Grammar is Hard, and That’s No Joke!

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A writer attempts to take a picture of a book page.

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.

The shame.

The embarrassment.

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…

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6 thoughts on “Grammar is Hard, and That’s No Joke!

  1. It’s not easy, but if you understand the language, your probably know a great deal more than you think. For instance, you might not know the name of certain types of phrases, but you know how to formulate them. When in doubt, look it up! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Apparently the years of reading have given me a fairly good “ear”, but the books give me names for all of the important stuff. This is helpful when someone reads for me, or I’m trying to help another writer. “Look it up,” is my new motto. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha, yes. It’s so difficult to hand-hold. I’m a nice person (to a fault, I’m told), but no one is going to learn if you don’t force them to do it. It’s kind of like that old saying about catching a fish for a man to fill his stomach once vs. teach him to fish and he’ll be full forever.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s especially hard to proof yourself for some reason. “You know what you meant so you don’t see your own errors” or something like that.

    A trick that’s worked for me: Read from the bottom up. If you disrupt the sense from the sentences themselves it’s easier to see the errors. It may give you a bit of a headache after a while….

    Liked by 1 person

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