How Grammar “Goofs” Work in Creative Writing – by Carol Saller…

on CMOS Shop Talk:

I’ve used this space before to caution copyeditors against scrubbing voice and character out of fiction manuscripts by adhering too closely to a style manual.

Each novel or story is unique, of course. Some feature dialect and colloquialisms, and others pretty much stick to formal English as laid out in The Chicago Manual of Style. Many, many novels and stories mix it up, using formal English for the narrative while their characters speak in a more casual idiom. Keeping all those voices straight is one of the primary tasks of a writer; monitoring and protecting those distinctions is a primary task of an editor.

To make good writing and editing choices, it’s helpful to know what’s considered standard or formal in the first place, not in order to apply that knowledge indiscriminately, but to use it to create or edit narration and dialogue that’s consistently natural, real, and believable. That’s where a good dictionary and style guide come in. They help us determine what’s “grammatical” so we can choose when to reject it for the best effect.

To see how these intentional grammar “goofs” work in creative writing, let’s look at a few issues commonly faced by writers.

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