Every 1st and 3rd Thursday, I'll take your editorial questions. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and more! I will showcase questions and answers (with permission) once I get questions as well. To ask a question, please fill out the form below.
I've been a freelance editor since November 2010. If I don't know the answer, I will find it.
Christine Rains asks “Hi! ;) I was wondering about this lately. Might not be an editor question exactly. Might just be personal opinion.
I've had people when critiquing my stories correct the grammar and structure of dialogue. My opinion is that people - well, most people! - don't speak with proper sentence structure or use words properly. It's part of their character. I can see correcting the rest of the text, but not dialogue unless it's something glaringly wrong.
As an editor, do you want grammatically correct dialogue or is there some other rules when it comes to such things?”
When I first started editing, I’ll admit I wanted to fix the grammar in the dialogue, but that’s just not the way people talk. It’s one of the things that irked me when I was studying foreign languages. The teachers would expect perfect dialogue instead of natural dialogue.
In writing, dialogue should be true to the character. Sometimes editors will ask for a cheat sheet, so to speak, on quirky things a character will say that aren’t grammatically or structurally correct. That way they don’t fix them. Yet, if you are going to have a character not know the different between “who” and “whom” or the like, then you need to be consistent.
As an editor, I will fix typos and grammar things that look more like a mistake than a character’s way of speech. If I have a question about it, I’ll comment on it. After all, you want your characters to be understandable, but no, they don’t have to have perfect grammar or structure.
As for the non-dialogue text, if it isn’t a character’s thoughts, it should be more or less grammatical, but even then there are stylistic cases that change that. Writers should remember when it comes to editors, we’re trying to do our best to make the story the best it can be, but in the end it is the author who decides whether the advice is true to the character/story or not.