Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

“The Chinese are a communal people,” someone said to me the other day in context of the Beijing Olympics.

I was confused. Communal? Had I missed something about a religious genocide perpretrated by China? So I clarified, “Surely you mean communist? They are communists.”  

This person waves his hand dismissively. “Communal, communist, same thing. You know what I mean.”

“I didn’t. And that’s why I had to clarify,” I replied.

“You writers are all the same. Nitpicking on words, on grammar.”

That got my goat for two reasons. One, that people are too lazy to learn to communicate well and when rebuked, gently mind you, assume an air of disdain and exclaim writers! Good, effective communication is the not the sole purview of writers. And two, I DO NOT NITPICK. But that’s beside the point.

But taking up the first grouse, I wonder why people think language is not important. Even in school, which were the courses that were considered important for our future and which were the ones that were considered irksome?

Remember the groaning “Oh God, why I have to study English?” Sure, we all groaned the same way about math and science also. But there was a difference. There we meant “Oh God! I’m not prepared enough.” Or “Omigod! I’m going to fail and the spend the rest of my life as an auto mechanic,” whereas in the case of language we meant, “Oh God, why do I have to waste my time studying active and passive verbs when I could be studying math and avoiding that very future?”

Language falls under the purview of art. And you know what the popular perception about art is. It’s good if you have a talent for it but not the end of the world if you don’t.

I say, the exact converse is true. When I was in college pursuing a graduate degree in economics, one of our teachers told us, “Learn language first. If you are not articulate, you can be the best economist but it won’t matter because you will not be able to put your ideas across.”

A word of advice I’ve never forgotten.

Here’s an interesting article I came across on the subject. You might want to give it a peek.

PS: I don’t agree with arts not being important either. Sure science and math are the building blocks of a hunger-free, disease-free world. But what good is a developed, modern world if there is no music, no theatre, no literature to beautify it?


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O Grammar, Where Art Thou?

Aspiring writers send me all sorts of stuff to read through. Here’s one from a writer who felt that what he had written was good.

“I didn’t knew if I could trust him. He was an addict and a liar and, though he assures me he wasn’t using again, his constricted pupils told me otherwise.”

And then he wonders why his work is rejected time and again?

This sentence can be used as dialogue if you have a character who speaks like that. But as a part of the main narrative, it’s a strict no-no.

It’s not enough that you have a gripping story. If your manuscript if full of such basic grammatical errors, no editor is going to approve it. Who wants to sift through reams and reams full of such errors?

Let’s face it, if you want to be a published writer, one of the most essential things is to write correct English. Good English is desirable but correct English is more important. You can’t say stuff like, “I wants to be a writer” and hope to be taken seriously. Or misspell words like ardourous. It’s either arduous or ardent. Decide which. What is it that you want to say – difficult or passionate?

Your sentence construction, vocabulary and spelling have to be solid. I found this list on the web and found it hilarious. As a test, check it out. If you can find out what’s funny about it, you’re on your way to becoming a writer.

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