One of the scariest aspects of self-publishing is the editing process. You don’t have a built in editor waiting for your next draft. If you don’t possess a doctorate degree in the English language, you feel prone to have a ‘professional’ edit your work which often comes with hefty fees. You worry about following every grammatical ‘rule’ because you fear that any poor grammar will cast your work in a negative light or will be judged by readers and/or critics, just because you are not following the ‘conventional rules’ despite how well you write. We all have heard and seen authors get slammed for poor grammar and the last thing we want is to be the next victim. Go ahead and breathe because I don’t want you to spend another second worrying about it. I recently came across a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, called “There Is No Proper English.” I think this article is so important because it’s something that we all lose sight of during the writing process. We always have a need to strive for perfection, but perfection is rarely ever reality.
Alright, let’s take a step back for a moment. Punctuation and spelling are both really important and should never ever be overlooked. You need to dedicate a large amount of time proofreading your work for these errors before you publish. In fact, you need to read through your work multiple times focusing solely on grammar to the point you are practically banging your head against the nearest desk, table, or wall. Grammar can often set a part a good book from a great book. However, given the age that we currently live in, what is mostly important is to convey your message the best way you know how and this might not always be the “proper” way. The article goes into detail about different grammatical rules such as double negatives, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” We are taught not to use double negatives all the way back to elementary school, but that does not mean it is wrong. Many of the grammatical rules we have are simply suggestions that a society, at a certain time, followed. How is a student supposed to look back at a grammar book with roots in the 1880’s and be expected to abide by those rules? Society, along with language, words, and grammar, are all fluid and will change. What is seen as “correct” should not be dictated by individuals from the past, but rather our contemporaries. It’s who you are writing for after all. The bottom line is common sense, if it doesn’t make sense to follow a rule then don’t follow the rule. This reminds me of something I read a while ago. I have no idea where I read this or who told me it but I will try to recreate it the best I can:
A mother was cooking a roast with her daughter; the mother cut the end of the roast off and put it in the pan.
The daughter asked, “Mom, why did you cut the end of the roast off?”
The mother responded that it is just how I always did it, there probably is some good reason for it.
The next week the mother and daughter where visiting the grandmother and the mother asked, “Mom, why did you always cut the end of the roast off before you cooked it?”
The grandmother responded, “Because my pot was never big enough.”
Most traditions and rules are only societal guidelines. Rules of grammar are dictated by best practices from a society during a certain time period. In the age that we live in- with the invention of text messages, e-mails, Facebook wall posts, comments in a blog section, we are not required to speak or write like we are from the 1880’s. In fact, that would be counterproductive. The goal today is to get large quantities of information relayed as quickly as possible. ‘Brevity’ and ‘informative’ should serve as the guidelines for the grammar rules for our society. Don’t worry about the rest. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Write on.