Millions of you loyal readers will recall the first time I blogged about grammar. This time I’m tackling the issue from a different perspective.
In my previous post on the subject, I focused on the obscure and easily forgotten terms people associate with grammar, and how some think they can’t write because they don’t remember all those definitions from English class.
Today I’ll explore some basics of grammar that might be keeping you from succeeding as a writer, prevent you from grasping that brass ring. No strange words this time (well, maybe one).
I came upon this blog post by Allison VanNest that discusses five common grammar mistakes beginning writers make. Well worth reading! Experienced editors would likely agree with Allison about her top five list, based on manuscripts they receive.
- Misuse of Commas: I like Ms. VanNest’s take on this one. Commas are supposed to signal pauses. That’s why I’m an advocate of the Serial (or Oxford) Comma. However, I’ll bow to the wishes of an editor who’s willing to accept my stories!
- Incorrect Capitalization: I’m surprised this one made the list of the top five grammar mistakes, but I guess it is a problem.
- Misspellings: It’s very true what Allison writes about this, including the fact that spell checkers can lead you astray. (I’ve long loved the funny poem about spell checkers.)
- Wordiness: We’re all prone to this. As you edit, make each word and phrase defend itself, earn its place in your story.
- Missing Determiners: There’s that one (possibly) strange word I mentioned. Don’t leave out “a,” “an,” and “the” when they’re needed for clarity.
You may be thinking, “So what if my story has a misspelled word, or I’ve got a comma out of place? Why is that so important?”
Here’s why: If you send your manuscript to an editor, your bad grammar tells the editor you don’t know the language very well. Your bad grammar makes the editor more likely to reject your story even if it is otherwise compelling. Moreover, the editor is more likely to reject your future submissions out of hand.
If you decide to skip the editor and self-publish instead, you’re disappointing and then frustrating the reader, your ultimate customer. Not only will your reader cast your book aside in disgust, he or she will not buy your other stories and may leave an unfavorable review, thus turning off other potential readers.
My intent today was to comment on the content of Ms. VanNest’s blog post. That site is promoting a grammar-checker software product called Grammarly. I have not yet tried that program, so have no reason to criticize or endorse it. Many word processors include grammar-checkers, but you might find single-use software such as Grammarly to be superior.
Ensure your writing avoids the top five grammar mistakes before you submit it for publication. Make them part of your editing process as you rewrite your drafts. Before you know it, you’ll have more stories published and a higher income from your writing, than—