The Rules of Grammar
The rules of grammar are to, first, benefit a reader. Grammar has standard format to which good writers will adhere. Secondly, it provides all writers a standard to follow that makes the written word fluent. Proper grammar is the backbone of all written prose, regardless some be written in colloquialisms, laced with foreign words, slang, or any other variation.
See it this way –
An avid reader picks up a book written according to the rules of grammar. They read through the book quickly and immensely enjoy the story because nothing impeded their reading experience.
Yet another well-read reader opens a book only to find grammar flaws such as poor format, incorrect sentence structure, irregular of incorrect speaker tags and beats, and other jarring errors. It’s difficult for this reader to enjoy the book because the author did not follow the rules of correct grammar that make for a smooth read and which is constant in all good books.
Poor grammar and composition in an otherwise great story deflates the reader’s enthusiasm. The reader may think twice about having to pick their way through a plethora of errors in any new book by this same author. Some will not complete the read of the present book.
Most all authors have finished school and studied English grammar. However, I’ve found that many have forgotten what they learned. Too, it’s erroneous to believe that because we studied grammar in school that we know how to write. Truth is, few remember. Another truth is that most writers have never been told how to write a story of greater length. Writing a story or book length manuscript is different in the real world than it was when composing high school or college papers.
A short cut to learning proper grammar is as I always recommend: Get your hands on a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style and a thesaurus. Any time you have difficulty, for example, composing a sentence or deciding whether to use a colon or semi-colon, or need a more descriptive verb, refer to these thorough and concise research aids.
Don’t ask a friend that you feel may know more than you. She or he may not know the answer to your question and then leave you to make an arbitrary decision. Too, if you post your questions on a website and others reply, of the variety of answers, whom do you believe? If you’re sure the friend you ask is a professional with grammar, then go ahead and trust their response if they seem certain. But an inexperienced writer having to relearn grammar all the while writing a book will surely destroy a friendship if that writer constantly expects the friend to advise them all along the way. At some early point, every writer must take responsibility for learning how to make their stories as perfect as they can.
Two other references I always recommend – I could recommend many but will skim the best off the top of the list here – are:
Writing with Clarity and Style by Robert A. Harris
Complete Stylist and Handbook by Sheridan Baker
Should you feel you are knowledgeable enough to write your opus but you encounter problems along the way, then to the list above, I would suggest you refer to my eBook, Write it Right – Tips for Authors. This book is meant for writers who are progressing nicely, but find some problems in composition that should be smoothed out in order to compose fluid prose.
There is no need to maintain an entire library of books to guide you. Many books offer bits of information here and there but no one book will solve all of any writer’s problems.
If you feel you are able to write stunning prose based on your current knowledge or ability, then you don’t need a lot of books. Any questions you have can be researched in reference books or writing reference sites on the Net. Should you feel uncertain about your writing abilities overall, then you may need to take a course or two to give you some sort of foundation or base from which to begin.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.