Am I wasting my English degree?

For four solid years at university (okay, three-and-a-half; I had a lot of Advanced Placement credits), I studied the art of understanding and writing the English language. I love reading, and I love writing. And I take a lot of pride in my knowledge of both.

But is that a good thing?

English major; writer; theatre tech: You name it, I nerded it.
(Panda necklace available from http://www.etsy.com/shop/panduhmonium)

I’ve read publishers and professionals who say that a good editor will take care of any grammar or punctuation issues you may have, and that you – the storyteller – should concentrate on all of the things that will make your story sell: plot, characters, conflict, dynamics. That’s great to hear, especially for those writers who have more skill with story than they do with pesky matters like proper capitalization and use of commas or quotation marks.

But I’m the type of person who lives and breathes that stuff. Before I send any manuscript off to a beta reader or an editor, I want it to already look its best. I want to be proud of it. If I send off a manuscript that is half-assed in its grammar or spelling, that’s going to make me look like an idiot to my editor. At least, I think so.

Picard_Facepalm

Idiot: when Captain Picard can’t even look at you.

I know that any editor is going to return my manuscript with lots of notes and corrections; I’m preparing myself for an ocean of red mark-ups. But I think I’m doing that poor person a favor by at least making the manuscript as clean as it can be, the first time around.

For all of you experienced writers out there: Am I worrying too much about the rules of my language? Should I leave all of that to the beta readers and editors? Or am I right to be muscling up on my words and punctuation as well as my plots and characters?

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7 thoughts on “Am I wasting my English degree?

    • “…as good.” 🙂

      Yeah, I figure I can’t take the English major out of me, at this point. It’s just a bit frustrating to see people win awards and accolades when I see really obvious spelling/grammar errors in their work. 😛

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      • It makes you wonder if they notice their spelling and grammar mistakes after, doesn’t it? Of course, they’re not going to admit to their little mistakes, but it wouldn’t hurt to fix the word with the little red squiggles under it. And let’s face it: There’s no escaping the English!

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  1. Actually, I have heard that editors/agents won’t read the ms if the grammar and spelling and punctuation aren’t polished. Even if you are a writer whose weaknesses could be any of those elements, you really need to have it professionally edited before you send it off to an agent or publisher.

    These days, very few publishing houses have an in-house editor for all manuscripts. Oh sure, they’ll keep one handy for the big guns, but not for the newbie clients. Just like we have to shoulder more marketing responsibility as authors, we need to shoulder the editing role also.

    So, feel blessed you are an English major. (I am one, too.) And tell yourself it is at least one thing you know you can take care of with relatively little trouble.

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    • That is a good way for me to look at it, Kate. Thank you!

      I am definitely going to be hiring a professional editor before I start shipping my ms out to any agent or publishing house. I mentioned to my friend, I just find it a little disheartening to see articles (and even books!) get published with a lot of errors in them. I guess this DIY age has made higher-level editors either too busy – or too lazy – to notice, in those cases.

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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