The Raven’s Eye Asks “Are you working on your grammar?”

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I‘m having a bad finger day. No, that’s not the same as a bad hair day. A comb will cure unruly hair. I’m afraid only discipline will cure my bad finger. My finger keeps pointing at my forehead in accusation because I haven’t updated my blog. I’ve tried to rationalize it, but the finger won’t be swayed. Maybe you’ll be more understanding.

I’m in a class over at Writers Village University called Mastering Sentences. It’s new and it’s probably one of the hardest I’ve ever done there. It’s all about sentence structure. Nouns, verbs, phrases, noun phrases, verb phrases, adverbial phrases, prepositional phrases, objective, verbal phrases, adjectival clauses, gerunds—you get the idea. Basically, it’s about ripping your hair out while you pore over every detail of that humble, unassuming little construct that we use everyday to communicate a thought.

Why am I putting myself through this?

Today’s market won’t tolerate bad grammar.  Difficulty with grammar is understandable, but it’s a writer’s duty to  educate him or herself  about the rules. There are enough resources available in bookstores and on the Internet. Many are free, compliments of  the search option on your browser. It’s amazing how many new writers toss their work in front of an audience before it’s ready for feedback. Haste makes waste because most of the feedback is going to be about punctuation.

Wouldn’t you rather discuss the higher elements of your writing?

I would. I’d like to talk about dialogue. Does it ring true? Plot. Is it strong enough? Structure. Does the story sag in the middle? Characterization. Does she or he rock or not?

Don’t you want to know whether your story has an audience before you pound out a three hundred page manuscript?

Oh right. You’re going to send it to an editorial service and let them handle all that bad stuff. Been there. Heard that. Got stuck with a fifty page manuscript with so many grammatical errors my brain short-circuited on the first page and I woke up on the floor with my dogs licking the makeup off my face.

Guess what I did with that bad boy?

I met with the writer and returned his story at the next meeting. He asked me whether I liked it. I said I didn’t know because the grammar was so bad I couldn’t even find the story. We never spoke to each other again. Several meetings later, I discovered he’d handed out fifteen copies of the same story to other writers. Can you imagine the cost? I almost felt sorry for him. Almost. That writer was a top representative at his company. He knew better.  He  had the ability to clean up his manuscript, but he was hoping to get someone else to do it for him.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Everyone has trouble with the details, but it’s important to strive for mastery of grammar. Mistakes are forgivable when it’s obvious a writer is trying to learn the skill, but there’s something called a spell check and grammar check available to every computer user.  For heaven’s sake, click on it once in a while! If a writer cares enough about a story,  she or he will work on all the elements of writing, not just the fun stuff. Too many writers want somebody else to do the tedious work for them. It’s okay to make mistakes; it isn’t okay to use others as a personal editor, not for simple stuff, like ending a sentence with a period or capitalizing proper nouns.

So, I now point the finger at YOU. Are you working on mastering your writing skills?

I am.

Raven

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Comments
9 Responses to “The Raven’s Eye Asks “Are you working on your grammar?””
  1. Ortolan C. Chordeiles says:

    Hello, hello. We meet again, in fellow grammar.

    I have to say, (and I say this with the greatest of utmost honesty), I have been working on my grammar since as long as I can remember. I’m not bad at all. 😉 That’s the trick- it should never get old to you. NEVER. My finger has been disciplined lately, but that’s because it is bored and it can’t think for itself. I’d rather be a finger typist than a toe typist, so I’d put it a good name for my 10 fingers any day. They’re doing their best over here. We don’t want social (digital) upheaval.

    Ugh, I know this is a little late, but great job on your last interview. I meant to complement on your last job earlier, but I was waylaid by some pretty amazing stuff. It sounds like life is happening over there as it is happening to me. I’ll be by to stop in and around as time continues on.

    Continue aspiring for ageless grammar. It can only complement you in turn.

    Regards,
    ChordeilesO.

