Monday, August 31, 2009

Not perfect

When I was in high school, my teachers had a fit if my written and spoken language wasn't perfect. They hoped I'd become a teacher, and they wanted those traits to carry through me.

I became something similar. I'm a writer and editor, and I've made a career out of getting things right. But I have to admit that I don't mind if my grammar or syntax isn't perfect.

I don't care if I boldly split an infinitive, and I'm not above ending a sentence with a preposition. I'll even start a sentence with and or but, something many grammararians cringe at (yes, I think I just ended a sentence with a preposition).

Recently, I edited a newspaper story about Colt McCoy of Texas being under the Heisman Trophy shadow of former Heisman winners Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and Tim Tebow of Florida. I used FORMER HEISMEN in a headline to refer to Bradford and Tebow. It's not something I recommend you do regularly, but I think it got the point across there.

I'll use a sentence fragment to make a point. I'm not above using "ain't" in a spoken sentence if it strengthens the point. Remember, we don't write to be perfect; it's for communication. If a sentence fragment, a dangling participle, a well-used ain't or other written faus pax gets in there, so be it.

It ain't about Miss Smith from eighth grade; it's about communication.

Having said all that, you must have a style for your newspaper, magazine, online publication or whatever. When I'm editing a novel or non-fiction book, I check spelling and look for proper syntax. The writer comes off a little more elegant than he would anyway.

Even if she uses a sentence fragment or dangles a participle. Sometimes it's good to be bad.

Contact: I can be reached at or Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

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