In this era of tweets, texts, and Facebook posts where words are shortened, punctuation omitted, apostrophes ignored, and sentence structure pretty much butchered and hung out to dry, one may ask – in all good conscience – does grammar still matter for the serious novelist?
I’m sure you will get different answers from different novelists, from different writing instructors, from different editors, and even from different readers.
Some will say that everything is changing so drastically that good use of the English language is no longer at the top of the list of skills that a novelist must hone. They go so far as to say that people are becoming so accustomed to the bad use of grammar, that good grammar isn’t as useful as it once was.
I will dare to weigh in on this subject, knowing that my opinion is just that – one opinion in the midst of thousands. But that’s what a blog is for, right?
The Tools of Professionals
Any professional of any business, or art form, has their “tools of the trade.”
- A ballerina knows the tiniest and most intricate move that must be made for every dance she performs. And her toe shoes must be fitted and tied just so.
- A trained surgeon knows every surgical tool and knows precisely how each is to be used.
- A chemist is intimately familiar with various chemicals and how each is to be integrated and used.
- A mountain climber’s very life is dependent on each piece of equipment. The professional climber not only knows the equipment, but how each piece is to be used, and how it is to be packed correctly.
The tools of my trade are words and the written language. My desire to use my tools correctly is not dependent upon how many people leave apostrophes out of their Tweets. My desire to use my tools correctly is totally dependent upon my passion for my calling.
My passion for writing compelling novels drives me to excel in every area of my craft, and that includes grammar. That passion compels me to strive for excellence. That passion spurs me on to continually self-educate in the areas of spelling and grammar.
To take one part out of the entire panorama of the novel-writing process – i.e. grammar – and attempt to decide whether or not it is of importance, is like taking one tool from the mountain climber’s pack and trying to decide whether or not it is of importance. Or selecting one of the surgeon’s tools and doing the same.
It’s a rather ridiculous way to look at the entire scheme of novel writing.
So – is grammar important?
- Only if you have a deep, heartfelt passion to become an excellent novelist.
- Only if you want your writing to be clear and easily understood.
- Only if you want your scenes and characters to spring to life on the pages.
- Only if you truly respect your readers and want to present to them your very best.
- Only if you want to build a following of adoring fans who cannot wait for your next book to come out.
If you can honestly say that none of the above fit you – you don’t want any of them – then I have to question if you want to be a novelist at all
Only you know your own heart. Only you can decide!
(Don’t miss Part II of What’s the Matter With Grammar?)
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