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Writing - Content VS Flawless Punctuation and Grammar

Updated on January 11, 2013
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Someone said to me recently, "I didn't know you were writing a book" and I said, "neither did I". Let me explain. A year ago I had no idea about writing a book, well maybe I had a little niggling thought here and there. Previously I had blogged and enjoyed that tremendously. Then two years ago my life changed dramatically with the death of my husband Craig. In my grief I started writing letters to him every day, which I carried on with for weeks and months on end, before I began to find my way, and a new sense of normal for me. I also did a blog or two about him,

Then in March of this last year I found myself embarking on a journey I had never imagined, nor thought of before. I started writing a book.

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Self Publishing

Very quickly I was thrown into the world of "self publishing" . I parted with my money and started banging away on my computer keyboard. Two revisions later, one reading by a good friend and many readings by myself, I thought myself to be ready, and submitted my final proof to line up in the publishing queue. I thought it was perfect!

When I say "perfect" I mean of course I was very, very pleased with my story - my telling of my husband's and my life experience. I waited anxiously for word that my book was now in a queue for printing, and was so very excited to receive my first shipment of books - finally, a six month process all in all, from manuscript submission to printing.


The Reading

The first thing I did, after racing over to my next door neighbour's house to show her my book, was sit down and read my own story from the perspective of a buyer. I wanted to see how it read, now that it was not just on paper, but was actually printed and bound in a lovely cover.

Somewhere along the way I saw that I left a word or two out, maybe two or three times throughout the whole book, but overall I was very happy with my story. Not to excuse myself, but I recalled reading published author's books through the years, that were not perfect.

A critic will also notice I have some punctuation errors - my bad!!

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Written From The Heart

So here's a news flash, "My Book Is Not Perfect". The comma has escaped and hidden from me in total isolation sometimes. I confess also that I have on occasion, in the book, been guilty of "wordiness". Maybe there is a word in a part of a sentence, that would have been better in another part of the sentence. These are the flaws of my "imperfect book".

But I have written straight from my heart - a story that evoked emotion in those who have read it; even in those who have never met me before. This makes me extremely happy. Don't get me wrong, not that I want to see people cry, but I felt it was a testament to how my story was able to touch others.

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What's More Important?

So I have been wondering about this. What do most people read for? Is it to enjoy a story, the content that makes us either laugh or cry? Whether it be fiction, true life, historical, autobiographical, thriller or romance; are we reading for the enjoyment of what we are getting out of the story line? Are we wanting to be entertained? Are we being critical as to whether the book is completely perfect in every way, grammatically correct, and appropriately punctuated? Does it truly matter if a comma here and there is missed, or a word is left out? Or, do we cut the writer a little slack in both poetic licence, and imperfection? That's my question.

While I was researching this topic I came across this "Peanuts" cartoon and it made me smile!

What do you look for when reading?

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Lynda Matthews, Author of A Breath Away

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    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi Aaron - thanks for stopping by. The vote was :

      50% - content and great storytelling

      10% - perfect grammar and punctuation

      40% - Both content and perfection

      I will share something with you. At one point I had "one" reader harshly criticize my book for punctuation - the biggie being that I did not put a comma before my text in quotation marks, and I put my periods outside the quotation marks at the end of a sentence. She proceeded to mark up my book and send it back to me. I was horrified and very hurt, but I survived. However, I did do a revision of my book about six months later because I was going to be presenting to a Bereavement Ontario conference and I wanted to tidy some things up. I "did not" correct all the comma, quotation, period mishaps because it would have cost me a fortune to do that. I corrected things I thought were really important. And it is rewarding to note that "most" people have loved the story and do not notice my faux pas. At least I was consistent all the way through the story. Now in passing along these vote results to you, I see once again, that most people want the content and storytelling. Thanks for the congratulations and good luck on your article. Lynda

    • profile image

      Aaron S. 3 years ago

      Hello Lynda, I am writing a paper on the very topic of Grammar vs. Content and I was wondering if you have the results for the votes in your article. I would like to reference your article in my paper. Thank you and congrats on your book.

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Aw - thank you epi (I think your name is Colin, right?). You always send such encouraging words. I always wanted to be an icon like Don Cherry - LOL. No winter hasn't been bad - luckily enough - I toured to St Thomas last night to a workshop held by a lady who bought my book, a grief counsellor - the workshop was "What Goes Bump In the Night". I just knew I had to attend, spirit is right up my alley. Anyway was glad for no snow, and I am praying this coming Sunday/Monday will be the same as I have been invited up to Baysville - near Bracebridge to a niece's place. So again, hoping for good weather. A cup of coffee and tuna sandwiches sounds great; you have given me an idea. Have a good one - and thanks again for dropping by.

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 4 years ago

      Good afternoon Lynda and I am sending you warm sincere wishes for your continued health, happiness and prosperity in 2013 and I am so very proud of you and your newly published book - wow what an achievement my fellow Canadian and esteemed hub colleague - you really rock and now you are a Canadian icon just like Don Cherry and Tim Hortons coffee - lol - I hope all is well with you these days.

      Canadian winter hasn't been so bad but I hear it's going to get 'really cold' this weekend and next week.

