Grammar Is Your Friend

We all have our pet peeves, don’t we?

In an irritating society there are plenty of irritating habits that make your skin crawl and your patience disappear. People chewing with their mouth open, snorting, sniffing, coughing, talking, squeaking…I can go on and on. It just depends upon your tolerance level.

But there is something lately that grinds me even more than all those body noises.

Bad Grammar.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a writer/proofreader/editor it grinds me a bit more than you.  But I can’t help but wonder what ever happened to teaching correct grammar — spelling and speaking.

With auto-correct and word anticipation on every computer on the planet, you would think the correct words would just appear. But even auto-correct can’t help with the wrong choice of words. Auto-correct can’t help those who guess at the wrong word or the wrong version of a word.

Grammar isn’t rocket science.  It’s common sense. Something that many people lack.

It’s one thing if you type the wrong word. In my haste to get something written, at work and at home, I have picked the wrong form/spelling/tense. Almost always I catch my mistakes in proofreading. But I’ve come across some people — professional people — who consistently misspell, misrepresent, and actually mangle the English language. And often these are higher-ups — vice presidents, executives — people who should know better.

Today a “sponsored” post on my FB account called Grammarly said, “Sick of making grammatical and spelling mistakes? Perfect writing is a click away!” So now there’s another automatic corrector out to help make sense of your nonsense.

I know I sound like an old lady, but at least I am a grammatically correct old lady. They aren’t teaching cursive in schools these days — but have they given up on grammar too? I hear a lot of lazy English these days — hip language, slurred consonants, half words. I suppose most of that is on purpose. Whether that will get the speaker far in today’s working world only time will tell.

But lazy writing will be the death knell.

I know English is one of the most confusing languages around. I mean, how many ways can you spell where? Wear? Ware? But in today’s world that’s not an excuse. When I see a professional letter start out “Goof Morning,” I have issues. It’s one thing to text “you are my breast friend” instead of “you are my best friend,” but not in an letter to the president.

Not everybody is a writing scholar. I know I’m not. But I’ve practiced. I’ve learned. You owe it to yourself to take your time and reread what you write.

After all, not everyone is Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Not everyone is cute and furry and can get away with saying, “Well he don’t know talkin’ good like me and you, so his vocabulistics is limited to ‘I’ and ‘am’ and ‘Groot,’ exclusively in that order.”

 

Flowery Language is Okay — Repetition Is Not

il_570xN.152936819All writers are pillars of perfection. Aren’t we?

We love what we write, we hate what we write. We perfect what we write. We skip over what we don’t like. It’s the nature of the beast, then, to notice certain eccentricities in other writers, yet rarely our own.

When you write, you also read. And when you work with words, you have a habit of finding misspelled or inappropriate words. Or just junky words.

So with our cards out on the table, fellow creative sprites, are there writing faux paxs that you often make? What bothers you the most about other unpolished writers?

My own stumbles are uncomfortable. When in my writing furry, I tend to find colorful language, but more of the descriptive kind, not the direct quote kind. So I tend to use the words like “as if” to explain the unexplainable.

It seemed as if my psychic ability…

It did seem as if I were a victim…

Other times deep and drawn out, as if they were coming up from the bottom of the well…

As if it were yesterday…

As if it were the most natural gesture in the world…

And that was only the first 7 pages.

I honestly didn’t realize I was over-using that phrase until sometime later. Once I caught onto my fav “as ifs”, I ran the find across my document and found that I used that phrase ad nausum. So I cleansed my soul — and my manuscript — of almost all repetitive phrases.

Then came catch number 2. My second favorite overdone phrase. Or rather word.

Like.

One doesn’t think one uses that word nearly as much as they do. But if you use your handy “find” button, you will be amazed at how many times that monochromatic word pops up.

Like something from Lord of the Rings…

As much as I would like to say I have had a life just like everyone else….

I suppose it is like asking why you fell in love…

The likes of which…

It was like trying to tune in a far away radio station…

And that was only by page 5.

The creative flow got in the way of grammar.  In my own defense, the character who utters these words has her own take on the English language. Her vocabulary is a bit more flowery and eccentric than others. So it was easy to take her style to the limit. I needed to sprinkle those words throughout the manuscript, not shovel them in.

I have cleaned everything up, and I love the way the story flows. But the scary thing is that it would have been a repetitive nightmare if I hadn’t caught my mistakes.

That’s why good writers make mistakes — and fix them. It’s good to have someone else read your writing. Or read it out loud. Or run spell check. Or search for words that are easy to repeat.

I used to be naïve enough to think that the first draft is the final draft. But having recently read A Moveable Feast by Hemmingway, seeing his hand-written manuscripts in the middle of the book, and how long it took him to hone each sentence, I can see why you never go with your first.

It’s like love. At first it’s all butterflies and sparklers, and it’s the most alive you will ever feel. As it matures, it mellows, deepens, and refines and redefines iself. And in order to keep it going, you have to polish, hone, and clip out the dead stuff.

And the likes. And the as ifs….

 

 

 

Oops — There’s that “;” Again….

th (5)As I get older (there’s that cliche again), I find myself developing more and more ticks. You know — odd behaviors that can often drive one mad. I try and be cognizant of these oddities, for many can be eliminated by just paying attention.

I have restless leg syndrome, so I drive myself crazy by constantly swishing one leg back and forth once I get in bed. I also have some A.D.D., so I often call myself the fidget queen.

Oddities aside, I also find myself victim to writing glitches too — ticks that can only be caught by conscientiously rereading what I’ve written.  These errors shine a glaring light when I read others’ pieces, but I often don’t catch my own fingers in the grammatical pie until too late.

Check yourself to see if you have any of these unconscious writing ticks:

  •  Semi-colon king or queen.  Every time someone speaks, and adds something to their sentence, I find the need to semi-colon it. The forever pause, it seems. I reread a story the other day and deleted or changed more than half of my dramatic pauses.
  • Added words.  Like that (She remembered that she once went to school there…) or and then (She washed her face, and then walked to the kitchen, and then took a cup out of the cabinet). Almost like a stutter.
  • Fragmented sentences. I am the queen of these. It IS my writing style, and I know professional writers caution against it, so I try and make more of my fragments into full sentences. Which is hard. Because that is the way I write. Like this.
  • Keep your dialogue consistent.  My murder mystery was a test for me: I wanted to see if I could write a story from 4 different points of view, along with a narrator. As the story went on, I found the 4 different dialogues blending a bit into each other. Keep your characters separate. Make a list of their quirks and writing styles right off the bat, and uphold those standards throughout the book. Wear a hat or draw a moustache on yourself if it helps keep you in character.
  • Pay attention to words. Like my funny, good friend Carrie Rubin (http://carrierubin.com/) said on Twitter: “Oops. Found a “pooped” instead of “popped” in my manuscript. Big, big difference there.” I replied that I once wrote “breasts” instead of “beasts”. You can imagine. Read outloud if you must. But double check.

I know you all know all of this. know all of this. But yet my fingers and brain always move faster than my abilities. When you’re excited about what you’re writing, it will happen to you, too.

Just think of what would happen if you didn’t spell p.u.t.t. or p.u.c.k. quite right…