Getting out of the grammar wasteland is not an easy thing to do. I still live in this wasteland, unfortunately. Perhaps in the future I will write a better first draft, but right now I’ve learned a few tricks that HELP in this grammar wasteland.
- Have your stuff read to you by a computer program. This not only takes out the natural tone an author puts into their work, but helps find any missing words or poor phrases.
- The word “it” is peril with danger, be careful! One area full of danger is possession. Unlike nearly every word in the English language, “it” does not use an apostrophe. To show possession you would use ” its “. Using ” it’s ” means the same thing as ” it is “. Perhaps this has something to do with trying to create plural “it” things? That is not all the danger behind this simply word though! Subject confusion is rampant when you detach the subject with the word “it”. For example: The lime and the lemon discussed its displeasure. Who has the displeasure? The lime or the lemon? I could have made two mistakes in one by putting in an apostrophe: “it is displeasure” where I meant “the item’s displeasure”.
- Voice is a horrible mistress. First person voice is “I did that”. Second person would be “we did that”. Third is “they did that”. While this seems simple at first glance, as a new author, it becomes tricky to keep the voice the same level throughout the piece. I am tempted to flutter between I, they, we, and everyone. This is known as omniscient viewpoint (all knowing). It is extremely weak because this makes it harder to connect to the characters. Furthermore, you may make the mistake of one character knowing more then they should. A villain suddenly knows the hero’s weakness out of the blue or vice versa. On top of keeping the voice the same, you can’t switch between multiple characters easily. If you switch too often and too quickly it produces the effect of multiple people talking to the reader at once. The reader simply can’t remember who said what when.
- In dialog, passive voice needs to be removed; but concatenations (shortening of phrases) need to be kept in. The difference between active and passive voice really is extra words. This is what makes normal day-to-day talking so boring; all the extra crap you have to dig through to find the meaning. In a book, we want our characters to not “uhhh” and “ummm” us while they search for words. They already know exactly what they need to say. However, when they say it, the will still need to hyphenate / shorten words. For example – (Passive) “It is within my uhhhh opinion that we should… that we are going ahead with that general idea”. (Active w/ hyphenate) “We’re going ahead with that general idea”.