Friday, 28 September 2012

Nee-naw Nee-naw

It's the sound of the grammar police.

One of my very few gifts is the ability to recognise grammar and punctuation mistakes at a hundred yards.  I carry a red pen around with me at all times in order to correct any mistakes that I may see on my day to day travels.  I was particularly upset when I was forced to 'red pen' a notice displayed at my university!  

It's easy enough to correct signs, but it's not so easy to correct published literature.  As you may already know, I am currently reading Grow Up by Ben Brooks.  I am thoroughly enjoying it.  The main character, and narrator, Jasper is such an unconventional but lovable character; a perfect amalgamation of Adrian Mole [The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend], Oliver Tate [Submarine by Joe Dunthorne], and Holden Caulfield [Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger].  Jasper is a friend that I would love to have.

And this is why I feel bad about pointing out the mistakes in the book.  But as I've said before, I now read with the eye of an unpublished writer, curious of what gets published, and what I have to do to be one of the lucky published few.

So while I was reading last night, I stumbled across this glaring mistake.

Jasper and his friends are at a gig, and on page 132 he says, "When the band have finished playing, we go outside to smoke."

I have a big issue with incorrect subject/verb agreements after having worked for a gymnastics club, where all the senior staff wrote "The club are..." in official correspondence and press reports.  Being the lowly paid administration assistant, I was subjected to this blatant disregard for coherent sentence structure every time I had to type up these documents.  I would always edit and correct as I went along.

'The club' is a collective noun, which is singular.  There is only one club being referred to in 'The club'.  Replace 'The club' with another singular subject and the sentence wouldn't make sense.  The table are...  The dog are...  It's just not right!  Of course, if they'd written "The members of the club are..." or "The managers of the club are..." I wouldn't have an issue.  But they didn't.

And this takes me back to the example from the novel.  "The band" is a collective noun, which is a singular subject.  One band.  More than one member, but only one band.  Therefore it should have been "When the band has finished playing..."

An author, an agent, and a publisher (at least) read this manuscript, and this mistake wasn't rectified.  I know I'm not perfect, but there are people who are paid a lot of money to make sure that these manuscripts are perfect before they hit our bookshelves.

Perhaps I'll get published if I are not well at grammer...


  1. While you are right about the subject/verb disparity, as this example was in a character's speech, might it be Jasper's lack of English rather than the writer's?

    Then again, perhaps not!

    1. You're probably right there, Lindsay. Jasper is 16/17 years old, so he is quite young, but he is also very eloquent throughout the book, using words that are way beyond his years.

      I guess this is just me being picky and pedantic!