Today, I thought a helpful topic to discuss would be (proper) GRAMMAR! For some writers it’s a love-hate relationship, for some writers it’s an infatuation, for some writers it’s the bane of their existence. When to use whom instead of who, should something be hyphenated, can you end a sentence with a preposition? How many dots should there be and where do the spaces go/not go (this particular one was the topic of debate at my latest writer’s group). The questions are endless so I thought a post on the subject was in order.
Now, I am by no means claiming to be a grammar expert, but I thought I could point you in the direction of some folks who are. The first resource I want to share, for those of you who may be unaware, is the book The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. This is a must have book for every writer. If you don’t have a copy yet, you can purchase one here:
I highly recommend reading this book cover to cover at least once a year and I mean AT LEAST. I always have this book with me when I’m editing my MS because I am constantly seeking refuge within its pages. The advice and guidance this book has offered to countless writers is hard to quantify. I can’t recommend it enough.
Another good resource is a link to the Perdue online writing lab or OWL as they call it. Not only do I love how Harry Potter it sounds, but this site is a killer resource for any writer. The site is a cinch to use and has info on just about any style of writing your pretty little heart desires to write in.
The next site I’d like to point you towards is The Oxford Dictionary page. Not only can they help you out with word choice but they also have a section on grammar there as well. One of my favorite things about reading is learning new words. I like big vocabularies and I cannot lie, some other writers won’t comply, but when words are common it’s such a waste I want new words in my face… Ok, I’m done now. But yeah, I would love to see more philologists, writers who aren’t afraid to be a bit sesquipedalian. So finding a resource that can help you learn new words is a must for authors (IMHO).
Now some people will disagree (perhaps even vehemently) but I want to clarify. George Orwell for instance has said “Never use a long word when a short one will do.” Ole Georgie boy is right. You may think I’m being oxymoronic (Sorry, I can’t help myself, when else will I get to use all these big words?) but I’ll let one of my favorite writers explain because he always does it better than I ever could. C.S. Lewis once said, “Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” So what I’m really saying is that you shouldn’t use big words just for the sake of using big words. Instead, I’m saying you should write about subjects that require “something really infinite.” So you can be worthy of using such words.
I may want to be inspired and finish your book having expanded my horizons but others may be just looking for something light and airy. You need to know your audience and your subject and choose your words accordingly. Something else I would love to see is more writers making up their own words when they can’t find one that fits. Shakespeare did it so be brave and follow in his footsteps! I mean come on, how cool is it that Catch-22 became it’s own word/phrase all because it was created by author Joseph Heller. So many new words have been added to our lexicon because authors create them or give them their meaning in books they’ve written. Don’t be afraid to be a trailblazer.
Another site that can help you with word selection is Word Hippo. This site has definitions, synonyms, antonyms, words that rhyme with just about any word (listed by number of syllables) and these are just a few of the options offered on this site. So if you ever find yourself stuck on a word, this is a good tool to have in your belt.
Finally, the last site I want to direct you to is a fun one. It’s Grammar Girl. She’s got a great site that’s very user friendly. It offers a lot of tips and advice on many common grammar issues that we all face. If you don’t want to slog through the more academic sites, you should check out her site. It’s fun and educational.
Well that does it for this post. If you have any helpful writing resources please jot them down in the comments section below. I’m always on the look-out for new resources!
Until we meet again.