It's stifling - isn't it?

edited June 2013 in - Writing Problems
I'm making use of leaving-it-alone-For-a-While time to sound off about the basics. Those old things; spelling, grammar, and punctuation, are abilities that we all need to have mastered to a high degree in order to write well but it has been fashionable to say: "They don't matter. Bothering about those things stifles creativity." What poppycock!

Knowing about them furthers creativity. It's only when we do know about them that we are capable of writing a sentence, a chapter, a book that says just what we want it to say effectively,avoiding misunderstandings and achieving good rhythm. What is the use of having creativity in you if you don't know how to express it?

We might all slip up occasionally but it is surprising how some people don't see the obviousness of a grammatical error. Take dangling participles, for example. (I stand to be correctred if that isn't the right term.) Here is a prime example from the recent property pages of a local newspaper (as you'll see, it isn't the only offence);

"Having worked close to the airport for a number of years this studio was always ideally located for it's current owner."

Presumably, since the flat did all the work, it was paying its own mortgage whilst its owner just used it as a convenience.

Grammar is too wide a subject to be covered comprehensively here. I would like, though, to mention an example of bad use that I believe has crept in recently from America, along with "alternate" instead of "alternative". This is "tend to", as in "he tended to his garden". No, he didn't. He tended his garden or he attended to it but he didn't tent to it. I tend to get annoyed when I hear that.

The trouble with these things is that they are accepted and repeated and fall into widespread misuse until the correct version can be considered the wrong one. In punctuation, the so-called Oxford Comma has suffered this fate. My guess is that people who care about these things were all educated before 1970.

Ah, well. Now that I've had my whinge, I'm off for some caffeine.

Comments

  • I think worrying about SPAG issues can stifle creativity for some. That doesn't mean we shouldn't bother about trying to correct any issues though.

    I think it's fine to write the first draft without bothering too much about such things. Only the first draft though. Long before we reach the stage of expecting others to read our work we should do our best to ensure it's readable.
  • It could be said that in some cases where clarity is not the issue, that stifling the evolution of our language is stifling creativity.
  • edited June 2013
    I think there are two points here. The first is that too much concentration on grammar and spelling (education
  • [quote=richt]I think there are two points here[/quote]

    [quote=richt]Third point[/quote]


    Sorry. I tried to stop myself.
  • [quote=richt]Incidentally, I have known people who have done Creative Writing MAs and have found those, with there???????concentration on the technique and the detail of writing, stifling to their creativity.[/quote]

    I suspect that could be the case. Luckily I did one that did no such thing - the creativity was encouraged and everyone was told to write what they HAD to write, even if all the rules seemed to warn against it, because that was the right thing to write for them.
  • I've always punctuated my writing according to how it sounds inside my head. My use of commas or semi-colons, or indeed the odd colon, comes from the natural rhythms of speech. I don't necessarily remember the rules I learnt at school half a century ago. (Yes, I learnt grammar in kindergarten, being very advanced...) I use, for example (and we all do), correlative co-ordinations, subjunctives, gerunds; but if you were to ask me to pick these things from a sentence, I wouldn't necessarily be able to do it without looking up the terms first.
    But a badly punctuated piece really annoys me, simply because it affects my ability to enjoy it and to hear it inside my head. If in doubt, read it aloud.
  • Ditto Mrs Bear's post (except for the half a century bit ;) )
  • [quote=richt]Second point. Language changes.[/quote] I do agree this is an important point. When I taught English to eager young Spaniards, I would agonise over some of those very strict grammar points which had morphed into something more contemporary or colloquial. (Trying but failing to think of a good example). My usual solution was to explain the correct one and then show how it had changed. Certain slippages in grammar I consider absolutely non-negotiable, such as:

    "I should of checked my essay for spelling and grammar." Yuk, Eurrrgh!

    "I should have checked my essay for spelling and grammar."

    You'd be amazed how many writers use the first version.
  • Oh, yes. I agree with that. People not understanding the meaning of the words they are using is just terrible. I do wonder if teachers correct the verbal language of their students now - I suspect not.
  • In terms of teaching grammar etc there is a middle ground - I don't like to see things go uncorrected, but on the other hand it can be very disheartening to see a piece of work covered in red ink and it will detract from the quality of the content.

    So maybe commenting on the content first and then on the grammar is more helpful - I'm not sure.

