Thursday, February 23, 2012

If You Care About Your Aspiring-Writer Friends

I blog about grammar a lot over on my own blog. Apparently, I'm not reaching enough people. I'm hoping that all of you out there who care about your friends will share this post. Because even those people you know that don't write novels or other equally ambitious projects, still write. Facebook posts. Twitter. Emails. Texts. And various other things that drive people like me crazy.
I wouldn't exactly say I'm a grammar freak. I make my own share of mistakes. I just happen to have "Grammar Girl" and the "Chicago Manual of Style Online" bookmarked. Several grammar books have permanent residence next to my computer. I correct my family and friends on Facebook because I get a kick out of making fun of them. And since I'm a writer, they think I have the clout to do that . . . (I won't digress into another post about misconceptions people have about writers.) 
The great thing about writing fiction is that you can flaunt grammar rules in the name of poetic license most of the time. Like above. Did you notice the sentence fragments? (I didn't pull one over on you? You don't think "Facebook posts" is a complete sentence?) There is one thing that, if your MS crosses my desk--or my screen, I should say--I will mark with fervor. 
Comma Splices.
If I've edited for you, chances are you've seen the dreaded comment with two little, annoying letters "cs" over and over. Don't worry about it. I'm about to lecture now, but quite honestly, it's by far the most common mistake I see in manuscripts. There are several in the first Harry Potter book, just sayin'. Sometimes--but only when I can clearly see the reason the author punctuated the sentence incorrectly--I let it slide.
Simply put, a comma splice is when a comma is used to split (or splice) two independent phrases without a coordinating conjunction.
Example: I went to the store, I bought bread.
Wrong. WRONG! . . .  (Sorry, I'm calm now.) Although the two ideas are closely related, and it's quite tempting to emphasize the relationship by using the comma as just sort of a breath between them--it's wrong. 
If you want that close relationship use a semi-colon. I went to the store; I bought bread. Or better, reword the sentence. I went to the store and bought bread. OR When I went to the store, I bought bread. The possibilities are endless.
I personally think "Grammar Girl" has one of the best explanations for what comma splices are and why it's better not to use them, despite the temptation to flaunt this particular rule in the name of art. Read or listen to it here
In the mean time, stop splicing those sentences incorrectly. 


  1. Let me say up front that I am nervous to post a comment for fear of what repercussions it may have. (Please don't write on your screen with a red pen!) However, my strong feelings regarding the subject will help me push onward. I sometimes feel great concern for the intelligence of the rising generation. Not only will they be unable to walk anywhere due to the re-invention of the wheel in the "Wheelie" shoes (or whatever they are called), they also abbreviate words like "to" to "2", "You" to "u", etc. Let's face it - those words aren't exactly long or difficult to spell, but for the sake of "ease" we are making our already limited vocabulary and ability to spell come dangerously close to extinction.

    Having gotten off topic due to thinking about Facebook posts, I will return to the topic at hand. I had a great English teacher in 8th grade who (would it be "whom"?) spent a lot of time focusing on correct grammar, especially the semi-colon. I don't see people use that punctuation mark at all; has it become lost from our language? (I sure hope that I used it correctly! If not, perhaps there is a good reason for the untimely death!)

    (I am neither as old nor as serious as this post makes me sound. You just happened to pinch my I'm-better-than-you nerve!)

  2. I shudder as I read emails, texts, status updates on facebook. It's just the way things are going these days, but that doesn't mean I have to like it! I'm glad there are others out there of a similar mind!

    P.S., and speaking of grammar/usage rules, it should be "flout" not "flaunt" :)

  3. I am notoriously terrible about breaking every rule you mentioned in the name of my "art." I will now think of you cringing your nose every time you read a blog post of mine. ;)

  4. I break several rules when writing. I only hold out that there must be a reason. :) (And I must be able to see the reason. LOL.)