1. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN

    Purposeful bad grammar?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Alesia, Jul 24, 2013.

    If you're writing a piece that's supposedly written by a person who's not very educated in first person POV, is it ok to use bad grammar on purpose to help convey that point?
     
  2. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,322
    Location:
    California, US
    Sure. Just be careful that you don't overdo it. A little bit can be effective at creating the impression, but too much of it can do more harm than good in terms of reader reception.
     
  3. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,728
    Likes Received:
    4,826
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Read Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and then answer your own question!
     
  4. Makeshift
    Offline

    Makeshift Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2011
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Finland
    Read something by Jose Saramago. He definitely has an interesting way to write dialogue, which most people would call purposefully bad, although for him it's not the characters using bad grammar, but the author. It's okay to do it like that, but it will put off some people if you make it so bad that it's hard to understand it.
     
  5. JetBlackGT
    Offline

    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States
    I have a couple of characters who speak very poorly. Very blue collar combined with lack of education.

    It is like pulling my own teeth to write like that. It is all "Huck Finn" and hillbilly and redneck.

    I don't notice at all, when I read it, but writing it is sooooo difficult. My Facebook friends and I will make Grammar Nazi posts to annoy one another.

    "Your gonna luv there comments Dave. This post is where its at!"
    "There, they're, their. It'll be okay."

    Sometimes I have to go have a lie down after reading them.
     
  6. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,821
    Likes Received:
    7,345
    Location:
    Scotland
    I have a couple of characters in my novel who are ungrammatical speakers, so I know what you're up against. I'd say in this instance, less is certainly more. Don't overdo it, especially if the characters have a lot to say—because too much bad grammar makes difficult reading. But definitely do it!
     
  7. B93
    Offline

    B93 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2012
    Messages:
    297
    Likes Received:
    32
    "Your gonna luv there comments Dave. This post is where its at!"
    "There, they're, their. It'll be okay."

    I know these were in jest. But to be clear, homonyms and mis-spellings do not belong in uneducated speaker's dialog because they do not change the sound of the words. They just make it harder to read.

    Phrasing, word substitution, shortening -ing to -in' , etc., in moderation can be effective.
     
  8. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    are you only concerned with dialog, or are you referring to the narrative, too, if a character is telling the story in first person?
     
  9. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    You mean as in Huckleberry Finn?
     
  10. Steve Day
    Offline

    Steve Day Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2013
    Messages:
    107
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    PA
    It is best to introduce the character's grammar, accent, patois at first appearance, then let it slide away. The reader will remember without having to be constantly reminded. It is like a limp. Show it to us, but don't constantly point it out throughout the work. If it-limp or grammar- serves a purpose, (" he had trouble with the stairs, and lagged behind the others") then it can be used. Judiciously.

    My MC is from eastern Europe, traveling in America. His very first words are: "Excuse, please. My engine is hot. Can you look?"
    Other than having trouble understanding conversations when he hears 'copious' or 'moribund', his speech thereafter does not bring Sasha Beren Cohen to mind.
     
  11. NigeTheHat
    Offline

    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2008
    Messages:
    763
    Likes Received:
    581
    Location:
    London
    As with all things, it's fine when done well. Flowers for Algernon slides the prose from one end of the spectrum to the other and back again, as the POV character goes through some profound mental changes.
     
    1 person likes this.
  12. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I did this for a short story called Thunderbolt written from a con's pov. It's on my blog if you want to check it out. It got mixed
    reviews as the dialect could get on a reader's nerves. A few said to keep it dialogue only, others were absolutely fine
    with the narrative. Some thought it was great others couldn't get through it.

    I think it all depends on how well you handle it, plus your audience. No matter how it goes some
    will hate the device.
     
  13. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    meaning any fiction told by a character in first person, who writes 'in character'...
     
  14. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Sapphire's Push is written in very bad grammar on purpose, though it got better as the protag learned to spell better. I think it was marvellously done, and I just devoured that book like in two days. Sure, at times you have to stop and think, read the words aloud to decipher the meaning, but why not challenge the reader a bit? I say, go for it, then have it beta-read, and you'll get some idea how well you're pulling it off.

    In my and T.Trian's current WIP, the MC is Swedish. Guess if she speaks perfect English? Good thing she isn't very talkative...
     
  15. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    the best-ever example of this technique are the classic short story and subsequent novel, 'flowers for algernon' by daniel keyes [movie version, 'charly']... it's written as a series of reports/observations by the main character, charlie gordon... as his low IQ soars to amazing heights and then drops back to his original 'retarded' level, the writing goes from misspellings and poor grammar, to lofty scientific rhetoric and back to barely literate... brilliantly done!
     
  16. Alesia
    Offline

    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2013
    Messages:
    998
    Likes Received:
    251
    Location:
    Knoxville, TN
    I totally forgot about good ol' Huck Finn. I have it on my shelf too! First person is a completely new thing for me, so I'm trying to find my way around here since my next two pieces are planned to be in 1st person, present.
     

Share This Page