It’s gramma; innit?

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Don’t forget to click the purple button to see what everyone else has to say on this week’s subject. It’s at the end of my post.

What grammar rules have you broken on purpose? 

To be honest, I never got the chance to learn any grammar at school. It’s a long story that I think I’ve probably told you before, so I won’t bother you with it again. It involved my nomadic childhood, bad timing and the lack of a national curriculum back in the 1970s (the dark ages).

Consequently, I have no formal qualifications in English.

The point is, in everything I’ve ever written, I have never had any idea if it was grammatically correct. I did try to teach myself the rudiments from a book but it made little sense. As far as my head was concerned, any grammatical rules might as well have been written in a foreign language.

In my life at sea, it didn’t matter so much, most of what I had to write was form filling (as long as every box contained a number, everyone was happy) or standard factual letters, designed to be easily transmitted by morse code or telex. Anything out of the ordinary meant hours of thought, multiple attempts on a manual typewriter and anguish.

Because I know it’s important, that bad grammar breaks the flow and reduces the credibility of the writer, I have a simple solution. Now, to ensure that my novels have some semblance of order, I rely on my editor. She deserves all the credit for the quality of my published work. She’s the one that keeps me on the straight and narrow and I’m very grateful for her patience and ability to get it all to make sense. You only have to compare this blog with my books to see the difference she makes.

I guess that I’m picking it up though, as her corrections seem to be fewer these days than they were when I started out. Although I still have no formal idea of what, if any, rules I’m breaking, it would appear that I’m breaking less of them.

One thing that she’s told me is that grammar rules don’t apply inside speech marks. This is a good thing, in the heat of the moment, people don’t always take the time to consider the grammatical construction of their conversations. And that’s putting it mildly.

The judicious use of slang or contractions can really make dialogue come alive, make it sound natural, realistic and convey a sense of what is being discussed, anger, action, fright or any emotion. Why not invent your own and make it part of the backstory? It’s your world.

In the end, as long as nobody is actually speaking, all you have to do is keep it readable.

Until next time.

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16 Responses

  1. Lené Pieters

    I’m still bitter about my high school teacher who emptied her red pen on a composition I wrote, correcting every single bit of grammar inside the quotation marks. The dialogue revolved around a few cartoon animals who used a lot of slang and a particular dialect of Afrikaans. Language snobbery is unwelcoming and it put me off of writing in Afrikaans forevermore. Thankfully, I discovered Sir Terry Pratchett’s witty writing, which shaped my love of wordsmithing in English. Now I appreciate a well-placed bit of grammar showing up like a cat hair on a tuxedo, adding subtle nuances to the narrative while taking the Mickey out of the sanctimonious language snobs.

    • Richard Dee

      I LOVE the cat hair analogy, good grammar is the icing on the cake of a well-constructed story.

  2. Daryl Devore

    Perfectly said – In the end, as long as nobody is actually speaking, all you have to do is keep it readable.

    • Richard Dee

      It works for me. I do my best and leave everything else to my wonderful editor.

  3. Stevie Turner

    I only have ‘O’ Level English, but would have liked to study for a degree. I just have a basic working knowledge, but am glad that if I start a sentence with ‘And’ or ‘But’ in a conversation, then it’s okay, lol.

    • Richard Dee

      Starting from now, it all seems so complicated, with so much I’ve done wrong to unlearn. I just do my best.

    • Richard Dee

      Very true. Knowing it has to be right to stand any chance of success concentrates the mind too!!!!!

  4. Leon Stevens

    There is bad grammar and there is natural sounding grammar. I think (I hope?) readers can tell the difference.

    • Richard Dee

      Nothing spoils the moment more than a grammatical error. I can’t unsee them.

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks. As I’m unencumbered by rules that I never learnt, it just seems to be the way to go.

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