Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Fine Example of Engrish
(and why writers like us should care!)

By Darvell Hunt

Consider the following email I recently received regarding an online game that I occasionally play:

"Greetings! Recently, the problem of account invasion is getting worse and worse which cause enormous players’equipments and virtual currency stolen. This severely damages the benefits of mass players, also causes our company lose a lot of customers. Our company has to adopt some measures to safeguard our common benefits in order to strengthen the safety of mass players'accounts, and firmly resist the account to be stolen again.Through our company's research and investigation to xxx customers,we will make the following decisions: we launch a package of updated code strengthen system and dynamic code protection card which can effectively prevent the accounts invaded. We will send this package of code protection system to players free of charge."

This is a fine example of what some call Engrish, or an attempt at writing English by someone who is not a native speaker and does not know the common word usages and practices of the language. We generally understand the content, but it seems to have been written with an English dictionary in hand by somebody who really doesn't speak the language.

What the writer of this particular email is attempting to do is prompt the game player to log in, using his real game credentials, but they supply a bogus link for the player to use. In this way, the email sender (in this case, probably someone in China) will gain access to the player's account and can thus plunder the player's virtual game equity.

Email message like this rarely succeed, because the writer doesn't effectively communicate with his or her audience. So, what does this have to do with writing fiction? Plenty, I think.

If you want to write a good fantasy novel that you plan to sell in the fantasy marketplace and expect fantasy readers to buy, you need to know how fantasy fiction is done. Likewise, if you wish to write and sell a romance novel, you should probably be reading romance novels, so you have somewhat of an idea about what you should include in your novel.

That's not to say that "accidental successes" don't happen, because they do--but don't count on making a killing with your who-dunnit-murder mystery, unless you know how to make a killing in your story and make your reader believe it. (And, oh boy, don't try to make puns based on murder mysteries if you are really bad a writing puns--but that's a different topic.)

What I'm really trying to say with all of this is: know your market. (Now why didn't I just say that and forget about the whole Engrish example? Ah well. If I had more time to edit this, it would certainly be shorter.)