Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Grammar Nazi II

A while back, I did a Grammar Nazi post, but in an entirely different light. This one's a bit different, but I will still entitle this as a "part 2". Lately, I've been doing some side work on editing essays and other write ups for other people. I always let them know that there may be a sentence or two that'll need restructuring, or in most cases, correction on simple grammatical errors. I always ask, "Do you mind being critiqued or corrected?" The answer is usually a solid, 'not at all', so I give it my all, expecting the person to be okay with whatever feedback comes flying their way. I feel comfortable writing this, knowing that this isn't a personal attack on anyone, but more of an observation of other people's style of writing. I do everything from essays, bios and articles for submission.

Most people who give me their work are college students and graduates who are looking to get their foot in the door. In my opinion, there is no "wrong" or "right" style of writing, however, if I need to reread your sentences a few times before understanding it, I will definitely let you know it needs restructuring. I'm not perfect, and at times I need my own restructuring master, but some of the work I've received is just mind boggling.

Know your losses.

"Loose" and "lose" are two different words. Use them appropriately.

"Their", "there" and "they're" are very different.
"Their" is a possession of more than one person. "Their company had cutbacks."
"There" is a place. "Over there, is where I need you to be."
"They're" is a combination of two words: "they" and "are". "They're working on the problem."

"You, you, you…!"
You. …You! You! You!
When writing "you're" (which is "you are") --- never use "your".
Your: "Your fly is open."
You're: "You're an ass."

I remember when I first started writing, I asked a professional writer to critique my work. I thought I had written my best piece ever, but when she handed my article back to me, her red pen must have ran out of ink. My problem was more or less about punctuation - where and when to place it and "if" it should be placed. I overused semicolons and did the 'dot dot dot' after certain sentences that required none. I was taught proper sentence structuring (to the best of my ability) and the uses of "have had" instead of just using "had" alone. There were many other types of mistakes that I make and sometimes still make.

Interestingly enough, I found that a lot of people are using third person narrative lately. For me personally, I find it very creepy and disturbing, unless you're asking yourself, "Where is this going, Deb?" More like talking to yourself --- not "Deb thinks poor grammar is disheartening." I just keep thinking about that Seinfeld episode where Elaine meets that guy at the gym and all he does is talk in third person. "Ya know, Jimmy is pretty sweet on you." My point is, never, ever, ever use third party narrative unless you're some type of serial killer.

I handed back one document that needed hours worth of redoing, not even so much about correction. I felt like I was reading it in another language. She was trying so hard, that the words on the paper were not of hers at all. I couldn't even imagine those words or sentences coming out of her own mouth. She was so focused on using proper English, that her entire personality was completely drowned out. It was like she was trying to be someone else. And I get it -- sometimes writing does require to swerve around your initial personality in order to make a valid point, but in my opinion, never lose your voice in the process. Let the reader "hear" you. Needless to say, she got very offended and never spoke to me again. If you don't want my advice, then don't ask for it.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!