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The Dreaded Grammar

February 20th, 2013

I can hear you groaning at the very thought of grammar! But it is important and needs to be right, especially if you want your work to be accepted by publishers. A creative writing course can help anyone with their grammar, whether that’s just to brush up on skills or to learn grammar comprehensively. Remember, publishers want to do the least work possible when you send your writing to them and incorrect grammar can change the whole meaning of a sentence. Not to mention how difficult it makes it to read.

If you doubt the power of grammar have a look at these examples of the most common grammar mistakes:

verb tense errors – switching verb tense is a common grammar mistake. The verb tense tells the reader when the action is taking place. So, if you say “I go to the shop and bought bread” the first verb ‘go’ is present tense and ‘bought’ is past tense. When you see it like this, it seems strange that the tenses could get mixed up, but they often do.

double negatives – these are another common error, although an understandable one as often when people speak they use them. In fact, it used to be acceptable to use double negatives but no more, unless it’s used as a speech quirk for fictional characters. An example would be ‘I don’t want no chips’. This statement actually says the opposite of what is meant to be said as it suggests that you actually want chips.

subject/verb error – this is an easy error to make, especially if the sentence is long. An example of this error would be ‘Painting are an enjoyable hobby of mine’. In this example, ‘are’ should be ‘is’ so that both subject and verb are singular.

I’ll leave it there, as there are too many common grammar errors for me to go over here so I’ll move on to offering some advice on getting it right. If you don’t really understand grammar, it’s best to learn and, thankfully, there are lots of books and websites to help you. First I’d like to mention a recommendation from a colleague, Grammar for Grown-Ups by Craig Shrives. It’s described as ‘a straight talking and methodical grammar reference guide that is perfect for anyone who wants to write with confidence.’

There are, of course, lots of other grammar books and again it’s best to have a look at some, read the reviews and decide which is best suited to you.

And let’s not forget the internet. There are plenty of websites that cover the area. I particularly love Grammarman. It’s a fun site with the information presented as comic strips. I often think if new stuff is presented in a fun way it goes in a little easier.

BBC Skillswise is another well organised, informative and interactive site. It’s maybe a little simple for some, but it is good for going over the basic rules.

Cambridge Essential Grammar – great little test to see how good your grammar is at the present time.

So now you’ve no excuse for getting it wrong. And although it may seem like a boring job to learn correct grammar, it’ll improve your chances of getting published immeasurably!

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