‘Tis the Season to Visit Grammar

Back on February 17, 2016 I wrote a blog on  The Craft of Writing Narrative/. At that time I mentioned some sources a writer might visit to review the rules of grammar. My favorite sources, then and now, are Shrunk & White’s Elements of Style and Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves, but I also often check the back pages of Webster’s Dictionary.

In that blog, I also mentioned the Grammarly Blog . Recently I was contacted by the manager of that blog. It seems they’ve come up with a “Cheat Sheet.” Grammar Cheatsheet

I took a look, and it’s a site that definitely would be handy for writers, so I wanted to mention it here.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but even after all of these years of writing, I still have trouble deciding if I should use effect or affect, and I have no idea if or when I should use fewer or less.

As I said in the original blog about narrative, when dealing with dialogue, accurate grammar isn’t as important. The dialogue should reflect the speaker—the character’s education, class, occupation, and unique speech qualities. Don’t overdo accents or dialect, but include enough to indicate that how the character speaks.

On the other hand, dialogue tags and straight narrative should be written using proper grammar and spelling. Errors (or usage different from the accepted norm) can turn a reader off from a story. I’ve been lucky, Over the years, I’ve had great editors who have caught any errors I’ve made, and word processing programs usually alert me if something isn’t quite right. (Not that I always agree with Word’s assessment.)

Writers need to be aware of proper grammar and spelling in all forms of communication. A letter to an agent or editor with errors in spelling or improper grammar can indicate a lack of understanding of the basic rules . . .or a sloppiness in writing.

For me, spelling and grammar are important even in email posts. Recently I was following a discussion about self-publishing. One woman was talking about a book she’d recently self-published. There were two spelling errors (basic ones, such as using the wrong spelling for the word there) in her short message. She was trying to entice us to order copies of her new book, but from her email post, I decided I wasn’t about to order one. If she was making errors in her general writing, what would I find in a book?

So take the time to reread your email posts (my fingers and brain don’t always communicate with each other correctly, so my rereads general catch errors), and make sure, in any “official” communications you send off, that you’ve used good grammar and spelling. If you’re not sure . . . check the grammar cheat sheet.

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6 Responses to ‘Tis the Season to Visit Grammar

  1. A few years ago, as I was writing, Grammarly contacted me and my life changed. They are like friends helping this writer with the right words. Very cool and they would love for me to sign up. Not for me as I bumble around and change what should be as far as I can see. Thanks for another lesson from your pen.

  2. As a former English teacher, I know how important grammar is to good writing. I also appreciate the books you mentioned.

    • Maris Soule says:

      English teachers simply shook their heads at me, Jacqueline. I have a tendency to make up words and my spelling was/is terrible. I always have to be careful and even then some errors slip through.

  3. Terry says:

    Grammarly approached me once, and I ran a chapter of my then current WIP through their checker. It came back with 21 “errors” but all of them were “wrong” so I gave them a pass. It took longer to look at each flagged word or passage and determine I was right and they were wrong than it would have for me to do my own editing.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Terry, I certainly wouldn’t use their checker (Word’s checker irritates me half the time), but I do like the idea of the “Cheat Sheet” for reminders of those words I’m not 100% clear about.