Evenings with Littleberry and Other Short Stories, by A.S. Morrison (1:28)

IOD Score cardToday we see that if an error is famous enough to have a well-known name, readers will make the mark against your prose both larger and blacker.

What I gleaned about the stories: If someone looks scruffy, some people will leap to the conclusion that they’re mad.

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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

WTF #1: Grocer’s apostrophe

Analysis: The title is displayed on the title page as Evening’s with Littleberry and Other Short Stories. As a proofreader would—I reasonably assume—start at the front of a book, any grammatical error toward the beginning feels even more likely to be a symptom of a larger problem rather than an isolated issue. And, as the title page is mostly white space, an error there feels something that would be even harder to miss. So, any issue here would have raised concerns. However, encountering one of the most famous grammatical errors in English, the use of an apostrophe for a plural, made it a perfect WTF.

Hoping that the front matter had actually been added after a through proofing of the body of the collection, I moved on.

Note 2: the error reoccurred on the contents page and in the title of the story itself; however—although this did further suggest issues with the editing—I didn’t score another WTF for it.

WTF #2: Non-standard construction

Analysis: About half a page into the first story, the protagonist is described as not having the right mind set. Most usually, mindset is closed with the rare instances of the hyphenated compound, mind-set, not being incorrect; so—with no reason to consider them an open construction—I parsed them as separate words, which caused my interpretation to glitch. Knocked out of my groove, I became aware of the layout rather than the meaning.

This second grammatical niggle added to the previous one. Unsure whether the forthcoming prose would be any smoother, I moved on.

WTF #3: Unhyphenated compound

Analysis: A few sentences into the second story, the narrator describes an object as a strange piece of twisted up metal. As the metal is twisted up rather than the item being up metal that has been twisted, their should be a hyphen. As the meaning was clear enough, I might—in ideal circumstances—have passed over without losing momentum or even not noticed. However, a third proofing issue was enough to shift my concern about tripping hazards in the prose from possible to probable and thus prompt yanking of the plug.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

Who Likes Short Shorts? by Peter Sortwell (40:00)
Lily Marin: three short steampunk stories, by Paul Kater (1:21)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction. He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.