The bottom line in writing is that grammar is important. You may not think much about it while you are in the creative process of writing your book, story, article, or essay since it really is something that takes a lot of time to master. It’s a whole extra step that yes, I know, can sometimes be annoying. But, grammar is what separates a good story from a great story.
When I read submissions, especially from unpublished writers, grammar is always something that I worry about. I am not so much worried about the dangling participles, but how the story will sound when read out loud. It is not unusual for me to come across a book that would be absolutely fabulous if it was not for the distractedly poor grammar.
That’s why when I came across this article on The Economist’s blog, Prospero, it bought into focus everything I see on a daily basis. The article described ‘good’ writing vs. ‘bad’ writing. They put the old adage, “write with nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs,” to the test.
In the end, they discovered that more ‘good’ writing used verbs and adverbs and the ‘bad’ writing used more nouns and adjectives. Since our schooldays, we have always been told that writing with nouns and verbs create a cleaner and clearer product. And I think this does still hold true in many cases, but there are many adverbs that are underestimated when it comes to creating ‘good’ writing. Also, where adjectives certainly help to fluff up your writing, verbs let you tell the reader what is happening in a much more concise way. Most often, the most powerful sentence or scene of a book is the one with the least amount of words. Don’t underestimate the power of the (ad)verb family.
The bottom line of the article is to edit your stories, which I cannot support enough. I am not talking about a brief one edit run through. I am talking about editing your book or story until it is perfect. Not even the most renowned author will have a perfect piece of writing in just a few read throughs. The best advice I can give you is to print out a hard copy of your writing and read it out loud. It’s a totally different experience than reading it on your computer and I promise you will find mistakes you have previously overlooked. Make the changes then print it out again, and yes, read it through again. Don’t hurt me but I am going to tell you to do it again… and again. It would also be extremely beneficial to have someone else read your writing out loud to you on one of those read throughs if possible.
Edit, Edit, Edit.