Are you a slave to grammar?

August 15, 2018

I was reading an article by Joanna Penn about grammar and she showed that sometimes the rules that were so black and white when we were young about grammar aren't so black and white anymore. Or more importantly shouldn't be black and white. Grammar can change the meaning of something. Eat, Shoots and leaves talks about how the Bible didn't have any commas and so the newer versions have to decide where to put commas and it can change the meaning making many people very nervous or feel powerful. As a writer we shouldn't leave grammar to the rules of an editor but used as an artful tool.

 

I have a very odd relationship with commas. I don't like them but I do understand they can help so I'm very reluctant to use them in my writing. This is true of many people in New Zealand - Now. It wasn't always that way. I'm studying, an editing and proofreading course, but it has us proofreading older kiwi authors. I cringe at a sentence with four commas and five or six lines. If a student did that in my class I would have written in the margins - Run-on sentence, rewrite. And yet there is nothing grammatically incorrect. They did it for style. Which leads me to grammar and the importance it has to style.

 

I really get annoyed with people saying they like my book even though it could do with some work on the commas. I want to jump up and yell, "I don't want more commas. Did it stop you from understanding to have so few?" Would you go to an artist and say, "I love the painting but maybe if you had used a little more white highlights here and here." My mom's an artist so I sometimes will go, mmm perspective is off here or this is a little muddy. But I'm also thinking, that it was the artist's choice and I can either like it or not.

 

To say to an author I don't like the style of grammar is the same as telling an artist that you didn't like the way they paint.

 

But what if there really is a mistake? I hear you say. I read a book by a trad published author that had no capital letters for a whole chapter. Yip I would tell them about that. Clearly it is a mistake and not a style choice. But there are authors who have decided that punctuation is a choice. Seriously you can check them out here. So instead of being scared of people saying you got it wrong, go and forge your own style. What do you want your story to feel like and how can grammar help with that. Do not be a slave to rules.

 

 

 

 

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