Reader Pet Peeves

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Did you know readers have pet peeves?

As a reader, there are definitely things that drive me batty.

For example, one of my pet peeves is when authors use dialogue to drop in story information, like this instance when a mother is speaking to her daughter to convey a description, "Don't forget to brush your long, waist-length blond hair, dear." Um, okay. What mother would really drop a description like that into everyday conversation?

Another of my pet peeves is when authors introduce too many characters too soon, requiring me to open up a notes page on my iphone and keep a running tally of the characters' names just so that I can keep them all straight.

Often it's all too easy for authors to write in our own little kingdom of oblivion without chatting with readers to find out what they may or may not like.

So in a recent Facebook chat with my readers, I threw out this question: "When you're reading a book, what's your biggest pet peeve? We authors are always curious what drives our readers crazy!"

There were over 80 responses!

I thought I'd share some of those reader pet peeves so that all of us can become more aware of what readers don't like. While these little nuggets might not contain any hard, fast writing rules, these readers do offer some excellent advice.

Reader Pet Peeves:

Regarding Plot:

• Taking forever to get to the plot.

• Misunderstandings between the two main characters that go on and on and on. After a while, I just want to shake them and say, "Okay will you two just be honest with each other!"

• When a sub plot is started and then dropped - I get frustrated not knowing how it turned out.

• When I can predict the ending way too early.

• When characters flip flop too much. When they move from one act or scene to another without really finishing up the previous one.

• Loose ends! Unless the book is part of a series, I like all of the loose ends to be tied up.

• Epilogues that are too short and just added so everything is wrapped up quickly.

Regarding the Writing:

• Bad grammar and repeating phrases. Also a lot of adjectives, adverbs, and other stuff added to make the story longer.

• The awkward sentence that sometimes creeps in and you have to read it two or three times to understand what they are "getting at."

• Too much description and too many details bog the story down for me and it becomes boring. It's a balancing act here--some is needed, too much becomes painful.

• I hate when authors insult my intelligence by highlighting what should be subtle clues.

• Lack of research for details. If they get details wrong for lack of checking things out, it really bugs me.

Regarding Characters:

• Making the main characters too unlikable in the beginning if they are a "work in progress." Sometimes it's hard to bounce that image out of my head. Some authors take it a bit too far.

• The frequent repetition of what a particular character feels or believes. I don't mind being reminded once or twice, but once I've been told I don't like having the info repeatedly dished out.

• When the main characters angst over the same thing throughout the majority of the book without progressing. It gets repetitive and boring.

• When the dialogue does not represent the person who is speaking.

• Repetition of an action that is a habit for a person. If the heroine bites her lips when nervous I get it after the third time it's pointed out. When it gets to a dozen times I am irritated.

• Character names (especially main) that I am unsure how to pronounce or how the author intended it to be pronounced.

Enlightening pet peeves, aren't they? Thank you, dear readers, for sharing them!

Are there any other pet peeves that you would add? What bothers you the most in the books that you read?


  1. I would add serial novels to that. If I start reading a book, I want it to have an ending, not stop at a climax with instructions to buy the end - that's tacky.

  2. Oh, these are all great pet peeves!

    I love listening to reader's talk about their pet peeves... I think it's important to realize, too, that some of these are personal preference. What one loves another hates. What one hates another might just love.

    Description is a good example. Some people LOVE flowing lyrical description, but me personally... I wrinkle my nose, skim past, and get to the good stuff.

    Uncomfortable descriptions in dialogue... oh yeah. DEFINITELY right there with you!!

  3. Great list and very helpful. Although we can't please every reader every time, we can strive to write books that aren't irritating on the whole! Thanks for sharing, Jody! pet peeve is so much head-hopping, the reader gets lost as to who is talking/thinking at the time.

  4. I dislike unnatural-sounding dialogue that's obviously meant to enlighten the reader, i.e., "When your parents died in that tragic boating accident." Nobody talks like that. I also dislike when pronouns refer to anyone other than the last person referred to (that's a tricky one, hard for me to even explain further). I also dislike the constant harping of a character's physical characteristics. In books about black people, authors will sometimes give a character an eye color other than brown and constantly refer to "his green eyes," "her cornflower blue eyes," which drives me nuts (because this would not occur if their eyes were brown).

  5. I'm a real stickler for books that have not been well edited. I dislike when the timeline does not make sense, words are misspelled, or people are called by the wrong name. Thankfully most books do have excellent editors.

  6. Love all of your extra thoughts, everyone! It's actually really fun to hear what you guys think! :-) As Krista said, some things are personal preferences. And as Heather said, we can't please everyone all the time. But on the other hand, some are really good pieces of advice that we writers need to pay attention to! :-)

  7. I see mine made the list...and a few great ones with which I totally agreed. I have def. wanted to shake a few characters! Lol

  8. The biggest thing that has bothered me lately is that in one particular book I read the author pulled out these extremely archaic words (okay, yes, it was a historical novel), that I had to pause and look up, because context didn't tell me what they meant. I don't mind one or two like that, but there were several and it throws off the flow of the story for me, when I have to keep stopping to find out what they mean. The other thing in this particular book that irritated me was when she used these huge words throughout the book, then in one of the last chapters (which wasn't very long) she used the same phrase multiple times, "He spoke baldly." I personally don't like that phrase, so it bugged me.
    I do agree with Krista about personal preference. I happen to love the extra descriptions and details that drive other people batty. So my word issues most likely don't bother anyone else and it's just me being the nitpicker that I am (I'm a book and word addict, what can I say?).
    Thanks for an interesting discussion! I have a decent idea how much work authors put into their books and am quite aware that they all aren't going to be my "cup of tea." I truly do appreciate all the time and effort that goes into each one. I am trying to curb my nitpicking and just enjoy each book for its own merits. I'll get there eventually. :)

    1. Oops! I didn't realize I had been that long winded! Sorry!

  9. It's great to know what the readers don't like. This is very helpful. I also have trouble keeping track of numerous characters. It's even worse when they have nick names as well. But I thought that was just me. I also don't like it when kids sound too grown up for their age. (I do realize today's kids have a broader vocabulary but they still need to sound like kids)

  10. This is such a great topic to post about and I'm sure we have all encountered some of these in our reading. For me, one peeve is too many characters! When the author lists all the characters before the chapter even starts, and gives a description of them, then I know it's going to be a hard book to keep straight. I felt this way in Diana Gabaldon's newest book...she has a family tree in the front and over the past five books she has added more and more characters to the point that I am overwhelmed.

  11. The aforementioned peeves are inadequacies in the writing-- operating outside acceptable practice which is unprofessional. Much of this peeve-stuff is basically poor craftsmanship.

  12. Great post for the writer in me.

    As a reader, one of my pet peeves is no plot at all, just a string of incidents. Also romances where the h/h fight/argue with each other but go on and on in thought about how attractive the other is. Then at the end they suddenly realize they love each other.

  13. Dragged out plots with useless stuff makes my mind tired....

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