Grammar Anarchy

I have a confession to make: I don’t follow grammar rules very well.  Like most school children, proper grammar usage has been drilled into my head since I started kindergarten.  The rules repeated and repeated until they were recite-able on command.

That’s all well and good, but language is an evolutionary process – look at the introduction of slang – and rigid, sometimes archaic grammar rules just don’t fit.

For instance, I was taught never to end a sentence with a preposition.  What pit of Hell did this rule came from, I don’t know.  It’s preposterous.  “Up with this I will not put!”  Good example, but a better one, that we use everyday is “I have no one to talk to.”  Yes, I could reword this sentence to say “…”  Actually, I can’t think of a way to reword the sentence.  “I have no one to talk to because I live alone and my only friend is on vacation drinking fruity umbrella drinks on some white sand beach that are brought to her by cabana boys.”  Do you need to know all that?  I think not.  For the record, my only friend is not currently on vacation, but if she was, this would be her idea of a good one.  It’s even harder to avoid in questions.  “Where are you from?”  means the same thing as “From where did you come?”  But who says that?  I want to add a “whence” to it, just to sound more proper.

Beginning a sentence with “and” or “but.”  Seriously?  Sometimes a good “but” at the beginning of a sentence adds emphasis.  And when we speak, we speak with “and” and “but” at the beginning of sentences.  How many times have you said something, paused for a moment then added a “but” or “and?”  Thousands?  Hundreds of thousands?  That pregnant pause is the end of the sentence.  The “but” or “and” that follows it, is an after thought about whatever you’ve just said.

The abused comma.  I am terrible about my comma usage.  I know where they go.  They don’t always make it.  There are times when I seem to suffer “comma spasms,” which is the insertion of unnecessary commas.  “Comma spasms” are dreadful and long, I have been known to suffer through it for entire chapters.  My editor once told me “I’ve never edited a novel where I had to remove more commas then I added.”  Other times, I seem to forget the key exists.  Then there are times, I leave them out on purpose, in dialogue.  *gasp*  I do this for a reason.  One day, while helping a fellow student with a paper, she lost it.  I believe her monologue regarding how evil I was lasted a good five minutes.  During this rapid fire, verbal assault, I realized that she only paused to gasp for air and it rarely coincided with commas or periods.  When people are talking fast, they don’t use commas, hell, they may not use periods.  If your character is flapping their jaws at the roughly the speed of light, why are you using commas to give the reader a break in the sentence to catch their own breath?  The character isn’t.

The even more abused semi-colon and colon – I just avoid these as much as possible.  Of the four hundred million people in the US, I estimate that a million know how to use these properly; English teachers and editors.

Finally, the use of swear words.  In real life, I swear well enough to make even the most black-hearted, scurvy riddled, syphilis suffering pirate blush.  I try to tone it down in my writing.  While it can be a useful tool, at some point, it becomes oppressive.  However, the use is becoming more and more accepted.  But I like to buck trends, I jumped off the fashion train around 1995, part of what I’ve missed is the advent of modern slang.  It took me asking one of my nephews if “sick” had taken on a new meaning and it had!  What do you mean it means “cool?”  I thought “cool” meant “cool?”

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1 Comment

  1. Where is my fruity drink?

     /  October 9, 2014

    “Up with this I will not put!” — been watching Black Books recently?



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