Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Adventures in Writing
I write a lot about writing, but I rarely write about the skills involved in the writing process. How something is written is as important as what is said. Making the message clear is paramount. This in mind, I decided to write a short series of posts on grammar.
I suppose some would call me old fashioned. I like to hear people express themselves appropriately. I grew up in a household where my sentences were corrected as I spoke. Sometimes, I couldn't even complete a sentence, because of the corrections. I did the same to my children. Not saying that it's the best approach, but I learned early how to speak properly. I also learned how to write.
My father was an English professor. My mother was a teacher. I didn't have a snowball's chance of growing up without a working knowledge of English. As my father told me once, “You may not know the names for what's wrong, but you recognize the error and know how to fix it.” Then he handed me a manuscript, written by a college professor, that he was editing for publication. Pressing a blue editor's pencil in my hand, he told me to have at it. And I did.
We rewrote 95% of that book because it was so poorly written, it was indecipherable. That was my maiden voyage into the world of editing. I like to hope I did well.
After this trial by fire in editing, I knew the world of writing was my chosen course. I deviated somewhat, choosing theatre as a major, but after that, I went into English and became a teacher. From there, the natural progression was into writing. I've never regretted it. I love writing.
What I don't like is the blatant disregard for the written, and spoken, word. No one cares how they express themselves. It doesn't worry them that they sound stupid or ignorant. Calling something art does not allow the writer to ignore grammatical conventions. It's fine once in awhile. Many authors break the rules from time to time. However, breaking a rule with full knowledge of the inaccuracy is completely different from breaking it because you're too ignorant to know better.
If you want to write, learn how. Don't expect your “talent” to carry you, because it won't. There are a lot of wonderful stories out there that are so poorly written, no one will ever read them. People who read books know the difference between a grammatical sentence and garbage. Don't insult them and embarrass yourself by writing badly.
Not sure if something is correct? Ask someone. Show it to a teacher, another writer, a journalist—anyone who puts words on paper can be helpful. If you don't know any of the above, do you know a minister, rabbi or priest? They, too, make their living with words. Their venue is the spoken word, but there are still conventions of grammar and language that carry over.
Visit your local library and see if they have any writing groups you can join. Most of these are free, with volunteers teaching them. If they don't have one, start your own. You don't have to be an expert. You can invite others to join. Together, you can explore the amazing adventure of writing.
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