1. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    Grammatically correct Rules

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by cazann34, Dec 23, 2012.

    Why are we so keen to break rules of grammar. Why do we learn what they are then spend our time attempting to break or bend them? Is it our way of rebelling against conformity?
     
  2. Warp Zone
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    Warp Zone Contributing Member

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    I generally don't break the rules because I've found grammatically correct writing to be more readable than grammatically incorrect writing. Dialog is usually the only place I see grammar rules broken (for the sake of natural patterns of speech), although one fantastic example of breaking rules purely for effect is "Flowers for Algernon."
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    For me it's definitely rebellion - I grew up reading Ya series fiction. You know, like Sweet Valley High. lol.
    They had a smooth journalistic flow, but they lacked heart. It was all paint by numbers, verified by the fact that many of the
    series had ghost writers. I liked them ( I still do ) and when I was a child, I wanted to start my own series. But the older
    I got, the more my vision broadened, the less I wanted to follow in their footsteps.

    I want to take a chance when I write. I don't want to fall under a category. And I suppose that's the trouble
    assuming rule-following is wrapped up with disposable fiction.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't usually feel the urge to break those rules. But when we do feel that urge, I think that it's often because we're struggling with the fact that most of us have two languages, spoken and written. Spoken is what we grew up learning, and for a long time (perhaps forever) it's our true native language. When our written-language voice tells our spoken-language, native, voice that it's wrong, we resist.
     
  5. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I break the rules when it helps the story. People don't talk grammatically, necessarily. Making them do so for the sake of propriety weakens the story, usually.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm pretty strict when it comes to grammar. The only exception, as others noted, is dialogue - but even the structure of the dialogue is grammatically correct (quotes, commas, periods, etc). Grammar is the set of rules that allows us to communicate the most effectively. Why would any writer want to disrupt that?
     
  7. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I've noticed that most published writers tend to follow the rules of grammar and punctuation (this includes using quotes for dialogue). Only a small number break the rules. And some of those writers break the rules because that's their particular style of writing. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, and I certainly don't think they're doing it to rebel or prove a point.
     
  8. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Breaking the rules is good when it serves a specific purpose in your story. But when the rules are broken often, the affect of breaking it doesn't register. The only place other than dialogue I tend to break a grammar rule, is dealing in internal thoughts, because people don't think grammatically either. In third person this idea can get a little murky when the line between exposition and showing the character's thoughts is blurred. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to follow at least common grammar convention. Some of the rules may be skirted depending on the book. For instance, "who" and "whom," or not putting a comma before "that" but always putting one before "which" in clauses are two examples that I think doesn't necessarily matter in today's English language. It doesn't hinder communication to break those rules and in some cases, following them may actually read as being "stuffy."
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In order to break the rules effectively, one must understand each rule or guideline, the reasoning behind it, and the consequences of the chosen alternative.

    Spare me the rationale, "Joe Shmoe ignores this rule, and is successful, so I can too!" More often than not, it arises from being too lazy to learn correct grammar, with a good dose of unfocused rebellion thrown in for good measure.

    Breaking convention should serve a purpose beyond being different to attract attention.
     
  10. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I agree with everything you say here. I was wondering however, how you feel about grammar rules that in common spoken/written English, aren't necessarily used anymore. Like I mention in my post above, who/whom and that/which are two that I often find ignored. Especially with who/whom, it can sometimes come across the same way as holding your pinky out when you're drinking tea. In the right places, it's fine. In the wrong places (genre for books), it comes across as stuffy, IMO.

    Would you agree and if so, do you work around it so you don't violate grammar rules? (Like say, trying not to put "who" in the the accusative).
     
  11. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    If you're doing dialogue, write to the character. If you're writing narrative, the voice must rely upon the perspective. 3PO should be grammatically correct, in my view. 3PL should have a voice that may ignore grammar as circumstances demand.

    If I'm simply telling a story from 3PO, I will keep proper grammar. But if the third-person PoV is a limited, personal view, then my narrative should reflect the voice of the narrator.
     
  12. F.E.
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    Many of those so-called "rules" that are found in grammar usage manuals are incorrect. If you blindly follow them, then your prose will end up sounding like "ESL speak".

    Standard English usage is mostly what native English speakers speak and write, in formal and informal styles, and in different registers (audiences). It is what they speak and write in order to communicate with each other. Since a single individual often isn't familiar with the many dialects of standard English, then, it's often useful to refer to accepted resources such as widely regarded dictionaries (e.g. The Oxford English Dictionary--The OED) and usage dictionaries, and reference grammars. When you do that, you'll see that standard usage accepts lots of variety in speech and print.

    But unfortunately, most of the grammar sources available on the internet, and in book stores as grammar usage manuals, they do not teach standard English, and they have many errors in them. For example, you'll find out that many grammar sources on the internet and many grammar usage manuals and many writing sites are mostly wrong as to the standard usage of "who vs whom", and "who vs that", and "which vs that in relative clauses", etc.

    So, if you're a native English speaker, you'll want to tend to trust your ear, since your ear has been learning English for far longer than your educated adult mind has been.

    Most widely used dictionaries and usage dictionaries will explain standard usages correctly on the whole, as will the recent reference grammars, e.g. Quirk et al.'s A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (1985), and Huddleston and Pullum et al.'s The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002). When you check out what they say, you'll find out that often, or usually, those grammar references will agree with you a native English speaker (and disagree with the "ESL speak" grammar online sites).

    Good luck! :)
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    for the foolish few, yes...

    for the seasoned writer who knows when to break or bend and when not, it's simply good writing practice...
     

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