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Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Importance Of Grammar

How important is grammar to a writer? That's like asking how important water is to a fish. Yet you might be surprised by the number of writers that don't take it serious enough. Considering there are agents and editors out there who will shape and change your book, how important is it really though? How much editing can you expect an agent, and especially an editor to do? You might not like the answers.

Grammar is to your novel what air is to you. Without it your novel cannot breathe. Agents get thousands of submissions every month. With such a high volume they are looking for two things. The first of which is a reason to reject your work. The second is outstanding writing. Because of that first reason, good grammar is vital to your chances of getting out of the slush pile. Agents may help with minor grammar if your writing is powerful enough and your story is compelling enough.

The English language is one of the hardest languages in the world. With words like their, they're, there and reign, rain, or rein it's easy to see how someone could get confused. And those are just the tip of the iceberg as all writers know (no, now?!). What are you to do if grammar isn't exactly your strong point? If you can take a class or two on grammar or composition do so. Don't have the time or money? Then pick up a book on the subject or borrow your kids English text book. Find a critique group that is willing to help.

Another idea is to hire a freelance editor. Don't just rely on them for every novel. Analyze and learn from what they do to your manuscript. Just like agents, when it comes to the point where your manuscript is put before an editor of a publishing house, they will expect it to be polished and professional. If it isn't they may lean toward another novel in their pile that is.

Want more advice on grammar? Check out these posts from Writer's Digest: How To Handle Animal Pronouns, Don't Use Adverbs & Adjectives To Prettify Your Prose and Reign Vs. Rein. Any more tips out there anyone wants to share?

12 comments:

  1. I am terrible with grammar, unfortunately. But you are right! I have made a concerted effort since starting this whole writing thing to learn and apply the rules. I still make mistakes, but luckily I have great critique partners that are good at it and help.

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  2. Always go back over and read what you wrote multiple times. When I am writing fast (and maybe even when I'm writing slow) I make some really stupid mistakes like confusing right and write even though I know the difference. The problem is that it sometimes takes me multiple read-throughs before I catch my mistake.

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  3. I still make mistakes too Lisa! I don't think we can get away from making them completely, we can only do our best. A critique group is an excellent way to cut back on errors. Mine has helped me so much!

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  4. Me too Alissa! That's one reason I have a four part editing process. I catch something with every read through!

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  5. I agree with Alissa. It takes me many read-throughs to hopefully catch those little type-o's. You may have missed it the first several times through. Always let the book rest for a few weeks, or even a month, before you read through it again. I always find something.

    Thanks Heather.

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  6. Great point about letting the book rest Lorelei, that's a must! I'm shocked at what I'm finding on this latest read through of my novel. There's always something!

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  7. Heather, I too agree with Alissa. The reason I edited so many times is that after I read what I wrote... oh my. Maybe it was just getting it out quickly on paper. But the important thing is to know and identify what needs to be fixed. Thanks for the links and the encouragement... there is always help, even for grammar!

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  8. I know what you mean Karlene! My first draft is always kind of atrocious. That's why no one reads it but me until it's been edited at least twice!

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  9. I am deeply in love with the English language and am perhaps a bit too pedantic concerning its proper use. It's why my friends have taken to calling me Pocket Ali (your portable guide to grammar, useage and spelling). I make judicious use of the spell checking function on my computer, but know better than to rely solely on that. For those who feel they need grammar instruction, I recommend the book Grammatically Correct. It's easy to understand and has a list of frequently misspelled words.
    Nadine Liamson

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  10. I agree that writers don't take grammar seriously enough--I can't believe how many people in my ENG200 class (which you have to be a writing major or minor to take) have terrible grammar...

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  11. That's too funny Nadine, Pocket Ali, I like that! I love the English language too. It is a writer's backbone after all. Thanks for the book recommendation. I'm going to check that out!

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  12. I guess the up side to that Kari is that they're in the class! :-D

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