Here's what she had to say about today's use of grammar in writing...
R.I.P. Anglo Lingua
There have been several articles written lately—mostly by newspaper columnists--lamenting the poor use of grammar and how it’s bringing about the death of the English language . One wonders if columnists in other countries also voice this concern but I’m going to limit myself to good ol’ American English today, because even if English isn’t on its deathbed yet, it certainly looks as if it’s in the throes of a very serious illness.
Like all writers, I have a list of what I call Writing Sins (and at this point, a number of you are probably already muttering, “Oh, no Here we go again with the Writing Sins!”) and the two at the top of the list are: A. Incorrect grammar, and B. Inaccuracy.
On my website, besides having a blog with guests, I also have a book review page and after reviewing thirty novels thus far, I have come to two conclusions: although most of the novels are well-written as far as plot and dialogue go, they make the same grammatical mistakes and their copy writers don’t catch them. What great sin am I speaking of? Not so bad when you consider the rest of the world’s problems but to those of us trained in English (I’m speaking of the teachers-turned-writers among us) they are minor slaps in the face.
The greatest culprit is the mis-use of pronouns. As in the following:
She followed him and I to the park.
Between you and I, it isn’t true.
That must be them at the door.
I look a lot better than her.
I could care less about it.
Each has their own opinion.
He’s the man that got away.
Which of the above are correct? Answer: None. It should be:
She followed him and me to the park.
Between you and me, it isn’t true.
That must be they at the door.
I look better than she.
I couldn’t care less about it.
Each has his own opinion.
He’s the man who got away.
Why? I’m not going to go into all the intricate grammatical rules and regulations (see your friendly neighborhood Middle School English teacher for those), just a short, easy rule my own English teacher, Mrs. Addie Rie Baird, taught me. Try each pronoun alone and see how it sounds and if it makes sense. As in:
She followed him and I to the park. She followed him to the park. (That sounds OK.) She followed I to the park. (Really now. Would you say actually that?) She followed me to the park. (Sound better?) So… She followed him and me to the park.
I look better than her. (Oh, please!) It’s: I look better than she. Believe it or not, there’s an understood phrase at the end of the sentence comparing the two people. I look better than she (does) or than she (looks). Would anyone say I look better than her looks? Or than her does? Perhaps, if you were aged four or five.
I could care less. If you could care less, you would. In order to care less about something, you must care about it. If one cares to any degree, then they can care less. Those who can’t care less, do not care at all. If you couldn’t care less, that means it is impossible to care because you’ve never cared in the first place. (This is definitely a logic problem.)
Each has their own opinion. “Each” is singular, “their” is plural. Since “each” means “one of a group” then the pronoun has to be “one” also, hence, “his” or “her” as the gender may be. So…He/she has his/her own opinion. Feminists among you protest…I’m going with masculine singular pronouns here. Each has his own opinion.
He’s the man that got away. In this case, that is used for objects and who for persons. So it’s “He’s the man who got away.” If the sentence had been something like “This is the book that I borrowed,” (book = object), it would have been correct.
I’m now going to make a dogmatic statement which will probably raise a many hackles: As far as I’m concerned, 75% of all the writers I’ve reviewed (and their editors) should take a refresher course in English Grammar. (I suppose now everyone will rush out to find a copy of one of my novels and scour it for grammatical mistakes so they can shake them in my face. I’ll defend myself before the fact by saying I’ve had a couple of copy editors who’ve changed things incorrectly before the books went to print and yes—sometimes I’ve personally slipped up. Every once in a while in a weak moment, my grammatical guard has come down and I’ve back-slid into the way I spoke before I entered high school. After all—as feeble an excuse as it is—I’m only human. (Mostly.) If you don’t wish to consult a teacher and prefer taking the easy way out, get a copy of Webster’s Secretarial Handbook. I have one on my desk for those days when I’m uncertain which way the grammatical wind blows.
Now to item B on the list: Inaccuracy.
Unless something is part of your made-up universe, be as factual as possible. Sometimes I slip up, but I try to do as much research about a subject as I can before I commit it to print. During edits, I spend a lot of time checking back and forth to make certain if a character starts out in London in Chapter I, he’s not in Tokyo at its end, unless he says somewhere along the line he boarded an east-bound jet. And his eye color didn’t change from brown to blue as he winged his way.
I once read a novel in which someone was expounding on how Lee Harvey Oswald murdered Jack Ruby (and it wasn’t in an alternate universe!) In another novel, a character has Lasix surgery. Since Lasix is a diuretic drug, I’m wondering what kind of surgery that involved. (That one was caught by the editor, I’m happy to announce.)
Whether your novel is set in 1008 or 2008, make certain your characters' speech, clothing, and ways of life existed within those boundaries (unless it’s being played for laughs, of course; then, anything goes). Don’t be one of those aiding and abetting the English language into its slow (and predicted) slide into the grave.
Okay, lecture over. Now for the promo: TA-DAHHH!
My latest novel, Wizard’s Wife is scheduled for a January, 2011 release from Class Act Books, and I’m sponsoring a contest. Read down below for the details.
A Note from the Book Boost: Thanks for the grammar lesson, Toni. If there are errors in my books (and I'm sure there are) I'd just as soon not know about it. Most of the time, the publisher won't let you correct it after the fact anyway. So, I just like to not think about it after that final galley goes through. LOL Denial is a beautiful thing. Congrats on your new release. Please tell us more.
Cross the Magic Portal into Ais Linn, a dimension where unicorns roam and werewolves prowl… Where a faery wizard and his mortal bride battle the Lord of Dark Fire for possession not only of his own world but of the Earth itself.
