1. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Do you ever feel restricted by grammar?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by marcusl, Nov 28, 2009.

    I'm probably asking this because I still have a lot to learn about writing. Anyway, apparently, this is allowed:

    "He's cool, but he's not as cool as she is."

    But this isn't allowed:

    "He's cool, but not as cool as she is."

    You're not allowed to place commas before a conjunction if the second clause isn't independent. First of all, it'd be great if somebody could confirm this. Let's assume the rule is correct. The thing is, I see this rule broken in novels all the time. But I keep asking myself if it's really that important? It doesn't distract or confuse me. Isn't that the most important thing in writing? To keep things clear and not confusing.

    I'm asking this because I'd like to respect grammar, but I don't want to be restricted by it. Thank you for sharing your insightful thoughts.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The second case has a comma there to signify a pause in the narration. A comma tells the reader when to pause, and the second phrase reads better with the comma, IMO. Try reading it with and without a pause, and you'll notice a difference in the two.

    Besides, fiction allows for grammar rules to be broken as long as they serve a purpose. Breaking grammar rules just for the sake of breaking them is bad and most likely means the writer is inexperienced.
     
  3. lavendershy
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    lavendershy Contributing Member

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    There's a difference between super formal writing that a stapler could diagram and writing that people can actually read. If you're not writing a graduate thesis or a paper that will change the world or a presidential speech, I would go with the more natural thing. Dangling prepositions are technically incorrect, so I avoid them when possible. On the other hand, I am willing to let my prepositions dangle if the alternative is too awkward or hard to read. It's a fine line between natural writing and correct writing, really, and it can take a while to find your stance on the issue. I'm widely known as "the grammarian about whom your mother warned you" (from a random T-shirt, that) but even so, I'm more inclined toward the natural thing than the technically correct thing. If you can be both, so much the better.

    Cheers,

    lavendershy
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Do I ever feel restricted by grammar?

    No - I play with grammar, it's a great thing to mould and shape into your own style. You should not feel restricted by grammar as they are just a set of rules dominated by convention. Take, for example, Don Delillo. One of the first things I learned in school was you should not start a sentence with the word 'and' and yet you will find Don Delillo doing it, along with Thomas Pynchon, James Joyce and others.
     
  5. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Grammar rules work 98% of the time. Usually if correct grammar sounds strange to the ear, then a simple rewording of the sentence will fix the problem.

    The grammar books are actually starting to say starting a sentence with “And” is alright. But of course they say it is really incorrect but that’s the way the current trend is going.
     
  6. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    And sometimes a distortion of the normal voice is exactly what the writer wants, for one reason or another; so then it can be counted as a great tool too.
     
  7. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I don't see a thing wrong with either example. I think the comma is perfectly fine in each, but for different reasons. In the first example, it's to separate two independent clauses, and in the second, it signifies a meaningful contrast.

    As to feeling restricted by grammar, I think you'll find as you learn and read more and more that grammar (English grammar, anyway) is designed to give you endless opportunities to be as creative and imaginative as you like and still to be able to deliver your intentions to a reader as clearly or obscurely as your intentions dictate. The "rules" are designed to make it possible to communicate certain kinds of nuance, and to do so with some clarity. A page full of words where grammar is ignored altogether, at worst, won't likely communicate anything and, at best, will probably be confusing.

    How clearly a writer communicates depends upon both intention and awareness of various grammar and word usage choices he makes. Sometimes, the more you find out, the more options you discover you have!:)
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with MM that I find nothing wrong with either example.

    As to the title question of the post: never.

    English is not an easy language to truly master. It is not. It is rife with idiosyncrasies, and rules that are based in opinion, region, and register.

    But once you have a firm mastery of the tools within the toolbox, you will find that English has one of the most ample and generous toolboxes available.

    Restricted by grammar? Never.

    Liberated by the possibilities? Always!

    :)
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!
     
  10. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not a grammar expert. I try to learn what I can all the time, but back in school I was sound asleep during grammar lessons, and english isn't my first language. Will I let it restrict me? No. Do I make mistakes? Most likely! Luckily, if you get approved for publishing, someone titled editor will get paid to hack your text to pieces. ;)
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the reality is you're not likely to get to that point, if your ms is riddled with grammar and other technical errors...
     
  12. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    And Maia should know. :rolleyes:

    My advice if you are feeling like you do not have a good grasp of syntax and grammar is to read. The library is still, to this day, free of charge, and within lies one of the most undervalued treasures one is likely to ever discover.

    That sounds so cheesy and like something that an overeager young teacher still filled with a love for teaching might say, right?

    It's true!

    And in your reading, look at the way the authors have composed their writing. Use that composition in your everyday speech. Don't allow a sloppy style in our personal diction because then you have two sets of code to deal with. Discipline yourself to speak correctly so that when it comes time to put pen to paper the rules will have been well practiced and natural to you, not guesswork.
     
  13. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I always find reading what I write, or what other's write out loud is the best way to find if the grammar is correct or not. Things that read aloud well are usually, but not always, grammatically correct. The rules...well, rules are a construct of the human monkey mind. We make these things up and expect everyone to follow them. I've seen plenty of grammar rules broken in published works of fiction, but the breaking of the rules works when read aloud. There are other times, mostly in non-fiction, where I will read a grammatical boo-boo and know it was a lack of editing, not a rule breakage of the purposeful kind.

    There is a difference between feeling hindered by the lack of proper speech, and being hindered by the grammar rules themselves. The spoken word is rarely grammatically correct. That is why there is so much leeway in the dialog of fiction. In narrative the grammar rules apply, but can also be broken when it is necessary and desired.

    If it reads correctly to me when read aloud, and to someone else then I know it works. I don't find the rules of English grammar hindering, but as something to be used for understandable communication of a thought.
     
  14. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    I've never heard that, before.

    Also, commas must be one of the most arbitrary grammar tools ever.

    They can make a sentence coherent, but they can also make a sentence stylistic, giving it a voice.
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    well, yeah... but not from being a rejectee, only from being the rejector, as an editor... and from seeing so much that's only fit for agents'/publishers' round file, in my many years as a writing consultant and mentor...

    i'm sure that's what wrey meant [right, wrey? :rolleyes: ], but just wanted to clarify it for those who may be new here... ;)

    he's totally right on the reading thing, as i say so often myself... no one can become a good writer, if not a good reader...
     
  16. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    Perfect answer up there, hun. Just be aware and if it works for you, fine, if not, bin it and get creative - that's what it's all about.
     
  17. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, yes. :D

    Only now am I realizing it might be read a different way. :redface:
     
  18. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Writing is a means of communication, nothing more--even if you only write for yourself. The purpose of grammar is clarity. Put the two together, and you have clear communication. I don't see how proper grammar (clarity) could ever be a detriment to one's writing, or a constraint. Each rule learned removes an obstacle from your path, wherever that path might take you.

    /GURU :rolleyes:
     

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