Formal Writing

A Day With Grammar

Writing has let me put names to some of my little oddities and unique flaws. I have a Mental Minx, which is essentially a highly distractable Muse, I have the Beast Numbers, where I worry all the time about word counts and the like, and I have the common writers complaint of periodic insanity and depression as well.

None of these is unusual, per se, in the writing world, as I’m fairly certain some degree of mental instability is a pre-requisite for the role. Especially for anyone who starts writing, then keeps going after learning how difficult it is, and how unlikely it is to pay your bills.

Another very common foe I have seen other writers talk about is SPAG. Aka ‘spelling and grammar’.
I’m pleased to report SPAG does not list among my enemies… mostly because an enemy can only exist if you recognize it as such.

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Grammar and Me

Grammar and I do not get along particularly well. But we don’t have much of an issue with each other, grammar and I.
I frequently ignore it, and it has the decency to not get in the way of my meaning, so long as someone reads the entire sentence (most of the time).

I actually struggled quite a bit as a child in school with writing. I even went into a remedial hour class three times a week when I was 12 because there were certain areas of spelling and grammar I just never got the hang of.
Mostly, my troubles centered around things like how ‘hope’ becomes ‘hoping’. In my hands, it usually became ‘hopping’.

I suspect my teachers at the time felt I had some form of dyslexia. Thankfully, the remedial teachers very sensibly asked me first to display things I was better at before focusing on my problems… they got me to read.
Within two weeks they knew I wasn’t dyslexic. I had the reading ability of a 16-year-old and just needed to focus on some of the basic lessons of writing that hadn’t made it into my head yet.

I was out of that class within a month, I seem to recall. Certainly, it was very short-lived, and I also found out that my problem was never going to be a capacity to learn, it was always going to be about what I thought was important, and what I held in my head while I was working. (Pro tip: it’s never the rules.)

To this day, there is part of me that thinks grammar isn’t important… yet I’ll also go down fighting for why the Oxford comma should never be abolished.

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Why Grammar Is(n’t) Important

Admittedly, in my wittering above I was mostly talking about spelling, but another problem I ran into regularly was when a comma should be used, and the same for apostrophes.

To this day, I can parrot at you the very basic ‘rules’, and then promptly get them wrong on paper if I write something without the aid of spell check or Grammarly.
I do this because when I’m writing, certain elements aren’t important to me. If I’m trying to keep the rule about apostrophes in my head, I’m focusing on the mechanics of writing rather than the content, and my prose suffers for it.

The rules for using grammar have never sat naturally inside my head, I have to actively think about them to get them right. Always have, always will.
But grammar doesn’t make or break creativity. Thus, I pretty much ignore it while I’m writing, all the way up to the editing stage.
It just doesn’t matter for writing.

Now… for reading

Of course, that’s where it all falls apart. Grammar is vitally important for readers, and while I think we can all manage to deduce that ‘hes’ should be ‘he’s’, too many grammatical errors can be distracting and annoying at best, plain confusing at worst.

I use Grammarly to help me with my oversights, and more importantly still, alpha and beta readers to help me by reading what I actually wrote, rather than what I think I did. I have several friends who have what is (to me) a preternatural ability to spot grammar errors, so I know I catch most of my sins before anything goes live.

At one point, I felt inferior and inadequate for just not naturally handling grammar like everyone else in the world seems to. These days, I tend to find my own flaws charming more than anything else, and forgive myself for needing a piece of technology to appear marginally professional.
We live in a technological world, spell checkers aren’t going anywhere, and grammar and editing software is getting better and better by the year.

Grammar isn’t a problem for me. It’s just an element to be handled in the later stages of my work, in its own little bracket, and with the aid of technology and friends. Sadly, it does not get to join my list of oddities and foibles, for all I do it differently to most folks.

Instead, I find myself wondering what ‘easy’ things I do, other people perhaps find hard?
Yes, I’m one of those people who think our differences are what make us interesting and wonderful 🙂

2 thoughts on “A Day With Grammar”

  1. “I use Grammarly to help me with my oversights, and more importantly still, alpha and beta readers to help me by reading what I actually wrote, rather than what I think I did. I have several friends who have what is (to me) a preternatural ability to spot grammar errors, so I know I catch most of my sins before anything goes live. […] and forgive myself for needing a piece of technology to appear marginally professional.”

    That IS the professional way to handle it. You have difficulty with grammar, but rather than use that difficulty as an excuse to publish badly written books, you get help fixing the errors. The technology exists to be used; it’s not unprofessional to use it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Quite so! No one is perfect, but I am always amazed when browsing the web at how many people pick things apart for having a spelling or grammar error (or ten), or scoff at people with ability levels different to their own.
      As you say, all that should matter is finding the tools to create the best possible work of your vision, and using them as intended!

      Liked by 1 person

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