1. tanstaafl74
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    tanstaafl74 Member

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    How do i unlearn bad habits. (grammar)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by tanstaafl74, Jul 25, 2015.

    In my youth, many moons ago, I was in advanced writing in college. My grammar was fine, but it was also fresh in my mind from high school and other college classes. It was pounded into me by teachers and professors for years. Yet now, twentyish years later, I have forgotten much and have fallen into bad habits grammatically. This much is obvious from my first writing attempt, which is in the workshop now.

    Boning up on basic grammar is easy enough, there is quite a bit of material to be had, but my bad habits will still be front and center. Which leads me to wonder, what can I do to unlearn these bad habits other than lots of practice?
     
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  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, judging from this post, your grammar isn't all that bad. I'm sure overcoming a few bad habits won't be too hard.

    If I was trying to undo bad habits, I think I would tackle them one by one. Identify your 'worst' one, learn all you can about it, and keep watch for it as you write. Once you're sure you understand it and no longer make that particular mistake, then move on to another habit, and tackle it by itself as well. Keep doing that till you've pretty much nailed them all.

    Also, if you read a lot, good grammar and punctuation will become second-nature. Even if you don't know the 'rule,' you'll instinctively choose the right grammar most of the time, because anything else will simply look wrong. (Plus reading is more fun than studying rules of grammar!)

    Just a sample of what I mean: If you have confusion over whether you should use it's or its, just ask yourself one question. Is it short for it is? If that's the case, then you use an apostrophe, which replaces the missing letter. If not, you don't.

    Once you're comfortable with this correction, then you move on to something else.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2015
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  3. tanstaafl74
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    tanstaafl74 Member

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    That makes a lot of sense. I think my main problem will be identifying what my worst habit actually is, but I'm sure that will become clear as I get deeper into trying to form a new writing habit. If I were to venture a guess right now, it would be my proclivity to form run on sentences by using commas. I actually had to edit the first post in this thread after realizing that the entire first paragraph was initially one sentence.
     
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  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, one way to tackle that one is to read your sentences out loud. See where you come to a stop ...or conversely, run out of breath. Is there any place where you should have used a period instead? Have you got more than one complete sentence in there? Trying to read your stuff out loud will really point out where comma splices should be replaced by periods, or run-on sentences can be split up so they read more smoothly.

    What's even better, is if you can get somebody ELSE to read your stuff out loud to you. These people will need to rely on your punctuation to know where they should stop or pause for breath. See how they get on, and you'll get the hang of it.

    One of the most embarrrasing moments of my entire school life was when a teacher decided to read a report I'd written out loud in front of the class. He'd given me an A for it, but my lord, once he started reading out loud I think he wished he hadn't bothered. At one stage he started turning purple because he was out of breath! By the time he eventually finished, I was already 3/4 below my desk and heading for 7/8. The silence in the room was deafening. Yikes. I learned a lot that day, for sure! :bigeek:
     
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  5. tanstaafl74
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    tanstaafl74 Member

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    I've felt that pain. :oops: It does tend to stay with you, that's for sure.

    Thanks for all the great advice!
     
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  6. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    The "find" feature in word processors is quite helpful when you discover a particular type of error or over usage in your writing.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I had terrible habits that started on paper and carried over to computer. I used to put spaces before and after commas. And even now I'm not quite sure if I'm using them right. I didn't bother with paragraphs. Instead I used the em dash. I loved the em-dash it was like my grammar swiss army knife, need a pause - use an em dash. Need a paragraph use an em dash.

    Two things helped me -1. polishing my pieces with a grammar book handy or using a grammar program on my Word Perfect which would highlight things. I think Microsoft word has something like this. Right now I'm using Open Office and it checks grammar and either it's not as militant or I'm getting better. Lol. There's also some online programs - Grammarly and The Hemingway Editor where you can check your text.

    2. I found reading and critiquing help because it's easier to see when a writer is using a comma wrong in a sentence because I have no context, no attachment to the sentence. I don't know how it's supposed to be read except how the writer posted it so spotting how things can go wrong has helped me keep that in mind for my own pieces.
     
  8. tanstaafl74
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    tanstaafl74 Member

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    It's funny you should mention the grammar book. After my last post in this thread I looked through all my old text books and found a couple of them. One of them was the little brown handbook, which I'm using now. http://esuli813xi.pbworks.com/w/page/9482626/The%20Little,%20Brown%20Handbook
     
  9. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I realize this sounds like overkill as a way to unlearn grammatical habits, but the single most helpful thing for my own grammar was to study other languages. I never quite got the hang of conditionals and subjunctives in English -- until I studied conditionals and subjunctives in Spanish. Then I realized I had been getting them completely wrong in my English writing.
     
  10. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of the assignments in my high school English composition class was to write a 1,000-1,500 word story about a character's "journey". Being the procrastinator I was (and still am), I whipped out a futuristic car chase in the few hours before the deadline. It was basically the text equivalent of a scene you might expect from a Michael Bay movie. I got a 99% on the assignment (there was one grammatical error), and the teacher asked if she could read it to the class. Being proud of my work, I said yes. And the class seemed to enjoy it.

    Several years later, I was copying files over from an old hard drive and I stumbled upon my assignments for that class. So I nostalgically opened my car chase story and read it. It was cringeworthy. It was so bad that I kind of wished I had gotten an F on the assignment just to shake me out of the delusion that my writing was good writing in any way.
     

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