1. photoann
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    photoann Member

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    Can a person with the grammatical knowledge of your average 6th grader still be a good (not a great)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by photoann, Jul 23, 2014.

    Can a person with the grammatical knowledge of your average 6th grader still be a good (not a great) writer?

    Some people can’t seem to get the knack of basic math concepts, others finds poetry baffling, and some have trouble with hand eye coordination. So if grammar and punctuation are your weakness is there any hope that you can write fiction that anyone would want to read? Please don’t say get a book and study or take a class. What if you just can’t seem to get the grammar/punctuation stuff? Is there a learning disability for this? If so have it. I LOVE to tell stories, but I hate all the rules (and exceptions to the rules)….am I being ridiculously naïve?
    .......and no, it wouldn't be funny to correct all of the grammar and punctuation errors I've made in this post! :dry:
     
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  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your grammar and punctuation in your post aren't all that flawed. Given that, I'm not sure how to address the question.
     
  3. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do not know what a "good writer" is, and it is impossible to define that term in a way that contributes to a discussion.

    It is absolutely possible for someone with 6th grade grammar to write a book that is worth the time that a reader would spend reading it. Such a book even has the potential to communicate a profound message. Inspiration does not discriminate.
     
  4. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Someone who's not naturally good with grammar would have to be prepared to put more work into correcting it but I don't see why they wouldn't be able to get the grammar in their writing to an acceptable standard with a lot of work and research.
     
  5. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I know this isn't exactly the same, but if one wants to write for a living, they have to be pretty pro at it... So, do you think a person with 6th grade math skills can be a good mathematician?

    Also, I LOVE singing, and I've got all these great melodies in my head, but I'm not sure if people would want to hear it. Now if I really wanted people to hear it, if I really wanted my voice out there, I'd work on that nigh tone-deafness of mine until I could at least fake it until I make it.

    I know, I know, Dan Brown has showcased fairly refreshing ways to use the English grammar in his novels, and it's still his words and stories that bring the organic, glutein-free super expensive bread to his dinner table of solid gold, but considering how many writers there are out there, unless your story is amazing (and preferably YA), it might be a good idea to work on that grammar until it's good enough to impress an editor or a publisher when you're finally hoping to have your work published.

    P.s. Your grammar isn't all that bad, so unless you spent like four hours proofreading that post, I'm sure you'll be fine, and you're just being too hard on yourself. :)
     
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  6. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do not know what a "good mathematician" is, but very often, a problem is difficult to mathematicians with advanced degrees, and someone with a much lower level of education solves it by approaching it with a fresh perspective.

    Furthermore, learning (or inventing) the rules of math math enables a person to think about math. Learning the rules of grammar does not enable a person to imagine things that did not happen.
    It is much harder to recognize the intrinsic beauty of a melody sung off-key than to recognize the intrinsic beauty of a fictional story told in sentences that break grammatical rules.

    I agree with the point of these analogies -- it is unwise to pursue a career in something without mastering the craft -- but they also illustrate the antithesis of that point: that it is possible to write an amazing fictional story with poor technique. Writing fiction is possibly the endeavor in the world that most heavily incorporates skills that cannot be acquired through education or through mastery of a system of rules.

    Also, and not in response to anyone in particular, to hell with the idea of deciding to become a writer before deciding to write a book. If there is a story that you want to write, then by all means, write it. You become a writer when you write something.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
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  7. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @daemon That's why I wrote the disclaimer "I know this isn't exactly the same." ;)

    I think this is where you and I have to disagree a little bit, though:
    But maybe that's another discussion for another thread, something that has been had on this forum quite a few times already.

    But with this I wholeheartedly agree:
     
  8. Mans
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    Mans Contributing Member

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    I am the case that you pointed to. I didn't know anything in English except a little but I was brave enough to step in WF and encounter expert English writers. Of course I am thankful that they encountered me gracefully and accepted me despite my dreadful broken English.
    I not only didn't know what was punctuation but basically I didn't know what was grammar!
    I am better now, although my writing is not acceptable yet. I have learned a lot of rules here and have coordinated myself with writers' advices almost.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2014
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  9. Burlbird
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    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, this happens in movies so much that it's almost true...but really, it's not :) except with children with autism (note: "children"; how many stories of adult genious mathematicians woth autism have you heard?)

