#8: They’re Using Their Best Grammar There

Now that you are:

… at work writing your story, and

counting words and adjusting chapter lengths accordingly, and

… you have an idea what genre your story fits in, and

… you have explored a few author groups in those genres and

… have done some legitimate research so you sound credible… It’s time.

Time for grammar.

Don’t roll your (possession) eyes at me! You’re (contraction for “you are”) expected to know how to write correctly (adverbs end in ly)! Nothing will get you as an author tossed from serious consideration faster than (comparison) making ignorant mistakes; these are basic skills and you must have them. So then (time order), let’s get started.

I’ve just used the most commonly misused words:

  • They’re – Their – There
  • You’re – Your
  • Than – Then
  • And leaving the “ly” off adverbs, turning them into adjectives.

They’re: a contraction of the phrase “they are” …Their: belonging to them …There: a place

You’re: a contraction of “you are” …Your: belonging to you

Than: a comparison, as in “bigger than that” …Then: the order in time that things occur, as in “then he walked into the room”

Adverbs: Describe actions (verbs) …Adjectives: Describe things (nouns)

If you don’t already know the differences and correct usages, go learn them immediately. Hint: if you get a squiggly red or green line under what you’ve typed, right-click on the offending phrase and Word will give you options.

Next, I need to address a new misuse that I see popping up everywhere: using “of” instead of “have” as in should of, would of or could of. Ugh! Such ignorant misuse makes me cringe!

When you say:

  • “I should’ve called” you are actually saying “I should have called.”
  • “I would’ve come” is “I would have come.”
  • “I could’ve helped” is – say it with me! – “I could have helped.”

Not an “of” in sight. If you aren’t sure, try this: leave off the should/would/could and say the sentence. Does it still make sense? Then your usage is correct.

  • “I have called” – good!
  • “I of called” – uh, no.

THE EXCEPTION (there’s always at least one, isn’t there?): Dialog. Characters can speak any way you need them to. But you need to know what rules you are breaking, so that you can break them consistently. One slip-up and the editor will know you’ve been faking it.

Agents and editors are buried under submissions. They are looking for reasons not to read your submission. Authors are expected to bring their work to the table well polished. So  internalize this statement: Grammar is our friend. It gives us credibility! It makes us sound smart! It gets us published! Or at least, read by Those Who Can Publish Us (and not tossed unceremoniously in their trash)!

Make using good grammar your New Year’s Resolution.

Now go forth! And conjugate!

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