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Breaking the rules (1 Viewer)

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I use Word and it often tells me I've made a grammatical error. I know I have and that's the thing. How lenient are editors when it comes to punctuation? The problem I face the most is the way I structure sentences using comas.

'He had found solace in their brief exchange, enough for a lifetime(,) enough for an anorexic soul.'

Now Word tells me that coma should be replaced by an 'and' or some cases a semicolon. The thing is, like I said, I know but I like the emphasis it places on the last part of the sentence and the relentlessness of it. I don't want to use semicolons all the time because I find that looks ugly. I don't want a dash because that removes the emphasis and relentlessness.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
So long as you know why you're breaking the rule the odds are that you can get away with it.

Now and again I'll dig through my folders of old works. The voice might be charitably compared to stuff you find at the five-and-dime or the airport bookstore. Not bad, per se, but nothing memorable. I like to think I got away from that when I shifted from telling what happened to the protag to trying to get inside his head and show the world how he saw it. Anything I lost in conformity to the rules I got back double for a voice distinctive to the character, his history, and his origins.

Sooner or later, once you've spent enough time beating your head against the keyboard, the light comes on and you realize grammar-school English can only carry you so far.
 

BabesJJ

Senior Member
I use Word and it often tells me I've made a grammatical error. I know I have and that's the thing. How lenient are editors when it comes to punctuation? The problem I face the most is the way I structure sentences using comas.

'He had found solace in their brief exchange, enough for a lifetime(,) enough for an anorexic soul.'

Now Word tells me that coma should be replaced by an 'and' or some cases a semicolon. The thing is, like I said, I know but I like the emphasis it places on the last part of the sentence and the relentlessness of it. I don't want to use semicolons all the time because I find that looks ugly. I don't want a dash because that removes the emphasis and relentlessness.


Hi TMA,
For me I like to first just get thoughts down. And then I got back and see what I have. At the beginning it is kind of a rough it in. Just get out the thoughts. and then I can go back. I would look at a page from a writer you admire and see how they structure their sentences. I really admire John Irving. I once put a writing sample of mine in a little facebook type program, and they tell you who you write like. And I got that guy who wrote the DaVinci code I forget his name at the moment. I write like him. Which wasn't the thrill of a lifetime to hear that but at least it was someone. In fact you might benefit from that computer program Dragons Tooth I think it is called. Where you talk and the computer automatically writes. And wear a blindfold. Like those rich ladies sleep masks or something. For me I am an extremely careless punctuation spelling and grammar. I love ideas and stories. I think Caroline See said something to the effect only maximum 2 hours of re-writes a day. And then no more. Anyway we are about to start our French dish Cozette. And I am going to the store and buy some bananas for my husbands breakfast tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day our very overweight Corgi is bathed by a groomer that comes to the house. She bathes him in the shower and drys him. I agree semi-colons are not common. My overall thought is write short and complete sentences as possible. There is a grammar book I read about once. Panda eats shoots and leaves. Or Panda eats, shoots, and leaves. If you like grammar which I don't I heard that is a good book. I was an English teacher in France for 10 years and I can tell you so much about English grammer. pfft. Can't stand it anymore. OK off to search for a good banana. LV
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
So long as you know why you're breaking the rule the odds are that you can get away with it.

Now and again I'll dig through my folders of old works. The voice might be charitably compared to stuff you find at the five-and-dime or the airport bookstore. Not bad, per se, but nothing memorable. I like to think I got away from that when I shifted from telling what happened to the protag to trying to get inside his head and show the world how he saw it. Anything I lost in conformity to the rules I got back double for a voice distinctive to the character, his history, and his origins.

Sooner or later, once you've spent enough time beating your head against the keyboard, the light comes on and you realize grammar-school English can only carry you so far.

You can see what I mean about the momentum though, right? Would an editor also understand why I'd done it or just think I didn't know it was wrong?
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Hi TMA,
For me I like to first just get thoughts down. And then I got back and see what I have. At the beginning it is kind of a rough it in. Just get out the thoughts. and then I can go back. I would look at a page from a writer you admire and see how they structure their sentences. I really admire John Irving. I once put a writing sample of mine in a little facebook type program, and they tell you who you write like. And I got that guy who wrote the DaVinci code I forget his name at the moment. I write like him. Which wasn't the thrill of a lifetime to hear that but at least it was someone. In fact you might benefit from that computer program Dragons Tooth I think it is called. Where you talk and the computer automatically writes. And wear a blindfold. Like those rich ladies sleep masks or something. For me I am an extremely careless punctuation spelling and grammar. I love ideas and stories. I think Caroline See said something to the effect only maximum 2 hours of re-writes a day. And then no more. Anyway we are about to start our French dish Cozette. And I am going to the store and buy some bananas for my husbands breakfast tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day our very overweight Corgi is bathed by a groomer that comes to the house. She bathes him in the shower and drys him. I agree semi-colons are not common. My overall thought is write short and complete sentences as possible. There is a grammar book I read about once. Panda eats shoots and leaves. Or Panda eats, shoots, and leaves. If you like grammar which I don't I heard that is a good book. I was an English teacher in France for 10 years and I can tell you so much about English grammer. pfft. Can't stand it anymore. OK off to search for a good banana. LV

The question is about 'breaking the rule'. I'm aware it's wrong, according to traditional grammar rules but it's something I deliberately do. It's whether other people see the emphasis and relentlessness I'm going for or whether an editor would assume I didn't know and pull me up on it, or even move it to the slush pile thinking I just didn't know grammar. I know grammar, just not the words associated with particular elements of it.
 

