Grammar Demons

Grammar.  One of the many nemeses of writers.  Not quite as evil as Writers Block or Post Rejection Syndrome, but one of our banes for sure.  Especially for those of us who foolishly majored in engineering (or science or music or math or, well, you get the picture.) instead of English.  And while good grammar and spelling do not make necessarily for good writing, they are table stakes.  Necessary but not sufficient, we used to say, in one of those not-quite-useless science classes.

devil carving

And Grammar is not an exact science (nor is spelling, we’ll come back to that). English as a language is evolving constantly.  Furthermore, Grammar is more often bent in dialog or close-perspective narration than in business writing.  Starting a sentence with And or But leaps to mind.

Similarly, spelling is also more fluid than one might think.  While much is involatile (notice I got the plural of nemesis correct above), again language is evolving.  Leaped or leapt, dived or dove are two of my own bugaboos (I oscillate back and forth).  Add on top of this differences in American vs British English.  Forgetting the big ticket items like all those excess Us in coloured armour, and the S vs Z conundrum, how about ax vs axe?  While sans E is standard American English, I prefer having that E when I am writing fantasy that evokes medieval weaponry.  A swordmaiden with a battleaxe feels better, at least to everyone but her enemies.  And my spell checker just told me it should be sword maiden, a tip I just ignored

While Grammar enemies abound, there are some friends out there.  Various spellcheckers are our first line of defense, but they pass many goobers and miss many of the subtleties, not to mention all those false alarms.  Two favorite tools of mine are:

  • Grammar Girl, a website devoted to answering those tricky grammar questions
  • Grammarly, a grammar-checking tool that I have recently started using.  It actually works–I routinely find one or two major goobers and a slew of comma faults even in well-proofed short stories.  That’s the good news, bad news is that while there is a stripped-down web version that is free, the full version that works with MS Word is very expensive, sold only as a service at ~ $15 / month. Do the math–this is the cost of a new laptop every 3 years or so. For people who write for a living, great, but a little pricey for my blood at this stage.

What tools do you use to combat your Grammar demons?

Keep on writin’.

CR Hodges

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