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Saturday, March 21, 2015

You Ain’t No Writing Good English


Every so often each of us, even writers, teachers, editors, linguists and people of the written word, needs a reminder of the many pitfalls and challenges of the English language.  One such pleasant means of re-acquaintance with all of the grammatical challenges lurking about can be found in a new book aptly titled, If I Was You, by Lauren Sussman.

This handy book lays it all out in 192 pages, including things like:
·         Misuse of than and as, who versus whom, and misusing linking verbs
·         Misplaced colons, brackets, dashes, and commas
·         Mixing up words and getting verb-subject agreement wrong
·         Annoying sentence arrangements and lack of parallel construction
·         Misuse of pronouns, conjunctions, and independent clauses

We all do bad thing when it comes to our written communications.  Sometimes we violate the rules of language and other times we just violate common sense.  We can be sensitive about our writing but sometimes all that we need is a good editor and some distance from our work.  Step away and come back with open eyes and a willingness to correct your writing.

Misspellings, lack of punctuation, overuse of clichés, or failing to use quotation marks properly are just some of the numerous things even great writers do.  No one’s perfect nor should anyone feel burdened to be such.  But we can each improve our game and If I Was You certainly makes us aware of dozens of screw-ups we tend to make.

One section on redundant phrases was interesting but as someone in book marketing, I must say that my industry loves redundancy.  The best advertisements are repetitive and overemphasize things.  Raid used to say it “Kills Reaches Dead.”  Let’s face it, we all highlight a positive value and state it over and over for emphasis.  But some things do seem useless like “foreign imports,” “honest truth,” “the sum total” and “my own personal opinion.”

One of the most common miscues writers commit is to misuse words or phrases, including “accept, except,” “affect, effect,” “all right, alright,” and “breath, breathe.”

Many pages of this helpful book feature a “good grammar tip,” neatly captured in a shaded box.  Interestingly, some of these tips hint that even the experts don’t agree on things.  One tip began “Some grammarians add…” and another tip started with “Some authorities hold that…,” which means some grammarians and authorities disagree with such wisdom. Any disagreements among the word-crunchers can cause additional confusion and conflict.

In the end, things need to read well and sound right.  The goal is to convey a thought or action so that your reader understands you and is influenced by your writing.  Usually the key to impacting others with your writing is to communicate in a way that doesn’t cause the reader to stumble over word selection, poor grammar, misspellings, run-on sentences, or contradictory statements.  If you can get a clean but strong message across, you will have succeeded.  I’m sure referring to If I Was You will greatly assist your efforts.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer.  You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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