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Frank LeRenard
12-08-2012, 01:47 PM
In the interest of having a little writing discussion in this clearly art-dominated forum, I thought I'd bring this up here.

So, in my experience, having given probably 100 critiques in my life to various pieces of writing, it seems like grammar--that being the basic rules of the written English language--is something a lot of [mostly novice] writers tend to just take for granted. I hear the excuse all the time that, "Oh, I'm just no good with grammar, but I have a friend who's good at proofreading," or other very similar statements. Like that's okay. Like you can achieve the optimal effect by letting your friend decide what you really mean.
Now, I think I know where these folks are coming from, or at least where they got the idea that that level of incompetence was okay. When you read famous authors (from the modern era; pre-1940s literature, for the most part, seems to have perfect grammar), you see a lot of non-sentences, misused punctuation, strange structure, false starts, run-ons, and so on and so forth (all the things you're told in school that you shouldn't do), and so I think people see that and assume it means grammar is secondary to meaning somehow. Which is a perfectly logical assumption to make, the first time you see it.
But it's wrong. It's this whole gray area in art, this ambiguous thing called "style", or (more frequently in writing) "voice". Artists who critique art complain about this endlessly, that certain novices excuse their horrendous anatomy or color choice or whatever as "their style". But I think everyone who knows anything about this stuff knows that's not an excuse. Style (or voice) is something you develop AFTER you learn the basics. In other words, you shouldn't break rules out of ignorance; you should break them with intent and purpose, to achieve a desired effect.
Well, it's the same thing with grammar in writing. Those famous authors you hear about who write horrible sentences? They're doing that on purpose. They know how the sentence is supposed to go, officially, but they choose to ignore that in favor of emphasis, illuminating a certain point, or any number of other things. They aren't uneducated like you, and that's why people can find meaning in what they write but just get confused by your junk. Because there are rules, and because said rules have a reason to exist (more often than not it's just clarity, actually), it's fairly easy to tell who knows the rules and who's just being lazy.
You can innovate so much better if you work around your tools as they're designed. You know... when you go to use a crowbar, remember first that it's a lever.

Agree, disagree? Want to add something? Want to subtract something?

Tybby
12-10-2012, 01:11 AM
I couldn't agree more. I think people break the rules of grammar not out of ignorance, but because they saw a more experiences artist break their grammar and didn't establish the link between style and meaning.

Grammar, broken or unbroken, is a hugely important tool that the writer possesses, and can completely alter the tone, and therefore the meaning of a statement.

For a direct example of grammar broken well, Cat Power's booklet for her album "You Are Free" completely lacks capitalization and punctuation. The artist in this way gives the writing a more natural feel, just the words without any formal alteration, which matches the sound of the album. (That sounds being "4 chords and the truth")

When looking at an example like this, it's very easy to think "The artist just didn't care about grammar, and yet they still wrote an excellent piece", which could negatively influence ones interactions with writing.

It's disappointing that readers often come to this conclusion, instead of putting in the effort to think how the story might benefit from being written in such a way.

Namba
01-22-2013, 03:46 PM
And this is why the english language has gone to hell.

Tigercougar
01-22-2013, 06:25 PM
Is a boringly-written story bad grammar?

I like reading short stories. Sometimes a story will really stand out to me, while others will fall flat despite my predilection towards the subject matter. A story I like will have a rhythm to the words. The writer knows how to convey imagery through the written word and it takes me into the story and its world. Other stories seem too literal - if that makes sense. I've read many a story where the cadence is "He does this, then does that, then says this thing, then does that non plot-integral thing that I, the writer, describe in unnecessary detail." The words just don't have any pizazz.

Aden
01-22-2013, 07:00 PM
Is a boringly-written story bad grammar?

I like reading short stories. Sometimes a story will really stand out to me, while others will fall flat despite my predilection towards the subject matter. A story I like will have a rhythm to the words. The writer knows how to convey imagery through the written word and it takes me into the story and its world. Other stories seem too literal - if that makes sense. I've read many a story where the cadence is "He does this, then does that, then says this thing, then does that non plot-integral thing that I, the writer, describe in unnecessary detail." The words just don't have any pizazz.

