clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Do we all do it ? Do we all give in to the "just this time" habits of breaking the rules until these jailbreaks become the rule itself ?

I think so.

As writers, we have those infrequent (or not) days where we obsess over the construction form more than the content. Today in my little bout of obsession I realize - honestly - that I could use a solid tune-up.

 In a freshman English class, I was once compelled to explain the proper punctuation of the introductory subordinate clause to a grad student instructor clearly in over his head. I remember thinking "dolt" at the time. I now realize that the poor bastard struggling his way through a dissertation on the evolution of the comparative techniques of image and allegory in Roth and Updike had merely had moved beyond the conscious decisions of grammar to his "basic usage" standard and seldom ventured beyond. Being a doctoral candidate in Literature, I'm sure his core usage was perfect but that those elements he rarely encountered in his own work were lost from conscious recall.

I have the "lost from conscious recall" issue at the keyboard (memory of context not being a keyboard for me) coupled with a dreaded inattention to the moment (deficient mindfulness gene) and the typing ability of  a drunken chimp. Excuses are not reasons.

So, time for the grammar review this week. I'll have to shoulder the cross sometime before I have pre-submission works edited professionally only to come back scarred and bloody. [ Yes - I am going to have my submission works edited professionally. I do not trust my own self-edit after forty years of pen work. I've learned my errors are nearly invisible to me and I'm fortunate the career has allowed me ample means to support a horrendously unprofitable avocation. Those of you who are sole professionals - meaning your primary income is from writing - I take my hat off to you. ]

My confessed faults :

Excessive hyphenation;
Overuse of the present participle;
Passive tense (I back into thoughts too much);
Dangling modifiers;
Over use of the compound-complex sentence structure when a sting of simple sentences are more appropriate;
Sloppy punctuation surrounding the distinction of dependent and independent clauses;
Appositives [ outlaw them for my sake, please ];
Asides [ used in my writing as editor's notes to remind me later WTF I was thinking here];
Punctuation in asides.

Also in this class of evils, punctuation and spacing style on the typewritten page. (Falling back to two spaces after periods. Setting apart punctuation with a proceeding space. Occasionally editing for layout on the page instead of content. It isn't a bloody poem ! It's prose, you idiot.)

There. A confessional of some items to correct with the active mind.

Sources : An ancient copy of _The Prentice-Hall Handbook for Writers, 4th ed._ and the standard _The Little, Brown Handbook_. Neither are my favorite which years ago got away from me. Luckily, these work.

How often have you tuned your grammar ?

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