Thursday, April 19, 2012

Do you really know your rules when you're giving reviews?

Girly Attitude Comments
~Magickal Graphics~

I recently had an author give me a one star review, stating that she had done so primarily because of my supposed incorrect use of em-dashes. Just to be sure, I went to look up the rules on my use of em-dashes, only to find that I had not used them incorrectly. So in this post, we're going to explore this ever growing concern.

What do you do when the person who is ripping on your hard work doesn't even know what they're talking about? 

Well, I taught my children that they could stand up to anyone as long as they did so in a respectful manner. I believe in standing up for yourself, even if that person is a police officer or a judge. I believe we always have the right to stand up to our accuser, even if that accuser is a reviewer. So, yes, I do believe in respectfully letting the reviewer know that they may need to take another look at the rules they're trying to use to destroy your work.

But if you do so, you better know what you're talking about.

This brings us to a very important discussion. With the great increase of ebooks in such a short time, and the change in who is doing the reviews to keep up with these is an author supposed to cope with every self-proclaimed specialist out there, who is now telling you how to use grammar, or in my case used em dashes, even when you have used them correctly? Do we really just have to swallow bad advice? And do we have little or no recourse when bad advice is bringing down our sales?

And why would one author do this to another author? Okay, so that's a seperate blog LOL

I really enjoyed a blog I read recently on this subject that pointed out that, at best, many grammar rules are up for debate. That's right, even the true professionals cannot agree on many of these rules.

So what is a writer to do?

The answer is keep writing.

The truth is that we are all human. The chances are great that the person who is ripping on your writing really isn't a professional. And we've already pointed out that even the true professionals often cannot agree on the rules. The author who ripped on mine changed POV in the middle of the same paragraph in her own writing. She also changed scenes without setting up her scenes. I'm not pointing this out to be vindictive. I'm making a point. This is just the facts. The person who is giving you all this advice likely has a lot of their own stuff to learn. And you might have quit, right?

The point in, we're never going to agree. Some of the greatest writers out there were given bad advice by would-be professionals. And that would-be advice can actually damage really great writing. By the same token, really strict grammar rules can shred great writing.

Does that mean we ignore these would be advisors?

Well, that would depend. Consider the source. What are their credentials? If that person is a professor in college, you might want to listen. If they tell you they're a elementary teacher, you might want to look the rule up for yourself. I know more rules than many elementary teachers, and I still have a lot to learn. Many teachers have a BA. I have a BA and a minor in writing, so I also know where their education has stopped. I've had those who would give well-meaning advice site these for credentials in doing so. Please don't get me wrong, I think all teachers are great. As I said, I went to school side-by-side with students who were teachers in the next semester.  Again, I just know that the class I was taking with them was the end of their education. That's enough to teach kids. It is not enough to teach an author. I wouldn't use these to advise an author unless I was a professor of a university. I had a great professor who pointed out the folly in this. Writing is its own art.

Never just take advice at face value, no matter how well meaning it may be. You would be amazed at how often it is wrong, and then you have gone and had a great cry, maybe even pulled your work.

Here is a great rule of thumb. Use your common sense. Have your received the same advice by more than one person? If yes, you may want to take a closer look.

Lastly, if you've ever read the book Eat That Frog, you will have learned that anything worth learning is worth becoming the best. Study. Become your own professional. Keep studying. Don't stop. And for heaven sake, don't give up based on the words of someone who claims to have all of the answers. As we've said, there is a very good chance they're wrong, or at the very least, their advice might just be an age old debate, of which, even the true professionals cannot agree.

And, at most, they just might have their own agenda. After all, they're only human.

To error is human. To claim to have all the answers . . . yep, I'm pretty sure that's human too.

And in case you're wondering, some rules on em dashes:

 Em Dash An em dash is the width of an m.

Use an em dash sparingly in formal writing. In informal writing, em dashes may replace commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought. 


You are the friend—the only friend—who offered to help me. 

Never have I met such a lovely person—before you.

 I pay the bills—she has all the fun.

 I need three items at the store—dog food, vegetarian chili, and cheddar cheese.

 My agreement with Fiona is clear—she teaches me French and I teach her German. 

Please call my agent—Jessica Cohen—about hiring me. I wish you would—oh, never mind.
This shows an abrupt change in thought and warrants an em dash.

1 comment:

  1. I feel for you. You take such a chance with reviewers and sometimes you get burned by their lack of knowledge. I had one reviewer give my short story one star because - wait for it - it was too short. In reality, it was within the standard word count and had even been published by eFiction magazine. I think I still have a scar on my forehead from banging my head on my desk...Keep smiling!


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