Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Speling and Grammer

A page from the Luttrell Psalter.
English. c.1300

Some people have an automatic suspicion of rules.
Some people cling to them like drift wood from a wreck.
Some people are distressingly dictatorial about them, putting form above substance and admitting no deviation.
Others eschew them as evidence of lick-spittle conformity and consider themselves superior to the conduct of sheep and peasants.

Most of us learn to write by a combination of induction/deduction.
We learn, beginning with the alphabet, rules of composition. We learn to apply rules to our basic communications.
We read, absorb and explore variation and vitality from examples. We learn to expand the parameters of language.
A type of double entendre.

While rules are guideposts, some of them are as close to absolute pillars as the human world will entertain.
Unless your query and MS - 95-98% of the time - follows the basic rules of spelling and grammar, you will get tossed.
Genius and artistic vision be damned.
And if you don't understand, like a wilful child, why that is so, why that is fair and reasonable, then you will not be a wannabe or a gonnabe - you will be a neverbe.

Percussive Maintenance: The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.
Xerox Subsidy: An euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one's workplace. People who do so were formerly know as night-shift purchasing agents.
OhNOsecond: That miniscule fraction of time following a click on the send button when you realize there's a spelling error or typo in the first sentence.
A 404: Someone who is clueless, ie. not found. Updated variant on earth to Mars, or sandwiches short of a picnic.


Steve G said...

I've read about a few niche books written in street talk that did very well for their intended audience. These are probably the exception.

anna said...

Steve, I think 'intended audience'
is the key here.
Percussive Maintenance used to work
on my old washing machine, however it has proven useless on this damn computer


Steve G said...

Anna, yes you are correct on both counts.

Bernita said...

I agree.
"Intended" and "niche" - not mainstream.
Anna, once I watched with delight as a furnace guy applied his workboot to the side of the furnace motor and then explained apologetically that the particular model needed it sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying and agree with most of it. However . . .

An artist who never sells his or her work is still an artist. So, I wouldn't say a neverbe, I'd say something like, neverbebought or something like that. -V95

Bernita said...

Is someone who sews up his own mouth still a singer, V95?

Jaye Wells said...

The neverbes I know don't have an interest in learning the tools of the craft. Just as we need to know POV, plotting and the like, so we must make an effort to befriend, the comma; and the semicolon. And recognizing incomplete sentences.

Ric said...

F*** 'em! These little twit agents, all smug and snarky, to enamored with themselves to recognize true genious. I got me a local writer - he sold a book in 1973 - now, he's an agent. I send him $500 a month and he says it doesn't matter if I follow the rules. He just got me a publishing deal with Publish America.

I'm going to be so rich! And I didn't even have to edit.

Bernita said...

Rite, Jaye(!)
I don't understand their refusal of reality.

Bernita said...

That seems to be one side of it, Ric. Laziness or egotism.
Imagine that sort make lousy tourists too.
Bet you had to work to imitate that style though.

Anonymous said...

Sure. But may have a career as a surgeon.

Someone once sold a book with blank pages in it. It was still a book. I'll admit, not a very good one. -V95

Ric said...

I appreciate the compliment.

The tourist line is so very true.

There are, however, writers, somehow misguided, who still think all you have to do is put the words down - that editing is for those other folk. You see them lurking at the edges of these blogs. Rules don't apply. As you aptly pointed out. Unfortunately, they make up 90% of the query file and drive the professionals to skimming ours.

Bernita said...

Un-huh, V95, I remember that gimmick. Usually flogged as the accomplishments/wisdom of this politician or that.

What defines "art" or "creativity" is a tangent and one gets lost in a welter of semantics.
And largely irrelevant to the issue.
One may produce "art" in one's basement using various urines for pigment, but if no one ever sees it, it is "art" only in one's own estimation.
It is self-expression. Full-stop.
If one wishes/intends to be published there are some criteria you ignore at your peril.

Robyn said...

I don't think a passing familiarity with basic grammar will shackle one's muse. I've often heard it said that Picasso could draw an angel as well as Michelangelo; and as a vocalist I know that I must be able to perform the basics (scales, breathing) to have any longevity even if I don't sing classically. You have to know the rules to be able to chuck them with style.

Sela Carsen said...

"Grammer" is one of my spelling pet peeves and I like to think of myself as fairly forgiving in casual writing (posting/chatting). Drives me batty.

And amen, Robyn!

spyscribbler said...

I love that Percussive Maintenance! I wish I could've seen that furnace man, LOL. We had a little trouble last year, and he gave us no less than twenty minutes of BS when he really meant that he didn't know why it did that. Grrr!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

"Percussive Maintenance"

LOL...I love that...i do it often!

