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Grammar And Punctuation

March 23, 2007
Posted at 5:36 pm
Updated: July 21, 2007 - 7:12 pm

Some readers have asked why I sometimes italicize a word, use bad grammar, and even "misspell" words from time to time. They ask if these are mistakes, and if they are, don't I know about the spellchecker in MS Word?

Friends, the answer is I do use spellcheckers, and I use the one in MS Word often enough to know it isn't exactly accurate at times and in a couple of areas, actually has the wrong rule loaded in its algorithm. There's a good rule of thumb for my writing one can use. If you see a misspelled word or grammatical mistake in the dialogue one of my characters is speaking, it's almost certainly not a mistake. It's a deliberate attempt to have my characters speak like you and I speak to others in real life. Thus, I'll sometimes say, "I'm gonna get you, you SOB," instead of the more pretentious, "I will certainly endeavor to locate and punish you severely, Mister."

"Gonna" (to me) is what "going to" sounds like when a person rushes through whatever he/she wants to say. Right, wrong, or indifferent--that's why my dialogue sometimes looks erroneous. But, I'm human. Sometimes my proofreading is deficient and I screw up. LOL

As for italicizing some things, when I italicize a word, it's to give that word (or phrase) more emphasis in the sentence of dialogue than the other words. I use it to nail down the meaning of the phrase or sentence more tightly.

For instance, "Why are you doing that?" is different from, "Why are you doing that?"

In the first, the questioner is asking why the actor is taking any kind of action. In the second, the questioner is asking why the actor has selected "that" particular option. Okay? I hope I did a good enough job of explaining that.

Also, I use an ellipsis (the … one sees primarily in the dialogue I write) is used to indicate a pause, or faltering speech from a character. Again, it's an attempt to make the dialogue more realistic because when we speak to each other, we aren't reading from a script (usually). There are pauses while we search for the right word or pauses when our minds are just too confused to find the next word to say, right? That's what I'm trying to indicate with an ellipsis.

When I have the ellipsis at the end of a phrase, btw, it's to indicate a person's voice is trailing off, perhaps into a whisper and then silence.

Anything else, folks, is a big ol' glaring mistake. LOL

I have a copy of Strunk and White's little missive, Elements Of Style, and I have a sense of what should be good grammar and punctuation, but I'm a poor proofreader of my own work and I sometimes miss the strangest of things. For instance, I've found when I rearrange a given piece of text or dialogue, I sometimes leave behind a verb in a wrong tense or have some other dumb error, like leaving out a word entirely. The problem is…I never see the error when I go through the editing phase. Too close to the forest to see the underbrush? Anyway, I apologize for those slips and I really am grateful to folks who point them out. When I see the errors I make, I can get better at this.

Okay, I hope this is good enough to show where I'm coming from on grammar and punctuation. If you have more questions, you know how to click on the email button, right? :)