My failure

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The bookseller gave me a look. You know, the ‘you’re a failure at everything if you don’t understand grammar’ look.

I’m going to make a confession here. I bought a book on basic English grammar last night. Why? For two reasons.

1) Now that I’m writing more seriously, I need to be able to know the ins and outs of grammar, from the basic to the complex if I want to improve.

2) A kid at the school I’m working at at the moment came up and asked me what a verb was, and I had NO IDEA.

Wow, that’s embarrassing. I fail at grammar. For all these years I’ve been getting on by my instincts and thinking that I’m doing all right, until some kid comes up to me and asks for the meaning of one of the most basic grammatical words. I told him that a dinosaur was chasing him, then I hid under a table and cried out of shame. A writer who doesn’t know grammar. What is the world coming to?

Now you grammar aficionados may be reading this post and cringing at all the errors, but I’m doing the best I can. I’m going to take the easy route and blame my teachers for not forcing me to learn more about linguistics. And then I’m going to pick up this book and learn for myself, because that’s the kind of go-getter I am.

So much grammar fails.

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13 thoughts on “My failure

    • I know punctuation wise I still get a little confused about placements of commas. Plus, I’m still trying to figure out the meaning of.passive aggressive writing. I think we all have a weakness somewhere while writing but it’s about learning the art form better. Still learning and still have problems with knowing when my work is good. Bah

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  1. As an editor, I can tell you that I know *much* more now than when I first started. Don’t give up learning! You’ll get it. P.S. If you think there’s one way to use comma, you should Google “Oxford comma debate.”

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    • Thanks πŸ™‚ I’ve realised that the boring stuff is just as important as the fun stuff (if not more). I have seen the Oxford comma debate and just reading this book now, there seems to be a lot of other grammatical issues that are open for debate. English is far too complex.

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  2. Elements of Style – William Stunk Jr.

    A Field Guide to Writing Fiction – A.B. Guthrie Jr. (This is not actually a book about grammar but an amazing read none-the-less)

    On Writing – Stephen King (There is a small section about grammar but the entire book is worth a read but if I remember correctly, you’ve covered it in a previous style and so I’m sure you’ve read this and Elements of Style)

    Any “For Dummies…” book on grammar would be really good, too. I swear by those books because of how well organized they are.

    My suggestion is to try not to fret too much about your grammar. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn it (especially if you were stumped on the definition of a verb) but I’ve read all of your posts since following your blog and your grammar is not that bad (this can actually transition quite differently when writing fiction though and so you should definitely do some brushing up).

    My own grammar is sub-par at best. I use too many commas and when I think about it too much, I end up not using enough. I also despise using parentheses in fiction and am often turned off of a story when I seem them used too often. But these are all examples of never being able to please all of your readers all of the time (it’s hard enough pleasing some of them some of the time).

    In my humble opinion, when it comes to fiction, if your prose is clear and direct, your story entertaining and/or meaningful, and your characters are engaging then most grammatical errors will go unnoticed by your readers and your editor will catch those errors that are eye-sores.

    I’ve been slacking in my blog and my writing and I really need to pick it up. Your confession of failure has prompted me to do that so thank you.

    Keep writing.

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    • Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve read ‘On Writing’ which was a great read. Learnt a lot about adverbs from that! Yes, there never was a strong focus on the technical side of writing during my school years. It was more about learning how to analyse writing and essay structure. Important, but I would like to know more.

      I’m thinking of looking at an online course so I can learn all of the basics again.

      You keep up the writing too πŸ™‚

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  3. Grammar is TOUGH. There are rules. Well, most of the time. And for most things. But some keep changing. I work as an editor for indie writers at EconomyEdits, and this has sharpened me up considerably, but there are still moments when I’m left scratching my head for a moment, and probably still occasions when I get things wrong. But pick up any traditionally published book and you can probably find a mistake in there. So don’t worry too much. ;8^>

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    • Just reading this book that I bought, they have listed a few of the contradictory grammar rules, so I’ve decided that if I mess it up a little it’s not the end of the world. As long as my readers don’t pick up on it. πŸ™‚

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      • In my self-published book Tell Me Something True (about unpublished wannabe-writers) I deliberately left some typos and grammar errors in the text, I thought as a realistic indication of what they were doing (kind of like a dialect “thing”?). However, based on a few who answered my G+ enquiry regarding this, it appears that most would simply think I don’t know what I’m doing, or was lazy, or would not even notice in the first place. So was deemed a waste. When I get around to re-editing it (it is 700 pages long) I will remove the intentional errors.

        The short version of this reply? I think it’s best to keep things as clean as you can. Something will, inevitably, slip through, even past an editor, even with the Big 5 traditional publishers, but why not try and offer the best we can for our readers. πŸ™‚

        This ISN’T self-promotion (although it does feel a little like that, even to me), but I am willing to negotiate my editing rates, because I know it’s a tough line between cost and providing the best we can for our readers. Either way, good luck with yours. πŸ™‚

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      • Thanks πŸ™‚ I’m still writing my story, but once I’m done and allowing it to be seen in public, I’ll definitely look at an editor. I have read books by some of the biggest authors and it’s amazing what gets through. But nothing’s perfect.

        I’ll have to read it! It’s down in my little red book to have a look at.

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