This is a fun article! Mary Deal outlines one of the secrets to her success as an author…her ability to compose prose using proper grammar and the right amount of eloquence. When writing, it’s important to sound credible. It’s one thing to use poor grammar when you are inside a character’s head or quoting her speech. After all, a poor, uneducated, person isn’t going to talk uppity. But the words you use as an author to cement your story together had better follow proper rules of grammar. Read Mary’s article for her take…and remember, talk uppity, then visit Mary’s website: Write Any Genre.
by Mary Deal
Someone once asked, “I was told to write how I speak in order to make my stories conversational. So why can’t I get them published?”
I took a look at that woman’s writing style and it instantly triggered a memory of my own experience.
The language with which we’re most comfortable doesn’t always produce the best writing style.
I grew up among middle-class everyday folk. Language was one thing that separated groups of people as I had come to know them. When I was young, every once in a while I’d hear someone say, “Oh my! She talks so uppity!”
Hearing such remarks from people that I liked made me wonder what uppity might mean. What I heard when those others spoke was language that seemed too proper, maybe too perfect.
As children, my siblings and I used to imitate at play. We’d throw our hands on our hips and accuse one another, saying, “Oh my! You talk uppity!”
I decided that I didn’t want someone saying anything like that about me. I didn’t want my friends and family to think I put on airs. I continued using the language I grew up with, until I began to write.
Then, every time I looked, my thesaurus kicked out words and phrases that, when spoken, sounded like speech I had heard long ago. Uppity speech. Yet, it all sounded so good when I used those terms and phrases in my stories. I started getting published more. I graduated to using a Chicago Manual of Style. My former language nuances enhance my writing style, but now what I say is more grammatically correct.
What I realized was that the language errors in the ways of my common-folk upbringing kept me using simple language and colloquialisms in my writing. The proper language I had heard from others and shied away from was just that: Proper.
So in order for me to write stories to the best of my ability, I had to learn to write and speak uppity. And guess what. Doing so improved my stories beyond anything that I could beforehand have imagined. And all it really was, and had been all along, was correct grammar usage. So go ahead. Talk uppity.