1. jayroebuck
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    jayroebuck Member

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    Anti-Grammar Style

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by jayroebuck, Dec 15, 2009.

    I am currently 6 chapters into my first manuscript. I have posted the first chapter in the Novels section under the the title 'The Rift' in case you need a larger sampling to weigh in on the following question.

    I am finding that MS Word and my style of writing are constantly bumping heads. I create at least one dreaded green line per paragraph. My style is tense and very descriptive which has leant itself to some encouraging and positive feedback in this forum.

    For example, this is a piece from Chapter 2:

    Collapsing forward onto the gear, he invited the darkness to overtake him. The wind twisted in great maelstroms overhead. His tent and thermal blanket knotted and pulled taut around his body, the cold, the noise, the pain, all fading, all except for a smell; a musky scent that abruptly permeated his olfactory, stirring his conscience to an almost cognizant state.

    This arrangement gets the "Okay" from Word, but only after about 15 minutes of massaging and satisfying the softwares comma fetish. I fought with semicolon placement (I hate semicolons, they seem so factual and technical, and read like an instruction manual), and word usage.

    So my question is this. When does style trump grammar?

    Last week I watched a program on t.v. that featured up and coming writers. One of them, was a guy that used not one period in his writing, the last word of each sentence being the first word in the next and so on. I know that this was a special and unique style, but isn't everyones style special and unique? Well maybe not unique, but I think you get what I'm trying to say.
    How can this guys style be praised and someone else's be shunned because of grammar?

    I swear I'm going to strictly create audio books from now on.:D
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    This, in terms of literary taste, is a fairly conservative forum, so you won't get may people advocating you try an experimental style like that. But...

    The thing with bending rules of grammar/writing is that you should only do it if you understand the reasons for doing it. Don't not use quotes or other grammatical devices for the sake of being different. It will earn you no respect. If, however, you have a legitimate reason to reject particular conventions, then by all means do it. People will scrutinise it that much more carefully, and if it detracts from your writing more than it adds to it, they'll tell you you've failed.

    I'm not gonna review that paragraph properly, but that run-on sentence is needless, the semi-colon is unnecessary and the whole thing is a clumsy and overwritten. For a first draft, I guess it would be okay, but stylistically it needs a lot of work.

    To the question, in my opinion, stlye always trumps grammar. Style trumps everything in writing. But like I said, you shouldn't be different for the sake of being different. Writers don't reject grammar because they're too lazy to use it, or because they don't understand it. They reject it because they understand it very well, and understand its limitation, advantages and effects on their writing, and choose to pursue an alternative aesthetic (for the most part). So when it comes to developing your own style, bear in mind that these things are not accidental or incidental, they are the result of carefully calculated and planned artistic choices.
     
  3. TragicJuliet
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    TragicJuliet Senior Member

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    I completely agree with arron89.

    This is also VERY important. Before you decide that you want to use style over grammar make sure you understand grammar. It's the same as art, you learn all the anatomy before you can do all the cool cartoon distortion. Learn how to do it right and fully first, then you can move and shift grammar. But, be prepared, a lot of editors and publishers do not like missing grammar or punctuation and will often not even look past the first paragraph.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's also important to remember that the grammar check on your computer isn't perfect. Before you change something it has underlined, think about it. One thing I have noticed is that it often misses certain sentence fragments and catches others. While technically incorrect, when used properly, for the right reasons, it's perfectly fine to have them in your writing.
     
  5. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    The guy on the tv knew when to break and what he was breaking the rules for (style and effect), and I think the important thing here is that he knew, he made a conscious decision. So long as you know what you're doing, that it's doing something other than mess your work up, you can make that decision to.

    Poet ee cummings 'she being brand' is a perfect example, that breaks every rule going - but the changes all lead to something ( a subtle sexual interpretation beneath overall interpretation (a guy getting his first car)).

    As for the grammar of yours... the semi colon is ok there.;) My critique would go moe for the word choice going on in there. 'permeated' 'olfactory', 'cognizant'...they're very formal and burden the sentence with heavy meaning.
     
