2011-04-08

A to Z Blogging Challenge – Day 7

G is for Grammar

To succeed as a writer, you must know, respect, and obey the rules of grammar in your writing. If editors consistently find grammatical errors in your writing, they aren’t going to buy your work. Readers will point their fingers and laugh at you.

What you must bear in mind is that the purpose of grammar is to produce writing that is easy for the reader to understand. Sometimes there are writing situations in which inferior grammar makes for superior writing. A sentence that is tagged by grammar checking software may actually end up being the exact statement that makes your writing more compelling.

Here’s a few of the rules you can bend, if not break:

1. Never end a sentence with a preposition
Many people start twisting their sentences around so as not to end them with prepositions. Unfortunately, more often than not, the new wording is terribly awkward and painful to read. In the interest of clarity and readability, it’s all right to end a sentence with a preposition.

2. Never begin a sentence with a conjunction, such as “and” or “but.”
This rule even got screen time in the movie Finding Forrester, when Sean Connery and Rob Brown have an entire conversation about it. However, you don’t have to stick with it. It’s perfectly all right to start your sentences with “and” or “but.” It’s a great way to emphasize a point or give your writing a conversational tone.

3. Never split infinitives
Go ahead and split your infinitives when doing so makes your meaning more clear or allows you to be more concise. “To go boldly where no man has gone before” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “to boldly go.”

4. Never use sentence fragments.
Nonsense! As long as most of your sentences have a subject and a predicate, feel free to use the occasional fragment for effect. No worries.

5. Avoid run on sentences.
Run on sentences can be used to convey great excitement or anxiety. It’s a wonderful rhetorical device in the right hands; however, in the wrong hands it looks like you should have paid a copy editor their well-deserved fee.

6. Never use slang or colloquialisms such as “y’all” or “ain’t.”
A bit of the vernacular can add color and flair to your story. It can also indicate class or region. The trick is in knowing when it will enhance and when it will distract.

Just remember, there’s a big difference between breaking the rules to make writing more effective and breaking the rules because you don’t know what the rules are. When a writer doesn’t know the rules of grammar, failure is almost guaranteed. But when a writer is well aware of the rules and breaks them consciously and strategically, the writing can become clearer and more compelling.

As the Dalai Lama once said, "Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively."

10 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Good points. Thanks.

Jeffrey Pierce said...

Thank you so much for the tips! This is a really encouraging post for those of us who bend all of those rules. ;)

Jayne said...

This is the sort of post that everyone should print out and carry it around in their back pocket. Thank you!

Margo Lerwill said...

"Just remember, there’s a big difference between breaking the rules to make writing more effective and breaking the rules because you don’t know what the rules are."

I'm in love. This and a Dalai Lama quote. It's a good Friday.

Nofretiri said...

It's interesting, how similar the rules are for different languages! Most of your arguments also count for German language ... as well as bending/braking the rules! *ggg*

Sure, there are some technical gadgets helping you with grammar (and vocabulary), but in my opinion the best 'training center' for your own word skills is READING! And I'm speaking of different genres, media, authors and topics, from their different styles you can learn best!

Wish you all a wonderful creative and grammar free weekend! :-)

Karin

P.S. My thoughts swirl round G for Gefuehle (emotions) and the emotional exchange between book and writer.

K.C. Woolf said...

Great post! I write in English, which isn't my native language, so for me it's been particularly important to know the rules.

And then I had to allow myself to bend and break them. Less work, but harder to do, somehow.

Angela Felsted said...

For those of us with grammar drilled in, it's hard to convince ourselves to break grammar rules even when we know it's better.

Karen Walker said...

I am not the best when it comes to grammar, so I know enough to hire an editor when I'm done with a manuscript. Thanks for this. And so nice to "meet" you thru the a-z challenge.
Karen

Shannon Lawrence said...

Perfect post! Sometimes I have to convince myself it's okay because it's been drilled into me so much. Yet, in reading that list, I had almost all of those grammar no-no's somewhere in my novel.

Good luck with the A to Z Challenge!

Manzanita said...

You give some good tips. I especially like picking the subject that scares you personally.
Manzanita
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