Tell us the tale of the Grammarian (Sung to the tune of Piano man)
We’re not really sure how it goes, but it’s sad and it’s sweet, and we knew it complete, when we wore a sophomore’s clothes.
Why do I make such a big deal about grammar? I mean, who cares if someone uses that instead of who when referring to people? (A personal pet peeve, but in this day when corporations are people, too, I suppose we can excuse some folks for the error.) Especially when even Stephen King says not to worry about it so much. I don’t think he means it the way you think he does. Mr. King has a Bachelor of Arts in English, which means he knows the rules, and he knows how to break them.
By the way, I’m not God’s gift to the grammar world, that’s why the Gods created editors. Even so, I try. Why does it matter so much? Because it makes a writer look stupid and hard to understand, and it makes their editors work harder than they need to in order to make sure the writer is understood.
And there’s another reason. Do you want to be an international best seller? The rest of the world studies English and the rules of using it. It’s much harder for them to understand what you wrote. Just think how hard it is for you to understand someone with a heavy accent. Imagine how hard it would be to understand them if they didn’t know proper English.
My darling husband went to China on a business trip. While there he used the phrase “You’ve got to be kidding me”. His Chinese coworkers didn’t understand what he meant, until he found a way to demonstrate the proper usage of the phrase.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a writer ask ‘what’s passive voice’? That’s one of the most basic tenets of writing.
‘Caesar was stabbed by Brutus’ is passive voice.
‘Brutus stabbed Caesar’ is active voice.
Novels are about things happening, about action, about doing. They engage the reader and draw them into the story.
Before a painter decides what kind of artist they want to be, watercolor or oil, landscape or portrait, realist or impressionist, they learn the tools of their art first, how to portray shape and perspective, the difference between watercolor and oil and how to apply them. They don’t leave extra lines in the painting, everything has a purpose, even a subtle shading here, or a dash of color there. The same is true of the artist who writes.