Annie On Writing

July 18, 2011

A gripe with grammar

Filed under: Articles From write anything,My Journey as a Writer — Annie Evett @ 12:01 am
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Abuela - Grandmother
A Gripe with Grandma? hummm wrong one.

This post first appeared over at Write Anything.

Active and passive voice, direct and indirect objects, prepositional phrases, compound and complex sentences……. urrggghh!!!!  Whilst I understand that grammar is more than spelling works correctly and placing them in appropriate spots within sentence , it makes me wonder if anyone truly enjoys grammar? Why does it have to be so darn confusing and hard? Isn’t it enough to get a story ‘down’ and for it to have believable or identifiable characters without having to be concerned about all of this?

Along my journey as a writer I’ve bumbled along with scant knowledge of the rules of grammar. This is a bit of a dark secret between you and I as despite graduating as a teacher with English as my minor, I ‘got through’ my education on raw talent, derived from functional language rather than a formal or textbook style of learning.

I spent my formative years in an education system which promoted functional language structure. (that is to say, spelling and grammar came second to the way in which the language flowed. So long as others could understand the concepts, the structure was ‘unimportant’) Whilst I understand that this style of learning was in reaction to the lowering standards of literacy and to allow literacy to be more accessible; there is now a generation of people whose grasp on the basics of grammar is at best, low.

Just for fun, consider these common grammatical mistakes

“If I would have known about the party, I would have gone to it.”

Certainly something that many people would say aloud. When written, a large percentage know there is something wrong with it – but perhaps might not now what – or how to fix it. The issue here is past principals.

The correct form for this sentence would be

“ If I had known about the party I would have gone.”

Bring verses Take

“When we go to the party, lets bring a bottle of wine.”

The issue with this is the movement of the verb. When viewing the movement of something from the point of arrival – it is correct to use the word bring.

“When you come to the party, please bring a bottle of wine.”

If viewing the movement of something from the point of departure, it is correct to use “take”

“When we go to the party , lets take a bottle of wine.”

With the editing process of anthologies and half written novels along with inevitable rewriting of long tracks of work ahead of me this year, the realisation that I need to go back to basics with grammar makes me want to whimper in the corner. However, I am made of tougher stuff, and will arm myself with the Grammar Girls wisdom.

Many people associate grammar with errors, correctness and following a set of unbending rules. One thing I have learnt along my way is that relearning grammatical terms down’t make one a better writer, but it does deepen your understanding on how words are arranged to create better sentences. With this knowledge, I believe, I will be able to become a more versatile and confident writer.

Do you have a pet peeve with grammar?

Do you let grammar stand in the way of a good story?

Image by Seryo via Flickr

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2 Comments »

  1. “it makes me wonder if anyone truly enjoys grammar?” – guilty as charged! I was taught hardly any English grammar at school, picking up the basics – ironically – from learning foreign languages. In the end I had to know more, so I taught myself, and found myself enjoying it. I have so many peeves that I could rival your blog for length, so I won’t go into them here.

    My mantra is: grammar is something that nobody notices when it’s done properly, but everyone notices when it’s wrong; so it’s worth the effort to get it as correct as you can. You don’t have to know every little detail – I keep the Oxford Little Dictionary of English Grammer handy for when I hit a problem. The joy of it is that the more you look up, the more you’ll know in the future, and so your knowledge grows as you work. Good luck with the editing and rewriting!

    Like

    Comment by Winn Smith — July 18, 2011 @ 12:54 am | Reply

  2. Yes, Annie, I do have a pet peeve with grammar, and it’s something I’ve seen creeping into a variety of novels I’ve read recently; for the sake of full disclosure, all these particular novels are offerings from major publishing houses. My pet peeve is the use (wrongly) of the word “span” in place of the word “spun” to indicate what, for example, a car tyre might do when the vehicle is stuck in the mud and the engine over-revved in an attempt to extricate it. Unless I am very much mistaken, “span” means ‘…to cover of extend over an area or period of time, the distance between two points, or the complete duration of something,’ not ‘…to revolve quickly and repeatedly around one’s own axis.’ Apologies, rant over!

    Like

    Comment by Sam Adamsonm Adamson — July 18, 2011 @ 9:12 pm | Reply


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