      I am having my last cup of coffee with some Mozart playing and now for a couple of toasted tuna sandwiches with mayo before I head out to the library and then go for a walk around the bay of my lake.

      Thank you for this inspiring hub presentation - it's always nice to be in your hallowed company as a fellow writer/poet.

      Sending you a high five and good thoughts from lake erie time ontario 12:45pm

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you Eddy, for reading and sharing! Hugs, Lynda

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A wonderful share which I vote up,across and share.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Sis for stopping by and reading. Yes, I am the same as you, if the story is not good then I will notice all the "wrong" things. If the story keeps me turning the pages, then a few errors will not bother me. All the best to you too.

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 4 years ago from Central Texas

      Congratulations on the new book -- and although I notice erros (both grammer and punctuation -- and spelling) if the story holds my interest and I become totally involved in the book they matter not! If, on the other hand, I'm having to plod through something that really isn't holding my interest -- every mistake stands out as though in 72-point headlines. Excellent Hub -- Best/Sis

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Hi Paula. Thanks for dropping by, reading and commenting. I appreciate your insight very much. I think we are all hard on ourselves. This was the reason for my hub; I have been obsessing about my errors. And I was curious as to how others felt. We always learn from our mistakes for another time. : )

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      lyn...I am a Grammar nazi and at times, I know it's a curse. I am also aware that I make my own mistakes, at which I cringe and beat on myself.

      I'm actually trying to get better...as in, "lighten up." It's not easy.

      It's nearly out of my control. I simply cannot continue to read, or at the very least, "enjoy," what I'm reading when I zero in on grammar atrocities.....Great hub, lyn...and I'm happy for you and your pride in such great accomplishments!...UP+++

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      The content of a book is more meaningful than punctuation. There is a noted science fiction writer who has made millions in this country after writing his original and many sequels. I will not mention names, but journeying to he stars is his game. Keep up the good work.whonu

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You are so welcome, and it buoys me up to see that while of course punctuation and grammar are indeed very important, a book is really "nothing without the content". And I think that many of us do not realize we have a book in us. When the timing is right, you will do it. Hugs, Lynda

    • weavesandbraids profile image

      weavesandbraids 4 years ago from Africa

      This is a great Hub

      Content is really important. Who knows whether the mistakes are from punctuation or printers devil.

      Thanks for encouraging all those who have ' write a book' on the list of things they want to de before they die.

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you carolina for reading and commenting. : )

    • carolina muscle profile image

      carolina muscle 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      yes, indeed.. interesting content comes first!

    • Violet Flame profile image

      Violet Flame 4 years ago from Auckland, NZ

      thank you for your response Lynda, ha ha I thought Craig might have something to do with it! After all, the love between the two of you is most definitely a beautiful story worth telling!!! (not to mention that so many will benefit from your sharing!) xoxoxo

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you techhound for your comments and opinion on this subject. And I agree that a badly told story with very poor grammar wold not be pleasant to read at all. In the end there has to be a good balance between both . I think most people are forgiving of some errors, as long as the story is compelling.

    • techhound profile image

      techhound 4 years ago

      I voted in the poll that I care more about the content than the grammar and punctuation. I will say however, that it's extremely frustrating to read something that is not written well and have on occasion left a site where the content had poor grammar.

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you VioletFlame - for your kind words and opinion on what is important in a story. I, myself, go for content too. And I certainly don't mind you asking me how I arrived at this point in my life. It started really over 10 years ago when I joined a genealogy site, researching my Italian ancestors. The site provided us with our own page, as well as a blog and I was encouraged to try it out. I didn't even know what a blog was. I gave it a try to the site owner greatly encouraged me, as I went along, critiquing me and giving me suggestions. I had absolutely no thought of writing a book back then.

      Then, my husband passed away a little over two years ago, and immediately I started receiving signs and messages that showed me he was still with me. I had so much happen that an acquaintance on Facebook suggested I had a story to tell. Still I did not think much of it. Then this March of 2012 I just felt compelled to follow through and so I did. I like to think that Craig was whispering in my ear to go for it. And Voila that was the birth of my book, "A Breath Away". I just recently received another wonderful sign involving the choice of my book cover. : )

    • Violet Flame profile image

      Violet Flame 4 years ago from Auckland, NZ

      Great hub, Lynda! I am definitely going for "content and great storytelling"! And as I grow older, I prefer true stories like yours even more. I get now that life can be tough, and it always inspires me on knowing how others make it through their challenges.

      I was eager to find out what exactly made you decided to "write a book". Did the idea just simply occur to you, or did someone say something, or were you simply following the natural course of development, from writing letters, blogs, hubs to books? What happened at that precise moment when you said to yourself: "I am going to write and publish a book!"

      I don't know why it interests me so much, I hope you don't mind me asking!

      Thank you Lynda for this wonderful inspiration! xoxoxo

    • craiglyn profile image
      Author

      Lynda 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thank you whonu. Well I have learned some things for next time. Thanks for reading and commenting with your point of view. : )

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      Interesting hub, Lynda. Who cares if we make a few punctuation errors once in a while, that's what editors are for. I think you have a very good ability to write and I will advise you to keep on going, my friend. whonu