Friday, April 29, 2011

Grammar (and I am no goddess)

Today I'd like to talk about the "G" word. Grammar. Grrrrrammar (emphasis on the "grrrrr"). When I was in elementary school diagramming sentences was all the rage. The lines had to be perfectly drawn with a ruler. The lines had to be filled with precise grammar terms: proper noun, linking verb or dangling participle.

What the heck is a dangling participle anyway?

Back to "grrrrrammar." Now some people have brains wired for grammar. The exactness of it. The absoluteness. Many times those who love grammar also love math. I categorize myself as a creative type...a free spirit if you will. Rules-shmools. If I wanted a comma, right here, then dang it, I used a comma. I'll admit it, I was a coma junkie. I fear I still am.

Then I wrote my first novel.

Not until then did I truly and unequivocally try to understand the nitty gritty grammar world. How to properly use a semi-colon. The reason behind a strategically placed ellipses. Staying in one verb tense. Avoiding misplaced modifiers and double metaphors. It was a whole new world because it mattered to me. There was no way I was sending out my query letter with grammar errors. And there was absolutely no way I was sending out my manuscript unless it was as grammatically perfect as I (and a few old teaching colleagues) could get it. This stuff matters because it's all about the writing.

The writing is everything.

Now let me clarify here. I thought I was pretty solid with my new found grammar understandings until my manuscript ended up in my editor's hands. She - the brilliant woman that she is - taught me even more about the craft of using solid grammar in writing. It is most definitely a craft.

I learned that ellipses at the end of a sentence are four periods...not three. Wild.

I learned that if a word is in quotations at the end of a sentence like "this." that the period goes inside the quotation marks. But not a question mark. Wild.

I learned a ton.

Am I a master? Ahh, no. Not by a long shot. There are probably grammatical errors in this very post. I consider myself improved, not a guru. Let's just say I thank Annette and Alison (my copy editor) in my prayers each night.

My point, dear blog readers (you tried and trusty bunch that you are) is that grammar matters. Take the time to learn. Investigate online. Post questions in forums. Find out if you're right. If you've done the hard work of writing a book, then do the hard work of making sure everything is grammatically correct in it - to the best of your ability. It will be time well spent. Trust me.

Have a wonderful weekend. Happy grammar'ing to you all....