Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Grammar And Spelling Versus Voice

Writing can be so frustrating sometimes because the written word is notoriously bad at conveying all of the non-written signals we use in everyday speech to convey meaning.  We lose tone of voice, body language, eye contact, volume, etc.  In order to make up for that, we use grammar.  For example, since I wanted to convey a pause both in that introductory phrase and prior to the next clause in this sentence, I use commas to denote meaning.  If I want someone to know I’m really excited, I use an exclamation mark!  Or perhaps…I just want to slow things down…so I’ll use ellipses.

I think most of us, or at least those of us with a smidge of talent, understand that good grammar is a necessary part of writing.  The same goes for gud speling.  If I didn’t right to much gud, you people might wunder if I no wut i talking about.
However, there’s also a fine line to walk with this stuff, and that comes into play when we want to convey the voice or our work.  Sometimes the rules of grammar…just.  Don’t.  Work.  Perhaps a character is talking and I want to convey that they’re a speed talker and that they rarely pause for breath between thoughts so that maybe the reader can get a sense of just how frantic that person is.  I might also seek to convey a person’s accent through speech, like how if I bee talkin’ and stuff fer someone in da back woods of Tennessee.  Obviously many of these things work best when incorporated into dialogue, but there can be times when the voice of the story is important to change up as well.
Just make these kinds of things the exception rather than the rule, and don’t confuse poor grammar or spelling with the way you want to tell the story.  Voice has to have elements of both grammar use and the way you break up the narrative(use of dialogue versus action, how overwrought you want your action, etc.).  As always, I’m telling you to be balanced and aware.  You need to know the rules of grammar, as well as how to spell things, so that you can make a conscious decision to break those rules when it’s appropriate.  To me, that’s the difference between a poor writer and a great storyteller.

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