1. CelesteMwilson
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    CelesteMwilson New Member

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    Is grammar that important?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by CelesteMwilson, Apr 26, 2010.

    I often find my sentences lose the meaning and value that I intended it to have when I place comma's etc within the sentence. Are they necessary and if I struggle to do it myself should I find someone to do the editing? Or should I just continue placing them where I feel they should go?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, grammar is essential. A grammatical error will distract your readers and cause them to lose what you're trying to say.

    If you find that focusing on grammar stalls your writing, I'd recommend just writing as you please, and then editing your work later.

    I'm a little puzzled as to what you mean by "lose meaning and value". Can you give an example of a time when adding a comma, or making another grammar correction, detracted from the meaning of the sentence?

    ChickenFreak
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A strong grasp of grammar is pretty much necessary for writing, even creative writing. Some experimental pieces do ignore grammar rules, but one needs a solid understanding of grammar rules before one can break them. And even then, the rules aren't broken arbitrarily but are broken for a reason.

    As for commas, they can be put in places where one would not normally put them. In that case, these commas are used for introducing dramatic pauses. Removing a comma will have the opposite effect and will indicate to the reader that there is no pause there.
     
  4. Chloe Ashlynn
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    Chloe Ashlynn New Member

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    I agree with thirdwind, you have to have a good grasp of the grammar rules before you can break them.

    However, I am also a strong advocate of mimicking style of writing. I find myself studying the pro's sentence structures, how and when the use words and what effects it creates. Syntax is key, but you have to have a firm grasp of grammar in order to use grammar to your best advantage.
     
  5. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that good grammar iis definitely vital. Whatever you write has to be fully understood and appreciated by not only you, the writer - but also by any subsequent readers, so it's important that you stick to rules that they will fully comprehend. :)
     
  6. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    I used to write with the minimal knowledge I aquired from my school days.
    Now that I study grammar, my writing has improved dramatically.
     
  7. CelesteMwilson
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    CelesteMwilson New Member

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    Silly me, the use of the word grammar was an error in itself. The feedback above is all brilliant, thank you all very much.

    I wanted to know about punctuation, commas and when to use them. I am looking at doing a revised grammar course as the last time I had to write anything using "correct grammar" was when I was back in school. The new age of facebook, mixit and other text languages have really made me incredibly lazy.
     
  8. Fallen
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    Fallen Member

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    If you go into a grammar course, go in with an open mind. Correct English (called queen's English over here) is only one particular style of writing and speaking. There are so many others. None of them 'wrong'.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    But there is a standard, a square one, so to speak.

    You have to have a basic grasp (and if you wish to be a successful writer, a much better than basic grasp) of the standard before you can have a grasp of anything else. Remember that your writing will go through many filters before becoming that book with which someone curls along with a cup of cocoa on rainy day. The most important filter is the reader him/herself. You have to give the reader something they can get their brain around, and frankly grammar is a hardwired bit of programming within the brain. It is not an invention, but a fundamental aspect of our way of thinking. We make mistakes all the time because, like a computer, there are competing subsystems that sometimes foil each other, but still there is a basic way of working that must be abided. Look what happens when computers manage not to abide their inner way of functioning.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Fallen
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    Fallen Member

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    Of course there's a standard, Wrey, but when it comes to grammar courses it helps to see that 'standard' English is a choice, just like any other. By all means be open to the rules of standard writing, but also be open to how language changes in context -- and rules can go out the window (especially in fiction (it's not called 'creative writing' for nowt. lol)).

    One Standard writing rule will tell you not to split infinitives ('boldy to go, not 'to boldy go'), most will see that non-standard language naturaly splits infinites. And what's 'standard' to American writer's will differ to what's standard in British English. (We double consonats for example where the American's don't). It's considered standard over here to leave spaces between double hyphens (You -- you cow), but Americans have their own rules on that (You--you cow). But again, even these stylistic changes will differ from publisher to publisher.

    Even standard language has hybrids. So long as you're open to that, when you take a grammar class, like first hearing 'Show, don't tell,' you can take a more objective stnce and just smile at how some rules just aren't as rigid as they appear.
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    We've said the same thing, you and I. The difference lies in our focus. I personally believe in a learn to walk, then to run philosophy. I think it is erroneous to try an jump ahead without the fundamentals in check.
     
  12. Fallen
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    Yeah, we're saying the same thing.;) but I know, certainly in English schools, though, standard writing is taught through from primary to secondary setting. They're almost programmed one fixed way from the word go.

    One concern my kids' school teacher keeps repeating is that kids can't move from writing an essay, to creative writing (year 6 in a primary setting). And that comes down to being taught there's only way to write: standard. They're not taught to see that 'academic writing is creativly different to fiction because...'.

    Focus is kept on what you should and shouldn't do, not where the differences lie in the registers (fiction, academic, etc). And you notice it on boards like this because when kids have learnt, left school, there's still doubt over 'should I be doing this, should I be doing that, 'cause it's not considered right.'. It's already been pre-instilled it's not right.