You're more describing tone and cadence than grammar. If written passages were songs, the tone and cadence might be the key and beat, and the grammar could be hitting notes inside the scale and having a well-tuned instrument

Frank LeRenard
01-22-2013, 09:21 PM
Sure, what Aden said. To me, language is most powerful when it's both artistic and precise. Unless your intent is to confuse people, you should always practice saying exactly what you mean, but how you say it is another matter that's equally as important when it comes to creative writing. I tend to get the biggest kick out of sentences that manage to smush two or three different implied meanings into them, which is something you can only pull off if you put every word in the right place.
I say grammar, but what I really mean is clarity and focus. Which is what grammar is for in the first place.

Sparky15756
01-22-2013, 10:33 PM
And this is why the english language has gone to hell.

its only goin 2 hell bcoz uve stil got ppl who tlk lik dis @ times n it gets on my nerves!!!!!!! ur not kool ur not hip ur just a stoopid shithead get a lyf.............

It's spelling and grammar like that which REALLY annoys me, you've gone through education and learnt how to spell properly, and use grammar too, so why not use it and show yourself to be intelligent? I know I'm one to talk because of that above message but I only type like that when I'm mocking someone, and I used to type like that too so I know how it feels to be unintelligent.

Aradia
01-26-2013, 06:38 PM
I agree wholeheartedly, and it makes me regret ignoring my English classes when I was in school. I used to be a roleplayer, and I thought that I knew all there was to know about writing, that I didn't need to know these damned rules because my shit was the cat's meow.

I was young, stupid, and arrogant. My writing was terrible, made worse by bad roleplaying habits, and when I realized that I stopped writing altogether. Makes me wish there was some sort of good resource for adults to learn grammar.

Aden
01-26-2013, 08:51 PM
Makes me wish there was some sort of good resource for adults to learn grammar.

Honestly, just read a lot and pay attention to how the author punctuates and phrases. You don't have to know all the technical terms and rules to know where in a phrase to place a comma, for example; a lot of it can be left to intuition

And if you mess up a minor detail here and there, well, that's what editors are for!

Tybby
01-27-2013, 12:33 AM
Required reading for the budding writer:

http://colfa.utsa.edu/Sociology/the-elements-of-style.pdf

If you are a writer and you do not have this book in your studio then shame on you and shame on every possible instance of yourself within this unfathomably large multiverse

Sparky15756
01-27-2013, 07:19 AM
Honestly, just read a lot and pay attention to how the author punctuates and phrases. You don't have to know all the technical terms and rules to know where in a phrase to place a comma, for example; a lot of it can be left to intuition

And if you mess up a minor detail here and there, well, that's what editors are for!

It's like with me, I learnt where to place comma's when needed, via common sense, and I sometimes even use colons but that's because I'm used to reading Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and Konami, the people who do Yu-Gi-Oh!, use colons to make it easier for people to understand the card text.

Tybby
01-27-2013, 02:39 PM
Oh look I found the other important book too

http://ebookee.org/Figures-of-Speech-Sixty-Ways-to-Turn-a-Phrase_238083.html

This would be the antithesis to Strunk and White

You should also have this book

This book will explain to you all the reasons to break form, and all the different ways to

drawing examples primarily from Shakespeare and The Bible (See: The two collective works that had the largest influence on the development of the English language)

Do not not have this book please

BlissfulOblivion
01-02-2014, 07:35 PM
Yesss
I always loved intentionally breaking grammar just to make the effect what I want it to be <: I feel like that's something I picked up from reading. Like, I always knew the rules and stuff but there were little specific ways to break them that made it sound better.
I haven't taken a writing class yet, though :c But I hopefully will next year.
But this. I agree.
Although I disagree on the whole "people are destroying English" thing but I'm not really going to get into why I think that :u And I don't want to start an argument.

RainWizard
01-02-2014, 08:10 PM
I did not realize until recently how much I take having an understanding for grammer for granted. Having proof-read two job applications and a university application, and applied the red pen heavily, I feel terrible for making my friends feel like they can't even english.

