Sunday, July 4, 2010

What about grammar in your writing?

Spook Rock is an actual place in Claverack Creek, Hudson, NY. We as kids used to swim there.

Everyone wants to read something that looks to be written by someone who’s fairly educated. You don’t have to be a scholar to write books, but it does help to know the ins and outs of writing correctly and effectively.

Grammar comes into play when writing ‘descriptive data.’ Here you convey your thoughts to the reader by ‘showing’ them what they’re looking at. By giving them what I like to call a ‘minds eye view’ of what you’re describing. That’s when your writing has to be in top-notch shape. This is the author’s words and not just some character who is dumber than a box of rocks made up by the author. This is also where point of view comes into play.

Point of view becomes important in grammar because of who’s telling the story. In first person, using the subjective personal pronoun ‘I‘in telling the story, could mean that a character is either well educated or simply street smart. This is where ‘ain’t got none,’ is perfectly acceptable in writing either dialogue or any other way the character may speak. The same goes for writing in second person point of view. In third person, the author can get into every character’s mind and relay his/her thoughts to the reader. However, in third person, most of the intelligence of the character is shown during dialogue. Here, once again, you can throw grammar to the wind, but only according to your character’s intelligence. That’s not so with descriptive data. Once again, these are the author’s descriptions and thoughts, and must be written properly.

In dialogue there are certain rules set aside for what can and can’t be written. You can write dialogue for a character that was brought up in the hood and speaks with little regard to political correctness or grammar in general. Yet, that same character would look all too phony if he/she spoke as though they just graduated from Yale. Every character must also be consistent in their vocabulary. I’ve seen a lot of books where the author uses a lot of contractions, but switches to the full two words (aren’t or are not), way too much in his/her dialogue.

A perfect example would be a novel about a very old vampire who is somehow brought back to life in this century. A four hundred year old vampire would be more prone to speaking in an old tongue rather than using present day contractions.

“I don’t have the means to walk in the daylight. However, it doesn’t matter that you don’t understand everything about me.”

This just doesn’t have the true ring of a vampire more than four hundred years old.

“I do not have the means to walk in the daylight. However, it does not matter that you do not understand everything about me.”

Now that’s more like it. However:

“I do not have the means to walk in the daylight. However, it doesn’t matter that you do not understand everything about me.”

This is an inconsistency involving the use of contractions. It just doesn’t look right. This is where self editing really comes in handy. We type fast at times, and these inconsistencies can be easily overlooked. I don’t know if it’s wrong or right, but I just don’t like the switching back and forth thing.

Grammar is an important tool when learning to read and write. When children are very young we tend to use what is called ‘baby talk’ on them. I’ve known a few parents to frown on this type of thing. We as parents and teachers are a lot like computers. We are the motherboards, and our children are the floppy discs. What we put on those discs, in the minds of our children, is very important. One day they will become the motherboards, and, they too, will copy what they learned from us to their own floppy disc children. And, so, life simply goes on.

One of the best ways to learn to write well is to ‘read.’ It doesn’t matter if it’s Harry Potter or Salem’s Lot. What matters is reading and remembering. Learning how sentences are structured by all these different authors. One can say that ‘this person or that person is a terrible writer.’ Well, if they were published by a major publishing company, then they must have done something right.

I’m not the greatest of writers. But, he/she who reads my words here will be able to get the gist of what I’m trying to say here. They can put it in their own words . . . as long as they get the point of it all.

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