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  1. #46
    Barcelona! milamber_reborn's Avatar
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    You read a published book, e.g. Robert Jordan, there are a few errors every chapter. And that probably after its been edited ten times between author and publisher.

    A writer has a responsibility to be good at english (or the language the MS is in), but that's going too far.

    What they are saying is they only want someone of great caliber, don't even bother everyone else. A good way to save time, sure. A good way to miss some rough gems that only needed a little polishing, definitely.

  2. #47
    Barcelona! milamber_reborn's Avatar
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    And talk about envelope overdose at at Stone Dragon Press.

  3. #48
    Guardian of sffworld Moderator James Barclay's Avatar
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    By no means all publishers demand perfect grammar. Plenty understand that grammar is forever evolving. Grammar is only useful in as far as it makes writing make sense. While that is clearly very important, you can't hold to every nuance of grammar as a hard and fast rule because people don't think, speak or even necessarily read that way. After all, we all use prepositions at the beginning of sentences, do we not? If you take grammar as set in stone, you can't do that. And that's just for starters.

    I think publishers have every right to expect a submission to demonstrate awareness of sentence and phrase construction. They have no right to expect utterly error free work or use that as an excuse to reject submissions.

    I always remember an English teacher of mine reminding us always to use grammar as guidelines, not rules and quoting us this line...

    'Bad grammar? That is something up with which I will not put.'

  4. #49
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    I agree completely, NOM. Error free is a lot to ask. What could possibly be in the mind of the editor of Stone Dragon? He even jokes about the fact that he is 'anal' in the FAQ section. I can only assume that he is not really looking for many authors to publish these days, and perhaps he thinks that his stringent requirements (to be polite) will limit the number of submissions he receives. I am certain that they will!!

    We all strive to write as well as we are able to. Correct grammar and punctuation is essential at some point. But does it make sense for an editor to expect it at the submission point? I suppose that there are so many manuscripts being submitted that all the publishers are looking for practical standards in order to justify discarding the majority of them. The life of the author gets more and more difficult, as if it were not difficult enough already!

  5. #50
    mistress of pigeons Ladijen's Avatar
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    These quotes are interesting, because I was going to ask about prepositions at the end of sentences.

    'Bad grammar? That is something up with which I will not put.'


    "We all strive to write as well as we are able to."

    I know that one is not supposed to end with a prepostition, but the rules seem to be much more relaxed than they once were. Except in dialog, I try to be careful about this, but I have seen sentences ending in 'of' 'for' and 'to' in several published novels. I'm just curious about what anyone else might think...

  6. #51
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Sometimes sentences just sound better if the rules are bent just a little. Sentences seem to have an internal symmetry, and I often end them with prepositions in order to maintain what feels to me to be the right balance. I could be wrong, but 'poetic license' does extend to prose in some cases I hope.

  7. #52
    Guardian of sffworld Moderator James Barclay's Avatar
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    I obviously used that sentence to point out a particular absurdity in grammar and I think you are right to be careful (except as you so rightly say, in dialogue where all the rules can and should go right out of the window because people, by and large, do not speak pure grammar).

    The rule of thumb I use is, does it sound right when you read it back in your head or out loud. Or does applying the rule actually make the sentence clunky and difficult to read? Not a perfect yardstick, I admit but the first person that has to be happy with your writing is you and not the guy who wrote the rules of grammar...

    By the way, GQ, I hope so too!

  8. #53
    Closet Romantic Forrest's Avatar
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    I just finished reading a book called "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman. Lukeman works for a publishing company, and he reviews many of the manuscripts that end up on the "slush pile". The book discusses what editors will use an excuse to discard a manuscript within the first five pages. It is an excellent book. The topics range from grammer, to style, to narrative voice, to word choice. I highly recommend it for anyone for whom trying to get published is something up with which they are willing to put.

