1. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your SPaG Skills & Struggles

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by marina, Sep 17, 2009.

    I thought it would be interesting to find out which SPaG (spelling, punctuation, and grammar) skills you feel at least fairly proficient in, and how you came to develop those skills. Also, which ones give you the most trouble?


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    I used to have a really hard time with punctuation because it was never taught properly (full disclosure: or in an interesting manner) to me in elementary and middle school. So it was probably in 7th or 8th grade, when I had to write a paper or a story, that I started looking at the fiction books and textbooks I had to see how they handled things such as placement of commas, quotation marks, and hyphens, and when and how to use semi-colons. I also sometimes will google part of a sentence that I'm having trouble with in terms of proper punctuation and see how others have handled it. I'm more confident if the source is a scholarly paper or journal as opposed to, say, a blog or CNN.com (which is often riddled with SPaG errors).

    My spelling skills were developed in part because I read a lot and notice and remember how words are spelled. If I'm in doubt, I'll google the word. I'll also note any words I read for which I don't know the definition, and then try to use them in conversation and writing--improving both my vocabulary and spelling.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i was just a 'brain' who was apparently born to be a wordsmith, got straight A's in all english/grammar/spelling classes throughout my school years and never had to work hard [or at all] on learning what i needed to know to become a better than most writer...

    no brag, ma'am, just fact... ;-)

    what probably helped most was that i read all the books, magazines, newspapers i could get my hands on, from the moment i first learned how to read... so by the age of 9, i was devouring the iliad and the odyssey and the complete works of the bard, along with all 20 volumes of 'the book of knowledge' and its annuals, plus all the nancy drew and hardy boys adventures i could find...
     
  3. elfen
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    elfen Member

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    ^^ Am also of the brain variety, cept I taught myself to read, so have been doing it since about two (this by the way, comes from my mum, who used to find me reading ANYTHING that came in the house)

    Usually got straight A's in spelling/grammar/english classes, mainly as this is the subject I happen to be best at. That and I'm a weirdo who loves analytics in ANY subject. I've kinda read a variety of things growing up (LOTR, Frank Herbert's Dune, The Stainless Steel Rat to mention a few) so I have quite a varied vocabulary. That, and I have been writing for fun since secondary, and even scared a few teachers. But that's a different matter.
     
  4. roseberryse
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    roseberryse Member

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    I tutored college students for two years while in graduate school. I learned most of the grammar rules this way. I think I always had them in the back of my mind, but, like you, had never learned them the proper way.
     
  5. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I was not born a brain. I got F’s through school and dropped out. I was only good at drawing and getting into trouble. Then I read lord of the Rings and a few other fantasy books that stole my interest, and I began writing. I enrolled in two year college and received mostly A’s, and now I’ve transferred to a university : ) (new brain entering world)

    I had trouble with grammar in general. Starting out, I considered myself a good speaker, and I had a large vocabulary, but since I entered life dyslexic (at least that’s what I was told) I didn’t know the difference between words as simple as “want” and “won’t,” at least on paper, until after high school.

    Commas probably gave me the most trouble. Why? I, don’t, know, yet.
     
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  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I think my greatest weaknesses are rushing and hating to proof read.
     
  7. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have very little technical skill and go by intuition. I try to pick up what I can about the "proper way" of things, but do maintain my illusion that some things are better felt than understood. ;)

    If I were a musician, I would not know how to read notes, but play the strings with my heart.
     
  8. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I read and wrote from pre-school and was often dragged from the library for dinner and chores. I learnt from an early age that reading is learning and have carried that through to the present, always endeavoring to enhance my knowledge. I like to assist others in doing so, too.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I believe that I have as good a grasp of English grammar, syntax, and punctuation as I do because I permit myself only one mode.

    I don't have a casual speech and a formal speech. I don't have one way for writing casual letters and another for more formal documents.

    Just one way, the proper way.
     
  10. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Out of curiosity, Wreybies, does all your characters also speak proper english?
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutely not.

    No, my characters do not speak like me. At least not all of them. Dialogue is one animal and narration is quite another.

    The errors I run into in the narration of many written pieces I have reviewed here at this forum, and at other forums, has a tendency so strong as to nearly be a rule to follow the same vernacular errors found in 'everyday speech.'

    It is my personal belief that when we allow for a loose or vulgar tongue to be the common manner of discourse, then we run the risk of forgetting the correct manner of syntax. Overuse of nonstandard grammar in everyday speech leads to that nonstandard grammar acquiring a sound of correctness. And yet, I still consider myself a descriptive, not proscriptive grammarian. I only object to changes that reduce a language's capacity to express concepts in a clear fashion.

    Where I once lived in Florida the incorrect use of complex verb tenses is so very common, that there is no longer any way to distinguish between an action that was completed and one that was not completed without the use of rather lengthy context explanation.
     
  12. Syne
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    Syne Member

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    I think I have a sufficient grasp on punctuation and grammar, but my spelling is somewhat worse. Although I am have a fairly large vocabulary, I'm lucky if I can spell 80% of the words I know perfectly (for example, I just thought of spelling 'verisimilitude' as 'versimilitude'). This is probably due to my reliance on spell-checkers; with such luxuries, I have no need to concentrate on spelling every word correctly. I can just right click, and there it is!

    However, my SPaG skills become exponentially worse when I'm forced to type quickly or reflexively, such as during chat (especially IRC). It goes beyond the normal laxity, since I actually replace words with different ones on occassion. I might want to type, "I did it for the lulz," but what actually comes out is, "I did it to the lulz". I rarely notice my mistake before reading the sentence I wrote. Sometimes the results are pretty bizarre. Naturally, I blame it on my ADD :p
     
  13. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    "I before E except after C and in words sounding 'ay' like neighbor and weigh." I don't know why, but I'm having a real hard time remembering this lately.
     
  14. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I had very good training in spelling and grammar (because I'm old and went to school in the dark ages). Nonetheless, I look up absolutely anything at all I'm not sure of (and not on the internet as a final authority). I surround myself with dictionaries and grammar guides, handbooks, style books, etc., so that I can defend the choices I make. In the interest of full disclosure, I developed that habit when I first started working with writers some 20+ years ago, and transcribing interviews, medical dictation, and other kinds of things that require detail and accuracy.

    Things I have the most trouble with are matters of style, where variations depend upon lots of things other than a singular rule--things like industry, publishing house, and writer preferences, etc. I never rely completely on internet resources, although I'll sometimes go there first to see how various resources differ, or sometimes for proper names, or popular usages, and that kind of thing. But remember, when you Google, that there's an abundance of wrong and incorrect spelling on the internet. So, just because you google a word to see if it's spelled right, remember that it's likely to come up from somewhere however you chose to type it.:)
     

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