I recently read Steven King’s On Writing. In a section of the book called Tool Box, he talks about basic grammar. This is something that I really hadn’t given much thought to as I always thought I had a good grasp of the English language. I can write complete sentences and string together reasonably coherent paragraphs, but I’ve never really given much thought to “The Rules”. All those long words that describe the parts of a sentence and words like participle never really enter my mind as I’m writing.
In previous posts I’ve referred to the Little Brown Handbook, an excellent resource for the basics in grammar that no writer should be without. I think I need to revisit my old friend and brush up on some of the basics. I write well, but will revisiting some of the Rules of Grammar make my stories fantastic? Steven King seems to think so, and I think I agree. Can an author take some license with the rules and fill a paragraph with short one or two word sentences to emphasize what is happening to a character or with a particular scene in a story? Yes, but to a point. It must be coherent to the reader who, I might add, has also studied the English language and will be quick to yank the rug out from under you if you go too far out of the box.
My opinion is basic grammar is very important and also the correct use of words in the correct context. Use of a word like “irregardless” is inexcusable if a writer wants to be taken seriously. Here is a note from a popular site www.dictionary.com:
Irregardless is considered nonstandard because of the two negative elements ir- and -less. It was probably formed on the analogy of such words as irrespective, irrelevant, and irreparable. Those who use it, including on occasion educated speakers, may do so from a desire to add emphasis. Irregardless first appeared in the early 20th century and was perhaps popularized by its use in a comic radio program of the 1930s.
It may have become common practice but if you look at the word under the basic rules it makes no sense. Neither does using “your” when you mean “you’re” which is also a common mistake I see and tend to commit from time to time. From what I’ve found in both my writing journey and my editing experience, it’s the little things that will trip you up. Making your work stand out among the vast sea of wannabe authors is critically important and you need every tool you can carry.
I have to agree with Steven King! Brush up on the basics.