Apr 9, 2012

So…are you going to be a grammarian or a writer?

What would Molly do?

I’ve had a few conversations over the past couple of weeks regarding the use of serial commas and other little grammar tics. It was helpful for me to read Jonathan Crossfield’s blog post  talking about the fact that writing is about CLARITY not about grammar. The internet and blogs in particular have really changed this for most of us. For example,  I believe a brochure that still uses serial commas in its copy  a) looks messy and b) is old school.  So sue me. 

Today, for example, I was corrected in the use of the word “their” instead of “him or her.” Patients may see THEIR doctors. However, a patient may only see HIS or HER doctor. I wrote that “our patients see their doctors.” The designer rewrote as “EAch patient sees his or her doctor…” okay, different style but not better grammar.

Seriously, does it really matter? If a piece is written well, flows well and there are no misspelled words and egregious phrases (for all intensive purposes, for example) do you think someone will notice? And if they do, how many of them will actually know the real correct grammar?  Although I suppose I’m going to have to care soon, as I’ll be teaching as an adjunct professor at the J-school at WVU. (or is it FOR the J-school?)

Grammar can assist with making sentences and copy more clear. It can also be an added distraction (again, the serial commas). If the English language and its accepted construction didn’t change over the years, we’d still be visiting Ye Olde Facebook.

Here are some great blogs/sites if you’re into this stuff!

Chicago Style Q&A

Dr. Goodword’s

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12 comments on “So…are you going to be a grammarian or a writer?”

  1. I want to be a real person first and then a writer of course.

    April 10th, 2012 at 9:13 am

  2. Thanks for sharing. All info in your post is amazing! It helped me a lot! Great job!

    April 12th, 2012 at 1:04 am

  3. Being a writer is a nice option.

    April 12th, 2012 at 6:05 am

  4. I totally agree with you.
    In German it is even more difficult.

    …“our patients see their doctors.” translated into German would look like this: “Unsere Patienten besuchen ihren Arzt”
    Patient and Arzt are here both masculine/plural and stands for either males and females together or just males.
    If your patients and doctors are only females, you would write: “Unsere Patientinnen besuchen ihre Ärztin”.
    But what if the patient is female and the doctor male and vise versa? You would need to write a paragraph for all male/female possibilities.
    So as a result you would either leave it as it is with the standard form “Unsere Patienten besuchen ihren Arzt” OR
    You would write like this:”Unsere PatientInnen besuchen ihren Arzt/Ärztin”. in order to avoid a gender-discrimination.

    ~Anja~

    April 13th, 2012 at 11:34 am

  5. That’s so funny! Imagine what it is in french!

    April 13th, 2012 at 11:54 am

  6. I would prefer to be a writer because you can express yourself and share your thoughts to other people. And also, I want to give information or a lesson to the readers. To be a writer is a nice option that you should choose.

    April 15th, 2012 at 4:14 am

  7. Its Really nice blog i really like your article after i come here i am very helpful thanks for the share. Keep blogging. Thanks Again.

    April 15th, 2012 at 1:53 pm

  8. Yes, it is probably similar in French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese in some ways.
    I am not familiar with the Skandinavian languages but I’m sure it’s the same too.

    But still, I would prefer to be a writer rather than a grammarian.

    ~Anja~

    April 16th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

  9. Short post but a good point to make. Loved the Jonathan Crossfield blog post you’ve linked to.

    Your grammar is either correct or it’s not. If it’s incorrect then there’s no issue as long as what you’re writing makes sense and is still enjoyable to read. Grammar can be used to express your style. If you’re a serial use of commas -or parenthesis etc- your work will always have your style.

    However it’s when your grammar is so bad that it forces the reader to check and double check what you’ve written that you should probably brush up a little bit.

    There’s no excuse for it though, simply read what you’ve written, re-read it again if you have to. Just make sure it makes sense. Too many people publish online without doing this.

    April 23rd, 2012 at 5:45 am

  10. Language is never static – it always changes, otherwise we’d all be speaking Old English which is almost unrecognisable as English (well, to me anyway). So even though it’s important to mostly adhere to grammar rules if you write as a profession, I don’t agree with the whole ‘grammar nazi’ thing.

    April 26th, 2012 at 10:39 am

  11. Deutsche-Chefaro…

    [...]Wax Blog » Blog Archive » So…are you going to be a grammarian or a writer? » Wax Blog[...]…

    May 12th, 2012 at 2:25 am

  12. Yes, it is probably similar in French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese in some ways.
    I am not familiar with the Skandinavian languages but I’m sure it’s the same too.
    But still, I would prefer to be a writer rather than a grammarian.

    May 25th, 2012 at 4:47 am

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