1. Cattlebruiser
    Offline

    Cattlebruiser Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2016
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    1

    How do you feel about not-accurate grammar?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Cattlebruiser, Feb 5, 2016.

    Well, lately I've been reading a couple of indie works and there are a ton of beautifully written fantasy novels that don't exactly follow "correct" or "proper" grammar.
    Such as:
    "Suddenly, the silence was broken by the sound of a familiar voice- So rotten, so disgusting, so repulsive that anyone who laid ears on it would be infected with the smell of fish and old rum."

    I thiiiink it's not exactly correct in every aspect but I like how it hit me. The man was rotten, disgusting and repulsive. It got the message across. But maybe this is actually right and I'm just overthinking.

    Then there's this:
    "How good a glass of cold water would be.

    How good it would be to be somewhere cold and away from the sand.

    How good a bath could be.

    Maybe a good meal since we are at it.

    What about that dog I met a couple days ago in that forest? A forest would be a good place to stay."

    A character was walking across a desert and these were some thoughts that came to him, and this was the way the writer expressed the chain of random thoughts. I liked it a lot! (I think it should be "How good it would be a glass of water"?)

    And last but not least, from the same book, I've noticed that not everyone in there speaks correctly. The reason is probably "not from our world", but how do you feel about that?

    Thanks a lot people!
    And remember to smile!
     
  2. furzepig
    Offline

    furzepig Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2016
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    I'm fine with things that aren't textbook-correct but that aren't distracting and add to the narrative. Also, it seems logical that the characters wouldn't all use the same sort of diction. I think it's a bigger mistake to have all characters sound alike.
     
  3. Cattlebruiser
    Offline

    Cattlebruiser Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2016
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    1
    Great way to see it! I agree.
     
  4. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,159
    Location:
    London, UK
    The first example bugs me because it's visually jarring. I *see* that something is wrong and it reminds me that I'm reading words on a screen, not actually immersed in the events.

    The second example doesn't bother me. I'm fine with sentence fragments used sparingly and appropriately, and that seems like the perfect passage to use them in.

    It's very individual. Generally, I need a good reason to break the rules.
     
  5. Greenwood
    Offline

    Greenwood Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2014
    Messages:
    158
    Likes Received:
    121
    Location:
    Banished to the Void
    When it's just thoughts or dialogue, I am generally fine with it. I'm not native to English, but even in my own language I sometimes catch myself using wrong grammar in speaking or thinking. That's pretty much how the human brain works I think.

    On a side note: besides that, there are dialects and regional differences is speech in every country regardless of language. To set myself of as an example, I am from Brabant in the southern Netherlands, and compared to "standard Dutch" we often use grammar that is plain wrong, but nonetheless our speech is intelligible to any Dutchman. That's why, in dialogue and thought, to me at least, any deviation from correct grammar is acceptable, and can sometimes even add to realism (A pirate MC drunk on rum, for example, would come across as unrealistic if he spoke standard correct English all the time.)

    I tend to read over it in general, except when a sentence is wrongly structured just too obvious. Same like in the thoughts, I read over it. In description and general narration, however, it is important to use proper grammar, at least most of the time.

    I read over the first of your examples quite quickly and without noticing, but now that I look at it again it's quite silly :D
     
  6. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    These are correct grammar. The "meal" one is a little idiomatic, but I don't see any actual errors.

    Edited to add:

    Actually, this is incorrect. It would be correct as

    "How good it would be to have a glass of water."
     
  7. Greenwood
    Offline

    Greenwood Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2014
    Messages:
    158
    Likes Received:
    121
    Location:
    Banished to the Void
    I thought so as well, but decided to reply to the concept of grammar in general. How do you feel about improper grammar in dialogue and thoughts? (As most of these examples are thoughts) In my opinion they can add quite some realism and immersion, although one needs to stay alert that the sentences should flow well enough to make it a good reading experience.

    Does this count for dialogue and thoughts as well for you? Would you, for example, for a character that speaks like a hick from the mountains, tell that the grammar he speaks sound like hillbilly speech, or would you actually write it down?

    Sorry if I am somewhat derailing this thread away from the OP's examples, but it's an interesting subject.
     
  8. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,159
    Location:
    London, UK
    It's really individual. Sometimes it irritates me, sometimes I like it. I remember giving a critique on here once where the speech bothered me, and my suggestion (based on my personal preferences, of course) was to pick one or two speech quirks and use those but tone down the rest. They serve as a reminder that the character is talking in a certain way, but they don't affect readibility or flow. To me, that's a good compromise.
     
  9. Cattlebruiser
    Offline

    Cattlebruiser Member

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2016
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    1
    Oops skipped a couple words. My bad...

    Please, I'm also interested. Be my guests!
     
  10. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    I'm fine with it in dialogue. I don't like dialogue to phonetically represent accent, but it should represent the words that the character speaks, in the order that they speak them. For example:

    1: Accent and word choice: "Ah might c'd fahn' some crans i' the draw."
    2: Word choice: "I might could find some crayons in the drawer."
    3: Neither: "I might be able to find some crayons in the drawer."

    I'd go with 2. 1 and 3 would both annoy me intensely.

    I'm less fine with improper grammar in thoughts, though that would be very much a style thing. There are literal thoughts, kinda-literal thoughts, paraphrased thoughts, paraphrased thoughts with literal phrases... it depends on the other choices that the author has made.
     
