grammar, sh-mammar part 1

On WritingThis is the first post in a (planned) two post rant about grammar.

Recently, I came across this little gem originally published on Business Insider. Entitled “Why You Should Never, Ever Put Two Spaces After A Period”, the author rails on the long-standing practice of ending sentences with multiple spaces. For the record, multiple sentence-ending spaces is a pet peeve of mine.

When I worked in the corporate world, I routinely got memos and emails from colleagues who seemed to have only recently discovered the space bar on their keyboards.

“What does this do?!” I can imagine them asking excitedly. “Oh, oh! Blank space! I’m going to use this so much!

And use it they did. One former coworker in particular comes to mind. She apparently pounded on the space bar in some kind of wild fit after completing each and every sentence. I don’t know if her love affair with the space bar was celebratory (“I finished! I finished a sentence!“) or what, but her emails were littered with extra post-sentence spaces–three, sometimes four, five or even six spaces between a period and the first capitalized letter of the next sentence. (In my mind, I picture her laughing hysterically as she raps repeatedly on her keyboard, gleefully unaware of how amateurish and choppy it makes literally all of her emails look.)

I’ll be the first to admit that grammar isn’t a particularly riveting subject. Diagramming sentences stopped being fun when…well, before I started diagramming them. It was never fun. I hated studying comma placement, proper sentence structure and the etiquette of preposition usage. However, I’m a writer. Grammar is to me what a basic understanding of electrical current is to an electrician. Said another way, exciting or not, it’s important.

In his must-read book, On Writing, Stephen King said the following:

Bad grammar produces bad sentences…Grammar is not just a pain in the ass; it’s the pole you grab to get your thoughts up on their feet and walking.

Indeed.

If you want to be a writer, you have to know grammar. Back in the day, that meant buying a style guide (there are a lot of good ones out there), but the digital era affords you a new option, as well: Google it. Or, see if the Grammar Girl (over at Quick and Dirty Tips) has any advice on the subject in question. (Her articles are thorough, easy to understand and well worth referencing.) Whatever your approach, learn and use good grammar.

Bad grammar will make your stories a chore to read and will almost certainly make a horrible impression on editors and agents. Good grammar may not win you any awards, but it’s an invaluable asset nevertheless.

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About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

6 Responses to grammar, sh-mammar part 1

  1. That double space thing used to drive me crazy too. You can always tell an older writer by that habit. Thank goodness for the Find/Replace feature of Word. It’s made reading these manuscripts so much less annoying. Not much can be done if it’s infected emails or blogs though. I’m glad I never acquired that habit. It must be a terrible one to break, right up there with nicotine or crack, from what I’ve observed, because no one seems able to stop once they start.

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    • dex says:

      I used to be a double space offender, myself. That’s how I was taught to type. But, when I learned that it was technically wrong, I made myself break the habit. It didn’t take as long as might think to unlearn it.

      I think a lot of people who do it either don’t know it breaks with good style, or don’t care. (A friend on Facebook argued vehemently with me when I posted this article a few weeks ago, citing that her typing teacher in high school told her to use double spaces so it must be right!)

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  2. I use Grammar Girl all the time. LOL.

    I too, was taught to type with a double space at the end of each sentence. In fact, I only stopped doing it two years ago, when I started my blog. And it only occurred to me then, because it seemed to really screw up my formatting.

    So, old dogs can learn new tricks. I’m proof. ;0)

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  3. tristdagon says:

    I feel like a weirdo. I like to diagram sentences, a lot. Possibly too much.

    I still have a collection of style guides from school though I’m sure they’re outdated now. They always seemed to come out with a new one each year.

    I think a lot of people picked up the double space thing in school, I had a teacher who would deduct points from the papers I wrote because I would forget to use double spaces after each sentence. I never got the hang of it.

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    • dex says:

      Okay, so yeah, that does make you weird. Sorry. But, there are a ton of things that make me weird! You can’t be a writer and not be weird!

      And you’re absolutely right about where people learn that double-space nonsense: school. A lot of teachers teach it the wrong way.

      Like

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