Let's face it. This topic needs to be addressed. It's been addressed before, by various different authors on this site, but since people seem to be enjoying my collection of how-to essays, I figured I will just get it out there in the open.
I will not read a story that has bad punctuation.
We have all spent at least 13 years of our lives reading books, reading articles (and yes, that does include interviews with One Direction), reading magazines, reading school assignments, reading textbooks, reading the backs of our shampoo bottles every stinking time we shower (my current shampoo says that the scent was "based on the way love sweeps you off your feet." Really? Love smells like strawberries and mangoes? Good to know). I do not believe that it is physically possible to spend 13 years hardly going a day without reading anything only to sit down and write something that has periods, commas, and exclamation marks flying haphazardly around the page with no rhyme or reason. Or worse, no periods or commas to speak of.
Thus, writers with bad punctuation must clearly have been living under a rock for their entire life. And quite honestly, I'm not a huge fan of reading something written by a rock-dweller.
I will not read a story that has bad spelling.
If this were 1813 and not 2013, and I was sifting through scrolls in the Just In section instead of electronically published stories, I would not be as irritated by bad spelling. However, it is 2013 after all (happy New Year!), and there has been invented this marvelous thing called SpellCheck. Not only has it been invented, but it's been inserted into most Word-processing-esque programs! It could not possibly be easier to check spelling in your work. I understand one or two typos per chapter, but beyond that, there's not a ton of tolerance in my soul.
If you have any very-obvious misspellings in your work, all your credibility as an author has been lost. I lose respect for you. Please don't let that happen. I want to respect you.
Homophones (words sound the same but are spelled differently) are a very interesting phenomenon. I once read a story on FictionPress where the author pretty much used the wrong homophone anytime there was an option - and I'm pretty sure it was not on purpose. At any rate, since a SpellCheck doesn't pick up on incorrect word usage, it's a little harder, but still. If you're aware that you struggle with things like this, please have a friend look over your work before you post it. Or else, you got it, respect is lost.
I will not read a story that has poor sentence structure.
Basically the same reasons as the first section. You've been alive for your entire life (what a deep statement, right?), and hopefully you have some idea of what a sentence is, and what is just a dangling nothing waiting for the rest of its clause to come along and be friends with it. And yes, there is a difference between the intentional fragment (of which I am a fan under the right circumstances) and straight up incompetence, and it's pretty easy to tell what is what. Some of the stories I've seen on FictionPress, I'm shocked those authors passed 6th grade English at all. Seriously.
When I read a story that has poor grammar, I make sure to point it out - common courtesy (and if you disagree with me on that one, read my essay "Flames for the Taking"). People come back with a variety of excuses. These are the excuses that you must never use, not even if someone is holding you at swordpoint:
"It's about the story, not the grammar. Nobody cares." Well yes, people do care. I care, clearly. But aside from that, do you think anyone in the world has ever gotten published who says, "It's all about the story"? Story is important, and sure I'm glad you're appreciating the meat of things, but a story without grammar is like raw steak. Only cavemen eat it.
"Oh, yeah, I kind of failed grammar in my English class, haha ;)" And...? Just because you failed something doesn't mean that it's suddenly not applicable to you. In fact, it means that you need to work all the harder to improve! I don't want to read a story written by someone who shrugs off failures and never addresses them. That sounds like intellectual torture if you ask me. If you know you're bad at grammar, please get help. There must be meetings of Bad Grammar Anonymous somewhere.
"I'm new to this writing thing, sorry I'm not perfect, geez!" I don't care. Sorry, but I don't. You're posting your work on the internet for anyone to read, and on a website where critique is the word of the day, and I'm going to tell you that your grammar needs work. Do not use your level of experience to hide your weakness or laziness. I don't want to read a piece by someone so immature that they don't realize this. And once again, please read my essay "Flames for the Taking" for additional information about this response.
In conclusion, let's recap why using grammar is healthy for you, yes you. As someone fascinated by economics (anyone else listen to Freakonomics radio?), and as a chronic pessimist, I am a firm believer that incentives are the best way to get people to do anything. So how is this one simple little thing so beneficial to you, yes you?
Without correct grammar/punctuation/spelling, readers like me view you as flaky, lazy, irresponsible, naive, unintelligent, inattentive and downright boring. We do not respect you as a writer, and we do not respect your story. We will not review except to tell you this. Thus, if only in your best interest, please take the time to work on the mechanics of your piece. The author that dwells within you will be eternally happy.
(Author's note: so this may sound a little rant-ish in places, and a little heartless in others, but it gets it through people's heads, I'm hoping. I didn't include any specific grammar helps because grammar is one of those things that is best taught in person, with pencils in hand and verbal communication. The intention behind grammar, however, can be communicated pretty much anywhere! Best of luck in all future writing and grammar endeavors! ~not Ross)