Don’t: Throw Grammar to the Wind

20 Apr

I realize that times are constantly changing and the ways that we speak and write aren’t immune to these changes. It’s a sad truth and it makes me die a little on the inside when I see that people don’t have time to type “you” instead of “u”. However, as with most things in life, there is a time and place, I suppose.

Personally, I prefer to be the grammar nazi who goes around Facebook correcting people and if you’re dumb enough to send me a text that I have to hire my little sister to translate, I sure hope you don’t expect a response from me. I’ll send the extra text message (or 3) to make sure that my grammar is in tact.

Social networking aside: Your writing is no place for bad grammar. Your characters may be modern and use slang, but you should never ever EVER make your dialogue look like a Facebook post.

For example:

The dude walked up to me and said, “Maaaaaaaaaan, I dunno wut yer thinkin talkin to me like that, but you betta git on out of hear before I buss a cap in u!”

Instead, try:

A young man approached me and said, “Man! I don’t know what you’re thinking talking to me like that, but you better get on out of here before I bust a cap in you!”. The words were so heavily accented and distinctly “hood” that I had to slow them down and consciously dissect each of them in order to understand their meaning.

This not only leaves your readers free to give the character a voice of their choosing, but it’s also easier to read, process and retain. Overall, proper grammar is a better, more professional way to handle your dialogue.

There are very few exceptions to this. One of them being a character with a pronounced speech impairment. If you have a character who pronounces their “V”s like “W”s, then it MIGHT be acceptable to type them as such. However, you could also just inform the reader that the character has a pronounced Slavic accent. If you are writing a character with a disability, it may be best to type the words out exactly how they sound.

The character, Duddits, from Stephen King’s “Dream Catcher” comes to mind here. He carries around his “Oobie Doo” lunch box in several scenes from the book and Mr. King chose to type it out just like that and then have one of the other characters in the book translate it over to “Scooby-Doo” for those of his readers who may not pick up on the pop culture reference.

Beyond dialogue, you have all the usual rules of grammar and punctuation to follow as well. As far as I can tell, there is never an instance where punctuation and sentence structure should be forgotten. The flow, or “voice”, you give your book can make or break you. Following the simple rules lain out for us in Elementary school and built upon throughout our academic careers can and WILL give your work the professional “sheen” it needs in order to land an agent and, eventually, a publisher.

So dust off your grammar, take a crash course on Google if you must, practice good grammar on your social networking sites and dive head first into the world of grammatically correct literature! Your readers will thank you for it!

Happy writing!


1 Comment

Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Literary Dos and Don'ts


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

One response to “Don’t: Throw Grammar to the Wind

  1. cricketmuse

    April 20, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    Writing a character’s speech in proper grammar is a tough decision–sometimes blurring the proper lines a tad gives the character the added dimension. Yet, it can be overdone. Interesting post.
    Happy Pages,


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