  6. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I would never rely upon MS Word (or any other software program) for correcting anything at all other than maybe spelling errors (and all of those such corrections I either verify myself or by looking them up in a dictionary). Punctuation and style are definitely not matters I'd leave to my computer or word processing program.

    Word processing programs like Word are not designed to help writers learn how to become best-selling authors or exquisite storytellers or award-winning writers. A blind run through the grammar and spellcheck is more likely to ruin a story (or at least make it laughable) than to fix it. Word processing programs were originally designed to help non-writers write something that's more likely to be passable and less embarrassing than otherwise--think specifically workplace communications. They have become more complex over time, but not necessarily enlightening, unless you use them together with your own good sense and/or resource books at the ready.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting to anyone not to use a spellcheck at all (or grammar check, if you must). But I think its best use is as a red flag to indicate places in the manuscript where a second look might benefit the story (and surely won't hurt the writer). Partly, becase when you take a second look and prepare to argue with your grammar or spell check, a writer may begin to figure out why his own choices are important.
     
  7. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would recommend being an already published author before trying something like that.

    All these unorthodox literary styles are great I guess. But I get the feeling you first need to get something published within the confines of the norm, before any agent will take you seriously when you venture outside.

    I'm sure they're exceptions, but you know, generally speaking...
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you're going to break the rules of grammar, it had better be clear to any submissions editor that you know what you're doing. Yes, you can use sentence fragments for emphasis, and you can mix up subjective and objective pronouns in dialogue and even in character-directed narration.

    Still, if you overdo it, said submissions editor may wonder if you really do know the difference, and even if not, the editor may be inclined to dump the manuscript in the reject pile.

    So you may want to wait until you have established yourself as a published writer before chucking the rules beyond what is considered customary and normal.

    Even so, there is a lot of latitude to play with. Just make sure it is obviously deliberate.
     
  9. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    And being obviously deliberate means having ABSOLUTE consistency. Otherwise it looks like you are just covering up laziness or bad grammar with some sort of lame hook.
     
  10. Ali Shonak
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    Ali Shonak New Member

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    Hi;
    I recall that the semicolon should be used only between elements of equal grammatical rank, or to add another related and complete sentence/thought to the previous one. I consulted 4 grammar books and this is what I came up with, but rather than quoting those rules, allow me to furnish some examples of applied semicolons.

    I thought the book was much too long; however, I decided to read it all.
    Taxpayers voted for the stadium; a site will be chosen next week.
    He came to the meeting unprepared; that is, he had forgotten his notes.
    Someone left a coat; it is blue with black trim.

    In your example I would rather use a dash to suggest suspense--even a comma, but that would make it all too long. I would restructure the thing; a semicolon is plain wrong.
    Wait! how about this? His tent and thermal blanket knotted and pulled taut around his body, the cold, the noise, the pain, all fading, all except for a smell--a musky scent that abruptly permeated his olfactory, stirring his conscience to an almost cognizant state.
    Naw, better rework the paragraph; you can do better than this. Some novel writers hate the dash, even though Pearl S. Buck liked it--and so do I--a lot, lol.:)
    Ali

     
  11. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Who could hate the dash? There's so much to love about emmy--she's my girl for life.

    I believe you're right, that the semicolon is wrong in that sentence. It isn't normally used for fragments, unless what precedes it is a fragment. The em dash helps, but the sentence is still cramming too much info. It needs to be rewritten or at least broken up.

    And that's why the MS grammar check is about as reliable as windows ME in the software equivalent of flu season.
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    A good place to shorten it down a bit would be here:

    "... pulled taut around his body. The cold, the noise, the pain, ..."
     
  13. aniolel
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    aniolel Member

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    A vital aspect to learn is grammar....it is utterly important to know the rules and be able to write in them before one breaks them. With that in mind, different medias of writing acquire different styles. For instance, academic writing must follow grammar strictly. Poetry, on the other, allows free use of grammar. The reason deals greatly with poetic expression of the poem and the form, which codices with prose....So, yea go ahead and break the rules as long as you know how to write well in the first place.
     

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