1. Cretacskies
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    Cretacskies New Member

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    About learning grammar

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Cretacskies, Jun 11, 2016.

    Do you guys think it is necessary to know grammar by heart? Or is it more useful to learn phrases and the way to use them? I find trying to make sense of all the grammar overwhelming, what would be a better way to improve?
     
  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I'm terrible at grammar. I can explain like two grammatical rules and I'm probably wrong about one of them. But I can construct grammatically-correct, sensible sentences just because I've read a ton, and been exposed to enough proper grammar that it seeped through my thick skull. It probably helps that I read a lot when I was a kid, when the ol' neuroplasticity was more forgiving, so I was able to absorb it more easily. And because I was a kid I had the free time to read like two books a day.

    Honestly, if you don't have that free time, you're going to need to study. You can still do it by reading, if you're willing to slow down and pay closer attention to things (and if you're willing to, like me, be occasionally forced to admit that you're a writer who is somehow garbage at grammar). But the thing is you don't have to know every intricacy of the language to actually write, and you can pick it up as you go along as long as you're sharing your writing with people who do get it and can point you in the right directions. It doesn't have to be overwhelming; you don't have to do it all at once.

    That said, some resources. Something that helped me to understand sentence structure (if that's one of your issues) was sentence diagramming - you can look it up on wikihow or some such. You can review parts of speech here. Here's a punctuation guide. You can always reference these kinds of things in the moment, and eventually you'll get a feel for it and won't have to.
     
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  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm not sure what you mean by "learn phrases and the way to use them," but definitely learn the rules of grammar. It's essential for a good writer to be able to correct any punctuation and grammar errors in his/her work. There are plenty of good grammar resources out there (including the ones posted by izzybot), and reading a lot will also help you improve in this area.
     
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  4. Romana
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    Romana Member

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    I think it's important to know how to use language and grammar. However, I don't think it's important to be able to name a whole bunch of grammatical phrases. I don't really know what antecedents or complements are, but you can still find them in my writing. And I have very few grammatical mistakes in my writing, despite not know grammatical words, because I have command of the language.
     
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  5. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    Until the 20th century, students learned grammar by a technique known as "copy writing," which is nothing more than opening a book to a random page and copying it by hand. In other words, they learned to internalize grammar.

    Still, if you decide you need a more objective approach, obtain a copy of Elements of Style.
     
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  6. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    That's very true. I suspect that most writers are like that.
     
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  7. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
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  8. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    Forgive me if this seems harsh, but this question is rather like asking a painter if it's important to know about paint. Before it's an art, writing is a craft, and words are its tools. Grammar is how you fit those words together to create meaning. So, yes, learning about it will always make for a better writer.

    A good way to improve is to begin by asking specific questions – perhaps here on the forum – and then following your nose (@Lifeline has posted some interesting links above, for example).

    This – http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl – is another good website.

    Good luck with it!

    :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
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  9. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    I might add, in the beginning it all is instinct. After one has written a bit it hits that grammar really IS important. I.e. I never knew all the different tools that were at my disposal until I started reading up - and it has made my writing a whole lot better :)
     
  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    I agree with the idea that a lot of it is internalized. It's important to have it as an instinct. But if you do need to check, I often find just googling a word or phrase helps. If it says "did you mean apple?" Then you spelled apple wrong. And there's sites like @Lifeline put above. It definitely is important so make sure you keep learning and hopefully it will become quite easy over time.
     
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  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Learn as you go. Take each suspect sentence and run it through a grammar checker, then look up usage on Grammar Girl or some other web site (or an actual print copy of a grammar guide).

    With this approach, by the time you finish a draft of a novel or a handful of short stories, you'll be well on your way to having most of it in your head. It might take a couple of years, but don't sweat it. Just do the work and it'll come.
     
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  12. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's important to be able to write effectively. If your grammar is distracting to your readers, your writing will likely be less effective.

    But I think it's totally possible to get too caught up in writing "correctly", as if there's something inherently better about following certain rules, many of which are pretty damn arbitrary. Creative writing is generally more flexible than academic writing--we use sentence fragments, non-standard constructions to personalize dialogue or capture narrative voice, etc. Who's to say which rules need to be maintained in creative writing and which can be ignored? It all comes down to effectiveness.

    There's an argument that people should know the rules before deciding to break them, and I think there's some validity to that. But I don't think it's all that important to have a formal understanding of every detail, and I'm not sure anyone can say what level of rule-knowledge is required before the idea of "rules" can be transition to the idea of "reader expectations".

    If your writing is creating the impression you want, don't worry about it. If your writing isn't creating the impression you want, try to figure out why. If the grammar seems to be the problem? You probably need to learn more about grammar. I don't think there's a more universal rule that makes sense, to me.
     
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  13. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    @BayView You mention all the things that I do in my own works, that everybody gets ruffled about. Specifically when I write in first person, it is like everyone needs the fictional person to be perfect to the letter when it comes to grammar.
    Though last time I checked most real people don't use proper grammar in their average day, so why the expectation when it comes to the fictional?

    Too many freaking rules and what not...Grrrr.
     
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  14. Earp
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    Earp Active Member

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    I don't think it's about the rules, but about the reader. Readers like me are pulled out of your story when you make a grammatical error or use non-standard grammar or spelling, and I think that's something that should be avoided at all costs.

    I write in first person a lot, too, but unless I have a specific reason for not doing so (dialect, for example) my characters always speak in proper English. Doing otherwise seems disrespectful toward the folks I want to read my story.
     
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  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's grammar and then there's style and, to make things really complicated, there's vernacular.

    So, it can depend on which character is speaking, including your narrator. Once you set the bar, you have to maintain it (for each character as an individual in the way they express themselves) and the workload is the same whether a character is well-educated or not. Writing consistently bad grammar is just as hard as writing using consistently good grammar.

    It's when your application of grammar is inconsistent that people start to notice and complain that something's wrong.
     
  16. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well I try to find a happy middle ground, and tend to favor having at least passable grammar (it's hard to be perfect). Oh well like all things artistic there will always be those that choose to see what the want despite the defined image. :p
    That is why abstract is so lazy and lacking in talent of any kind. (Yes I just compared writing to drawing/painting.)
     
  17. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good thing we're not in the 'theme' thread. ;)
     
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  18. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    True that. :p
     
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