Monday, July 20, 2009

Why I'll Never Be Good At Grammar

Yeah, I know...

But apart from the title, this post over at The Scribbling Sea Sprite is a perfect example of why I just don't, and will never, get the grammar rule side of writing.

This doesn't mean I'm giving up, nor should any of you who are not practising editors, school teachers or freaks of nature who just get this stuff!

We are writers and like all who practise a particular trade, we need to become at least proficient with the tools of that occupation. For us, the tools are words and how to use them is our chosen craft.

So, to help me, and anyone else out there who could do with a polish up, a helping hand, or a life vest - what writing resource books, particularly grammar and structure (you know, the technical stuff), would you recommend as a must be on a writer's book shelf?

Aaron posted about books a little while back and gave a suggestion of seven titles that should be on your shelf and a few of you added to that in the comments. I want more and I want specifically grammar, or more technical books, written in a manner that a dope like me can make sense of. That means no carrying on like Strunk and White, and no other dark magic, talking in circles-type stuff!

When I get home, I'll rattle off the resource books I have on my shelf and what's any good or not.

Stay tuned, but in the mean time - fill up the comments with your suggestions.


  1. 1. Marry someone who's really good at grammar.

    2. Make them read your stuff.

  2. The only reason I understand grammar...well, I have to explain certain things to the students.

    Suggestions for grammar (that don't suck):

    Woe is I and Words Fail Me both by Patricia O'Conner. (American English)

    Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. (Queen's English)

    There are more, but these are my favs. A good reference, like Pocket Keys for Writers by Ann Raimes is handy, too.

    Hope this helps.

    (and I have to mention, because it never happens, craters was my's never a real word!)

  3. I have been searching for a book like this as well. I will let you know when I find it.

  4. I have a friend who is an English teacher. It helps majorly.

  5. I've just always understood the mechanics of grammar, and find it easy to remember the rules--but that doesn't mean I was taught all the rules in school. Other than Strunk & White, I don't own any books on grammar, but I do rely on a couple of websites for help when I have a question for which I don't have a ready answer. The best one in my opinion is the OWL at Purdue:

  6. I've never really needed to think about it, myself. I'm one of those who just "get" most grammar/punctuation rules (not that I'm any kind of expert). I've also got a master's in elementary education, which doesn't hurt. :)

    My recommendation is to make up your own reference guide. When you read a book, jot down any unusual grammar or punctuation issues you notice. Go back later to research them and see if whoever edited the book was right. Not only will you have a custom-made reference guide before long, you're more likely to remember what you've researched yourself.

  7. I'm with you on this, BT. Grammar was not my strong suit in school and my understanding of it parallels my understanding of calculus. I just go with the words that sound right and flow together.

  8. Nat - my wife might object to that.

    Aaron - I've just received Creating Short Fiction. I'll have to add these new ones to my 'To Buy' list, which in turn will add to my 'To Read' pile which is now spilling out of the allocated bookshelf.

    Jamie - I'll let you know if I find one first.

    D - I have Pharo who is my God send.

    Pharo - I forgot to transfer the bookmark to the OWL when I setup the new laptop. Must rectify that.

    KC - I hate you. Making my own reference book is a good idea. I'm thinking that I'll finish the first draft of my current WIP, and then let it sit. While sitting, I can gather together my own reference material in preparation for doing the editing run. Sounds like a plan...

    Alan - peas in a pod, my friend. Together with Jamie, we will find a way to make this easier for us and anyone else who doesn't want to admit to climbing into this pod.