I've always been a rule breaker, but I figure I'll worm my way in first...playing the rules...then Mwhhahahaha!!!, break them all!

Oh side note. Blogger FORCED me to change over last night!! LOL at least they give you one last chance to go by the change-over screen one last time!

So I changed over...and held my breat...and despite the dire gloom and dispair I've seen the rest of the Blogging world experiencing...nothing bad happened!

I roamed around...evverything is pretty nornal. There's some added niceties on the edit page where it shows your list of tells you how many comments there are on each post, and when you 'view' a post it puts it up in it's own window so that you have the link to that particular post in the address bar.

The next thing that I like is that when you get an email that there's been a comment to your tells you which post the comment is on! Now that I like!

And lately, I'm not going to change becuase I like my 3 column template, but if you 'upgrade' your template, you can use their new 'plug and play' technology that helps you move and add things to your template without knowing anything about CSS or HTML.

Bernita, your template is on their list, so it would be an unnoticeable change for you! far...I feared the unknown...and it was far!

Anonymous said...

"If one wishes/intends to be published there are some criteria you ignore at your peril."

Sadly true. -V95

Kate Thornton said...

There's nothing in learning the rules that could possibly hamper creativity.

Learning anything - but most particularly the craft of writing and the conventions of submission - does not throw up a creative roadblock. If you are a creaive individual, knowing the rules will enable you to judge if/when they should be broken to further your vision. If your vision includes getting published, you must decide how to achieve that goal.

Another great post, Bernita!

Rashenbo said...

Lol... I like the OhNOsecond. I think I suffer from that little error more often than not!

Bernita said...

An excellent analogy, Robyn.

Mine too, Sela.
Though my spelling could never be considered perfect.

Sometimes, Spy, even if you don't swat them, inanimate objects have to be spoken to severely.

Thank you, Bonnie, that is good to know - especially since you have a complex blog.

Shouldn't be a sad thing, V95.

Thank you, Kate.
Those successful at creative anarchy are rare indeed.

Bernita said...

Have a few burned in my memory, Rashenbo.
More accurately described as "ohshitseconds."

raine said...

OhNOsecond: That miniscule fraction of time following a click on the send button when you realize there's a spelling error or typo in the first sentence.


Yes, and it's always the split-second AFTER sending. :-O

And if it's not a typo in the first sentence, it's the editor or agent's NAME.

Bernita said...

Raine, now I don't even look - for fear.

December Quinn said...

I do hate that. "But this is the way I want to do it" only works once you've proven yourself.

Just like people who go to the grocery store, grab a bestseller, and say "But this takes a few pages to get to the action, so why can't I?"

Bernita said...

Some don't seem to see the need to make the work better, December.

ScaramoucheX said...

Oh my god, Bernita, you have done it again...26 comments on an entry like this? Who are these readers of yours - students? But, having said that, I am starting to appreciate what you do a little bit...don't know why, though...Thanks for the e-mail response , by the for thought...

ScaramoucheX said...

PS I love the works you use to illustarte your you really paint that well? are they all your own work?

And I suppose, in a writerly way, I represent to you that 'vanity' you so despise in the artist...because I truly do think that if your commenters had any potential at all of having their spirits quickened through the act of reading, why, they woould be over on my blog, fer chrissake...
Still - you may be right, it's all about the spelling and grammar...must give myself pause...

ScaramoucheX said...

Finally! The best advice I ever had was, write like you talk...whaddya say to that! Whoever even speaks in complete sentences, even? Ever read Celine? Henry Miller? Beckett?
And yes...I do reckon myself in their company...

Bernita said...

Scaramouchex,for your information, a number of the posters here are published writers - one just sold for 6 figures , I believe.
They are only "students" in the sense they continue to study their craft and like to discuss the craft. They don't think they know it all.
Re: illustrations. If you bothered to read, you might notice I usually mention the source.And that there is never the slightest suggestion that they are mine.
You may reckon yourself in "their company" but I wonder if they would reckon themselves in yours.
Now, what have you accomplished by making rude comments about the people who comment on this blog?

ScaramoucheX said...

Hey there Bernita...sorry to have offended you, as I have clearly done. My writerly persona can sometimes be very grating and off-putting...again, apologies.
I have been thinking much these last few days about Art vs Craft, and that is how I came to attend again to your site.
Your site is about craft, and I aim more purely, at this time, for the's all, for me, about intuition, inspiration, irrationality, imagination, and integrity of vision...First!
But I now am beginning to respect the craftsmansip angle as well...don't like it much but...there it is.
So I am sorry if I offended any commenters, I only wanted to express creativity...rock on.