  9. #54
    Witch of the Woods Miriamele's Avatar
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    Of course proper grammar is always important, but I think that perfect grammar is less important, and sometimes is actually a hindrance, in a work of fiction. Especially in dialogue--making all your characters speak like university professors will have a ridiculous effect. Fiction should flow naturally, and should sound like a story being told, not like somebody's thesis.

    Don't get me wrong, blatantly wrong grammar and incorrect spelling I can't stand, I just feel that the rules should be relaxed when it comes to fiction. Perfect grammar should be reserved for essays and such.

  10. #55
    Senior Member Pirate Jenn's Avatar
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    The Valdez'/Valdez's question prompted me to look up possessive apostrophes in Strunk and White. My copy, published in 1979 (so, granted, the rules have possibly changed), states that --'s is proper usage in all cases (Charles or Jane) unless the noun is an Ancient Proper name (Isis', Jesus', Moses', etc). Hmm. Not what I remember being taught.

    Could someone with an updated Strunk and White double check that for me?

  11. #56
    Witch of the Woods Miriamele's Avatar
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    Mine says the same thing, Jenn--I don't think the book has been updated since 1979, because I just got this one 3 or 4 years ago and it says "copyright 1979" in the front.

    But it says "Moses' Law" and "Isis' Temple" are commonly replaced with "the Law of Moses" and "the Temple of Isis."

    I wonder who made the distinction between ancient names and modern ones? It seems weird to me.

    I'm also not sure why it says another exeption are forms like "for conscience' sake" or "for righteousness' sake." I don't know why you wouldn't put an s there. Go figure.

    Everything else in the book makes sense to me though.

  12. #57
    Kiss my axe! kahnovitch's Avatar
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    I think grammar can sometimes be a synonym for pedantics.
    Many times whilst/ while (there's another one) writing using Word, I find that nasty little green line underlining my work, sometimes even as I'm typing it.
    It can really bug me. It's like having a know-it-all grammar expert looking over your shoulder, nagging you constantly.
    (It red-lined me for pedantics BTW, talk about irony!)
    I agree with a lot of the arguements from Miriamele on the lines that grammar isn't that fundamental for fiction or character dialogue as it bears little resemblance to language in the real world.
    Colloquial terminology especially, breaks all sorts of rules, but it's the way we speak, so it's legitimate language.
    Perhaps Stone Dragon Press can't afford too many proof reader and are merely being pratical (interesting Freudian slip there), but if a great piece of work passes them by and ends up elsewhere...
    the way the cookie crumbles, that is.
    Last edited by kahnovitch; September 10th, 2002 at 11:39 PM.

  13. #58
    Senior Member Pirate Jenn's Avatar
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    Originally posted by kahnovitch
    Colloquial terminology especially, breaks all sorts of rules, but it's the way we speak, so it's legitimate language.
    Amen to that!
    In my linguistic class we talked lots about language and what happens to it when people aren't willing to allow it to change. Language will die.

    Miriamele: I just looked up the 's dealy-who in my Little Brown Handbook (every da*n thing you ever wanted to know about formatting and a helluvalot more ). They say the same thing: to use 's even following James, charles, etc.

    They expanded the explanation re exceptions: names with more than one s/z sound within them (explaining the Isis', Moses', and Jesus' examples). Also, the s is dropped after names followed by a word beginning in 's'.

    Makes more sense, I think, than Strunk & White made of it.

  14. #59
    Guardian of sffworld Moderator James Barclay's Avatar
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    First thing I ever do when I upgrade word is turn off the grammar checker... you can hardly read your own words for green squiggles. I've been tempted to turn off the spelling checker too but instead I now just add heaps of character names, places etc to the dictionary. That does the trick just as well.

  15. #60
    I'm curious now. What is considered the definitive source to consult for English usage amongst writers and editors? My fairly old source on that matter regarding apostrophes IIRC says that an apostrophe with an "s" can be used for proper names with one or two syllables but proper names with three or more syllables should go without the "s".

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