I was reading a book recently, a non-fiction offering, and it was pretty compelling. I was a few chapters in when I came to this sentence:
"I left the house, children in toe."
I read it twice. What? Oh ... I see. Toe. Tow. Okay, okay, somebody screwed up. But boy, that's a pretty bad one. And I have to admit, I started reading a little closer. And then I read this:
"He was to close to the picture."
What? Oh, I get it. Too. To. Ugh. I was becoming an editor, not a reader, and I didn't want to be. But little mistakes in the copy were ruining the story for me. And after I found a few more, I have to admit, I flipped to the back to find out the background of the author. I was frustrated and becoming a little judgmental. But why, I wondered, didn't anyone check this? What happened here?
Because these little mistakes? They add up, they really do. People notice. It's distracting, and it ruins the flow of the story. That's why editing is so essential, and why guessing just doesn't work. Don't assume an editor will find your mistakes. Find them yourself. Better yet, try not to make them at all. It sounds simplistic, I know, but it's something writers, caught up in the excitement of the storyline, easily can forget. So it's worth a reminder.
If you're iffy on the difference between its and it's, look it up. If you don't remember why and when you use an apostrophe, it's worth the extra time to read the rules. I know, I know, writing is about ideas, it's about creativity, but if your reader is slowed down by bad grammar, those ideas will never get through.
I always think about this one episode of Family Guy, when Peter was opening up his own bar and grill. He couldn't decide where to put the "e" on the sign. First he wrote "Ye Olde Pub." He looked, pondered, and changed it. "Ye Old Pube." Then he changed it back. And then... well, you can guess how it ended up. Yes, I know, a little tacky - but it makes its point.
Little mistakes can make a big difference.