    Frankly, I believe that story-telling skills and language skills are deeply intertwined. But they are skills - they could and should be developed and worked on if you want to use them. And the only way to develop any skill is to exercise. Work, work, work. Of course, some people will never run 100m under 10 seconds. But learning proper punctuation or spelling? Maybe you'll need a few hours of practice more or less than the next person, or a good tutor, or a better language program...

    Or you just need to work on your confidence? @photoann judging from your post, I think you are far from a lost cause :)
     
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  10. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    An actuary is someone in a profession requiring very advanced math skills. Someone with math skills at a 6th grade level would not be able to become an actuary. I think that might be the kind of analogy that @KaTrian had in mind. And it works.

    The good news is that rules of grammar are lot easier to master and much less voluminous than the advanced math skills required by an actuary.
     
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  11. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    I would say, No you don't need to have great skills to start, but to go that much further you need to perfect your craft. And to be fair the more you do the better you get and the more mistakes you correct then before you know it you have increased your grammatical understanding.
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Using my definition of "good," I do think it's possible, though not very likely. Writing requires some imagination, which might mean taking a few liberties with grammar here and there for effect. So I don't think someone with only a basic grasp of grammar can be a master prose stylist by any means because he/she will be limited by his/her lack of knowledge.

    I highly recommend taking the time to learn grammar. You don't need to know all the fancy names like "squinting modifier," but you should be able to determine when a sentence is grammatically incorrect. Reading helps with that, so make sure you read a lot. Also, learning grammar isn't too difficult. If you put in the time, you'll see results. Some people need to work harder than others, which is OK, but the important thing is not to give up.
     
  13. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I feel ya. I don't have the best education concerning grammar. But I try and work on it. It's like any art form. To progress you want to learn the tricks and techniques that will make communicating your ideas easier.
     
  14. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    The important thing is not so much to know the names of grammatical concepts (like modifiers, etc.), but to be able to recognize them when you see them. If you have an instinct something is wrong--it doesn't look, sound, or read right--then you can extrapolate how to fix it by using a general grammatical 'sense'. I don't know if this is what you meant, but one of the only ways to hone that is by reading and developing an instinct and general sense of grammatical 'correctness'.
     
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  15. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    No one is born a grammatical genius, it's a man made thing that needs to be learned. Just because you're no good at it now, compared to some, doesn't mean you can't learn it piece by piece as you work on your writing. Everyone had to learn and practice it before they started reflexively writing with quasi-perfect grammar.

    English is my third language and I know it better than my other two. I never went to school for it nor ever opened a grammar text book. It was all learned on the go and now I'm just as good as anyone else if not more so. I may not tell you what a preposition is or exactly how to decline words, but I know when and why to do it though I could not explain it in words.

    So start writing, start asking questions, and brush up on your grammar. It really isn't all that terribly complicated.
     
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  16. photoann
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    photoann Member

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    Wow...thanks all. Any advice on books, methods, website etc. that are particularly helpful in learning grammar and punctuation?
    Honestly I just have such a hard time with it. I read the rules (like use a comma to set off independent clauses).OK, got it ! Then all the exceptions have to stick their butts in (not if there is no full clause after the conjunction or if the clauses are very short, or if there is no coordinating conjunction or sometimes in an adverb clause if the independent bit comes first!!!! ) AHHH! It just sucks the fun right out it. I know, its work like anything else...but jeez I guess I better save my pennies, cause I think I'm going to have to hire my own personal grammar checker. :)
    Again, thanks for the input- I feel a little better.
     
  17. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For example the Grammar Girl answers to specific questions pretty clearly, so she's a useful internet source. My major is English philology which entails courses on linguistics, so what I know I've pretty much learned there, but that's definitely not the only way, like @A.M.P. said.

    As for punctuation... in English the comma rules aren't as stringent as in e.g. my mothertongue (there is zero leeway). One of my professors once said "when in doubt, leave it out." :p When you look at published books, you can spot some variation (also depending on whether it's AmE or BrE). Sure, some rules are pretty straightforward, but sometimes you have to go case-by-case. I'm no editor, of course, and I make grammar and punctuation mistakes all the time, but then again, writers are not expected to be full-time editors, are they? (well, some do both jobs...)

    At least don't let this hinder your writing. You'll learn by doing, and if you stick to it, little by little your skills will improve :). I'd also suggest you start critiquing other people's writing. It has taught me a lot, maybe even more than school, come to think of it.
     
