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…

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About Leinad

Leinad, also known as Keras the Unknown (Keras for short), also known as Thevarul, is an MK who likes to run, read, write and play board-games.

Posted on June 28, 2012, in My Opinion, My Thoughts, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’ll take you up partially on your offer– below is one thing I found just be skimming through it again. But this wasn’t a bad post– I agree completely. (And just so you know, I never outline posts. What’s the point?) I, too, am a hypocritical grammar Nazi. You sounded so much like me in this post, saying that you hate abbreviations and often don’t understand them (definitely me), like it when grammar rules are present– though don’t often present them correctly yourself (also me). You and I will get there. Eventually.
    Now, the only mistake I saw, quickly running through this:
    “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.”
    Personally, I would say this:
    “I say, ‘at least I don’t do that’, but I am worse; I dislike bad grammar, yet I’m a consistent offender.” That part in the middle is a little bit out of place and useless, and the semicolon and colon and dash are misused. You might consider putting that in two or three different sentences:
    “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.” That insert in the middle about abbreviations is out of place, I should think.
    But. I know very few grammar rules, and shouldn’t be too critical. Your writing is great.

  2. Thanks for pointing those things out. I won’t change them though, just in case somebody else reads the post. I’m pretty pleased that’s the only thing you noticed though, even if it was just a skim-over: I get the impression I often make a lot of blindingly obvious mistakes (well blindingly obvious to everyone else).

    For most things over about 500 words I write an outline, otherwise I forget half the things I mean to say and I keep going off-topic. But outlines can make things sound kind of scripted and essay-like — and they take time too. So I can’t say I’m surprised you don’t outline your posts, especially since you write one every day.

    Another thing that I think I have worked out recently is what people mean when they put words in asterisks. *yawns, shuts the computer, and goes to bed without bothering to check anything else*

    • I don’t actually write a post a day. I stock up on posts on days when I have a ton of time, then post them over the next few days. For instance, I’ve got at least four posts as drafts, any one of which could be sent out right about now. I haven’t written a post since Tuesday.

      Yes, indeed. Asterisks can be used as a form of italicization, such as “that was a *mean* gopher”. Other people actually know the HTML code. But yes, the third person present-tense asterisk use is common as well. *shrugs* It’s useful.

  3. Hmm, stockpiling posts is a good idea. Not that I need to, since I only post about 2 or 3 times a week, but if I did post more often I would probably do that.

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