Thursday, December 18, 2014

Grammar Schmammar

Grammar Errors

"Nooo! They didn't use the correct verb tense!"
Many hate them and won't even read a book if it has them in it, and if they do go ahead and read it, they make sure to point out the errors in their review, which usually has a star or two, maybe more, knocked off the rating to reflect their utter dislike for them, even if the story-line was great. They may also throw in a snide comment to belittle the author, implying that the author is an idiot, since they obviously don't know the proper pronoun and verb tenses to use. However, what if grammar errors are needed to make the story real

A book that takes place in California is going to read differently than one that takes place in Tennessee. You're rarely going to hear a southerner (and I mean backwoods, Tennessee hills southerner) say something like, "How dare he." Instead, you will usually hear the incorrect pronoun, him. (Trust me... I know.) I've actually been in other states and talked with total strangers who knew I was from Tennessee just from the way I spoke—my accent, as they call it. So, if someone writes a book that takes place in Tennessee, or any other state where their dialect or accent is prevalent, why should they change that just to conform to what society says is correct? In my opinion, they shouldn't, which is why I don't.

I make no apologies for my writing style, and neither should any other writer. If a reader picks up a book that takes place in the south, they should expect the voice in their head to also sound southern as they read, which will include some intentional grammar misuses. Why make a country girl sound like she's from the mid-west just to please the grammar patrol? Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about spelling errors or punctuation errors, such as they're, their, and there being used incorrectly. I'm also not talking about something that is cluttered with so many mistakes it's hard to follow. I'm talking about a character's voice, as imperfect as it may be. 

What prompted me to write this blog post was an actual comment on an article (not even a book review) that was in no way related to grammar or me. As I read the article, I saw no mistakes and thought it was rather informative. THEN I go to the comments at the end and... oh, my word! I don't see how the woman who left this comment was even able to reach her computer to write it from the high horse she was perched on! She was nothing but rude and condescending, and her comment was a complete waste of her time, especially when this writer hadn't actually submitted it to her for her approval or grammar and editing expertise. Here is her comment:
"I am appalled at the writing and lack of editing in this article! It is replete with grammar and punctuation errors. I had our homeschooling children look it over, and they got a kick out of the fact that their knowledge of grammar seems to eclipse that of an actual writer. For starters, please learn how properly to conjugate the verb “to be”. (Notice there how I didn’t split the infinitive, which you do once in your article.) You managed to conjugate the verb “to be” incorrectly a stunning three times in the article: (“There was once several thousand bookstores…”, “The internet list of 150 titles are available….”, “point of sale measurements…..is elusive”. Also, understand that when using “either/or”, only two choices should be given, not three or more. You spelled “Walmart” incorrectly throughout the article, and even then, not consistently! An author doesn’t sell 4,000 copies of a book “on” the week, but rather “during” the week. I think you also need a refresher on comma placement; a comma is required before words like “and”, “but”, “yet”, and “since” if there is a simple sentence ( a sentence containing a subject and a verb) following this linking word. I could go on to list more errors, (note the comma there) but I’m busy teaching our children so they may grow up to write and speak properly." 


(FYI—In the article, Walmart was spelled with a hyphen (Wal-mart), which is an alternate spelling. Even Forbes spells it that way! Get over yourself, woman.)

Anyway...

When a 'Grammar Nazi', as many call them, goes on a rant like this, especially when it's in a review of an actual book that took a lot of time to write, not a short article, it's hurtful, not only to the author, but possibly to their sales. If someone liked the story and read the entire book, why do that? Or if a book takes place in the south and intended 'incorrect' grammar and/or improper use of verb tenses are used, and you can't tolerate them, just don't read it. Don't read it, knowing you don't like that writing style, and then berate it up and down.   

In the grand scheme of things, how important is grammar? For some, extremely, which we witnessed in the above comment. For me, not so much. I read the story, not the words. If you're more worried about words and whether or not they are used correctly together in a sentence, then you're going to miss the story. When I'm reading a great story and come across not only grammar issues, but typos, punctuation errors, etc., unless they slow down my reading and aren't excessive, I don't care. Do I notice them? Sometimes, but like speed bumps, I either go airborne or smoothly roll right over them and move on. Even the best editor is still human. 

Like I said, for me, books are all about the story, not the words used to make it. You can write day in and day out, using perfect grammar, but unless those well executed words are actually telling a story, that's all they'll ever be—just words.