Friday, January 31, 2014

To Grammar or Not to Grammar

That is the question for writers in today’s world of texts and tweets where sentences have been reduced to phrases and words have been condensed to mere letters and numbers.  Capitalization, punctuation, and correct noun-to-verb agreement seem a thing of the past.  Indeed, studies reveal that today’s students have poorer grammatical skills than students of the previous five decades.  Interestingly enough, these are the students who grew up with the ever popular and delightful Junie B. Jones series, written purposely with misspellings and incorrect grammar to mimic the style of writing of its targeted age readers.  So, one can wonder whether correct grammar has a place in today’s writing world as its usage declines?

The answer, of course, is, “Yes.”

Grammar gives stories freedom.  Just as studies show that children will roam and play more freely around a playground with a fence, good grammatical usage allows stories to soar to their potential.  Well-chosen words, correctly placed, convey mood, tone or meaning without distracting the reader from the forward motion of the story.  Properly placed punctuation steers a reader’s mind toward specific emotions the writer wishes to elicit.  Accurate use of verb tenses seamlessly transitions characters from past to present to future.

Poor grammar, however, usually enslaves a writer.  Disjointed sentences and improperly placed punctuation prevent a reader from immersing himself into the writer’s story.  Incorrect word usage confuses the reader and detracts from the intention of the writing.  Sloppily written sentences normally make a would-be publisher question the seriousness of an author’s desire to be published.

While grammar holds an important part in writing, there are some caveats.  Correct grammar rarely is used in the spoken language, so most often dialogue should be written naturally, not grammatically.  In some cases, breaking the rules of grammar conveys more in a written piece than its conventional use. And finally grammar should never hinder getting the story onto paper, however.  Write first, correct for grammar second. 

Paula Castner

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