    Damage already done. They have to learn again that variety is there.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Look back at the original post, Fallen. Celeste is concerened that the meaning becomes muddy as a result of grammatical errors, and it is a legitimate issue.

    That is a large part of the reason for grammar rules. They exist to organize a sentence according to agreed-upon rules that help prevent abiguity or confusion.

    There is no substitute for learning correct grammar. Formal writing adheres to stricter rules than creative writing does, but sometimes you still need to fall back on the formal rules. And if you never learned them, you're up a famous odious waterway, sans paddle.
     
  14. Fallen
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    But ambiguity is still there. The question was why can't the op place commas where she feels they need to be. I'm sorry, but we'll have to agree to disagree that pedagogy isn't an important debating point in why writers are still left questioning that once they've left school.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is some leeway in placing commas. In some cases there are conflicting rules. In other places, the rules are quite clear.

    You still need to know the rules, or at least the majority of them. Yes, there are finicky and arbitrary ones, but that is not an excuse for not learning and applying the rest of them.
     
  16. Fallen
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    I agree. I never said not to learn, just to keep an open mind. The op said she's off to grammar class. She's gonna take it one step further on the educational ladder and that step will teach her language varies. She said she'd go with 'correct' in mind; the advice was just to go in with an open mind. She's going to learn that language varies and 'correct' is just one choice out of many.
     
  17. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is an excellent example of how punctuation, specifically commas in this instance, may or may not be important to the structure of the sentence. (LOVE that well-fed, well-armed, hit and run panda bear of literary fame!)

    The first statement here is, "I wanted to know about punctuation."
    The second statement is, "I wanted to know about commas."
    Both of these statements have been joined in one compound sentence. Thus, the need for a comma to separate the first and second concepts. "I wanted to know about punctuation, commas and how to use them.."
    In this case, the comma takes the place of the word "and", effectively contracting a sentence which says, "I wanted to know about punctuation and I wanted to know about commas".

    The second "lesson" is with the 'listing' process of which there are two schools of thought. The first says you should use a comma before the word 'and' when listing more than two items. "The new age of facebook, mixit and other text languages have really made me incredibly lazy."

    Some would say this should be written, "The new age of facebook, mixit, and other text languages ..." while others insist the 'and' alone is sufficient.

    From this, it is easy to see that, to a certain extent, some uses of the comma are subjective while others are fairly concrete. Sometimes, as in a complex compound sentence, the root sentence can get lost in all of the 'detours' within. In such a case, it might be better to re-examine the sentence and see if, in the interests of clarity, there is not a better way to write what you are trying to say.

    Slightly off-topic but a true story and a wonderful object lesson, I recall that, back in the days of media censorship of the 1960's (when I was a mere babe), print censors would remove belly buttons from bikini-clad models and actresses in the newspaper because, of course, exposure of belly buttons was indecent. Mort Walker, the creator of the 'Beetle Bailey' comic strip, found the navel of an orange scraped off because it was, a navel! In one man's war against such ignorant censorship, Walker put his hapless G.I. on KP peeling ... yup, you guessed it ... navel oranges! Oh! The sweet vengeance of thinking of some silly censor scraping all of those 'belly buttons' off of mounds and mounds of oranges on the strip cels!

    The kind of warped point of this little anecdote is to illustrate how too much of anything can be a bad thing and a little discreet use of navel oranges OR commas might be better than an overwhelming abundance.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that an extra comma in this sentence would eliminate ambiguity. To me:

    I wanted to know about punctuation, commas and when to use them.

    could mean "I want to know about punctuation. The topic of punctuation that I want to know about is commas and when to use them." Though I suppose in that case the comma should perhaps be replaced by a dash.

    If a comma were added:

    I wanted to know about punctuation, commas, and when to use them.

    that would mean, to me, "I want to know about punctuation, and I want to know about commas, and I want to know when to use both."

    I suppose the ambiguity comes in because commas _are_ punctuation. If the sentence were

    I wanted to know about spoons, spatulas and when to use them.

    it would be less ambiguous. Though I'd still want the second comma. Would that second comma be wrong, or just unnecessary?

    ChickenFreak
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Then there's something wrong. If the commas obscure the intended meaning then either the commas are wrong or the whole sentence structure is wrong. The punctuation is there to make the meaning clearer, not to obscure it.

    Could you post an example, so we can see what you mean?
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    celeste... yes, correct punctuation is vital to good writing, since a misplace comma can completely change the meaning of a sentence to something other than what you'd intended...

    get yourself a good punctuation guide and then just do your best... if you goof in just a few places, it will probably be overlooked by agents/editors... but if you goof more often than not, it won't!

    you can email me for a 'tools of the trade' list that includes a couple of good guides, one of which i use myself...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  21. MJ Preston
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    MJ Preston Banned

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  22. CelesteMwilson
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    CelesteMwilson New Member

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    Wow, these posts are so informative and helpful. I am a sponge, ready to absorb it all.
     

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