Does success equal perfection? Are the Harry Potter books completely free of errors? It is arguably the greatest series in children’s literature (or certainly the best-selling, in any case), but has author JK Rowling been guilty of many mistakes?
The reference isn’t to calling a narrative idea a ‘mistake’ (“I should have let Hermione marry Harry, not Ron”), or to errors of continuity (several classrooms move floors mysteriously between the books), or to those committed by American editors for the US publication, or to those voiced by actors in the movie versions (Maggie Smith, who is old enough – and British enough – to know better, when all the freshmen are assembled to be divided into different houses, announces grandly with the authority of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant: “Sorting will commence momentarily”).
No, are there grammatical mistakes? The good news is – none, or hardly any. If there is a criticism levied on Rowling, it is only that she has a slight tendency to overuse adverbial construction – verbs that end in ‘-ly’, so as to indicate action in a compact manner.
Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight saga, hasn’t been let off so easily. Grammar critics, both academic and self-appointed, have dissected her language and found many a slip.
Right at the second sentence of the preface, she writes, “I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this”.
Now “I’d had”, or “I had had”, is perfectly acceptable, but the second half of the sentence doesn’t make sense. It would have, if the sentence began “I didn’t have reason enough…”, or if it went on to say “…even if I hadn’t”; that ‘but even if’ alerts us to expect a contradiction that never comes.
Elsewhere, in Eclipse, she writes “Who’s definition of right?” when it’s clearly supposed to be “whose definition of right?” Here it isn’t just Meyer but an entire rogues’ gallery of proof-readers, subs and editors who could be held accountable.
Another instance: “The birds were quiet, too, the drops increasing in frequency, so it must be raining above”. Should it not be “…it must have been raining above”?
Of course, this harsh criticism may do little more than have Meyer sobbing all the way to the bank…