  11. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,791
    Likes Received:
    7,308
    Location:
    Scotland
    I'm a big believer in 'less is more' when it comes to dialogue quirks.

    If they are so quirky the reader has to stop and try to figure out what is being said, then I'd say that's too quirky. Leave in enough quirks to let the reader know this person speaks differently from the others, but don't attempt to reproduce every word phonetically.

    If your speakers are speaking off the cuff and in a rapid manner in their own dialect, it doesn't make sense for the reader to spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to decipher what's being said, does it? You'll lose the effect.

    Grammar doesn't really come into it, though. If the speaker uses bad grammar, by all means put that in. But don't try to dress it up with too many phonetics as well. You don't want it to read like a foreign language.

    There are exceptions, though. (When aren't there exceptions?) If your speaker's dialect is unintelligible to the people who are listening to him in the story, then don't hesitate to reproduce how he says his lines more fully. The other characters will also be going ''what?" The lack of comprehension will become a feature of their relationship. If you use phonetics that way, it can create exactly the effect you need.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2016
    GingerCoffee and Catrin Lewis like this.
  12. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    If I'm pausing in confusion and have to "rewrite" the sentence in my head to understand it, then it's too much. Besides, I do this often already since I hang out mostly with foreigners - my mind corrects their sentences and fills in missing words.

    If I'm pausing because it's effective and interesting, then it might be something I'd try to emulate. This would usually be a case of an interesting metaphor, turn of phrase, some insightful saying or particularly vivid description. This has very little to do with grammar really.

    And when something might confuse or intrigue me - that's a very fine line.

    I think with these things, it'll come if it's natural and you won't even be aware you're doing it, because it's "normal" to you. If you have to sit there and actively think about how to dress this sentence up in a grammatically quirky way, then you're probably doing it wrong :) By all means try for a more unique way of saying things, but there's such a thing as trying too hard.
     
    Cattlebruiser likes this.
  13. MsParrish
    Offline

    MsParrish New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Messages:
    13
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Home state of Charles Schulz
    If you enjoy the writing, what does grammar matter to you? Haiku's are a beautiful thing and if we were to take grammar as the utter do-all, end-all, we never would have been graced with reading them. A historical text, absolutely... fiction, not so much. As long as the meaning comes across, individual styles are a glorious thing.
     
    SethLoki likes this.
  14. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,159
    Location:
    London, UK
    I enjoy reading, and grammar helps me understand what the author is trying to say. I don't write for myself - I want other people to enjoy it.

    Poetry is a completely different animal to prose.
     
    nastyjman likes this.
  15. ChicagoDave
    Offline

    ChicagoDave Member

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2010
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Chicago
    Yup - It would have been quite odd for Butterfly McQueen to have said "Now Rhett, you know perfectly well that I am not skilled in the practice of delivering babies, or midwifery, or what have you."
     
  16. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,604
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Grammar matters. It's one thing to purposefully color outside the lines— dialogue, thoughts, poetry, sometimes style choices— but use it carefully. Leaving out conjunctions, for example, is commonly done. Partial sentences sometimes. ;) Just be sure it's purposeful and makes sense to the flow of the piece.
     
  17. nastyjman
    Offline

    nastyjman Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2010
    Messages:
    317
    Likes Received:
    136
    Location:
    NYC
    Check out Cormac McCarthy if you want to read an established author that gives the middle finger to punctuation.
     
  18. X Equestris
    Offline

    X Equestris Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    519
    Likes Received:
    307
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    If it's a character's speech, thoughts, or narration, it doesn't bother me if the usage isn't jarring. Having to stop and puzzle out what the author is trying to tell you is bad.
     
  19. miinari
    Offline

    miinari New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2016
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Styria
    Grammatical errors are completely justified in dialogue imo. Not everyone speaks "accurately", and I think it's great when writers use "errors" as tools. Even in narration, I feel like there's a difference between incorrect grammar that stems from ignorance and incorrect grammar that serves a purpose. They generally aren't hard to tell apart.

    While I find grammatical errors in narration distracting, a few here and there won't stop me from finishing the work.
     
  20. Justin Rocket 2
    Offline

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    1,034
    Likes Received:
    194
    One of my favorite authors, Mark Twain, did this to great effect.
     
  21. Elven Candy
    Offline

    Elven Candy Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2016
    Messages:
    285
    Likes Received:
    171
    I read a couple books in a series where the writer used the "accent and word choice" option for the dialogue from a group of people. It was confusing and extremely frustrating to read, and I skipped over as many words and sentences with them talking as possible. I dreaded any passage with one of them talking, and almost put the book down every time there was too much on one page (more than about 2 sentences).
     
  22. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,968
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    Yep. There's a Dorothy Sayers novel with a lot of reproduction of accent, and I really struggle with reading it, though I love Dorothy Sayers.
     
  23. BoddaGetta
    Offline

    BoddaGetta Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2010
    Messages:
    168
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    Colorado, USA
    Dialogue is fine. Internal character thoughts are fine.

    With prose, I'm of the opinion that you need a tad more justification to do it. A sentence fragment in description can turn out nice, or be jarring and draw attention to itself.
     

Share This Page