Thursday, April 30, 2009

Gems: A Strand of Shiny Grammar Pearls of Wisdom

Not being a daring person, I was nervous about the idea of sharing my stories with family, much less strangers. My desire to improve finally outweighed my bashful nature and I sent a story to a new internet friend. I was not worried about being critiqued as much as I was just nervous about whether they would like the story or not. I am so glad that I took that first step.

The day I got my story back with comments and red marks is a day I will never forget. I learned a few things about myself that I think have helped me get to a point where I had a complete manuscript that I felt was worthy of submitting. I learned that I had a thick skin and that I could take constructive criticism, I found out that I am very teachable, and I rediscovered my love of research.

My beta started her critique off with kind words and praise for my story ideas, but she pointed out some basic and common errors that many new writers make. She did not spend a lot of time educating me on the mistakes, but she put me on the right path by describing what the error was and giving me a quick example of how I could fix it.

I had some interesting grammar mistakes, and I am still learning to master many of them. For some reason, I overuse commas or put them in strange places. I had some fragmented sentences, I over used adverbs and did not know the correct order for adjectives or the rules about when commas should be used with them.d

Determined to get these things right, I searched online and found some great grammar resources.

Guide to Grammar and Writing: A great place to learn grammar and take quizzes.
The Perdue Online Writing Lab
Grammar Girl: I recommend subscribing to the daily emails.
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation: Plenty of quizzes to take after you learn something new.

Some aspiring writers who are reading these articles might be asking themselves why I am starting my series by discussing the technical side of writing. My answer to that is simple. If you want to be a carpenter, you need to get familiar with the tools. If you want to be a baker, you need to know how to measure. If you want to be a writer -- one that has a chance of getting published -- you need to know the tools of your trade. Grammar is one of those tools. If you try to submit something with poor spelling, grammar, or formatting, be prepared to get rejection letters.

If you have some pearls of wisdom, comments or questions, please leave a comment to this post. I would really love to add to my list of grammar sites to recommend, so if you have a favorite, please comment and tell me what it is. I would love to know what your common grammar mistakes were when you first started writing.

In my next installment for this series, we will explore dialogue punctuation and homophones.


Dawn Colclasure said...

I LOVE Grammar Girl! The book is AWESOME and the site is just amazing. I also found the book REVISION by Kit Reed to be helpful. Also, check out Rewrite Right! by Jan Venolia.

My common mistakes? Pet words (don't we all have them?), lack of clarity (referring to something as "it" or "they" without reference to what "it" is or "they" are) and repetition.

Patricia S. said...

Thank you, Dawn. I'll have to check out that book by Kit Reed. It sounds very interesting.

Pet words and phrases are very common. I wish that habit would go away after writing many works. The good thing is that I think it is easier to catch them with edits, the longer we write. :)