Grammar is Important
I’m preaching to myself here.
We all like to read things that are grammatically correct. Sure, sometimes it’s cool to read dialogue in colloquial english — but it is most annoying to read things that have words missing, or words with unnecessary suffixes, or commas where it should be smooth sailing.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying that it’s the content that counts, but that’s not altogether helpful. Content certainly counts (indeed it’s the reason we write!), but it’s not much use having potentially good content which your reader can’t focus on because he’s too put out by your errors. I can get annoyed when I find petty errors in other people’s work, but I myself am among the worst offenders. Sometimes I pick at people who don’t capitalise the “i”s, or who abbreviate where I deem it inappropriate (btw, thnx — I’m pretty proud of myself, I actually understand what some of those things mean now). I say “at least I don’t do that” — but I am worse: people who abbreviate have no problem with abbreviations; I dislike bad grammar, yet I’m a consistent offender.
Every time I finish writing an essay or blog-post, I go through it to get rid of mistakes (I’m even starting to quickly read over emails before I send them so I don’t embarrass myself too much). But they always stay there, and I notice them after I release the final draft.
Why is this? Often I’m running behind and I’m in a hurry to get my writing out. I scan it too quickly and miss stuff I should pick up on. In this case, too, I might be editing immediately after I write; I’m tired and my eyes are glazed from staring at the screen. I start to read not what is written, but what I remember myself wanting to write. The next day, when I glance at the printed draft, the sneaky mistakes glare back at me defiantly.
Altogether, I suppose, I don’t like editing. It is a necessary part of writing, but not one I take pleasure from. I treat it in a “quick-and-get-rid-of-it” manner. You’re never going to excel at anything done in this way. I have written five or six novels, and only one have I tidied up to a mildly presentable degree. I like to write novels; I don’t like to re-write novels – or edit them. Bad news if I ever want to get something published.
A book on this subject that I enjoyed — getting my writing to a state where, if it were someone else’s, I’d want to read it — is Eats, Shoots and Leaves. That book temporarily raised my grammatical standards: perhaps I should read it again. And it happens to be one of those rare books on grammar that doesn’t actually bore you to death, which kind of helps…
As I have continually tried to make clear: I am not a role-model in this area. So now all you readers (not that there are many of you) can (only if you feel like it, of course) have a competition. The aim: find the most mistakes in this post. Since I didn’t write an outline for this post (it just followed my chain of thought — which is why I haven’t said anything profound in the slightest) you’ll probably find many lapses in logic too — but it is harder to say definitively what a lapse in logic is, so stick with competing over the mistakes. I expect the list will be rather long…