Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is Good Grammar Important in Fiction?

Okay, maybe that's not a good question to ask an editor and former high school English teacher. LOL But it has come up several times in the last few weeks, either from clients or statements made in my hearing or even in my reading.

The short answer? Or at least my take on it. Yes, it matters. But . . . I'm not saying that everything in a work of fiction needs to be grammatically correct. The writing book I'm currently reading is Dwight Swain's Techniques of a Selling Writer. This is what he has to say about the importance of grammar:

"To keep rules in proper perspective, violate them by design only.

"That is, make them tool for manipulation of your reader's emotions. If that takes sentence fragments, non-punctuation, stream-of-consciousness, and one-word paragraphs, by all means use them. Winston Churchill blazed the trail for all of us when he spoke his mind to the purists who insisted that no sentence end with a preposition: 'This is one rule up with which I shall not put!'

"So, deviate if you must. But do it with malice and by intent, not accident.

"And, most of the time, stay within the rules. Your readers will feel more at home that way."

And so will your editors. *smile*

Do know the rules of grammar: punctuation, sentence construction, word choices, etc. Because when you know the rules, then you can break them . . . effectively.

Check out this for a humorous, yet serious, approach to this topic.

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