1. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    grammar for effect

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by AJSmith, Apr 12, 2011.

    Is is acceptable (to publishers) to use bad grammar, such as incomlete sentences, for effect/voice? When my character is thinking something, I find that sometimes what she's thinking does not come out as a proper sentence.

    Change it or keep it?

    I'm assuming anything goes when a character is actually speaking because it is their grammar that is being captured. Is that correct?


    Thanks!
     
  2. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Keep it. It's fine.
     
  3. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    To the best of your ability, keep the text grammatically correct. As to a character's speech and thoughts, stay true to the character.
     
  4. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    If it's part of the character and how they talk or speak or what not, it's fine. But like other techniques, don't overdo it, obviously, although where to draw the line can be subjective.
     
  5. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree

    Just provide enough to give a feel of the character.
     
  6. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree - you don't need much to give a feel for the how character is thinking/speaking, and too much quickly becomes tiresome to read.

    I think the same goes for dialect.
     
  7. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    A poor manner of speaking is fine, especially if it's islands of the proper grammar of the rest of your story.

    It also depends on the dialect. Droppin' an occasional "G" is fine, using alot of words that people only think is words is also fine. :) Excessive apostrophes or having to sound out what they are saying can get annoying.
     
  8. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just be consistent in how you apply it. For example, if using m-dash for an interrupted line of dialogue once, then don't use ellipsis next time someone's interrupted.

    I did a small study in late medieval grammar the other day and must say I envy those writers of the past, somewhat -- they had all kinds of symbols, like musical notes, to indicate tone of voice and pace of reading. Oh well, off topic again.
     
  9. Terry D
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    Terry D Active Member

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    Cybrxkhan, Trilby, and Islander nailed it.
     
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  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Grammatically correct" is a bit more flexible in creative writing than in formal writing, though. In particular, fragments can be acceptable in creative writing if used judiciously.
     
  11. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Thank you all. It doesn't happen a lot, but there is the occasional thought by my character that just comes out in an incomplete sentence or some similar situation, and it reads better in terms of keeping the character's voice that way.
     
  12. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    To add: especially since real people don't necessarily talk "properly" anyways, using "improper" grammar or even just different speech patterns might add to your character's voice and personality significantly. A character who says "If it behooves you, can I have the cheese, please?" is clearly a different person than one who says "Yeah, like, I want the cheese, okay?" or "I want big cheese, good?" and you can already make some guesses as to the personality, attitudes, even background of the character just based on those few words.
     
  13. rbg518
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    rbg518 Member

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    It depends: do the grammar abnormalities call attention to themselves? Are they necessary to maintain a certain tone? There are a number of questions that one must ask, because if the bad grammar isn't necessary and impedes the story, it does you more harm than good.

    Also, on the dialogue note: improper grammar can be a tool to reveal character, like if a person does not know how to speak a language well or, well, doesn't know grammar!

    My personal motto: Use it, but don't abuse it.
     
  14. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    These are the lines I wrote, causing me to then post this thread. Maybe it will clarify what I was asking specifically. I am a newbie and it's sad how lacking I am in grammatical terminology. :)

    “Okay, Aric, if it’s not too much to ask, I have one more question about this sensitive subject. Then you can choose the next topic we discuss.” Unless I didn’t like the topic.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you've answered your own question.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep I think digitig is right if it reads better that way keep it.

    For me the key is does it pull people out of the story or is it difficult to follow.
     
  17. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Going by this one piece of dialogue, imo the character comes across as controlling and possibly a bit of a bully. If that is the intention then it's fine. Personally I would drop 'sensitive' I don't feel it's necessary and that piece of dialogue won't lose any of the impact without it. But that is only my opinion.

    Without seeing more of the text, the sentence - Unless I didn't like the topic. - seems out of place and sounds a bit awkward to me.

    Is it in first person? If so, then what about; Unless I don't/didn't like the topic, that is. or Unless I don't like the topic, I thought.
    Just a thought. It is your piece go with what you think best. Sometime it is not grammar - it can be a style thing. Good luck with your writing.
     
  18. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    ^This.
     
  19. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Thanks again everyone!

    Trilby, thanks for the very specific word change ideas. I am definitely going to have to find a very good friend who is willing to read through my whole manuscript and give me those sort of impressions... once I finish draft one anyway. :)
     

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