A curious thing seems to be happening in MFA workshops and critique groups. Criticism regarding spelling, grammar, and punctuation is considered hypercritical and offered only with considerable apologies for nitpicking. “Your editor will catch and correct those problems” seems to be the widespread assumption, which disregards entirely the fact that, as unpublished, amateur writers, we don’t yet have editors. Moreover, we have less chance of ever having one if our query letters and submissions reflect a bungling of or indifference to the fundamental rules of writing.

Personally, I think relying on others to tidy up our work is a slippery slope. More often than not, a seemingly minor punctuation edit such as the addition or elimination of a comma or an ellipsis will change the carefully wrought tone of a passage entirely. Further, many of these “petty” edits are stylistic. Will my editor know, for instance, that I intended to capitalize “It” when referring to a personified Fate? The portrait of the resplendent but doomed Dorian Gray might have been inelegantly smeared rather than excruciatingly seared “with the lines of suffering” had Oscar himself not corrected his typist’s error. Learn more.