Grammar Nazi

Cover of "Rules for Writers"
Cover of Rules for Writers - I am not advocating that you read this book!

We’ve all encountered one at some point or another.  Someone who, well-meaning though annoyingly, points out that you dangled a preposition, ran your sentences together, or failed to create one at all.  They might even tell you to sit up straight (go on, sit up straight), and tuck that errant shirt label back where it belongs; flat against your back.

Pluuueezze. 🙄

Who am I kidding.  Hell, I’m one of those people.

Let me explain.  English is my second language.  Though I was born and raised here in the United States of America (thank goodness; mind you, nothing wrong with being born somewhere else, I’m just glad I’m here), my father is from Mexico and my mother is from a part of Texas where the primary language is still Spanish (left over from the days when it was Spanish territory).  So, the first words out of my mouth were not Mama and Papa, but Amá and Papí.

I spent years in speech therapy (because that’s what schools did back then) to get rid of my accent, and though I was in all the smart people classes for science and math, I took a lot of remedial English courses.  But I always thought I knew what I was doing and should have been with all the native English speakers.

Anyway, that all made me jumpy about grammar.  It was easier to just not write.  Since I pursued a science degree in college, no worries.  I could forget all about writing coherently, because everything I’ll ever write is going to be bullet points and equations.

That worked.  For the most part.  Actually, quite well for quite some time.  I’m sure I could still be blissfully unaware at how poorly I write, and be successful at what I do despite that fact, if I hadn’t gotten the bug to write fiction.  (sigh)

So, three years ago, I realized my grammar was atrocious and took a few online courses to brush up on the sticky, gooey stuff.

Eek.

Gerunds?  What the hell are those?  Interrogative pronouns?  First, second, third conditional?  Ellipsis?  Ah, yes, ellipses…

Immediately after taking those courses, I went on a rampage, pointing out all the glaring grammar mistakes I found in my fellow writer’s works.  Perfectly oblivious to my own, of course.

What. An. Ass.

I couldn’t stand myself and I’m sure no one else could either.  Though I do appreciate folks pointing out my grammar mistakes – no, I DEMAND they point them out to me (but not now) – and I know there are writers out there that want me to do the same, it really all boils down to much-ado about nothing, no?

Language moves and changes all the time.  Even more so as the world grows smaller and smaller as each day goes by, and cross-communication increases between all the inhabitants of the world that collectively speak over 7000 languages.  We borrow words and ideas from each other faster than a crow can pluck your eye out, leaving you at a loss for words (don’t ask where that came from).

So…what does that mean?  As a soon to be self-published author, do I abandon my efforts to correct my shoddy grammar and trust that my reader (note the singularity) will ‘get it’, or do I hire an editor?

Let’s see what the Writer’s Digest article titled 25 Ways to Improve Your Writing in 30 Minutes a Day has to say about it:

8. Sentence Structure
Well. I don’t know that any writer in the 21st century worries about subjects and predicates. Or believes that one shouldn’t begin a sentence with and or but or or. Or thinks contractions are slang. So I don’t have much to say on this matter.

But this is important.

Generally, I don’t like rules for writers. The First Amendment doesn’t, either. But the English language is democracy in action. It responds to its users. If it didn’t, we’d still be saying “prithee” and calling taxis “hacks.” Hence, my 30-minute recommendation is to sit down and write whatever moves you, following only one rule:
Don’t bore anybody.
—Spikol

I knew it!

Such a waste of time… 😉

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13 thoughts on “Grammar Nazi

    1. Oh, dear. I would go check him out, and I have, in the past, but…well…talking about Nazis…

      This is weird and I probably shouldn’t put this on my blog, but since it’s in the comment section – no one will ever see it but you and I.

      I am a bit of a Nazi about door-to-door bible thumpers, too.

      I once entered some mini contest he was doing on another one of his sites (he was working in conjunction with another author, can’t remember which one), and won along with another entrant. But then, for some reason, he/they pulled my entry without even saying “Boo”. I believe it had something to do with the fact that I’m an atheist.

      Either that, or I insulted them somehow. (shrugs)

      Anyway, they blocked my email, removed my name from the announcement post, and deleted my entry from the comment section. Basically, they just wanted me to go away.

      So I did.

  1. Yeah, honestly, I only care about whether it’s a coherent story that people understand and react to. The particulars of grammar are up to the copyeditor, though I do my best to stay within the lines about 95% of the time.

    The thing about fiction is that there are no real rules to it. If you write something and people like it, you’ve succeeded. Whether you’re Snooki or Faulkner, anyone can publish a book. As I heard and am fond of repeating lately, “Getting published is easy, getting paid for it is the hard part.”

    1. Oh my, if getting published is easy…I might as well quit right now. 😉

      You’re right, though. As long as it is understandable, I suppose I’ll have to leave it up to someone else to catch the minor (hopefully minor) errors.

  2. Getting published now is easier than its ever been, frankly. Anybody with a willingness to do their own MS formatting and cover design to PDF can setup Createspace and get to printing for little to no money. It’s all the extra services they try to upsell you on where they make their money, and people too lazy (or inept) will always pay for stuff like that.

    That’s why getting published is a milestone, but it’s not an automatic signal of success. When people like your story, that’s success.

    1. Yeah, I was thinking about CreateSpace, but my husband convinced me to try sending queries to a few small publishers. I agree with you that success is whether your story is liked or whether the message one is trying to convey is delivered, but getting this beast published (either through a publisher or self-published) is a milestone I intend to celebrate. 😀

  3. As well you should. I celebrated when I self-published, but I also celebrated when I got my advance check from Trapdoor. Frankly, I don’t believe that you can celebrate TOO much.

    By the way, you already have at least one person who enjoyed your story 🙂 Success!

    1. Well, that sounds like a damn good reason to celebrate – tonight! I’ll dance with my copy of the Ninth Avatar when I get home, and I’ll try not to spill any beer on it. 😉

  4. Here’s been my experience, Nila. With most writers, if I copyedit the first 25-50 pages of their manuscript they will see for themselves the quirks, oddities and misadventures in grammar. I show them a few tricks about tracking details and continuity. They can then take what I’ve done and apply it to the rest of the manuscript. Voila! They can copyedit themselves.

    Getting too caught up in the minutia of grammar rules can hinder the writer. Make clarity your goal, not correctness. If you achieve clarity, most likely the grammar will be correct.

    1. That’s exactly what I was thinking I would do. I had a couple of editors I was gonna call and see if they would be interested in doing something like that. But, you’re right – at the moment, I need to clarify points in the story which is what I’m doing with the re-write. Should be ready soon, in a month or so. 🙂

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