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  1. lawrencelpy

    lawrencelpy Member

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    Do you guys study grammar before?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by lawrencelpy, Dec 23, 2017.

    Being a second-language writer, I studied grammar in high school. And whenever I write or edit my work, I would analyse my writing in a scientific manner.
    Do you guys write or edit your work based on feeling? or based on grammar?
     
  2. Teladan

    Teladan On the outside looking in. Contributor

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    That's an interesting question. Could you elaborate a little on this? I feel most of my writing is a necessary balance of the two. Is there anyone who can write without feeling, someone who focuses solely on grammar, syntax and spelling? I suppose for native English speakers--not that it's any indication that one's writing will be of a high standard if they're a native--can write with more of an intuitive feeling as they're not weighed down by having to remember certain rules.
     
  3. lawrencelpy

    lawrencelpy Member

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    Yes, the feeling I am referring to is the intuitive feeling.
    Even though you dont have to remember certain rules, you still have to know the rules.
    For example, my native language is Chinese. If I don't study its grammar, I might make mistakes. I guess the same is true for English, right?
     
  4. Mink

    Mink Contributor Contributor

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    I rely on intuitive feeling and always have. Often my writing is incorrect grammatically if you're using U.S. American English, but if you use British English to grade my writing then I'm often more correct grammatically. My spelling's more U.S. American, but I use commas too often and I've been told that this isn't England more than once in school and outside of school.

    Grammar and spelling varies greatly from country to country so there's often a leniency in regards to that, at least for a lot of people. I know my basic rules, but I don't necessarily listen.
     
  5. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

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    Non-native speaker myself: When I started creative writing in English, I wrote by instinct. Then some critiquers pointed out grammar mistakes which impeded their understanding/ability to enjoy my writing. So I studied the causes of my mistakes. Wrote some more. Got more mistakes pointed out. Rinse and repeat. To this day I haven't done a proper language course in English, but my grammar is getting better :)
     
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  6. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I'm a native English speaker but didn't have much formal education in grammar. I learned spelling and grammar (SPAG) from reading.

    With writing, my top priority is entertainment, and clarity is a very close second. Correct spelling and grammar maximises clarity, so it's very important to me. But I will break SPAG rules occasionally when I think it makes a sentence/passage better - sentence fragments, for example.

    I can't read books that really take the piss with SPAG like Requiem for a Dream or Precious, even though I would really like to read both of those. I read for pleasure and out-there style choices turn it into work.
     
  7. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    I generally don't think about grammar when writing, but I'm an English teacher, so I don't particularly have to.
     
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It doesn't need to be either/or. Writing can be both based on feeling and grammatically correct. And aside from deliberate variances from grammatical correctness made as style choices, it should be both.
     
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  9. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    There are actually two types of grammar: Prescriptive Grammar and Descriptive Grammar. Prescriptive Grammar is a set of rules (like never split an infinitive and on ad infinitum) telling you how language should be used. It's this side of grammar that makes the least sense and people try to enforce the most. Descriptive grammar is about using language tools like commas and semicolons to help put an active, spoken language on page and basically a set of guidelines on how to do that most effectively. Both are important, but in fiction writing Descriptive grammar is boss. Whereas if you were trying to write scholarly articles or your thesis, then you would definitely want to edit to keep to prescriptive grammar rules.
     
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  10. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    As an aside, the split infinitive prohibition is nonsense and has no basis in English grammar. It's fine to boldly go and split infinitives as much as you like.
     
  11. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't think about formal grammar (I'd better not, as I have very little formal education on the subject) but I think about how to use words most effectively, which means I take grammar into account.

    I'd quibble with this - I agree with your definition of "prescriptive" grammar being the formal "rules", but I think the formal rules include items like commas and semicolons. As I understand "descriptive" grammar it's more a recording of how grammar is being used, rather than how it "should" be used. As usage changes over time, descriptive grammar allows us to track the changes and they may eventually find their way into the prescriptive rules of grammar. But there would be both descriptive and prescriptive grammar for all your examples.
     
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  12. NiallRoach

    NiallRoach Contributor Contributor

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    Descriptivism is about recording how language is used, rather than ordaining how it should be used. It has nothing to do with effectively communicating on the page; it's just the attitude with which linguists approach their study.
    All orthography (writing) is inherently prescriptive, because we're telling people how things should be spelt, or how punctuation should be used, so this dichotomy doesn't really apply to creative writing. Not unless you're advocating totally getting rid of standardised spelling (which I'd actually quite like)
     
  13. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Smug

    Which tribe exactly, and your English is very good from studying our Bible, I assume? Good luck.
     
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  14. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    The Catuvellauni. I thank the Baby Jesus every day for teaching me how to grammer good.
     
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  15. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Feeling. I'm a native speaker. For me the deployment of words, clauses, sentences, etc. in English is organic. I don't think about what I'm going to write; I write what I am thinking. But I did study English grammar as a necessary remedial task when I trained to be a Russian interpreter. In order to understand concepts like genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, as they are used in Russian, I had to understand their analogues in English, vestigial and opaque as they may sometimes seem.
     
  16. raine_d

    raine_d Active Member

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    English grammar is, as we all know, somewhat less than intuitive.... I did the usual English studies at school but most of what I call 'intuition' I learned by osmosis, by reading, and reading, and reading some more.

    And no, all the osmosis in the world doesn't stop me screwing it up sometimes.
     
  17. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Smug EFL teacher here, so I go by feel, but I do have times when I have to refer back to understand what I did wrong. Since I teach lower-level students almost exclusively, some of the criticisms I've seen here (comma splices, split infinitives) go right over my head. At work, I'm generally more concerned with enforcing subject/verb agreement and consistent tense usage, and I wonder if my ability to use higher-level English has suffered as a result.
     
