First off, let’s give a little introduction to ourselves. My name is Riley Amos Westbrook, and I have my beautiful wife Sara with me today. We’re the authors of a fantasy trilogy called Breath of the Titans: The False Titanbringer, as well as a good old fashioned zombie story called Everyone Dies At The End. I’ve only been an author for a little over a year now, but I’ve learned a lot. Below are some of the conclusions I’ve reached after becoming a bit more educated.
I’m learning there’s a difference between bad grammar and bad grammar. You can have a clear voice, full of information, that tells who, what, when, where, and why, and yet still say absolutely nothing. That is bad grammar. The misuse of words that you think are correct, because darnit, that’s how I’ve done it my whole life. My wife and I have had many an argument about this. And I’ve become a better writer because of it.
I look at the first draft of a work I start now, and I compare it to one I would have started six months ago even. Six months ago, I would have had the words scattered about the page willy nilly, looking like it was written by a retarded fish frog. At the time, the words flowed, but the way they flowed was out of position. Hence, why I say in almost all my writings, I’m very thankful for my wife. Though I am not dyslexic, and I have no problems reading or writing, when I’m in the flow of the moment pounding at my keys and pouring out the story, the language isn’t always that clear. My wife is wonderful in this regard. She comes behind me, cleaning up the soup that is my word salad and dressing it nicely into a complete meal.
Without her, my characters would be shells of themselves, not because I don’t have them defined, but because she helps me find the words to define them.
Editors are a boon to a writer. Yes, you want to fight for your story, yes you want to have your voice remain clear, but you also don’t want to seem like a complete imbecile. Or give away a plot point too early. That’s not to say that an editor is needed, I know several authors I read myself that don’t use editors, and they do an amazing job. But I also know that an editor brings that outside perspective, and pulls the work away from an author’s heart to bring it closer to their own.
This isn’t counting punctuation, syntax, pacing, or any number of other “Laws of Writing” I no doubt break everyday.
That’s not to say that all bad grammar is bad. For instance, a character with a speech impediment. Or one that is ignorant and racist. Those kind of people exist in the world, they’re going to exist in writing. Should they speak like an oxford professor? Or as a normal joe would? How do I convey that in writing? How do I say this without exposing myself to hate from others for a belief a character has? Just because my character believes it, doesn’t mean I do.
And then there’s the curse words. Honestly, it depends on the situation. I freely admit there are curses in my books. But that’s the environment I’ve been around. Having been a psychiatric nurse’s assistant, I’ve had my fair share of interesting situations. And in almost every single one of them, even in church settings, there’s that one person that just swears all the time. They apologize, say they’re sorry, then go right back to it in most cases. It would feel insincere to not include that in some of my works. Not to mention, as time has gone on, the attitudes of language and cursing has changed. It will continue to do so, and if you doubt it, I don’t know what to tell you. Consider this, Emoji is now a word. Merriam-Webster has added it to the dictionary.
But I digress, this was about grammar. At the end of the day, I find myself firmly ensconced on the side of bad grammar, as long as it is within reason and doesn’t detract from the story. In my opinion, if you can transport me to another world where I lose myself amongst the people there, you have a good work. Misplaced, punctuation’ and! Everything.
The wife’s view
Punctuation, syntax and spelling matter greatly.
It is with tiny variations that perception is changed. Take these two classic sentence examples of perceived meaning solely on a single punctuational shift.
“Let’s eat, Grandpa.” vs “Let’s eat Grandpa.” With a comma, the first is seen as a youngster encouraging their elder to eat. Remove the comma and it sounds as though Grandpa is on the menu.
Know the difference between hair and heir and air. Otherwise one day, you may find split heirs in the open hair on the day of an air ascending. English is bursting with words that sound the same in speech, but convey varied meanings in print. Knowing as many of these similar sounding words, their spelling and usage will greatly assist in something that I’d like to call, “Transparency”.
It’s when you can easily and eloquently express any given idea at length with a varied audience and all or most readily understand and perceive your idea the same, not counting opinions and biases.
Without proper grammar, communication may be partially obscured when it is not rendered unintelligible, and conveyed meaning can be lost, and therefore open to any interpretation.
rileyamoswestbrook (Where I also support independent authors!)