A Book Lover's List of Literary Grievances

First, let me say that I believe myself to be very tolerant when it comes to the books I read. My average book rating is 3.55 (out of 5) stars, which I feel speaks to my preference to acknowledge the positive more often than the negative. I read a lot of self-published romance books and overall have been blown away by the quality of writing. (I believe most of the books on my year-end favorites lists are indie published.) However, there are some inaccuracies I'm finding repeated all too often—grammatical, formatting, and publishing, mainly. Sometimes we just have strong preferences and become bothered when books don't conform, though, right?

These are some of the "repeat offenders" I find particularly irksome.
  • Whoa is not spelled w-o-a-h!
  • Lightning, the atmospheric occurrence, being misspelled lightening
  • Qualifying "unique" with very, more, really, etc. Unique means something is one of a kind; it can't be more unique than something else!
  • The words "floor" and "ground" should not be used interchangeably!
  • The verb needs to agree with the subject. For example, "One of the boxes is open." "The woman with all the dogs walks down my street." "All of the books, including yours, are in that box."
  • The excessive overuse of some words is highly annoying (e.g "core" in romance novels), particularly when listening to audiobooks.
  • Using "zip" as a noun instead of as a verb. In the U.S. it's a zipper, folks.
  • First person internal monologues should not contain excessive descriptive adjectives! Do our inner voices actually say things like the following? "I brush my long, curly, blonde tresses..." or "I drive my large black custom SUV..." or "I clean my beautifully decorated monotone apartment..." These fabricated examples seem silly, yes? Well, I've read much sillier, believe me. 
  • When asked something like, "Do you mind if...?" the answer, if it is okay, should be NO! 
  • If a book represents more than one character's point of view, each change in narration should be obviously attributed to whose voice it is. Sometimes it's just not obvious!  
  • Book covers should be representative of the story and/or characters. If the hero's and/or heroine's physical appearance is mentioned in the book, the cover models should at least resemble them. Things like hair color are obvious, yes?
  • When authors use initials in lieu of their given name(s) and don't use periods, it can appear to be a two (or more) letter name. I know the modern trend is straying away from periods, but it can be confusing. I mean, I see a name like AL JEFFERSON as AL (short for Albert, Alfred, etc.) and not A.L. Although, maybe it's just my preference and doesn't matter to others. 
  • In dialogue exchanges or conversations, the character should be rather easily identifiable. 
  • A character's idiosyncratic personality and verbal language patterns should belong to one character only and not every character an author creates.
  • When characters who the author repeatedly emphasizes intelligence and articulateness in don't live up to those standards at all. 
I am no grammar queen, but I know some things. I know the above things take away from my reading pleasure. What about you? What are some of your pet peeves in regards to books?


Unknown said…
Pet peeves about books.. I'll probably think of more but what comes to mind is..
I love series books, Outlander, Harry Potter, almost any Nora Roberts. So here's my peeve... Not identifying the series order. You can't tell if it's book two or twenty and it only makes sense if you read sequentially. If you are able to buy as they come out no problem but my life does not lend itself to that most of the time.
Virginia Hill said…
A good point, Claudia! I know when observing book titles on Amazon, I find most series books contain the series NAME but not necessarily the NUMBER. It does make things more difficult for the buyer. Sometimes there is a link to the entire ordered series on the individual book page but not always.

I generally refer to Goodreads, where I can pretty consistently count on the correct reading order. Thanks for the comment!
Unknown said…
I also get a little irritated when series lack the number of a particular book.

Some other peeves--
Improper Grammar: this drives me crazy, when in the narrative. If different characters utilize language which separate them (such as a "pidgin", creole, or patois) from the societal norm, then please be accurate in it's usage & context.

Misuse of historical or cultural context: I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. Historical and/or cultural context is useful as a frame of reference in crafting an engaging story. But its use must be tempered by an intentional attempt to communicate the perspective of the character's experience, rather than perpetuating a justification.

Virginia Hill said…
Thank you for your comment, Haunani!

I'm wondering—as I think you probably read mostly traditionally published books—do you notice MORE errors slipping through the editing process these days?

I am hindered by a punctuation rule memory problem, but it's fairly rare that I notice misspellings or other errors in traditionally published works. Generally, I'm impressed by the editing in the self-published books I read, too. Thankfully, the few I find issues with don't ruin my overall indie-reading experience.

I normally enjoy regional dialects attributed to characters to help individualize them. However, sometimes they are quite difficult to understand. (Tess of the d'Urbervilles comes to mind.)

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer, Cousin!
Anonymous said…
Grammar mistakes bother me. I know I'm not perfect, but I don't have an editor!

Amy L

When authors just rush to wrap things up it sometimes seems too neat. That bothers me sometimes.
Toni FGMAMTC said…
I hate bead of precum, juices and several other words or phrases like that so much. Actually I often find myself skimming over sex scenes because it just seems they're way too out there in a lot of books. I read something Stephen King wrote one time that said something like don't use words you wouldn't use in real life or something like that. I agree. I'm way over the huge bulging body builder cover models too. If I person is on the cover, I like a more realistic look.
Virginia Hill said…
Thanks for letting me know your grievances, Amy! I don't technically have an editor either, but I DO have my sister. Thank goodness.

Toni, as usual, you expressed your thoughts clearly. Thank you! If a book has more sex than story I usually stop reading. Some of the phraseology is ridiculously over-the-top.

As far as bulging body builder cover models...I like looking but would prefer seeing one occasionally in real life. ;)

Happy reading!
Unknown said…
I've actually noticed more errors in e-books, as compared to the printed word. It's one of the things that turned me off to them. When considering errors in printed books, it actually adds to the material value of the misprint, as they are usually of a low number with corrections in later editions. But, I do think that with the recent shift towards e-books, the quality of editing in "traditional-type" of publishing houses has diminished, resulting in errors at a higher frequency.

As far as reading books printed with dialects, you're right, they can be difficult to read. I think that with my linguistic training in college, in addition to real-life experience living in a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic society, I appreciate them as part of realistic context in books.