Grammar Can Be Your Undoing

IMG_0694It’s often the little things that get you. There you are sailing along, in the zone and the writing is flowing. (In my case, I’ve got the audio at just the right level and I’m transcribing the latest doctoral dissertation.) And then it hits you. You just used the wrong contraction or you made the subject plural and the verb doesn’t agree. Or any number of other little gaffes that makes the sentence structure all wrong.

The English language is full of minefields that will make your writing look less than stellar if you don’t pay strict attention to what you are writing (and what you are saying). For example, let’s look at split infinitives. Well, let’s not here.  They’re so simple, they’re really common mistakes. Just know they exist and they’re not good.

What is the good news? There are grammar programs and books that can help you and me (not you and I, by the way) fix our grammar sticking points. One of the most widely used grammar references is The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White. I prefer the actual book as opposed to the electronic format, because I tend to look for information that often has no quick answer and I must thumb-mark pages as I try to find just what I am referencing.

The Elements of Style has been in print since the twenties and is now in its fourth edition. If you are a writer, I suggest you purchase a copy. My copy is within easy reach and rather tattered.

There are other books that are strictly grammar. After all, who can remember all the obscure twists and wrong turns the English language can take in a single article? It’s best (or is it better?) not to leave your grammatical choices to chance.

Some of these grammar books are written with a good deal of humor. How is that accomplished,  you might ask. Well, think about it. It is grammar and it does leave lots and lots of room for frustration when you are trying to get it right. A little humor may be just what it takes to get you through.

I recently discovered Grammar Sucks: What to Do to Make Your Writing Much More Better by Joanne Kimes with Gary Robert Muschla. Now there is a title for you. If you didn’t’ get the joke, then you definitely need the book. If the title doesn’t give it away, I’ll tell you that there is plenty of humor packed alongside the nit and grit of grammar.

There are so many ways to get caught writing or saying the wrong word or eternally dangling that modifier. In fact, one of my recent articles is about homonyms. It turned out to be even more of a minefield than I first thought.

I’m not alone in all this grammar usage quandary. My bookshelf certainly attests to that. Someone is writing all those books, for an audience somewhere.  Maybe, just maybe, they are publishing these books for themselves.

My point is, don’t let grammar be your undoing. It could haunt you later. Instead, use a reference book. It takes a little more time, but it’s worth the effort to get it right.

Be Exceptional,


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