Grammar is hard. It’s not brain surgery, or rocket science, but it only seems to comfortably fit inside certain shapes of heads.
I do not have the right head shape for grammar.
Take the above list. It is found in “My Grammar and I… Or Should That Be Me?” by Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines (The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY 2009). This is not a book review because I am only on page thirty-seven. It did, however, illustrate to me how my particular type of brain reads things. Again.
I didn’t get the joke until number six.
Four tingled my spider-sense. Five waved a red flag. But it was on number six that my brain made me stop reading for content and pay attention to the grammar. “Wait, is this a joke?” I started back at the top. By number three I was grinning. Eight, nine, and ten all made me laugh out loud. (Luckily, I was alone. Grammar books shouldn’t make you laugh! Nerd!)
I’ve seen this phenomena described somewhere in all of the articles on writing and self publishing that I have read in the past year. There are readers who never complain about mistakes because they are too deep in the content, and other readers who complain about every mistake (real or not) that you make.
I’ve gotten better. Study has helped me become a more efficient writer, but there are still lots of things I can’t seem to hold in my memory. Mnemonics and funny anecdotes only get me so far. I still have to rely on the internal “sound” of a sentence, and that can really get you in trouble if you are too deep inside storyland.
Reading for pleasure–and as a beta–has highlighted this tendency. If grammar and punctuation yank ME out of the story, the writer might need to take a reeeealy close look at their work.
I am a content reader. As a writer, I will have to be militant with proofreading until I can afford a professional. I will make a list of things to check for, culled from these grammar books, and reflecting my own blind spots. The proofreading stage of my current work-in-progress will be later, since I am still in the content editing stage, but forewarned is forearmed.
If you have the same kinds of blind spots, keep an eye on this blog. I will eventually get the grammar edition of my Low-Budget Writing Program published. Here is the first of the series.
The more you know…