Grammar Is A Must-But Lose That English Teacher Writing! (Revisited)

English teacherI wasn’t an English major, but I never had a problem with stringing words together and making coherent, easy to read sentences. I know most of the rules, but I also know those rules are meant to be broken, especially if you are writing fiction.

The purpose of English Teacher grammar is to understand how to create sanitized, standardized, easy to understand, impersonal, inoffensive writing. If you’re looking for a job writing pamphlets for the government, instructional manuals, or news reports, then that’s the way to go.

These rules aren’t meant for fiction. That does not mean your story shouldn’t be grammatically and structurally sound. We are talking about styles here, not mechanics.

Fiction writing is nonstandardized, complex, personal, and occasionally offensive. It is the best way to reach into your readers head and show him your words. In order to bring your voice to life and get your world on the page, you need to say goodbye to English Teacher writing.

Fiction Writing Vs. English Teacher Writing

Fiction Writing-fits the world of the book, the mouths of the characters, and the writer who wrote it.                                                                                                                              English Teacher Writing– incorporates a specific, caricatured, extreme form of writing without regard to the story’s world, characters, or even the writer and what he or she is like.

Fiction Writing changes with the situation.                                                                         English Teacher Writing is unchanged.

Fiction Writing does not look to impress, it’s sole purpose is to present the story.  English Teacher Writing is self-conscious, self-important, and looks and feels forced and outright silly at times.

Fiction Writing is not always pretty, but it always fits the circumstances, characters, and story.                                                                                                                                            English Teacher Writing is always pretty and always smooth, but rarely fits anything.

Example:

Fiction Writing

“Get away! Don’t touch me! Leave me alone!” The girl in the alley curled into a tighter ball, her scarred, skinny arms pulling her knees up against her chest, her eyes white-rimmed, her hair wild.

English Teacher Writing

“Get away from me! Don’t lay a hand on me! Leave me alone!” The girl in the alley, already in a fetal position, pulled her knees tighter to her chest. she wore an expression of dazed panic and radiated the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

-Jan R

Grammar Is A Must-But Lose That English Teacher Writing! (Revisited)

Avoid Fancy Words

6207da0c9e08fd20a96cc7bf70033c98I personally like to read communications where I don’t notice the writing at all. You can achieve that by investing in great content and then stripping away anything that detracts from it.

Avoid fancy words. Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.

You should write in a way that comes easy and natural. I don’t know anybody that says the sky is beauteous, or she was ostentatious. I certainly don’t use those words in my everyday conversations, as a matter of fact, I don’t use them in my writing either.

I could just imagine my reader stumbling over these words.  They are long and require effort to read. They slow down the pace and pull readers out of their suspension of disbelief, by reminding them they are reading.

I saw this example in a blog and thought it did a great job of getting my point across.

Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: problems with using long words needlessly.

I bet that sentence drove you nuts. I know the example is a bit extreme, but what do you think? Should I go with simple or fancy?

My thought is, you should write problems instead of consequences, using instead of utilized, long words instead of erudite vernacular, and needlessly instead of irrespective of necessity. Keep it simple.

Use longer words only if your meaning is so specific no other words will do.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Avoid Fancy Words