Kira Brady

May 16
Grammar: You’re doin’ it wrong, and the Art of Language

When I first started writing and had my first critique, I just about drowned in the load of crap advice aspiring authors are given.

Thou shalt not use adverbs!

Thou shalt not end a sentence in a preposition!

Thou shalt not use prologs!

Thou shalt not have your heroine and hero meet more than seven pages from the beginning!

Thou shalt use ONE point-of-view per scene!

Thou shalt not use the omniscient voice!

Meh. The list goes on. Check out author/former agent Nathan Bransford’s blog for more good ones. The advice, while well-meaning, debilitated my writing. I didn’t trust myself any more. My internal editor was so loud with “You’re doin’ it wrong” that I looked at the blank page and choked. It took me a couple years to get my confidence back. (That internal editor hasn’t shut up yet, but I’ve learned to tune her out sometimes.)

Perhaps this is why I like this article on language pet-peeves so much. A lot of those “rules” passed around are bogus, especially that one about not ending your sentences with a preposition. (Oh, the grey hairs that caused me!) That’s not to say that there aren’t grammatical rules you should know and use, (Please, facebook friends, learn the difference between your and you’re, and their, they’re, and there!), but not all of them are set in stone. Greene is spot on when he writes, “But people confuse ‘grammatical’ and ‘good.’ ‘Correct’ English is often plodding or incompetent.”

That hasn’t stopped me from correcting other people, mind you, and correcting them incorrectly. Recently I told Mr. Kira that “proverbially” only meant “from a proverb” and he couldn’t use it to mean something in common usage. I was wrong. It means both. Mea Culpa.

The more I learn about language, the more I learn I don’t know. It’s a lot like life in that regard. Good thing writing is an art, not an exact science. I need to remember Greene’s parting admonishment, “don’t let your love for good English mean disdain for people who don’t use it exactly as you do.”

So write on, mes amies. Revel in your art. Be free to boldly go where no writer has gone before. Write well and prosper.


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