Reading post – sort of! I gave up Varney the Vampire – definitely a 19th century book where people ejaculate instead of exclaiming and other funny stuff. Which brings me to today’s rant – what makes me put down a book. Please note my point of view is from an ESL reader. If you’re also an ESL reader, leave your comments at the bottom: what annoys you the most when you’re reading a book in English and it’s not your mother tongue?
Okay, here are my pet peeves in no particular order. I won’t say which books I did not finish, so this is all very generic. And I’m talking about contemporary novels now – what turns me off an author and makes me decide to put down the book and not finish it (unless bound by beta-reading duty) or finish it but never buy another book again from the same author?
Chat/Twitter English. I was quite baffled in the 1990s when I got my letters from America (you know, good old snail mail?) and someone wrote “How RU? GR8!” It’s less annoying these days since I understand better those acronyms or whatever it is those things are called, but it’s still a minus on the book’s chart.
Accents and weird spelling in dialog. It doesn’t make your character’s voice more distinctive, it makes it unintelliglible to me. And especially if the badly speaking character is passing on some vital info on the plot, it very much annoys me.
Purple and flowery prose. Boring. Also, if I don’t understand what’s going on because the plot is too obscure, I won’t read your story. I’m sorry, literary fiction and other plotless books are not for my tastes. (But I also DNF some sci-fi stories, maybe even Hugo nominated, because I couldn’t follow what was going on for various reasons).
Typos or bad formatting that turn the sentence into something unclear or utterly unreadable. Omophones used badly (principle/principal being the most misused in the books I’ve read so far). Once it’s a typo, twice maybe the author needs to find a better proofreader, 3 times – the author and the proof-reader know less English than I do!
I might finish your book if the story is interesting enough, but I won’t buy another title from you, thinking I’ll have to go through the hassle again (just happened – book finished in two days, 4stars for the story, 2 for the typos. And I’m not reviewing books anymore, so no names here either. It’s a standalone but also third of a series – I’m not going to check the other two books).
And I’m skipping the wrong spelling of the words our emigrants took to the other side of the world in the 20th century because I’m trying to be nice. I love English, or I wouldn’t be reading in English so much, but sometimes even the natives don’t seem to know what they’re doing, and it’s very frustrating.
Culture-specific description and brand-naming. America might think it’s the center of the world and everything you have or do is also everywhere else. Sorry, no. And it’s not just something trivial like telling me a character has a Prius or whatever (I can’t tell a Toyota from a Ford, so it’s false detail to me), it’s using brands to name things. I won’t go googling to see what the hell is a Twinkie (okay, I know that one, but I hope you get what I mean).
If I get too confused by the useless details, I’ll just put down the book and not finish it. Sometimes false details (or more generic descriptions) help whoever reads in English as second language. Some times too specific description gets lost on foreigners. And I do know quite a lot about America, since I have many American friends… Just sayin’.
And now my final two questions:
1) if you’re an ESL reader, what do you like or dislike of English prose?
2) if you’re a native English speaker, do you read foreign authors translated into English? Do you notice any difference in the way they tell their stories?
Wishing you a great weekend! 🙂