There was a recent post by Robert J. Sawyer pointing out that promotional material full of grammatical errors hardly inspires confidence in the value or worth of the book being promoted. Not to mention that editors looking for a reason to stop reading an unsolicited manuscript can find none better.
I studied Latin, French, and English in High School. I failed Latin, barely squeaked through French, and got good marks in English by writing as simply as possible and avoiding complex grammatical subtleties.
I know what a noun is. I know what a verb is. Anything beyond that and I start to get confused. Grammar my downfall.
That I can write reasonably well, most times almost clearly enough to get my point across, is due to the vast amount of reading I have done, reading which has allowed “acceptable practice” to seep into my brain in a process of osmosis similar to what Charlemagne used to employ when he slept with a scroll under his pillow in the hope that an ability to read would somehow leech into his brain during the night.
Not for me the delights of artfully choosing the best word or phrase for maximum impact and demonstration of literary skill. For me the process is more like “What the hell is it I’m actually trying to say here?”
But what a boon this is! When I finally convince a paragraph to resemble what I think I’m trying to communicate I’m so happy and satisfied I don’t give it a further thought. No more worries. No obsessive tweaking to impress the critics. When it is clear it is done.
I derive great satisfaction from this. If I actually knew more — or anything at all — about the subtle possibilities inherent in the complexities of clever grammatical usage I would probably end up depressed and give up writing entirely.
But because I am profoundly ignorant I sail through the task of writing with clear skies and a brisk breeze. Oh, to be sure there are shoals to avoid when choosing the proper course, but once my path is clear it is time to let down full canvas and take full advantage of my ignorance.
And the ocean is becoming very friendly, what with (so rumour has it) certain publishers saving money by not proof reading, many authors saving money when self-publishing by not hiring anyone to proof read, and most common of all, writers totally unable to proof read their own work. (Me, for instance.)
As a result, one can assume, the general standard of correct grammar has been lowered in modern literature, lowered to a standard approaching my own level, thus generating a higher rating of acceptability for whatever it is I manage to conceive.
Or to put it another way, “The Marching Morons” prediction-come-true works splendidly to my advantage. The lower the expectations people have for the technical quality of contemporary fiction, the greater the chance people will actually want to read me! I might even get published someday.
An encouraging trend which makes me very happy.
One puzzling note: for some reason my critics don’t critique my writing. They tend to critique me. Not quite sure why.