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Good Grammar Every Day

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March 4th is National Grammar Day. Every year on this day word-nerds and writers honor Grammar. Without grammar guidelines, our writing would sink our business or our manuscript. Grammar used to be taught in school starting in first grade. There used to be grammar workbooks that students labored through. Until the late 1980’s sentences were diagrammed to illustrate the correct use and placement of words in a sentence. Unfortunately the workbooks and large diagrams fell out of favor when reading specialists and English teachers decided that students would learn good grammar by osmosis. Grammar was also taught by memorizing those idiomatic words that change form when put in the past tense. For example: drive, drove, driven. Classrooms would chant the words until they became a part of the spoken and written sentence. Those were the days when others paid attention to the proper use of grammar. Back then, if you knew the correct word to use and heard something else, you would cringe and have to restrain yourself from correcting the person on the spot.

Today fewer people cringe when a sports announcer or a talk show host or a public official misuses the language. We hear such nerve-shattering things as

“If I had went to…”

“I seen what happened.”

“She should of been there.”

“If I was rich…”

“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” (song title)

A writer has to know the rules – all the rules. No excuses unless she is writing dialect or slang (which is often hard to read). A writer who is dedicated to the craft will take the time to learn the rules. If she breaks the rules to be “creative or artistic” she should be able to justify it.

With the onslaught of self-published books and e-books, readers and editors have commented that the overall quality of the writing has decreased. Content, style, poor grammar, spelling, punctuation, typos are all complaints. What can I say about content and style? But there is no excuse for errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation. Such mistakes jump out at the reader, making him pause and shake his head in dismay.

A writer who turns over his manuscript to an editor/proofreader expecting the professional to correct a myriad of grammatical errors will be disappointed. If the editor has to devote most of the time to correct simple mistakes, attention will not be given to other manuscript issues and/or the cost of editing will increase.

There are several reference books that all writers should have at their fingertips: The Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition), and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

 If you have mastered good grammar, you will gain respect, credibility and authority among your peers and readers. The literary world doesn’t need another hack throwing words together and putting the book on the internet.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Marsha Ross says:

    If you are writing a resume, grammar is critical!

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