Tag Archives: editing

How Important is Grammar to a Writer?

I have been reading The 28 Biggest Writing Blunders (And How to Avoid Them)by William Noble, to see what I can learn about improving my writing. He advises writers not to write for their eighth-grade English teachers or be slaves to the grammar gurus. He advises writers not to overuse the thesaurus or get tied up in a “sentence straightjacket.” He is against using adverbs and adjectives unless they are absolutely necessary and cautions against creating a style that does nothing more for your writing than to make it different from other writers. He also warns against trying to imitate writers like Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and others  with a distinctive style, because you will never master their styles as well as they did.

As writers, we are urged to develop our own unique writing voices. I found mine at Squidoo, now part of HubPages.  It’s not a perfect style, but it is in my voice. I’m not trying to imitate anyone, and I normally use the first person when I write about my personal experiences.

It was a relief to read this book, because, as do many writers, I have mental yellow lights go off in my head whenever I’m about to commit a grammatical “sin.” Noble gives me permission to ignore all my mental grammar police if I have a good reason. I can dare to use the passive voice, use a fragment, or end a sentence with a proposition.

I suspect most competent writers already  follow Noble’s suggestions and they probably don’t need this book.  The people who need it most are wannabe writers who haven’t found a unique voice yet. They are the ones most likely to use unnecessary figurative language inappropriately to make their prose more poetic. They are the ones who will deliberately create their own punctuation rules with the hope of being seen as another e.e. cummings.

If you are teaching English and some of your students have somehow gotten hold of this book, or another similar to it, be sure to let your students know that the cardinal rule when it comes to breaking the rules is to know why they are there and why you are breaking them. To do that, you first have to know the rules. They are there to help readers understand what you write. Anything that impedes that does not communicate anything except that you don’t care whether your reader can follow you.

If you are a reader, you will understand this. You know what makes you want to put a book down. Maybe it’s unnecessary descriptions that are long and don’t really help you visualize the scene or person being described. Maybe it’s a dangling participle or a comma where there ought to be a period. Anything that confuses a reader for no good reason should be avoided. Any grammar and usage rules which help a reader understand you better should be followed.

If you are still a student, don’t let a book like this convince you that knowing all those rules isn’t necessary. Noble would not agree. He never advocates not learning the rules. You have to know them before you can know why  breaking one will enhance your writing rather than reduce the effectiveness of your writing. If I were your English teacher and you broke a rule, I’d probably ask you why you did it and expect a good answer.

I am often asked to proofread or evaluate the writing of others. My rule of thumb now is this: If  your mistake screams at me as I read, you probably did not have a good reason to break the rules. The grammar police do reside in my brain and they shout at me when I see sentence errors that don’t serve any good purpose.

The average reader is not looking for mistakes and may not instinctively notice them the way an ex-English teacher does. If that reader is aware of your mistake. It is probably because… you have upset the rhythm. of his reading for no good reason. Did you notice my mistakes in that last sentence? That’s what I mean. Your writing should flow smoothly without disturbing your reader unless it is your intention to disturb your reader for a reason.

So, be diligent in learning all you can about grammar and usage. Practice following the rules in your writing. Don’t depend upon your spell checker or your grammar checker when you write, because they make mistakes. Learn how to spell, especially the homophones — words that sound alike and are usually spelled differently. Know when to use each word. Know when you need a period instead of a comma and vice versa. Your readers will appreciate it as much as your English teacher does. Once you have mastered the traditional way to use the English language, you will be in a position to know when you can effectively disregard it.

The Nitty Gritty of Turning a Lens into a Hub

My writing life on Squidoo was unique. I wrote a lot of lenses to express myself around themes to evoke a mood or combine thoughts, videos, music and photos around a topic. A prime example was a lens called “The Blessings of Rain.”It was revised to post to HubPages when Squidoo sold out to HubPages.

I wish I could show you the unedited version.  I wrote it after a three-day period of mild rainstorms that came after a very parched period of months without rain. I wanted my readers to understand what a blessing the rain had been to the parched county. I included some lighthearted music videos with songs about rain, such as “Just Walking In the Rain,” just after my introduction.  This was followed by an Amazon module with umbrellas for sale, some photos to evoke a mood, a poll on how rain affects the readers, and another music video.

Then I switched the mood to a more spiritual theme by introducing the lyrics to “Joy is Like the Rain” with some photos of rain on a window.  I had put a video of the song there, but YouTube took it off so I had put one of Squidoo’s modules there that would play samples from an album that had the song on it.

From that point on the thoughts, photos, and videos were more devotional in content. The lens  ended with the comment section, as they all do.  I deleted the featured lens module which usually came after it.  HubPages doesn’t offer that as a capsule.

Here’s the best I could do so far from Squidoo to turn this into a hub.  First I had to change almost all the photos. Most had originally come from Photobucket and at a time when they were seemingly not restricted, but they aren’t able to be used commercially anymore. That meant searching my own photos and Pixabay for replacements. The replacements aren’t as effective, since they aren’t animated so you can actually see the rain coming down.  I may have better ones on my home computer when I can access them, but I wanted to put something in as place holders now.

I then had to remove all links to Zazzle products because HubPages doesn’t allow them or have a way to put affiliate link codes into their capsules. One of the hardest things about the overall transition for me is not being able to use Zazzle products as illustrations. Some of my best illustrations come from Zazzle.  I had two modules, one with a couple of posters of people in the rain, and one with rain T-shirts, that served as visual breaks before the poll. I had to eliminate them.

I left the MP3 Amazon module in just in case HubPages might add one as a capsule. It didn’t happen so the song did notsurvive the change. I don’t expect I’ll have a  way to include this important song in a way it can be heard.

I also had to find something to replace Squidoo’s call-out module, formerly known as the black box, which used to be a module by itself but had other former modules offered within it as choices. I had used the black box often in various colors, as a sort of transition quote . I decided to use Quozio to make a replacement for one of these black box quotes.  You can see it above. For Quozio, you don’t need to have a photo of your own. The site provides a choice of many backgrounds and you provide the quote.  It’s actually better than the old black box.

I made the replacement for another black box on Picmonkey, because I wanted to use my own image.  It’s a free online image editor. It produced this for me.

I made this black box replacement with my own photo edited on picmonkey.com
I made this black box replacement with my own photo edited on picmonkey.com

 

Another site where you can add text to your own photo is Share As Image.  They try harder to get you to go pro for a fee, but you can use either a choice of their photos or uploading one of your or choosing a background.  You can see photos I’ve produced from all three sites as featured images on this blog and its sister blog, Bookworm Buffet. You are limited only by your imagination.

The conclusion I have come to after this project of trying to turn “The Blessings of Rain” into a hub is that to really work I’d need to totally rewrite it.  I’m now debating the wisdom of having the lenses transfer over and having two accounts. If I  have only ten suitable lenses or less I may cancel the transfer and rewrite them for the existing account.  There are many, including my best lens, that I will have to put on my own pages.  There is no way I’d be able to turn them into hubs.

Eat. Sleep. Edit. Tshirt
Eat. Sleep. Edit. Tshirt Browse Editor T-Shirts online at Zazzle.com

What problems have you encountered in moving work from content writing sites to other sites or to your own websites?