Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Writing Conventions (Mechanics & Grammar): how rough is the road?

A few times in my life I have found myself a passenger in a car driven by a truly bad driver. Those were not good experiences. Too fast on icy roads, too aggressive when passing, whatever--I wanted to get out of the car as fast as possible. Needless to say, I did not sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Writing conventions--accepted procedures in punctuation, capitalization, spelling, paragraphing, and grammar--are like that. Break too many writing conventions, and the reader will put down the book. Not following accepted writing conventions interferes with the reader's enjoyment of the subject matter.

The 6-Traits + 1 writing program explains that the acceptable use of conventions by the writer is ideally so near perfect that with only a few changes the written piece could be published. The writer may even intentionally break a rule for a particular stylistic effect--and it works!

My advice to students is to learn the rules of conventional writing so well that they are not broken out of ignorance. If a writer does not follow writing conventions, it should be out of choice to achieve a particular effect or to enhance the author's purpose.

Sometimes as writers, we get so close to our writing that we do not see an error. That is why having a trusted friend (with a good grasp of writing conventions) look over your piece is so important. New to the writing, your friend will see the piece with a fresh eye and, hopefully, point out any mistakes in writing conventions (or any other weaknesses in the areas we have covered over the last few weeks--weaknesses in concept (ideas), organization, voice, word choice, or sentence fluency).

I recently read over the manuscript of my novel Love Ya Like a Sister after having set it aside for several years. I enjoyed the read but still found a few small changes that needed to be made for clarity and proofreading reasons. And this was after others had closely read the manuscript in addition to myself! (Notice I deliberately began the last sentence with and to add intensity.)

Give your reader a break. Do your best to catch your own errors. Then your readers can sit back in their easy chair, pick up what you have written, and enjoy the ride.

Copyright 2009 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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