Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Most Annoying Syntax Error

It looks like Blogger is back up and running correctly! At least for me. We'll see how long it lasts.

I know a couple other editors read this blog, so I'm asking you, as well as anyone else with an opinion: Does the following syntax error bother you as much as it does me?

"Thank you." She said.

Of course, that text should be:

"Thank you," she said. 

Dialogue with improper grammar—specifically, that improper grammar—is one of the most frequent errors I see in OTP submissions. It's happening so often, I can think of only two plausible causes:

1) An entire generation of writers has grown up learning how to use grammar correctly in other situations, but not dialogue. Quite often, that mistake is the only one I see in a well-written story, yet it happens multiple times in that story, as if the author learned different rules than I did. (It happens in poorly written stories too, but so do a dozen other kinds of errors, so I doubt the causes are the same in that case.)

2) Microsoft Word and other word processors are applying grammar rules of normal writing to dialogue. The stupid programs keep saying "a sentence can't end in a comma," and following that up with "the first word in the next sentence needs to be capitalized." 

What frustrates me is, I don't know how severely I should punish authors for this mistake. What if the last thing an author does before submitting a story is run "one last" spell and grammar check, and has the program set to fix errors automatically, and doesn't notice what the program is doing to dialogue? In that case, a good writer is being a bad software user, and those are different skills. 

True, for the last 20 years or so, all good writers had to learn to be good users of word processors, but this particular grammar "fix" seems to be a fairly recent development. And I've learned that even in 2012, a number of very good writers don't know crap about computers, word processors, or anything IT-related. Not even when they're younger than word processing itself (which floors me, but it's true--today's 20-somethings are NOT all skilled computer users, even though they grew up with computers even more than I did).

There's going to come a time when not knowing how to take full advantage of a word processing program's features will be as inexcusable as not knowing 

"Thank you," she said. 

is correct dialogue grammar. But until that day arrives, I think I have to be a bit lenient with this particular error.

What do you think?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

OTP Recognized by the Million Writers Awards

The Million Writers Awards came out, and after the main winners were announced, the list of notable stories of 2011 was published here. And guess what. All three of the stories I submitted for consideration--the first place winners in short story contests #13, #14, and #15--were considered among "the best online short stories published during 2011." (The magazines are listed in alphabetical order, so OTP is a way down the page.) 

Every on-line magazine is allowed to nominate three stories for consideration. As you scroll down the page, note how most of the magazines have only one or two stories listed. (And of course many magazines had no stories considered among 2011's best, but those aren't visible on the list.)

But OTP? We've got three. All three of the stories I nominated were picked by judges I've never met as among 2011's best online stories.

So, congratulations to the authors: C. R. Hodges, Ken Liu, and Rachel Verkade. But if I may be so bold, congratulations to us at OTP for providing a place where such good fiction can flourish.

I just have to wonder: if we were allowed to nominate more than three stories, would more than three stories have made the list?