Monday, September 13, 2010

The Wild World of Grammar

Grammar to Some of You is like Me to Math—I do not care if math is "easy." I do not care if it is simply formulas where one plugs in numbers and Voila! the answer is there. I am unconcerned that Math is a science and always true. My brain will not accept such logic. Perhaps grammar is in a sense illogical and that is why I love to study it, fiddle with it.


Grammar is slippery and cantankerous; however, when it is applied properly, it creates prose that slides across our brains in a deliciously beautiful way. Yet, to complicate matters, the on-purpose manipulation of grammar in our fiction and in some non-fiction can make the prose interesting and uniquely ours.


“Know the rules so you can break them effectively.” Despite my Grammar Can Be Cool attitude, I also believe in breaking grammar rules to create prose that better fits your voice and your style of work.




I am providing links below to start you off, to help you to begin to understand what so many do not quite understand (and what even editors will pull out their hair over). Things such as: where to place commas and semicolons and colons (commas, semicolons, and colons -- Oh my!), is it a which or a that and who really cares but editors (Kat wrote words, which have letters), punctuation inside quotes or outside quotes ("Why," she said, "I know the answer to that."), fewer versus less (I have fewer cookies than you do, so I have less food to eat), different from or different than, hanging participles (okay, I admit I love a good hanging participle), split infinitives, and the list goes on or so it seems to the writer who just wants to write her prose—she beings to feel jealous of poets, for they can throw grammar caution to the wind.


Why, even as I write this post, I worry I will forget my Grammar PooBahness and leave a big fat error or two for everyone to sniggle over. If you find a grammatical error, call me on it in the comments section below, and if I agree, I will surely admit it, you bet your by grammar gollies I will! And if you do find a grammatical error and I agree to it, I’ll send you a gift.



My friends, the more polished your prose, the better it reads. Even if the person reading does not know why your work reads so well, they will surely notice how beautiful the result is. And wait! There’s more! As an added bonus, the more you know and automatically do as you write, the less work for you to worry about in re-writes. Yes? Yes!


Which and that, oh, I get it now—commas before whiches. And when comparing different from versus different than? Why, no problem as it's different from almost all of the time. Indeed and alas, it is those grammatical “almosts” and “sometimes” that drive writers and even editors to distraction, one hair pull at a time. Split infinitives, well: to be it is and be to not no more. Commas are pauses. Semi-colons "link" complete thoughts. Et cetera et cetera et cetera!



To start you on your Grammar Journey, here are some sites that may help you to understand The Wild World of Grammar. There are certainly more out there, so find the one(s) that you like and dip your toe into the ocean of Grammar. Start by understanding one grammar question at a time and build from there.



The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar



Everything Language and Grammar



Throw Grammar from the Train



Grammar Girl


And, of course, if you do not already own one, go out and buy that beautifully slim, but chock-full of gooey goodness grammar and tips: Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style


Good luck!

19 comments:

The Paper Whisperer said...

Rules? What rules? Love me or "leaf" me, that's my mantra. hahaha I am fully aware of the fact that I stink at grammar AND MATH...UGH!!!, but I don't let it stop me....any-mo! Have a beautiful day on ya mountain!!!

Susan R. Mills said...

I love breaking the rules on occassion. Thanks for the links. They should be helpful.

Suldog said...

You have no idea how many times I've read and re-read my Strunk & White without being able to absorb certain segments of it. I try, but I fear my mind will not retain the knowledge any more than yours will math (which, by the way, I'm very good at!)

Carolyn V. said...

There are rules? J/K I had to take a class in college last semester just to teach us the grammar rules (because so many of the grads didn't know them). Can you believe that? I was shocked.

Anonymous said...

Awesome blog, I hadn't come across tendergraces.blogspot.com before in my searches!
Carry on the fantastic work!

demery bader-saye said...

Each new blog post you write shows us another facet of you. This one makes me smile :) Thank you for the links!

Diane said...

I'm quite sure I don't know all the rules or apply them correctly. Thanks for the links! :O)

Aimee L Salter said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Grammar is, for me, a gut instinct. Now maybe I can find out what a split-infinitive is. Hanging participles? Um...

Titus said...

Now there's a remarkably useful post!
Little wonder I write poetry the most.

Lynn said...

My favorite is the dangling and misplaced modifier. Love finding those in my own writing because I know how to correct them! Thanks for the links. I need a grammar refresher.

Marguerite said...

My kids have always called me "Grammar Queen"! I have always loved grammar and it was my favorite subject in school, along with reading, writing, and spelling. All right-brain activities! But, it doesn't hurt to refresh, once in a while. Thanks for the links!

Karen said...

Kathryn, thanks for the sites. I already have a couple of those books. Now if I will just read them. snicker** Finished your book. Did you know I have a "River Roads" cookbook. I kinda felt at home. :)

Sharla said...

I'm with Aimee up there. English always came easy to me, I had an ear for it. I knew what sounded right, so I breezed through school. Unfortunately that means I haven't the foggiest idea what split infinitives are or how to recognize a participle...hanging or otherwise. LOL!

I know nouns and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, pronouns and prepositions. That's it! Eeek!

Patience-please said...

MATH!!!! (sounds of frantic footsteps rapidly receding until a distant door slams)

Eryl said...

How on earth is there a book out there by someone called Strunk and I don't have it?! Must rectify.

lakeviewer said...

You got a run-on there, pretty lady, right there, the sentence before you ask us to tell you if we saw any errors:
"I will surely admit it, you bet your by grammar gollies I will!"

However, if you intended to leave us breathless, you succeeded!

Kathryn Magendie said...

Lakeviewer is Correct!

So she gets a gift.

Those two sentences are actually complete thoughts, so they should either be separate sentences, or, separated by a semi-colon. If I were writing that sentence casually, though, or in fiction, I'd probably leave it as it is, because I like the way it looks and sounds better in my head. However! Since I was writing about Grammar -she has it right!

So, LV - I'll hop over to your blog to say hi and congratulate you.

If anyone finds another one, not the same one, you still will receive a gift!

Deb Shucka said...

Thanks, Kat, for these great links. Nothing sets my teeth more on edge than poor grammar, unless it's bad spelling. It's nice to have some new tools here.

Glynis said...

Thanks for the links, Kat. Grammar Girl has often helped me out of a hole. :)