Monday, January 2, 2012

The Grammar Guru Speaks

In dialogue, common usage (as distinct from actual bad grammar) is fine. But in narrative, it doesn’t matter whether “everyone says that”, if it’s wrong, authors shouldn’t be using it. The author needs to obey the rules of grammar.
“To boldly go” may be a catchy line in a movie, but split infinitives are incorrect.
Never say “different than”. It’s “different from”.
If you have two daughters you have an older daughter and a younger daughter. You don’t have an oldest (or eldest) daughter until there are three or more of them.
Fewer is if you can count them. Otherwise use less. Fewer chocolates in the box, but less coffee in the pot.
There is no such thing as a half a sudden, so you can’t have “all of a sudden”. The word is “suddenly”.
Outside of/inside of “She licked the inside of her lips” is correct. But she didn’t go “inside of” the house. She simply went “inside the house”.
Subject and verb must agree. A group noun takes a singular verb. “The flock of sheep is grazing”, “the crowd was waiting”.
These are rules. Don’t yell at me if you don’t like them. Look them up yourself in the Chicago Manual of Style: then obey them.
Helen Woodall


Amarinda Jones said...

I've always enjoyed "To boldly go”...however I do believe language/vernacular is fluid and ever changing and I often wonder if the publishers realise that? It's all very well to be Chicago or Upper Kumbucka West style and stick by snotty rules but it's not realistic. Langauge change. Publishing should change with it or maybe we all go back to type setting?

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

That is one of the benefits of self publishing. The author is the one making such decisions. The author can choose to happily split infinitives, instead of splitting infinitives happily.

anny cook said...

Ahhhh. So many rules, so little time. Fortunately, we have editors to help us catch our mistakes. Thank you!

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Some publishing houses are absolutely rigid about house style and grammar rules, especially print publishers. Others take a more relaxed approach. Unless an author is certain of company policy, I think it's only sensible to get it right. Or go Indie.