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Poor English, bad grammar, can I still publish a book?

Hello, people..

I just want to ask something that bothered me for quite a while..

I come from Singapore, and I'm a Singaporean Chinese.. I haven't been very hardworking and smart in my academic results, and thus my English level is really low and I haven't really properly learn the structure of writing and anything to do with that.. I just started reading because I now have much more time to do so..

I just want to ask.. with poor english and perhaps poor grammar and vocabulary skills... can I actually publish a book?

If given my situation, are there people out there who can actually help me edit??


Yes you can publish. I don't know how publishing houses would deal with your situation, but it is possible to hire someone who can edit/sense check/proofread your work to improve the English. As far as vocabulary goes, you'll have to see to that yourself by reading a lot of books, articles and webpages in English and looking up the words you don't know. That shouldn't be too difficult, and will help with the grammar side of things too.

You English isn't bad. Certainly better than my French, the language I know best beside English (I can count to 20, order a crepe with various toppings, ask where the swimming pool/hotel/train station is, ask someone if they speak English, and swear, and that's about it). I don't think you'll need to put much extra effort in to be able to write better than the vast majority of English-speaking people.


You may have difficulty landing an agent if your manuscript has bad grammar & punctuation. If I were in your situation, I would hire an editor to proof the work before submission.
If you don't, you may not even get an agent beyond the 1st page.
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there are some free grammar/writing courses online. I dont know where you live but I would suspect there are some local to you.
I posted up the ones I found on Google. Most would be UK but that is somewhere to start. Some self publishing houses offer to edit if you have the money.




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Thanks a lot! A bad thing for me is that, I started reading seriously only like 3 years ago.. While I know English and can talk and write in english, I have some difficulties in describing things, or a scene or a action. I believe I need to try to paint a nice picture using words in some of my story so that the readers could actually immerse themselves in the scene.. Still trying to learn how to do that..

So, if I can write up a manuscript, of all my ideas and how the story goes and etc, then I can look for an editor to go through the manuscript, check for the readability, and do whatever he needs and then I can try sending to publishers right?
Yeah, I think that's your best bet. You can certainly hire an editor to do a check for spelling and grammar (that's usually a lot cheaper than full editorial services) and then once your manuscript is cleaned up you can send it off.

And the more you actually write, especially if you look at the changes an editor makes to your manuscript after the fact, the more comfortable you'll get with the ins and outs of the language.
I see. Thanks..

I also realized that some authors wrote in a specific way.. I mean not all books have prefect english in them.. some are actually not grammar correct.. but it's just a style right? as long as the language isn't too bad..


Sometimes it's style; sometimes it's incompetence on the publisher's part. Far too many people these days are lazy and trust the tools built into word processors to tell them if something's "correct" or not. The ones worth publishing with don't… but a great many others do. (Same goes for writers themselves: never, ever trust your spelling and grammar checkers!)

As far as your writing goes, the best thing you can do for yourself is read more–which is the same advice writers give to people writing in their first languages. The more you expose yourself to, the more you'll internalize both structural rules and vocabulary, as well as storytelling techniques. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on, paying special attention to the items you discover you like: figuring out why you like them will go a long way toward improving your own writing.

In your situation, taking a couple of classes in formal grammar is a good idea, though from the looks of it, you've already had those: your written English is already better than that of most American students. (Trust me on that. I've spent far too much time trying to fix their bad habits once they make it to college. :rolleyes: )

Definitely get your work gone over by a reliable editor before submitting it–which is also the same advice writers give to people writing in their first languages. By "reliable" I mean someone who's first language is English, and who has experience with publishing, either his own work or work he's edited. Preferably the latter: writing and editing are two completely different skill sets.

Beyond that, it's mostly practice, practice, and then practice some more. One very good form of practice would be for you to start reading other people's manuscripts and helping them spot things that need changing or correcting. You can learn a lot more, a lot faster, if you're trying to apply your analytical skills to something you haven't written. Take the lessons you pick up doing that, go back and apply them to your own work. You'll be amazed how rapidly you progress this way.
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Here is some encouragement for you:

Joseph Conrad, born Josef Konrad in Russia, was a British writer who is famous for his novel Heart of Darkness. Conrad's first language was Russian, not English, and he is regarded as one of the great British writers of his time.

You actually have a real advantage here; you may be able to target two different publishing markets because of your bilingual capacity. Furthermore, learning a new language really requires you to think more about grammar, which is a huge advantage in the long run.

Could you publish a book in the U.S. tomorrow? Probably not. Could you publish a book in the U.S. someday? Absolutely.

Also, if you want a "buddy" to simply practice writing English with, I am happy to correspond with you through Mythic Scribes.

Maybe I can tell people some day that I knew the Singaporean Joseph Conrad! ;)
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Felis amatus
Wasn't English Nabokov's third language (after Russian and French)? Not only did he produce a masterpiece in Lolita, but it is masterful in large part due to the sheer word play with the English language. Language skills can be learned. If you don't have the time or desire to learn, work with editors who can help.
Thanks, deilaitha and Ravana for the encouragement.

I am happy that my english is actually quite ok, according to Ravana.. haha. I will continue to read more books. I had completed the series of Lord of the Rings. That is the book that make me want to write a book!. And I done a few R.A Salv books on Drizzit. Love those, and then I had just completed 4 books of Song of Ice and Fire(was it the other round), by George R.R Martin. I also read a few Dan Brown books, because my friend recommended me.

Ok, I don't have much friends who are writers or aspiring writers. so I lack help from this area.. Also Singaporeans' english isn't that fantastic. Most of us speak broken english, or 'Singlish', as we all call it, but to me it's just cultural evolution of english. I love language and I made effort to speak properly and write properly.. Don't really like the LOL and etc..

I am working on my characters of my book and if it's done, or something is done, I'll post it here, I mean another thread in Showcase or something, and let you all see and comments. Thanks a lot for the encouragement.!