  2. ravenlaw says:

    Thank you Chordeiles. It’s good to make grammar a life study. If nothing else, you’ll have an easier time handling personal and professional paperwork.
    A good place to begin is with Seton’s Grade 8 Workbook. It has a great breakdown of grammatical rules and offers great exercises.

    Don’t be put off by the grade level. It gets harder the further you progress. If you can finish it, you’ll be able to dissect any sentence.

    good luck!

    Raven

  3. Jbarwriter says:

    Fantastic article and a deep subject, one I labor with frequently. English, although I’ve taken several college courses on the subject and made fair grades is a closed door for me. Most software programs such as Microsoft Word will do a spell check and grammar check for the basics, but words that aren’t misspelled will not be check for they are considered spelled correctly.

    I’m talking about words that are spelled similarly, but mean something totally different…Like
    Want___Won’t
    Now____Know
    There___Their

    Hopefully, I’ve improved. It is something I struggle with and work diligently to correct. One thing that has helped me, is what Robert Olen Butler does, and suggest is to read, read, and read aloud your writing.

    I’m so glad you give an indication what Mastering Sentences is like, now I know what I’ll be in for when I get the opportunity to take the class. 🙂

    The internet has a comprehensive list of websites that help on the subject of punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, verbs, nouns, pronouns you name in and it is out there for free.
    JB

  4. ravenlaw says:

    It’s all about time and practice. I’ve had lots of trouble with grammar. I’ve been working hard to improve. It’s funny. I’ll see warnings about “there” and “theirs”, “your” and “you’re”, stuff like that and suddenly those things will start popping up while I’m working and I think “Dagnabbit! It must be the power of suggestion.” But, recently, I went back to read some posts that I save from two years ago. My responses show that I did indeed make those mistakes. So it isn’t that I suddenly acquired the problem. I’ve always had it.

    Humble pie tastes best with milk and chocolate syrup.

    keep working JB!

    Raven

  5. joni says:

    Grammar- the trick of the trade. I see people fumbling with this over and over, especially words that almost sound/look the same.

    I’m a spell geek, sure I make typo’s (I think I’m human) but spelling has always been one of my strong traits. Then the Internet comes along, new words are formed and I realize I need to keep up with the times! lol

    That’s the trick of the trade~ to stay up to date and always and I mean always keep learning! 🙂

    Love the Blog Miss Raven!

    joni 🙂

  6. ravenlaw says:

    Hi Joni,

    The most important thing is to keep trying. It will show. I wish you good luck on your journey.

    Come back and let me know how things are going for you.

    Raven

  7. Shriek says:

    I’ve never been among the “grammar police” and always cringed when they came calling. However, I’ll have to agree with you, Raven, that there’s a lot to be said for not skipping the basics. The class the Writers Village University is offering on “Masterful Sentences” is the FIRST time I’ve actually understood what good grammar has to do with good writing.

    In English class, grammar was “over here,” and writing was…well, if it was anywhere…it was over there.” Sure, you got red marks on your writing pointing our your grammar errors. But at no point did anyone show me how grammar can generate not only better sentences, but better ideas!

    I didn’t explain that very well. Still too blown away by the whole concept.

  8. ravenlaw says:

    Hi Shriek,

    I can relate to those high school English classes. I have learned so much from “Mastering Sentences” that I will never read the same again. I’ve always had an appreciation for sentence structure, often pausing over a particularly beautiful construction to ponder on why it’s so lovely. This class has helped me see the intricacies of building sentences. I love it! This class makes me want to go back into each of my stories and study the individual sentences.

    Thanks for stopping by,

    Raven

  9. vade55 says:

    A mastery of grammar is important, but so is a writer’s style, or voice. That’s what sets him or her apart from other writers with good grammar skills, and many agents and editors say they are looking at submissions for a distinctive voice more than anything else.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. I particularly like the pictures of your dogs. 🙂

    Carol

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