In my opinion, when Grammar Nazis attack an author’s book or short story, they frequently don’t seem to understand a few things. An author may be trying to convey to the reader that a character in the story may be from a different region, have an accent, speak a little differently, or might be less educated than the average person (or the Grammar Nazis themselves). All they seem to be concerned with is, do it right or don’t do it at all!
Recently an author allowed me the privilege of reading their book. Upon finishing this excellent five star book, I was shown comments from a self-proclaimed Grammar Nazi’s review of the book. This senior SS officer of correct punctuation claimed that there were over 120 grammar and punctuation errors in the author’s book.
Just for the fun of it, I corrected the so-called grammar and punctuation errors and read the book again. Let me tell you… the book may have flowed a little smoother, but it severely lacked personality, and read like the world’s most boring shopping list instead of the great book it actually was. If I were to rate that five star book after the grammar Nazi’s suggestions, the book would have been a three star… maybe.
The other thing that some of these worshipers of ellipses and semi-colons sometimes fail to realize is that grammar is not static. There (their) (they’re) are certain things in the grammarian universe that never change, but there are other things that are a bit more fluid as time goes by. These Admirals of alliteration must understand that just because they do it one way, others may not. A few examples of grammatical rules that have changed over the course of time*:
- The word alright. It is now considered acceptable to use this form, as opposed to all right, in certain situations. This is a topic of contention, though. Is it all right to use alright? We may never know.
- Passive voice. Passive voice is no longer the ugly step-sister of active voice. There are times when passive is considered acceptable. Really.
- Sometimes, it is necessary to end a sentence with a preposition. It just is.
At times, an author should attempt to write conversationally. When the realism of the dialogue, or the lack of stiffness is a necessity. Remember folks, people don’t always speak in rigidly grammatical sentences. Sometimes they just talk, and sometimes authors should just write.
Even though, as an author, you may have been sticking your tongue out and saying “Neener, neener,” at the Grammar Nazis mentioned above, you are not off the hook. Author responsibility is a big star in our universe. You cannot write a book or story and simply leave grammatical corrections out to dry.
It is exceedingly important to turn out a book that has been edited, polished and shined to a fine gleam.
With the advent of Google, spell check, and the eleventy billion other ways to check your spelling and grammar, you have no excuse to turn out a manuscript that is riddled with errors.
This is a slippery slope, though. Never rely solely on spell check to correct all of your mistakes. The word ‘an’ is spelled correctly, but when it appears before the word ‘me’…not so much.
You need a keen eye, for sure. But, maybe not yours. Get an editor, or at the very least, a friend or peer with a keen eye to help you search out those nuggets of linguistic discord that will drive your readers of a grammatically sensitive nature to drink. Or possibly, to not finish your book and to never, ever, ever, ever, read another book with your name on the cover. Ever.
Use common cents when righting a storee. (See what we did there?)
Authors, don’t be lazy. Saying that your writing is stylistic does not excuse poor editing or grammar. After all, punctuation can make all the difference.