Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reflecting on Grammar (and other stuff)

Once again please welcome Terry Odell for another guest post.

Since I'm back at intensive writing, and doing critiques for my writers group, I find my reading for pleasure moves deeper into edit mode as well.

Most of these things have no effect on plot or storytelling, but they're things that slow my read. I wonder if anyone else notices or even cares.

I don't begin to consider myself a grammar guru, although I had a lot of basics pounded into my head by Miss Cook in junior high, and Mr. Holtby in high school. Lately, I've noticed that some of these lessons don't seem to matter anymore. Or else copy editors had different teachers. Our language is fluid, and constantly changing (my agent said the comma before "too" is no longer required and made me remove all of them which still waves red flags for me), so I wonder if there are other memos I've missed. Of course, even if you get the memos, they're not written in stone, as my editor went and put back all those commas I'd deleted.

One rule I learned is that two things can be compared, but in order to use the superlative it was absolutely required that there be three. When one of my writing partners critiqued a recent submission, she flagged the chair "nearer" the wall and said it should be nearest. I said there were only two chairs, so "nearer" should be correct. She said she'd never heard of that rule.

When I was in school, this is what we learned, and the way I still remember it:

Good, Better, Best. You can't have the best of two, or there will be red marks on your paper. So when I noticed a character talking about his youngest child, I assumed there would be at least three kids, and I kept waiting for a middle sibling to appear. But no, there were only two, and one was the youngest and one was the oldest.

And people are who, things are that. So when I see "The man that was arrested" or, "the dog who ran away," my teeth clench.

Granted, these things don't affect the plot. But to me, I'm seeing those big red marks on the page and am pulled out of the story.

On a non-grammar note, research is another pet peeve. I don't know a lot, so when I see something I do know, I wonder why an author didn't take the time to make sure the detail is correct, or the copy editor let it slide. Number one biggie, because of my preferred genre, is characters who carry Glocks, yet click the safety off or on. Glocks just plain don't work that way. And revolvers don't have safeties either.

Do you have any pet peeves, or am I the only one who even notices these things? Do you read differently as a writer? Can you turn off that internal editor? As a reader, do grammar and research issues throw speed bumps in your reading?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists. To see all her books, visit her Web site. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.


Posted by Maryann Miller who also has a hard time turning off the editor side of her brain to simply enjoy a book.

14 comments :

  1. Terry, I enjoyed your reflections. I can still read for pleasure, but these days the prose quality has to be pretty high to allow my complete immersion.

    Many of my pet peeves were evident in THE SHACK. Canoes are not rowed, they are paddled--and that was only the tip of the iceberg as concerns canoeing errors. And with more patient editing to plot development, the mystery could have been preserved without the reader feeling cheated at the end.

    But does the average reader care? Sales of THE SHACK weren't too shabby...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Kathryn - haven't read THE SHACK, but I hate feeling cheated, which is another issue. I'm constantly reading for "pleasure" (usually at least 2 books at a time)), but part of my brain is still noticing both the 'good' and the 'not so good' instead of being totally drawn into the story. I don't think writers (or editors) are average readers.

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

    ReplyDelete
  3. Terry, this is when BRP is at it's best ... er, better, er gooder ... arrrg!

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  4. Christopher -- I suppose that since there are lots more than 3 articles at BRP, you can use the superlative. And thanks!
    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

    ReplyDelete
  5. To know I am not alone!
    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Right on, Terry. My husband is in the shooting sports industry and he goes nut when he reads stuff like that! Each of us has our own area of expertise and things that raise red flags.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oops ... I meant 'its' ... how embarrassing!

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  8. G&G - thanks

    Heidi - yes, when I know something, I figure the author ought to have taken the time to look it up. Of course, knowing when you need to look something up is another blog post altogether!

    Christoper - typos in blog comments don't count.

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

    ReplyDelete
  9. Terry, thanks again for being here again. And I am glad you said typos in blog comments don't count. When I am typing on my little notepad, I make all kinds of mistakes.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Maryann - glad to be part of this group. Even with a full sized keyboard, sometimes the comment boxes and fonts provided are too tiny for accuracy.

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  11. Since I started writing and editing my stories, I can't help trying to tighten up the novels of others. Before, I hated grammar and paid no attention to it. Now I nitpick. I found myself re-writing Paolo Coelho's Alchemist. How pathetic is that?
    Love your articles.

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  12. Apostrophes in the wrong place are my bete noir!

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  13. I'm another one who hates "that" used for people. It's just plain rude!

    Your "Good, Better, Best" example reminded me of another pet peeve that seems to be cropping up more and more these days: "different than" being used instead of "different to". Something is either different or it is the same; it can't be "more different", therefore it is certainly not "different than" something else.

    Elle
    HearWriteNow & Blood-Red Pencil

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  14. D - yep, once you start writing, you'll never read the same way again.

    Flowerpot. Oh, yes. I'm often tempted to grab a marker and fix signs where the apostrophe is used to make something plural!

    hearwritenow. I've never seen 'different to' used. But more different would drive me nuts.

    Terry
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

    ReplyDelete

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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