The proper use of grammar is a subject of great debate on the Internet at the moment. Take a quick look at any social media writing group and you will see a great many writers arguing with passion. Unfortunately most of the arguments are not about stories and character, but about grammar.
I have seen a great many people gleefully drawing attention to the mistakes of others. I suspect it is the anonymity of the Internet that makes people forget their good manners.
Pointing out grammar mistakes is often a tactic used to belittle or embarrass the writer. Those using this particular tactic often forget that the fact that a writer may have written a response in the heat of the moment.
THE RISE OF THE GRAMMAR NAZI
The nastier of online debaters often state that their opponent’s intelligence is reflected in their improper use of the words your and you’re. This might more accurately reflect their own desperation to feel superior.
It is sad to think that there are people trying to make themselves feel good – by trying to make others feel bad. Unfortunately this type of behaviour is becoming all too common.
DOES EDUCATION EQUAL INTELLIGENCE?
Is a thorough knowledge of grammar a true test of intelligence? Or, is it more an indicator of education?
Common sense tells us that a lack of education doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is not intelligent. It just means they are not educated.
There are many intelligent people who are not that educated. Not everybody enjoys the same level of education and clearly not everyone had the same advantages when they were growing up.
Some schools are better than others. Class sizes differ. Teaching standards differ. Remembering my own school days I can recall a particular teacher whose experimental teaching methods focused more on the importance of endeavour and creativity, rather than grammar and spelling. Other teachers differed.
When I look back at my school years, the teacher who rewarded and inspired creativity is the one I will always remember. The others were just hands attached to rulers.
PROPER GRAMMAR MAKES SENSE
This is not to say that good grammar isn’t important. Incorrect grammar can alter the meaning of a sentence or paragraph. I don’t want to read a book that is so grammatically incorrect that I cannot decipher the story.
But I also don’t want to read a book where the author is so intent on using correct grammar that their dialogue is stilted and unbelievable and their story is buried in a wordy catalogue of perfect but absolutely boring sentences.
STORY IS EVERYTHING
Good stories make us think and the best are never forgotten. So, focus on your story as you write and worry about the rest later.
The more you write the more your story telling techniques and your grammar will improve. A good editor will help you when you are finished completing the most important task for a writer – writing your story.
IS STORY A PROBLEM FOR YOU?
If you would like to further your understanding of story I highly recommend you read The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. In this indispensable guide to writing he offers fresh techniques and practical advice. More importantly, he lays out the foundations of a really great story. This book is essential reading for all writers.
P.S. I am an affiliate for some of the books I recommend, including The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. This means I receive a tiny commission should you purchase. This helps to offset some of the costs involved in providing the free information and advice on this site. However, please know that I only do this for books I have personally read and loved and only those books which have clear benefits to a writer.