  18. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Some writers can do amazing things with just the humble full stop, comma, and quotation mark (not speech mark! Check most books you own!) and remembering to put a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence. Do you need to know what a hyphen does? Or semi-colon? No. In fact, using them can even put some people off.

    It depends on what kind of reader you want. If you want to write for the general public then go nuts, most newspapers and popular novels are written to a young teenager's reading level - I'm looking at writers like Stephen King or Tess Gerritsen there. If you want to attract the sophisticated sort to your work, to be 'caviar to the crowd' (Robert Frost's words - so very apt) then it's still not really a lost cause, but I'd suggest working at it.
     
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  19. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can you back this up? This is absolutely not true.
     
  20. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My fresh perspectives almost caused me to fail math. :dry:
     
  21. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Back to the maths analogy when I was in year six I was pretty much top of my year when it came to maths. Yet a few years later when I entered high-school I struggled with a lot of concepts as did all those around me and that's with teachers gradually building up to the more difficult concepts.
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Your grammar doesn't come across as all that bad - it looks average. And I mean, c'mon, who writes with perfect, flawless grammar on a forum anyway? So given that, your post reads like any other post I've seen on here. Perfectly average. Given this, maybe your grammar isn't as bad as you thought? As I imagine in proper prose, you'd be more careful with your grammar. I dunno about you, but my mind thinks differently when I'm writing prose as opposed to emails/posts.

    If you really can't bring your grammar up to scratch, you could either:

    1. Hire a proofreader (expensive)
    2. Ask a friend who's particularly gifted in grammar, say, a grammar nazi, to proofread it for you in return for coffee and cookies.
    3. Hire a ghostwriter (even more expensive than a proofreader)
    4. Look into other types of writing you could get into - how about a screenplay? Grammar is a little less important there seeing as most things are dialogue and you gotta write like how people speak.

    Otherwise, you'd just have to be prepared to put in the extra work.

    A person without any sense of grammar can certainly still have a good story to tell. The problem is, without a good sense of grammar, it becomes very difficult to express that story and tell it in such a way that people would want to hear/read it. Readers do demand a basic grasp of grammar to be present in the books they buy and spend time on, and while a creative writer tutor or mentor will have the time and patience to flesh out that diamond in the rough for you, the average reader doesn't, and won't.

    However, if as you say your grasp of grammar is like a 6th grader's, then thinking about readers is probably too far ahead for you. Just write. I remember I didn't want to write when I was 9 because my grammar was poor (English is *technically* my second language - it's since shifted to become basically my first language or mother tongue, as it were). Anyway, my mum just told me to write because as long as I enjoy it, who cares? So I started writing. You know, reading back some of my old stuff, even stuff I wrote at the age of 18 or 20, I can see some interesting grammatical mistakes and erroneous word choices. Little things like writing "Jack had to had the cake" or something like that. On the one hand there're sentences that sounded so good, so native, and then a little thing like that pops up and it's jarringly obvious that it's a foreigner's mistake.

    Anyway, so it basically took me THAT long to completely grasp most aspects of grammar. I make the same grammatical mistakes as natives speakers do from time to time, so nothing unusual. My grammar is more or less clean. But it took time. For myself, I mostly did it by writing and reading a lot and sensing the rhythm in things. Getting to know a sentence's rhythm can be quite important with knowing when to use a comma or period. I've actually never studied grammar - so basically, it's possible to come to a good grasp of it without studying. But of course that depends on what level you're looking for. Just to write normal, readable prose though, you don't really have to study for it necessarily.
     
  23. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    First off, it seems at hand to ask what is a fair level of correctness. Despite having obtained a diploma in English and invested a tremendous amount of time into grammar acquisition, I still don't seem to get it right at times. Or maybe it's just the very 6 grader's misconception-belief of never being correct that I've held ever since in spite of my grammar getting better.
     
  24. Hwaigon
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    Hwaigon Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Agree, no slack trial will win sb a good command of grammar and I'm afraid such can't be circumvented by just "learning by doing", that is, writing right off the bat with poor grammar. Grammar learning is a "life sentence" call...
    The same goes for maths, I fear. You can try to solve a sophisticated problem but will get nowhere unless you take the trouble to brake it down to understandable pieces and occasionally revise/re-learn/learn from the scratch to make up for the wholes in knowledge of math.
     
  25. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    It should become easier the more you write. If you write one story, then correct the grammer, some of those rules and skills will stay with you when you write your second story. Eventually, it could become second nature.
     

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