    As adult writers though, do what you like when you are being creative, but put the work in afterwards to make it correct.
  • [quote=heather]I don't like to see things go uncorrected, but on the other hand it can be very disheartening to see a piece of work covered in red ink and it will detract from the quality of the content.[/quote]

    Perhaps English teachers could adopt the advice I was given when training people in advanced driving: don't point out every fault, just concentrate on the worst ones.
  • [quote=Onlinegenie]don't point out every fault, just concentrate on the worst ones.[/quote]

    That's probably good life advice for married couples...
  • You can be right or you can be married.

    I am always right and I am no longer married.
  • I'm a spinster, so always right - always have been!
  • I am always right and I am married.

    My husband understands this.
  • All the under 30s I know use 'should of'. Makes me wince. And when did 'bored of' enter common usage? It always sounds wrong to me.
  • I am always right and I am married.

    My husband understands this.

    We are twins, Helen.
  • Separated at birth and unidentical.

    But twins, yes.

    With different parentage.
  • Taken as read. What are we going to do about it?

    What if our husbands get us muddled up?

    We must make a pact to never meet. Or at least, never meet without wildly differing hairstyles and clothing.
  • [quote=Liz]What if our husbands get us muddled up?[/quote]

    A change is as good as a rest, ladies. :D:
  • [quote=Liz]I am always right and I am married.[/quote]

    I am never right and I am married.

    But I don't give a sh*t.
  • [quote=Liz]What if our husbands get us muddled up?[/quote]

    And what of Pete? I suspect there's already been some cross-pollination.
  • [quote=Tiny Nell]I am always right and I am married.

    My husband understands this. [/quote]

    Mine understands this even better after he's got it wrong and then admits that I was right all along.
    SM, does your wife not know the value of Ex-Lax in the coffee?
  • Oh, the shame of it! My apologies for the errors in my post, which were caused by being restricted to half an hour in a temporary library and having no time to check over. Yes, Richt - feel free to call this an excuse, if you like.

    Some good points have been made - including the ones about being right! I think I will always remain unprogressive where the issues I raised are concerned.
  • You made some good points, Lah-tay, which were articulately expressed.

    I'm all for correctness in terms of grammar, spelling and punctuation and I am of the opinion that if you have learned it correctly, you don't have to think about it as you write. It's like driving. All you need to focus on then are the ideas. Of course, regular tweaking at the end of each breather makes for even better writing. There's always a more effective word or phrase out there.

    Apologies for taking your discussion off track. :(
  • [quote=Tiny Nell]I am always right and I am married.

    My husband understands this.[/quote]

    This is truly brilliant. I shall spend my life trying to master the trick.
  • [quote=ana s]And when did 'bored of' enter common usage? It always sounds wrong to me.[/quote]

    'Bored of' is horrible, horrible. HORRIBLE.
  • [quote=richt]Third point.[/quote]

    Did you mean 'third pint'?

    Mine's a Guinness.
  • pbwpbw
    edited June 2013
    [quote=Liz]wildly differing hairstyles and clothing. [/quote]

    Risky...

    They never notice your hair, or the new clothes, except in, "Oh, I haven't seen those shoes before. How much did they cost you?"

    To which the stock reply is, "What? These old things? I've had them for ages."
  • LizLiz
    edited June 2013
    Not in my house. OH notices and compliments. He looks at every new outfit and is very good at telling me honestly if it makes me look less than ok or fabulous. If he sees something that he thinks I'll look good in he'll ask if I'd like it (its usually dreadful) and when I say no... Is quite happy for me to try on six other outfits during which time he will patiently wait outside the fitting rooms for me. I really cannot complain.
  • [quote=Liz] Is quite happy for me to try on six other outfits during which time he will patiently wait outside the fitting rooms for me[/quote]
    Be careful Liz he is probably an alien or a robot. Not normal behaviour for a man..
  • [quote=Tiny Nell]I am always right and I am married.

    My husband understands this.[/quote]

    Hehe mine sometimes forgets the golden rule, but on the whole he accepts the truth.
  • [quote=jimholmes6]Be careful Liz he is probably an alien or a robot. Not normal behaviour for a man..[/quote]

    Why not? Are they all rude and impatient and not willing to do something for their wives? Why would any man not be helpful?

    Could it be the fact I wonder that research shows women treat their boy children differently from their girl children, STILL, even in this day and age, not expecting them to pick up after themselves so much, or to learn to cook, or to learn how to use the washing machine. This sort of thing is inculcated within them from a very early age, not the lack of action, but the lack of EXPECTATION. Every man is capable of it.
  • [quote=Liz]Every man is capable of it.[/quote]

    True but it's not normal!
  • Oh, all right then, I'll give you that.
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