Thursday, December 12, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Can I be a writer when I can't spell?

Dear O’Abby,

I’m a writer, or at least, I’m trying to be a writer. But I have a big problem. I’m a terrible speller. And when it comes to grammer and punctuation, I’m even worst. I wasn’t brought up speaking English and while I’m totally fluent in spoken English now, I think I’ve missed some important rules when it comes to written language.

I have written two novels and I would love them to be published, but I’m not confidence that my grasp of written English is good enough to get an agent or a publisher. Do you have any advice?


Second Language

Dear Second Language,

Being bad at spelling, grammar or punctuation is not the barrier to being a published writer you might think it is. It just means you need to do a bit of extra work before you send your work out to any publishing professionals.

There are a huge number of online writing tools you can use to check your work on your own. This article gives some information about the different spelling and grammar correction software options available. If you are serious about writing, it is worth investing a little money in something like this if you’re not confident of your grasp of the rules.

Once you have run your MS through one of these tools, it will still probably need another look over because for all AI is great at picking up errors, it doesn’t always correct things in a way that suits your own writing style. So do a read-through and fix anything that doesn’t sound right for your character or doesn’t fit with your personal style.

Once you’ve done this, it’s time to get a fresh set of eyes across it. A critique partner who has a strong grasp of spelling, grammar and punctuation would be good. If you don’t have one of these, maybe try reaching out to an English teacher you might know. Or ask around in your online community to see if anyone might be available to help you with this specific area. If you have a budget, you could look at hiring a copy editor, but as they usually charge by the word, it can get expensive. Especially if you’re writing epic fantasy!

Once you have incorporated the feedback from all these sources, you should have a MS that is spelling and grammar error free! And that sounds like you’ve been writing English all your life. As long as you ensure the same care is put into your query and synopsis, your submission package shouldn’t stand out from the pack in all the wrong ways.

Good luck!


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