April 7, 2012

Grammar = G: Blogging from A to Z

I'm in editing mode lately. I like rules, love them in fact. Creating stories brings me a lot of joy, but I like to do it by honoring words and rules. Funny thing about grammar rules... they often change or become obsolete.

Sadly, this can happen just from repeated misuse. I noticed irregardless was defined in several online dictionaries. Irregardless. Is. Not. A. Proper. Word. (And yes, this sentence is an example of style over rule.)


I'm a strange breed. My favorite subjects in school were English and Math. I read everything I could get my hands on, but I loved systematically solving a difficult math problem. I found the perfect combination of interests in college when I took an internship at IBM to work in their finance department and write their corporate newsletter. Words and structure together... heaven.

I respect authors who own styles, who play fast and loose with the rules (as long as they are consistent). But the story has to be amazing to convince me to turn away from "the rules." Cormac McCarthy's The Road is such an example. The first fifty pages made me crazy, but the story won me over in the end. Note: there is no style that will make me accept misspelled words or using the following incorrectly: lose/loose, then/than, they're/their/there, its/it's, accept/except, and your/you're. Consider this a top six list.

As an editor, I respect the author's final wishes. One rule I think should never be played with is consistency. I'd rather see the same mistake repeated consistently throughout, to know the author owned it, than see it change throughout the book.

But I'm a grammar snob. Are you?

Note: Just because I'm a grammar snob does not mean I have superhuman skills. I constantly find errors in my work, even after several edits. I can absolutely look past a few errors in several hundred pages of material. It only starts distracting me when I can spot errors every few pages.

The first edition of our novel, Depression Cookies, had 32 errors in 543 pages. This after several rounds of edits, including a college English professor and a professional editor. Mom and I reissued a corrected edition. We couldn't sleep at night.

18 comments:

Susan Roebuck said...

No matter how much we think we know grammar, we're still going to make errors - or in my case, crass mistakes (like not knowing the difference between further and farther and getting my commas all wonky). Always a good idea to get your work edited because, often, you can't see the mistakes yourself. It's a little difficult to relax grammar rules because if you do, your writing probably won't make sense - but then who am I to say that LOL?

Andrew said...

I love math and structure too, which is why I became I librarian and computer programmer. I would like to say that I loved English as a child, but I can't (but that's a different story!). I did love to read and it also drives me crazy to see typos and poor grammar in what I am reading. I wish I could say I was perfect when I write, but I would be lying. :D

Anyway, thanks for the fascinating post on the letter G. :D

Melissa said...

I can totally relate. And you're right. Just because we act like the grammar police when we crit (and read), doesn't mean we are immune to errors in our own writing. When it comes to evolving grammar rules and mistakes making their way into the books as acceptable, one I wish the powers that be would update is 'alright.' I'm sorry, but to me, it doesn't mean the same as 'all right.' (Of course, I'm from Texas, so that could account fer the dialectical bias. hahaha) Great post! : )

bookworm said...

Before I started to blog, I would have said "language is a living entity-it changes according to the needs of its users. So ignoring rules? Go for it." Now that I blog, I wish I had a better knowledge of grammar, because I am so conscious of how improper usage can both distract the reader and prevent the writer from being understood. Grammar was far from my favorite subject. I'm glad the grammar police don't visit my blog. Irregardless....(only kidding).

Eloise said...

This hit a huge chord with me. I am *such* a grammar and language snob! I despise sloppy grammar. Yes, I certainly make mistakes but I do all I can to avoid them. (Now, should there have been a comma after "mistakes" above, or not?)

Language is a changing thing and that is something that we all need to embrace. There is not one thing you can do about it; slang becomes mainstream, accepted and ends up in the dictionary. But without grammatical rules and punctuation, text can become unreadable.

Great post, Tia.

Tobi Summers said...

I'm a snob too! I agree that there are times when you can break the rules for a higher purpose, but as a general rule, blatant grammatical errors (particularly some of the ones you listed) make me a little twitchy.

Melinda said...

Yes, I suppose I am a grammar snob, too. And I hate finding mistakes in my own work but it happens all the time.

Amy said...

I love English and Math too! You sound just like me with the reading and complex math problems! :)

Julie Glover said...

Oh my goodness! You named some of my pet peeves, especially "irregardless." Ugh. I think people try to combine regardless and irrespective.

I prefer the term Grammar Geek to Grammar Snob. But yeah, I am one. (My family calls it Grammar Freak. LOL.) I simply believe the rules are a good framework for shared communication. Otherwise, meaning can get lost or misconstrued.

Tia Bach said...

Thanks everyone. So glad I'm not alone!

Julie - Grammar Geek, of course! It does sound better than snob, and would have been perfect for G day. ;-)

Tia Bach said...

Melissa, Ah, if I only I was immune to errors. Is there a pill for that? :-)

Donna B. McNicol said...

I'm embarrassed but grateful when someone corrects something in a blog post. I used stationary for stationery a couple weeks ago, and last night I noticed that I used site when it should have been sight. We all slip at times...that's why we needed editors other than ourselves. LOL!

Joe Cheray said...

I am guilty of being a grammar Nazi. I won't go back to blogs that are filled with poorly written blog posts. That shows me a person doesn't care enough about their blog to keep it polished and sparkled.

Sarah Pearson said...

I love correct grammar, but I'm a long way from being able to get it right first time :-)

My pet hate - and one that seems to be becoming more acceptable - is 'could of, would of should of'. It's HAVE, people!

Rhonda Parrish said...

Oh em gee I hate it when people say irregardless. Argh! Rawr! Rage!

Bev said...

I'm terrible when it comes to grammar. I'm constantly skipping, or misspelling words. But it doesn't really bother me either. I think how we write contributes a lot to our personality.

I really enjoyed your post today.

Stopping in via the A-Z blogging challenge.

Bev @ Blue Velvet Vincent

billien said...

Oh, Tia, I'm jumping back in and THIS is what I found first--I'm not even "street legal" with the blogathon group any more, but I visited anyway.

GREAT POST, and you're beating the same drum as I. I even have a poem about the very same "top six," and I'll use it on my blog as soon as I unearth it.

I didn't realize how much I missed your blogs till I started blogging again myself (after last year's blogathon, I was SPENT). And then it wasn't even the group I expected!

Looking forward to more, girl!

Hugs, Billie

Tia Bach said...

Donna, I know! I'd rather be corrected, though, so I can correct it (and hope only one or two people saw it! ;-)). I recently did duck tape (because my girls call it that all the time), even though I know full well it's duct tape!

Joe, I agree. I can look past a few editing glitches (they happen to the best of us), but my eyes start to glaze over with too many.

Sarah, I LOVE could of, in dialogue that is. Right or wrong, that's what people say. But in writing/prose, definitely could have.

Rhonda, I know. Irregardless (double negative!!) drives me batty!

Thanks, Bev.

Billie, I've missed you! Glad to have you visiting. I never did hear if you received your book. I sure hope so. And, I hope to see you in Blogathon 2012!