I recently began watching “The Wire” (yes, I realize I’m a few years late), and I love it! So far it has lived up to the hype. It also gave me a good idea for this blog post. In one of the early episodes, one of the main characters (a police officer) spends a lot of time preparing a report about possible criminal activity at a housing project in Baltimore, and then presents it to a judge in hopes of gaining authorization for a wiretap. In this particular scene, we see the police officer sitting anxiously in a chair in the judge’s office, so proud of all his hard work, just waiting for a pat on the back for having followed a very specific list of legal requirements to get what he really needs to stop the bad guys.
What does the judge do after reading the meticulously prepared report? He points out that the police officer repeatedly confused “then” and “than” and proceeds to give him a lecture on the difference between the two.
The police officer is incredulous. He’s spent weeks working the streets gathering the evidence he needs to combat a violent drug operation, and the judge is correcting his grammar?
This is why grammar matters! No matter how great your content is, errors jump out at an educated reader and get in the way of the story. The above scenario is a perfect example of this. Mixing up “then” and “than” has nothing to do with the magnificent police work that went into that report, but the mistake was what caught the eye of the judge, who is the person in power in the equation.
When it comes to a book, the reader is the person in power because he or she is the one who can spread the word about it. You want readers to love your story and tell all their friends about it, so don’t give them a reason to focus on anything else.
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2015 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.