Ten Things That Make a Reader Cringe

Before I was a published writer and an acquisitions editor, I was a reader. I began reading romances when I was in high school. My friend Brenda and I traded books and read every Harlequin we could get hour hands on. I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was.

Over the years, I’ve collected some reading pet peeves. The editor in me can spot them in someone else’s work with ease. Unfortunately, I can get so close to my stories that sometimes I don’t see these flaws in my own writing...until a reader points them out to me, and then I want to bang my head against a wall because I know better.

So here they are...the top ten things that make me cringe as a reader and a writer.

10. When paragraphs are too long to fit on my eReader page – Even though I still LOVE the feel and smell of a real paperback in my hands, I’ve gone digital. When the paragraph fills the page without giving me a breather, I start skimming.

9. When the author goes on a tangent in the middle of an intense scene – When the story gets to the point where something important is about to happen, I don’t want the author to tell me the backstory or what the characters are wearing, set the scene, or discuss the weather.

8. When the author treats you like you’re stupid by over explaining – When an author tries to impress me how smart she is, I tune her out. If I think the writer is condescending to me as a reader, I’ll stop reading.

7. When the author dwells too much on an insignificant character – If the author tells me what the character looks like, what she thinks, where she came from, and what her cat’s name is, I expect that character to have an impact on the plot.

6. Missing scene transitions – It slows the story and lessens my enjoyment when I have to figure out how long it’s been since the last scene ended. I don’t want to struggle to understand what’s going on and when it’s happening. It makes a difference whether two hours, two days, or two years have passed.

5. Frequent typos and obvious grammatical errors – When errors are too frequent, I stop and try to refocus every time I come across an error. Too many stops and I’m going to close my eReader and watch something on Netflix.

4. Switching points of view too frequently – I can’t connect with the character when I’ve just gotten used to being inside her head and the point of view switches to another character. I can only handle being inside one person’s head at a time.

3. When characters obviously act out of character – Characters should change and grow over the course of a story, but even then, they should act and sound like the personality that’s been created for them. A forty-year-old man should not act or sound like a twenty-something woman unless it’s obvious he’s trying to be funny.

2. When the ending feels rushed – It leaves me unsatisfied when I’ve gotten used to the pace of a book and it ends too soon, as if the writer just wants to get the story over with. Maybe I want the plot to unravel at the pace I’ve gotten used to.

My number one pet peeve as a reader?

1. Unrealistic dialogue – I cringe when the writer tries to give me an information dump in dialogue. When one character tells another character what she is wearing or how someone is related to her, I nearly fall on the floor.

When I see these things in a book, it makes me want to turn on tracking changes and do some editing, but I can’t edit a Kindle download. Too bad. Or...maybe that’s a good thing.


  1. Gee, you must have read my thoughts when you wrote this post. Your pet peeves and mine almost coincide exactly. The only peeve I'd add is when a character acts so stupid, I want to smack them upside the head. Really? You're having sex while someone is shooting at you? Or having a conversation to settle normal fears is beyond a normally feisty heroine? Just doesn't work for me. Thanks for the post!

  2. Hi Denise, What a great post. I agree with much of what you've written. As a reader, my biggest pet peeve is head hopping. I also get annoyed when the writer says something like, "That was before she knew what would happen to her next." or something like that. It pulls me out of the story. I want to stay in the story with the protagonist.

    Thanks for an interesting post. Come see me sometime on my blog!

  3. Great post! I agree with all of these. Unfortunately, as a writer, it is easy to commit them too. haha


Thank you for leaving your comments. I love hearing from my readers and appreciate the feedback.

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