I CAN’T WRITE PROPER

I am feeling quite depressed at the moment. Why? Once upon a time, I thought I could write. Not as well as Tolstoy, or Shakespeare, but the average, everyday stuff. This is a good thing, I thought I’m not particularly good at anything else. Don’t ask me to draw a smiley face, or cook gourmet meals, I plant, nurture and watch the green leafy things die, I’m best in the back row of the chorus (or off stage altogether) and … I could go on and on about my lack of accomplishments, but I’ll spare you.

At least I can write, pop words onto paper in reasonable order, tell stories and the extra bonus is I can do that as long as I have wiggly fingers and the mental capacity – unlike those super sporty people whose career is on the downward slope by the time they’re 25.

My belief in my one and only ability- I won’t go so far as to call it a talent – was reinforced by all the people who paid me to write: important people who ran banks, government departments, magazines and newspapers, radio and television, corporations and educational institutions. And I mean pay, yes real money not the pennies Amazon dribble into my bank account at the end of each month. This big money paid the rent, bought food, clothed us and put petrol in the tank. It even paid for the odd cruise and trips abroad. It continued for almost 40 years until I retired and began to write books.

library

Now, I know that was all an illusion because ‘I can’t write ‘proper.’ How do I know this? I only have to look at my editor’s red pen marks on my drafts of Amie book 4. Frankly, that is all I can see, a sea of red, it’s almost impossible to make out the underlying black print under all the corrections. For example, I’m a victim of ‘tautology’ – yes I had to look that up too – Horrors, I use five words when I should be using only two! I sprinkle commas all over the place where they shouldn’t be and leave them out where they are an absolute must.

Now what I want to know is, who are these faceless little, grey men who sit somewhere declaring that this sentence is correct, while that sentence is not? I know that the French literary people meet once a year and discuss the purity of their language and decide to ban such abominations as ‘le sandwich‘ and ‘le weekend‘ so I must assume there is a similar gathering of English speaking experts who do the same?

The rules seem to multiply and change daily.  Nowadays you must never, ever start a sentence with an -ly word eg. ‘Suddenly the silence of the night was shattered by the roar of …”  NO! NO.! NO! Adverbs are out this season, you must find a different word. No longer can we put she walked slowly – even if that is what she is doing – it must be shuffled, or ambled or sauntered or another simile. But what if she is approaching the gallows  – her last few steps on this earth – would she really amble or saunter towards the hangman’s noose? She might shuffle of course, but we want to convey that she approached with dignity and courage. Heaven forbid we put She walked slowly and courageously to her death

Ans when did it become necessary to hyphenate every thing in sight? I don’t remember reading nine-year-old in books when I was younger? Why is nine year old wrong? Grammarly has just put a huge, fat red line under it for me.

English is such a precise language. I read somewhere that it has more words than any other and each one is precise and conveys a slightly different meaning to any other word.

And as writers, we all know there is an army of grammar nazis out there just waiting to pounce on our books and complain. Some writing is obviously wrong – we was sat – is a great example (who sat them if they weren’t inanimate objects?)  But real people in the real world do say that. Looking at this paragraph, I remember being told in English class you never, ever, ever start a sentence with AND or BUT – they are conjunctions or joining words – now you see it all the time.

Punctuation has also undergone a shake up. Colons and semi colons are rare, the looooong dash is now popping up all over the place. It has even got a name to differentiate it from the short dash.

I despair, I really do.  I know my editor is right, she’s got dozens of English and editing degrees and stuff to prove it, and I know once Amie 4 is out there no grammar nazi will dare criticise it. But I’m not sure it’s quite the (incorrect) way I write anymore and I quite liked my ‘chatty, who the hell cares if I use too many words, I write as I talk’ sort of way.

I love my editor I really do, despite my moans, I couldn’t do without her, she’s really the best.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Do we blaze a new trail of English as what she is wrote and spoken in the 21st century?  Or do we blindly follow the rules?

What do you do? Right now, I’m off to get my dark glasses so I can continue editing.

We have still to finalise the cover, which do you prefer?

Have a great week and take care.

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56 thoughts on “I CAN’T WRITE PROPER

  1. This is so real and so funny. I’m not sure the latter is your intention, Lucinda, but it made me laugh. Perhaps because, like yourself, I struggle with too many and too few commas. And I do start sentences with ‘And’. But not if I want to sound highly educated, which I am not. With editing, I now have the confidence to run my work past my 37yr old, not a dash in sight, who has never shown an interest in my books, and lo and behold, she is brilliant. And so picky. But I need to listen to her. Seems many words and phrases I use are archaic, and she’s never heard of them. So I am still learning. Always learning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m seldom that serious Susan, and it always surprises me when people take me seriously!! This learning thing is great though – I’m convinced if I keep at this writing and editing stuff, I’ll keep the last two remaining brain cells in working order, but they do miss the other fifty million that have already retired.

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  2. I haven’t been writing long, so I do have a ready excuse, but my problem is the opposite to yours!
    Years of editing and writing synopsis, have damaged my ability to write ‘proper’. My writing is so condensed, it reads like a shopping list. I use so few words, the story dies even as I write it. I am having to teach myself to write all over again, or at least double the words I use!

