Saturday, April 17, 2010

On The Subject of Grammar

I have to say, I get very frustrated (and I say this lightly) about writers, (and agents and editors) that don't value grammar. There seems to be a belief that if we can craft a great story, it really doesn't matter on the grammar.

In my humble opinion, this is a bunch of garbage.

Sure editors have copy editors dealing with the technical side of things, but I am sorry, there needs to be a heavy focus, early on in the submission process with the grammar. Agents who only deal with the content and worry about the surface level of the grammar need to focus on this just as much as the copy editors. Now, as for the writers, this is a must.

Writing professionally involves much more than simply telling a good story. If this is all that you want to do, then take up the profession of storytelling and go back to the oral tradition. If you want to write, then it is an imperative to know your grammar and to be able to use it effectively and properly.

When I read a submission, I look at the usage of grammar and punctuation carefully. This tells me a great deal about the ability of the writer to produce a well crafted project. Sure, dialogue may have run-ons and fragments, but the narration, the scene building should not have any of that.

I think of the line (and I often use it here) of the Hallmark commercial - "When you care enough to send the very best." This is what we are dealing with when it comes to grammar and writing.

Now, if you are someone that wants to place the blame on other people such as:
  • I have been out of school for a long time.
  • My English teacher didn't teach me #^%$$$!
  • My spell checker and grammar checker is busted.
  • This is just not my thing.

I strongly suggest you fix the problem! Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Now do something about it.

I do want to say, that I don't want people to think that having any mistake is a problem. Things do slip through the cracks and that is why we have copy editors. They will catch those small mistakes. But for those of you that blow the system off saying it doesn't matter - I shake my head at you.

Please people. For the sake of the English language, learn that grammar. If you have no idea how to do that, invite me to your writing group. I'll take a full day (or more if necessary) and help you all out! Tell your conference coordinators to "get of the stick" and help you out on this one.


(Sorry but the English teacher in me is coming out).


  1. But, but, unfortunately, only a few of us care about this issue at all. America has always distrusted the educated. Think George Bush and his grotesque use of our beautiful language. A product of one of the top schools in the country? People loved that about him.
    This issue really took off with the "lits," chick and mom and otherwise. If adults will spend their money to read authors who speak like toddlers, then you know, like, I mean, like, who cares? 'cause none of us are actually sure of what we are trying to say, just like any small child new to the world, we are all hesitant and confused and uncertain of whether or not we actually KNOW anything, so anyone listening has permission to try and figure out on their own, what WE are,like, I mean, you know, attempting to convey. I think.
    I remain permanently fascinated by the determination of American adults to present themselves to the rest of the world as small children.
    How can anyone respect an adult who speaks in such a confused and uncertain way? And to pay for that!
    And that is my rant for the day.
    It does make things so much easier for writers. Would it be possible to set the bar any lower?

  2. An important lesson to us all. I agree with you Scott.