I like to write mysteries because I like to read mystery stories. It all began with the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene when I was a pre-teen in the 1950s. I have four published novels, poetry and short stories.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
The Rules of Grammar by Mary Deal
The rules of grammar are to, first, benefit a reader.
Grammar is standard format to which good writers will adhere. Secondly, it provides all writers a standard to follow that makes the written word fluent. Proper grammar is the backbone of all written prose, regardless some be written in colloquialisms, laced with foreign words, slang, or any other variation.
See it this way–
An avid reader picks up a book written according to the rules of grammar. They read through the book quickly and immensely enjoy the story because nothing impedes their reading experience.
Yet another well-read reader opens a book only to find grammar flaws such as poor format, incorrect sentence structure, irregular or incorrect speaker tags and beats, and other jarring errors. It’s difficult for this reader to enjoy the book because the author did not follow the rules of correct grammar that make for a smooth read and which is constant in all good books.
Poor grammar and composition in an otherwise great story deflates the reader’s enthusiasm. The reader may think twice about having to pick their way through a plethora of errors in any new book by that author. Some will not complete the read of the present book.
Our school system requires all graduates to have studied English grammar. I’ve found that many have forgotten what they learned. Too, it’s erroneous to believe that because we studied grammar in school that we know how to write.
Truth is, few remember.
Another truth is that most writers have never been told how to write a story of greater length. Writing a story or book length manuscript is different in the real world than composing high school or college papers.
A short cut to learning proper grammar is as I always recommend: Get your hands on a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style and a thesaurus. Any time you have difficulty, for example, composing a sentence or deciding whether to use a colon or semi-colon, or need a more descriptive verb, refer to these thorough and concise research aids.
Don’t ask a friend to help you sort out grammar inconsistencies. Friends may not be able to solve your problems and then leave you to make an arbitrary decision.
You can post your questions on a website. Others will reply with a variety of answers, but whom do you believe? If you’re sure the friend you ask is a professional with grammar, then go ahead and trust their response if they seem certain.
An inexperienced writer having to relearn grammar all the while writing a book will surely destroy a friendship if that writer constantly expects the friend to advise them all along the way.
At some early point, every writer must take responsibility for learning how to make their stories as perfect as possible.
Two other references I always recommend – I could recommend many but will skim the best off the top of the list here – are:
Writing with Clarity and Style by Robert A. Harris
Complete Stylist and Handbook by Sheridan Baker
Should you feel you are knowledgeable enough to write your opus but you encounter problems along the way, then to the list above, I would suggest you freely refer to my book, Write it Right – Tips for Authors,The Big Book.
Particular information found here is meant for writers who progress nicely, but find problems that should be smoothed out in order to compose fluid prose.
Maintaining a library of reference books to guide you is best. Many books offer bits of information about this and that, but no one book will solve all of your problems.
Those able to write stunning prose based on her or his current knowledge or ability may not need a lot of books. Any questions they have can be researched in reference books or writing reference sites on the Net.
Any early uncertainties about writing abilities overall could be solved with a course or two in writing to give some sort of foundation or base from which to begin.