    Regardless of what the grammar chiefs say, your style of writing is easier to read!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Lucinda, I suppose that you are still on the flat part of the exponential curve where x-axis = success and y= the power to tell the editor to ‘naff off’!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Malcolm if it weren’t for my long suffering (whoops think there should be a hyphen in there somewhere) editor I’m sure I wouldn’t have sold any books at all. We don’t always agree but we are still good friends. She has my final corrected Amie 4 right now and I’m shaking as I think it’s just how I want it – are you reading this Gabi? As for the success, anyone know Steven Speilburg? Anyone know anyone one important out there? 🙂

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  4. Oooo (wrong!) Lucinda, I wish you hadn’t written that blog. It made me very, very angry. (Should that have been only one sentence?). And as for the long dash – I can’t tell you how many times my laptop has almost ended up in the pool when MS auto-changes my short one for a long one, Grrr

    Please retain some of YOU in your books, be it absolutely grammatically correct or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah but would the Nobel committee accept it then for this year’s prize? Ha ha – short dash that was a joke. Heck, wish I’d not read through what I’ve written there are two spelling errors in there but don’t tell anyone.

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  6. I caught a couple errors but I am not happy with your editor. One of the things I love about your books is that it makes me feel as if I am reading about a friend’s adventures. It is real and heaven knows we don’t talk the way she is telling you to write. But I am just one person so if yo can’t stand the grammar Nazi then I guess you have a huge rewrite–think it will sell more books? I like cover #1. Cover #2 has something hanging down the middle that is distracting.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like cover #1.
    I was amused reading your blog. God knows, I make plenty of mistakes. No matter how many times I reread there’s is always something I missed. Maybe it’s because English is my second language (good excuse) and even in my mother tongue, spelling was my downfall as a child. I do believe that it’s the story that grabs people, not so much a missed comma or a sentence that displeases the editor. After all we each have our own unique style. Good luck with your new book.

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  8. Oh Linda I knows I write real good like that proper English like wot I was taut at skool but I do need help sumtimes 🙂 🙂 Thank you and hopefully Amie 4 will be out end of September, but will be on pre-order earlier than that.

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  9. As you have already pointed out, there are colloquial idiosyncrasies and, of course, the variations of different languages. Neither, should the unique style of some authors be overlooked. These often add another dimension that many readers enjoy. I agree, when you have access to a good editor, their recommendations must be considered and taken into account. Besides all this, it is clear readers enjoy your books: I have.

    As to the cover for Amie 4: It may be the scalpel/knife has a part in the tale but, to be honest, it does not sit easy on the eye, well not mine. As they stand I prefer the first (cover 1).

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  10. Wow, fantastic post Lucinda. It seems there are so many rules and every editor has their own set. I believe we have to leave a little slice of ourselves in our writing. I’ve dissed a few suggestions from my editor along the way, explaining to her why I chose not to change something, and we get on pretty good like that. Rules are meant to be broken as long as we break them in a pleasing style. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I prefer the one on the right, Lucinda.

    Trained in American journalism style, I don’t use commas unless absolutely necessary, which drives some people mad. I don’t start sentences with conjunctions. That “don’t start a sentence with an adverb” rule has been around at least since college, but I do break it and I like adverbs, though I try not to over use them. Tautology, however … I’m pretty sure I break that rule fairly often.

    As writers, we don’t want to sound like other writers because that would be boring. On the other hand, it is an editor’s job to make us sound like other writers. Somewhere, there must be a balance.

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  12. Lucinda – an editor is there for the reason you appointed her. Of course query her remarks, and take her advice where it is appropriate. But in the final analysis, it’s YOUR book!
    Sometimes “write as I speak” triggers very positive reactions from readers, and certainly brings out the characters. You just need to make your own decisions.
    Loved your post, by the way. I enjoy your style of writing.

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    • Thank you Jane It’s probably an acquired taste! But I’m not expecting any of the Amie books to get on the prescribed list for schools anytime soon! Thrilled you like Amie 4, but then as an excellent writer of books featuring Africa you understand the lay of the land there.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Great post. I’m so addicted to Grammarly I’d feel lost without it. Word gives totally odd substitutions sometimes that I just ignore. There are some new rules I’ll never feel at home with. Thank goodness for the computer. I’d spend all my time erasing otherwise. 😀 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I remember getting it free on Word but I didn’t feel I needed it there as Word has its own program and it was just too much on top of that. You can check it out and see if you like it. I use the free Grammarly also. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Reblogged this on bryan the writer and commented:
    There is not a moment of my writing life that I am not more than a few inches away from these same sentiments! Any writer who is great on Monday will be horrible on Tuesday when the edits make it back. Such is life. As I walk slowly toward my inevitable writing life I know the rules will change in the blink of an eye. Or is it in the blink-of-an-eye? I can never remember.

    All we can do is just keep on keepin’ on. 🙂

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  16. Yep! Sounds about right to me. I would love nothing more than to have some deity show up one day and just tell everyone that the rules are the way they are any we need to adhere to them as they are right this very moment. Maybe a god of grammar?

    -B

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Funnily enough, a rlyive was aking me last evening about active versus passive! I must admit, it flummuxed me a tad. But he found some Youtube pieces that kind of explained thingd mire. Like you, to coin a Porridge phrase , I write wi me gut! But ut was somhow explained. Now he had written pieces to explain the products he sells that Google, in their wisdom, wan him to write in a certain way, and if he does this correctly, Googke might hike him up to Page Ine,where more peop will see his business.
    I realised that it was simpler than he and I had thought, i was taking words out, he said there had to be a certain amount of words. If I am correct, it was more a matter of rearranging the sentences and their content …somewhat different to writing a book.
    The active first, then the verb,a nd the passive last off all.
    So when did all this come about???
    Evelyn

    Liked by 1 person

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