  18. crappycabbage

    crappycabbage Member

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    When we studied grammar in high school (both english and my native language), I was in desperate need of glasses and wouldn't admit to it, and because of that I'm really crappy at the technical side of grammar. But I developed an "ear" for it through reading and listening, so when I write it's very much a matter of hearing the text and make sure it sounds right rather than analyzing it in a more scientific way. Still make mistakes though. :) So my grammar is based on feeling, I guess.
     
  19. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Flattery and all, but if you hadn't told me that you weren't a native speaker, I would never have guessed from your writing here on the forum.
     
  20. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I’m a native, so here is my two cents:

    I tend to write fiction the way I imagine my character would describe it. I may write a description of the surroundings completely differently if the main character is a professor or a farm hand. For the latter, I’d make sure it was clear, but purposefully mangle the grammar and insert broken phrases. For scientific papers, every word is carefully chosen because there is zero room for ambiguity. That may not necessarily mean proper grammar in a scholarly sense though, clarity is more important that grammar.
     
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  21. Vince Higgins

    Vince Higgins Active Member

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    I last studied grammar about forty years ago. In college I studied engineering, which did not emphasize writing. Regardless, I wrote well enough that I was the designated editor on group projects. I read, and that informs my style. Experts may catch me in grammatical flaws, but if it flows and is readable I call it good.

    Dialog is a different matter. Each character has to have their own voice, and linguistic idiosyncrasies unique to each character is important. People talk the way they do, and some talk good, others don't.
     
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  22. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I have no idea what it takes for a non-native speaker to write in English. I am in awe. I'm sure most of them (unless they learned English by getting dumped in the middle of an English-speaking environment and picked it up) are probably more aware of formal grammar than those of us who were already speaking English fluently when we began studying 'grammar.' They may make mistakes, but are generally very openminded about learning and correcting them.

    Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, but when a native writer breaks 'rules' of grammar, it can be for one of two reasons.

    One: they simply don't know (or recognise) the rule.

    Two: they know the rule but choose to break it for artistic reasons.

    Those in the former category will probably make the kinds of mistakes they don't want to make, and can learn to correct these mistakes on an issue-by-issue basis. If they become avid readers of well-produced literature and/or well-written modern fiction and nonfiction, they will probably gain an instinctive feel for what is right and what isn't. I still maintain that constant reading is the best way to get a grip on this. Good writing is often not noticeable, in that you get so immersed in the story you aren't aware of technique or grammar. But when it comes to your own writing, you'll have unconsciously absorbed what writing is supposed to 'sound like.' That really gives you a boost.

    Of course there are many who like to play with words, phrases, sentence structure, etc. They are fully aware they are stepping outside convention, and they are doing it with a purpose. Their writing technique is VERY noticeable. This pleases some readers and irritates others. However, it's an artistic choice, not an inadvertent consequence of being unfamiliar with written English.
     
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  23. Vince Higgins

    Vince Higgins Active Member

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    As I stated before, I did OK in English Grammar classes in High School. I graduated in 1974. Ask me detailed questions about formal grammatical terms and I will be able to answer very few of them. Still, my writing is informed by the reading I have done over the last fifty years or so.

    As a result my style is rather plain and straight forward. I have had some success with flowery prose, but don't dwell on it, and in reading focus more on plot, story and character.

    As stylistic prose goes, one of my favorite opening paragraphs is in Ursula K. Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven.
     
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  24. Night Herald

    Night Herald Malfunctioning clockwork person Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a non-native writer. Several years ago I read a couple of books (literally two) on the subject, which is the only grammar study I've undertaken since elementary school, where I did the bare minimum.
    I write intuitively, and seldom stop to consider the grammar. I think I've developed a decent feel for it through reading. I value clarity and style over strict convention, at least in those works where I assume a more casual tone.
     
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  25. Jupie

    Jupie Senior Member

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    Despite having a degree in English I've never actually formally studied grammar and mostly I rely entirely on intuition / instinct.

    I was around 11 when I first used the internet, so it wasn't long before I started going on different forums and writing messages like I'm doing now. Back then, of course, I was very young and struggling at school so my writing wasn't up to scratch. Without knowing it, though, all the years spent writing on message boards did me some good... I became better at expressing myself and having an opinion. I also grew more used to stringing sentences together in a coherent way and even at times making a good point.

    It wasn't until I was 14 or 15 that I started to perform well in my English classes, but at home I'd started writing little stories in my spare time. Of course, they were rubbish... I still have some chapters littered around that makes me wince, but even that helped. Practice really does make a difference, as does persistence. I wrote reams and reams of story (all influenced by video games and anime at the time, you write about your obsessions I guess) and that gave me a bit of discipline.

    In the end, I really do think the reason I did well in my GCSES and later on my A-Levels is because I had spent so much time practicing at home. It hadn't been deliberate, but it must have had some effect. Since that time, I've become a more intuitive writer, spotting the rhythms and beats in sentences and trying to make them sound 'right'. There's still plenty I don't know on a technical level, but I've been told I have a natural 'voice' for story. I don't know if I believe them, but I've definitely improved since writing my first book in 2013.

    I think a lot of it is already inside you with writing. It's like playing an instrument, only you are the instrument. All the imagination and the experience is there, it's just a case of expressing those feelings in the right way. That's where practice and confidence comes into play, along with some helpful knowledge along the way. Luckily, you can usually find what you need to know if you don't know and if you aren't aware of it, that's where critique and other readers come into it.

    The most important thing is to always mean what you say and to write what you feel, the rest will come.
     

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