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About Writing Right: The Blog


I stumbled across a forum question online the other day, and it went something like this: Before an author reaches out to publishers and agents, what should they do? Well, of course, I couldn't resist. Here's how I responded:

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Wow. You and your solo respondent (so far) share the same impediment. Before an author reaches out to publishers and agents, they need to improve their grammar. Get it? If not, read it again, because both of you failed a basic literacy test called English Grammar 101. Here's why that matters.


No matter what else you provide along with your approach to publishers and agents, a misuse of the English language will land you in the trash can before you can even ask, "Did you receive my query on …" Remember: Nothing turns off a publisher, editor, literary agent, or anyone else in the field of publishing faster than poor grammar.


Now, assuming you went scurrying to your latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style or Strunk, discovered your mistake, and corrected it, you'll still need to do a couple other things prior to contact. Here they are: Read More 

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I ran into a question online the other day from someone who wanted to know if he could write his entire book in lower case. The misleading responses he received goaded me into replying. (It doesn't take much):

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Absolutely. I say, if you want to write your book in all lower case, go for it. And, while you're at it, why bother using English grammar or syntax at all? I just started revising a book I started writing several years ago, utilizing a technique along those very lines, and I can't wait for the world to see it once it's finished. Here's the "old" opening, in case you're interested:

  • To be, at first glance and considering all else, among John's most favored—notwithstanding anything unknown to humankind, as the cosmos is the ultimate being rivaling all else in, among other things, civility et al; that is, in being civil, learning civilness, and practicing civility—is certainly desirable. But, on the other hand, if one at second glance appears, even if unwillingly or otherwise, but not withstanding the desire to adopt a willful misuse of the privilege to react accordingly (albeit without cause) or, on occasion, rarely: Even with it one should not, except under relatively rare circumstances, of which there are so many—to be accorded such a lofty, favored position, according to all traditional mores, values, and historical precedents, that would be really swell. I guess.

Now, are you ready? Here's my brand new, enlightened, all-lower-case nonconventional version of the very same piece of illuminating literature (far stronger than the old one, if I do say so myself) for your reading enjoyment and edification:

  • to be at first glance and considering all else among Johns most favored notwithstanding anything unknown to humankind as the cosmos is the ultimate being rivaling all else in among other things civility et al that is in being civil learning civilness and practicing civility is certainly desirable but on the other hand if one at second glance appears even if unwillingly or otherwise but not withstanding the desire to adopt a willful misuse of the privilege to react accordingly albeit without cause or on occasion rarely even with it one should not except under relatively rare circumstances of which there are so many to be accorded such a lofty favored position according to all traditional mores values and historical precedents that would be really swell i guess

Man, just sharing that new, enlightened approach to my book with the world is like shagging a monkey off my back! I can't tell you how many years of my literary life I have wasted in my insane devotion to being readable, understandable, marketable, and publishable. I mean, I just can't tell you.


So, yes, by all means, see your new approach to writing through to the bitter end. And good luck!


Oh, and for the respondent who advised you to do "Whatever you can do to stand out from the crowd," I agree. As long as you don't expect anyone in that crowd to do anything other than dump your junk in the nearest trash can. Which is exactly where it would belong.


Just my thoughts on the matter. But then again, I'm a pragmatist, so why listen to me?


Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new ebook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.com.

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Have you read Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms? If so, did you love it ... or hate it? One author read a copy as an eBook and found it so lacking in substance and quality of writing that he questioned whether or not it was a bad translation from a foreign language. Then, he asked my opinion, to which I responded.

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That's something of a silly question, isn't it, considering you indicated no source for your eBook or shared any of its contents? That reduces anybody's answer to your question to little more than an educated guess.


With that said, I have studied Hemingway's history and works for decades, and I wrote about him (both fiction and nonfiction) on several occasions. Like everyone else in the universe, I have a distinct impression of the caliber of his writing. It's great.


It's great, that is, for a journalist seeking to become a novelist.


For a novelist seeking to be stylishly relevant, poetic, imaginative, and grammatically accurate, it's not so great.
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Someone the other day asked if it's allowable to have mistakes in grammar as long as your reader understands what you're saying. I was shocked at the overwhelming number of replies. I was even more surprised at the voluminous amount of misinformation people provided. Here's how I responded.

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I'm afraid that what some respondents to your question have overlooked is the very basic meaning of the word "mistakes." That was the crux of your question. Comparing authors who make grammatical mistakes with those who intentionally misuse grammatical references or structure misses the point entirely. Intentional use of incorrect or improper grammar is not a mistake; it's deliberate. Mistakes are the misuse of proper grammar by not understanding what constitutes proper grammar.


With that out of the way, the only answer to your question is a resolute No! The reasons are numerous, from making yourself sound like a complete, doddering idiot to conveying your lack of qualifications for writing anything at all. But, most of all, the reason for avoiding grammatical errors is that grammar usage rules were formalized eons ago to help people communicate with one another. Groups of people. Lots of people. People from all educational and social backgrounds. When one person learns why he should use "this" in a sentence while using "that" somewhere else, it's a given that everyone who has been similarly schooled in proper grammatical usage will understand that writer's meaning. There's less likelihood of misinterpretation. You know: fewer fistfights in the streets, fewer wars in the homeland. Read More 

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"Some Day" or "Someday" You'll Write Well

Let's be honest here. People can see that your writing sucks. Well, maybe not yours, but someone's. And I can tell you why. It's a writer's improper use of as few as one or two words.

For instance, the two-word phrase, "some day," consists of an adjective ("some") and a noun ("day") and refers to a single SPECIFIC day in the future. Although it's a specific day, you refer to it as "some day" when you don't know which specific day or you've forgotten it. Nevertheless, it specifically exists. (That's what the "some" in the phrase is doing--defining which day.)

"Someday," on the other hand, is a single-word adverb that refers to future events that will occur on a single day that is still indefinite or unknown in time. It's a nonspecific day because there is no adjective that can be inserted without breaking up "someday" into two words. "Someday" is a single non-modifiable adverb!

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