» Posted on Jan 18, 2006 in Blog | Comments Off on Grammar

To some this is a four letter word. I know that my students aren’t thrilled when I talk about grammar. Last summer a friend had a book by an English writer about how bad grammar has gotten (Eating Shoots or some such title). I read some of the book, and it was funny and made a good point. Without grammar some comments could be taken several different ways.

Over the twenty-five years or so that I’ve been seriously writing, I have learned a lot of grammar. Some of it is clear cut but other parts of the rules have shady gray areas (ugh, that’s the hard part–you aren’t too sure what to do). Some publisher prefer a certain way while another won’t. An example is using commas in a series of things like cat, dog and bird. It used to be you put a comma after each one: cat, dog, and bird. Now it can be done both ways. Even my reference book states this. The comma has to be there if the and is omit, however.

My advice about grammar is to learn the basics. If you are struggling, maybe take a class at a college to help or get a good reference book of the rules. I have one that I’ve had since I was in college (we won’t talk about how long ago that was). It is called Practical English Handbook. A great source for when I can’t figure out what is right. Also read your manuscript out loud and hopefully if it sounds right to your ears it probably is (caution: this isn’t always the case but it is a good starting point).