Grammar, it’s about being understood, right?

This video from Stephen Fry came to my attention this week. It’s worth a listen – after all, it’s Stephen Fry. The question of correctness in grammar is always hot in the author world. I think it’s important to have some care for the story above the care for the grammar.

Grammar, for me it’s about being understood

I read a lot and I notice that there are errors of grammar in traditionally published books as well as in self published books. I’ve made a few gaffes myself and had to upload a corrected version of the manuscript. What interests me is the way the story can pull me through despite the grammar errors.

If I stop reading a book, it’s more likely because of lacks in the story than a misplaced comma. For grammarians, or grammar Nazis as they have come to be known, any deviation from proper writing is a sin worthy of eternal damnation.

Grammar isn’t cut and dried

There are rules of English that are taken as gospel when they aren’t. Did someone split an infinitive? It’s not wrong to do so. Too often writers are slammed for grammar errors when they are using the language correctly. And just as often the sin is a pet peeve, rather than a real error of grammar.

The English language lives and breathes on usage. As Stephen says, we’ve been verbizing nouns at least since Shakespeare. Getting upset about it doesn’t help anyone.

If it’s dialogue it’s not going to be correct

It’s possible that grammarians speak in properly constructed sentences but most people don’t. Authors who try to make that happen end up with wooden and unrealistic sounding characters. Fiction is not like a cover letter, or a resume, it’s supposed to sound real, not correct.

So that’s my little rant. What do you think? Is grammar supreme?

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