Newly-wed Megan McMuir is more than shocked to discover her husband is a faery, and not just any faery but the Champion of White Fire, sent to protect the Earth from invasion by dark wizard Exeter Dubhtina. When David is recalled Ais Linn, Megan braves the Portal’s dangers to follow him. Soon, she finds herself the Dark Lord’s prisoner, a pawn in the fight against her husband. The threat from Exeter Dubhtina is a deadly one: Surrender and bow to me or watch your wife and unborn child die!
David has sworn to protect the Earth. Will he break his vows or lose Megan and their baby?
“Damn it, Megan!” He made an angry gesture, slapping his hands against his thighs. “What can I do to make you believe me?”
“Prove it.” Call his bluff. There’s no way he can prove what he says is true. Perhaps that’ll snap him out of it.
“You heard me. Prove to me you’re a faery, I mean a wizard. Go on. Show me how you look when you’re in Wizard-form, World-Champion-Defender-class.”
“All right.” He didn’t even pretend to think about it, just stalked a few feet away and turned back to face her. He thrust both hands in front of him, fingers outspread, palms toward his body.
“You’re serious.” Abruptly, Megan was frightened. He really thinks he’s some type of extra-terrestrial supernatural being. Oh, David!
“Damn right.” The hands moved apart, one above his head, the other hovering near his waist. He brought them together. They passed each other. “There! Would you be thinkin’ this better?”
Now it was Megan’s turn to stare.
Where David had been, there now stood an old man...a very old man...long snowy-white hair, longer snowy-white beard.
Merlin. She had no doubt of it. Wearing a black floor-sweeping robe spangled with crescent moons and stars. On the white hair perched a pointed cap, its peak so tall it had creased and fallen over under its own weight, the tip touching his shoulder.
“Who are you supposed to be?” She was out of the chair before she realized it, running toward him only to skid to a stop and approach a little more cautiously. “And where’s David?”
Merlin looked down at her.
“I’m David,” he informed her with a dignified British accent. “World-Champion-Defender-class wizard.”
“Hah!” Later, she would marvel at her ability to be so sarcastic. “You look more like the Wizard of Id.”
“My apologies, my darling.” Looking a little insulted, he swept her a bow that skimmed his sleeves across the carpet. “But is this na your idea o’ how a wizard should look?” He waggled a finger at her. “I’ve lived with you long enough to know how that cute little mind o’ yours works, Meggie.”
“David.” Briefly, her voice held infinite patience. I'll get angry later for that last remark. “Show me how you look. Really.”
“Very well.” The hands moved again, performing the same gesture. Merlin disappeared. David stood in his place.
David. But not David… Oh my God, this is definitely not my husband!
It was the same handsome face, Megan admitted, but changed. Thinner, paler. Copper brows winged above his eyes, not arching as they had before, but arrow-straight. And the eyes themselves... Green like David’s but...there’s no white in them. They were like an animal’s, the entire eye a deep green iris. That, however, wasn’t the most disturbing thing. Protruding from his forehead were antenna. Not butterfly-like but smoky, feathery tendrils floating in the air above his head. They wavered back and forth, like seaweed drifting in a stream, then stiffened and pointed in her direction.
As if they’ve sensed me...homing in...
He turned his head slightly, an ear twitching, and Megan stared. Nearly lobeless, peaked on top. Hello, Mr. Spock! The left one sported a small golden ring with an emerald set in it. She recognized it. It was her wedding present to him.
As he shifted his weight impatiently, Megan allowed her gaze to move down the creature's body, past a tanned chest dusted with coppery hair to a slim waist, and—
“David! Why are you naked?”
And why am I shocked? She’d seen him naked from their wedding night on. He always slept nude. Because what I‘m looking at definitely does not belong to my husband!
“’Twas going to be your next question, was it na? Am I like a human male? I thought I’d save you th’ trouble o’ askin’.” The familiar voice coming from the creature’s mouth shook her slightly.
“D-David.” Her voice trembled and she wasn’t certain if it was laughter or a desire to cry. She gestured sharply. “You know damned well that is not normal...in any respect.” She forced her eyes away from what lay below his waist and began walking around him. She thought she saw a bit of a smirk cross the generous mouth. Has he always been like this? How could I not have noticed? She started to think back to their wedding night. Give it a frame-by-frame scrutiny. Decided not to.
She had to admit he certainly looked like David, aside from those little...uh...big... differences.
Same muscular body, same dark red hair. The hair was so much longer, however, falling past his waist in a tangle, one large curl twisting to caress the division of his buttocks. She nearly reached out and touched that curl, clenched her fingers into a fist to prevent it. There was a fast-growing desire to stroke her fingers down his skin. See if it felt as satiny-smooth as it looked.
OK, so this is David… the real David... and I really don't have an argument with the way he looks, even with— I guess the main problem is the wings.
Dragonfly-like, they didn’t come from under his shoulder blades as she’d always suppose wings should, but grew on each side of his upper spine. Not the tiny things shown in drawings of fairies either, but equaling David’s height. Delicately translucent in bronzes and golds, the colors of a Monarch's wings magnified. When they began to flutter, Megan had to dodge to keep from being struck as the right one swept upward, shedding a fine dust which sifted gently onto the antique Persian carpet. It glittered a moment before disappearing.
Reaching out, she touched the wing, running her fingers along the heavy mast-bone. It was soft and furry, felt like a swatch of velvet, and warm. Megan pressed her fingers against it, letting its heat flow into her hand. She would swear she felt a pulse beating against her palm.
The wing began to quiver. It suffused crimson.
“Meggie, please.” David's voice trembled in unison with the wing’s movements, quite a different sound from his previous belligerence. “My wings are one huge erogenous zone. If you do na stop touchin’ it, darlin’, I’m after sportin’ an embarrassin’ woodie. An’ I’m thinkin’ th’ parlor’s na th’ proper place for that.”
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