And how little effort I put into my own structure on forums, and looking over it and seeing hideous oversights.

SirCoffeecup
01-02-2014, 08:13 PM
It seems there are some grammar mistakes that become popular over a short period of time.
Most recent one being "then" where you should use "than" and it irritates me greatly.
Especially when I see friends who use the proper structure normally, but started recently misspelling it.

BlissfulOblivion
01-02-2014, 08:13 PM
I did not realize until recently how much I take having an understanding for grammer for granted. Having proof-read two job applications and a university application, and applied the red pen heavily, I feel terrible for making my friends feel like they can't even english.

And how little effort I put into my own structure on forums, and looking over it and seeing hideous oversights.

This, actually. I always feel really bad when I have to correct my friends' writing :c

RainWizard
01-02-2014, 08:25 PM
This, actually. I always feel really bad when I have to correct my friends' writing :c

Yeah, and I always find if I try to explain why they're wrong they think I'm being patronizing. "/

BlissfulOblivion
01-02-2014, 08:27 PM
Yeah, and I always find if I try to explain why they're wrong they think I'm being patronizing. "/

:C My friends are okay with it (actually, they often ask for it), I just feel really bad because there's so much wrong most of the time and I feel like I'm calling them stupid or something.

Matt
01-03-2014, 06:12 AM
I haven't written an essay post in a long, long time. I have very strong feelings about this, especially in regards to statements like "And this is why the english language has gone to hell." This will be my plan for tomorrow. It shouldn't take more than about 4 hours to write.

Zeitzbach
01-06-2014, 11:18 PM
Tense still troubles me to no end. Most of the time, I write everything in past tense to make it more of a narrative tone (like most book) but once in a while, I get into those situation where I wanted to use a present tense instead because it felt kind of iffy. It usually happens when you introduce a character or something and you go like.

Blah blah that appeared was XXX, a mage that works for... wait, should I use "worked for"? or stick to "works for"? The whole thing is in past tense but his service isn't really over yet so.... Hrng.

BlissfulOblivion
01-07-2014, 12:58 AM
Tense still troubles me to no end. Most of the time, I write everything in past tense to make it more of a narrative tone (like most book) but once in a while, I get into those situation where I wanted to use a present tense instead because it felt kind of iffy. It usually happens when you introduce a character or something and you go like.

Blah blah that appeared was XXX, a mage that works for... wait, should I use "worked for"? or stick to "works for"? The whole thing is in past tense but his service isn't really over yet so.... Hrng.

That probably depends on bigger context and the tone you want. It could potentially be totally fine. Mess around with it and see how it sounds, too. :u That's my two cents.

Frank LeRenard
01-07-2014, 10:00 AM
Tense still troubles me to no end. Most of the time, I write everything in past tense to make it more of a narrative tone (like most book) but once in a while, I get into those situation where I wanted to use a present tense instead because it felt kind of iffy. It usually happens when you introduce a character or something and you go like.

Blah blah that appeared was XXX, a mage that works for... wait, should I use "worked for"? or stick to "works for"? The whole thing is in past tense but his service isn't really over yet so.... Hrng.

Just use past tense consistently. This isn't presumably a story you're telling your friends about recent events, so the whole thing can be treated like 'once upon a time', meaning the events you are speaking of are over by now and you're just telling the story. Maybe in reality, XXX died 400 years ago, in which case he 'worked for' someone. Unless you can look up his phone number and give him a call right now, this is probably the safer option to go with.

Tica
01-10-2014, 08:16 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with the OP.

I'd really like to read more furry fiction and fanfiction, considering that I write it myself and would like to get into the community of artists who make these things so that I can build my audience. But the bad grammar and unprofessional styles get to me and I simply can't read it. I can't. And then, of course, the people with the worst writing are also completely unable to take criticism :/

I'm a writer; I *thrive* on honest and thorough critique. When people post a story and go like, "tell me what you think!" but really they mean, "tell me that you like this, otherwise be silent!" it makes my head spin. @-@