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.
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.
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.
I knew it!
Such a waste of time… 😉