Foxee

Patron
Patron
Editors can't read your mind, though. If they look at the page and say, "Well, that's wrong" then you may not have successfully broken the rule. You take the risks you might just take damage, too. You can't sit on your reader's shoulder and explain, "That comma usage right there looks wrong but, hey, I meant to do that."

So don't be surprised if an editor marks it as an error.
 

JBF

Staff member
Board Moderator
You can see what I mean about the momentum though, right? Would an editor also understand why I'd done it or just think I didn't know it was wrong?

Presuming editors are mostly interested in a good story (and more importantly, the sales potential thereof) I'd venture to guess one could be convinced of the merits of departing from the rules.

If not...there's more than one editor.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
I think that, nowadays, you wrote a normal sentence.

I think that, grammatically, the first comma is just as much against the rules as the second.

It has a feel. If you like the feel, go for it. Always.

In this case, the sentence has a beautiful poetry of thought, and wrecking that would be sad.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I think that, nowadays, you wrote a normal sentence.

I think that, grammatically, the first comma is just as much against the rules as the second.

It has a feel. If you like the feel, go for it. Always.

In this case, the sentence has a beautiful poetry of thought, and wrecking that would be sad.

LOL. You know what, I didn't spot that. :)
 

BabesJJ

Senior Member
I took a query letter class. Where I SUSPECT my first novel was stolen by the teacher, who knows really, and made into an Indie movie that I did not discover until years later with the same title and ideas. Anyway she was an editor from NYC and she would say that even on grammatical error was so off putting they often had to take smelling salts or something amongst themselves. So they will think the worst of it. Just get the thoughts and ideas on the page and than the rest will present itself. LV
 

druid12000

Senior Member
I've had a few instances where Word wanted me to correct something and Word was just wrong. Blatantly and flagrantly WRONG by every 'rule', and I tried to correct to Word standards and it just wouldn't accept anything I did. Want to know what I did? I ignored it because what I had written worked.
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
I sometime have non-errors flagged as errors too. If it's a style choice and you are consistent, it ought not be an issue.
Please note the huge difference in meaning between coma and comma.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I sometime have non-errors flagged as errors too. If it's a style choice and you are consistent, it ought not be an issue.
Please note the huge difference in meaning between coma and comma.

LOL. I think I was in a coma when I wrote the OP. :)

So an editor would recognise it was a style choice as long as I did it consistantly?
 

Phil Istine

WF Veterans
Consistently? Probably. However, an established author is more likely to get away with it than the likes of us.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
Consistently? Probably. However, an established author is more likely to get away with it than the likes of us.

tumblr_ncsfwmamEZ1tr4jrlo2_250.gifv



Cheers, mate.
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
The Magic 8-Ball says, "Don't count on it".

I have looked for "first grammatical error", and it usually comes on the first page. In the last book I read, the second sentence splits a compound verb with a comma. The third sentence is debatable but could be correct. The fourth seems to be a compound of fragments.

In the book before that, the second sentence is "It wasn't a comfortable place, period." I have no idea how that period could be justified grammatically. The third sentence was definitely ungrammatical: "cramped and dingy and packed"

Another book on hand has the same construct as MightyAz on sentence six. The end of the first paragraph is a fragment.

That's one of the reasons I think an agent or publisher won't care. The other is that any grammar errors can be fixed, although in fact they often are not.

If the comma is changed for an and, and that makes the sentence weaker, the agent will be affect by that.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
The commas strike me as fine, I wouldn't go for a semicolon.

What would upset me is 'had', when I see 'had' I usually find it is unneeded or it comes before something wrong. Here I think it is unneeded and what follows is fine.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
The commas strike me as fine, I wouldn't go for a semicolon.

What would upset me is 'had', when I see 'had' I usually find it is unneeded or it comes before something wrong. Here I think it is unneeded and what follows is fine.

I agonised over that. Here, in isolation, it looks like it can be removed easily but in context, it wasn't so simple. It just read better with the 'had' there.

The day stretched out before him, beyond his grasp, each second counted down; tomorrow, an epoch away, a point of impossible odds. All he could think about was the ‘T’, the simple communication turned missive by her breath. If it were to be this and only this then he would be satisfied. He had found solace in their brief exchange, enough for a lifetime, enough for an anorexic spirit.

It just connects with the previous sentences that little bit better with 'had' there.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
The day stretched out before him, beyond his grasp, each second counted down; tomorrow, an epoch away, a point of impossible odds.

Just to be picky, which I have to restrain myself from being when I'm not, because I always have an urge to be picky: ;-)

This sentence is not a candidate for a semicolon. A semicolon separates two independent clauses which are closely linked in subject. You do not have an independent clause after the semicolon. A better candidate here is an ellipse, but I'd add to the dependent clause and make two sentences out of it. Come to think of it, three: period after grasp, period after down. Make a sentence of the last part. (Tomorrow, an epoch away, seemed a (destination?, object? I don't get 'point' there) of impossible odds.)

Additionally, I once read the advice that a semicolon is an acceptable element of punctuation. Every writer should be forgiven for using a semicolon once in their lifetime.

(I'm still saving mine up for that perfect spot. If I use it now, I may regret the need later).
 
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