors of spelling, word choice or punctuation in someone else’s social media posts, I would be considerably richer than I am today.
As people who promote ourselves as writers, it’s crucial that we don’t make those mistakes.
I’m not talking about the occasional typo, and I’m not talking about the type of formatting error that can happen to absolutely anyone when converting a book to eBook format. I’m talking about really basic errors – missing punctuation, terrible sentence structure, shocking spelling. Of course, not differentiating correctly between “your” and “you’re” is always going to frustrate people. There will always be people who put apostrophes where they don’t belong and omit them where they are needed. The same is true for commas.
It boils down to the issue of credibility. If I cannot correctly construct a sentence to encourage people to buy my book, what is going to make people believe I could possibly write a whole book? A writer should be able to communicate their ideas and messages clearly and effectively, without frustrating the reader or making their eyes bleed.
Quite honestly, if someone’s social media posts are full of errors, I’m not going to be buying their book. I’m not even going to put my hand up for a free copy. And it’s not going to change my mind if people laugh it off and say, “It’s just Facebook… relax!”
I may be called judgemental or overly critical. That’s okay.
As a reader and a frequent buyer of books, I’m entitled to be.
As a writer, nothing less should be expected.
If we want people to believe that Indie books are just as good as traditionally published books, we have to make sure they are. We must edit, and have them edited, as professional authors. We must promote both ourselves and our books as engaging, intelligent, and literate. The example we set on social media is part of that, because that’s where we hope to find readers.
Please, folks, for credibility’s sake – in the interests of your own integrity – proof-read all your posts. Make sure you’re sending the message you actually want to send to your audience, every time.