"What do you dew when everyone you know – friends, family, everyone – is trying to kill you? You RUN."
The above is the tagline for my amazon.com bestseller, RUN.
Or rather, it isn't.
The tagline actually reads:
"What do you do when everyone you know – friends, family, everyone – is trying to kill you? You RUN."
It's a small difference – only one word. But about fifty percent of the readers of this article would probably have a fully-formed opinion of RUN without ever looking at it if all they saw was that first tagline. To wit: the tagline has a misspelled word, so the book itself must be bad.
This is the effect of typos, poor word usage, or lazy grammar: it turns people off. And since your job as a writer is to captivate your readers, a "turn off" should be viewed as anathema.
I worked for a time as a script reader for several production companies, and nothing distanced me from a screenplay faster than typos. They might not have been a one hundred percent certain indicator of the quality of a script, but they provided an immediate – and extremely negative – impression. Put simply, I assumed that writers who did not care enough about their craft to learn how to spell or write a proper sentence probably had not taken the time to learn the proper use of the much more difficult and complicated arts of plot, of pacing, of dialogue and character.
And I was being paid to read. I would trudge through a wasteland of bad grammar and glaring punctuation problems only because I knew I would not be paid if I did not finish the script. The average reader of your work, however, has no such motivation. Indeed, the opposite is true: they are probably first seeing it in a bookstore or as a free sample on amazon.com, and so are looking for something they will likely enjoy. This translates implicitly into a person who is looking for things that will disqualify a book. After all, if the book costs the reader anywhere from ninety nine cents to fifteen dollars or more, that reader is not going to assume that typos are a rarity if he or she spots one. Rather, the reader will more likely assume that this writer doesn't know how to write, will put down the writer's book, and will move on without a second thought. They simply will not finish (or even buy) a poorly written – that is, sloppily checked for errors – book.
That's fifty percent of your audience, gone.
Words matter to the average person. And to a writer, they are a major part of what you are. Respect them, or you will quickly find yourself to be a writer without an audience.
Ewe may think I'm kidding.
But I'm knot. Follow @mbcollings