Sunday, July 30, 2006

Grammar and Usage and Stuff Part I

I've been reading Word Court by Barbara Wallraff. I found the book on my To Be Read shelf, where it has lived, neglected and unread, for years.

Word Court's cover has a "design element" that includes the line "Wherein verbal virtue is rewarded, crimes against the language are punished, and poetic justice is done." So I thought it would be a light, easy way to learn something about grammar and/or usage, which is the only way I'm ever going to learn anything about grammar and/or usage.

Every now and then I buy and try to read books of this type. I have The Transitive Vampire, A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed and The Well-tempered Sentence, A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed both by Karen Elizabeth Gordon. Neither of them did me much good. I have marked them up nicely, but I can't remember why.

I am definitely not one of those word and grammar people who worries about the state of the language and gleefully pounces on errors in newspaper headlines. An error in a newspaper headline has to be really bad before I'll even notice it.

I'm interested in grammar and usage because

1. I believe writing is all about communication. I think an understanding of grammar and language means we can all communicate better, whether we initiate a communication by writing it or we receive a communication by reading it.

2. I don't want to look as if I don't know what I'm doing. I don't want to look like a fool. I don't mean that anyone who makes grammatical errors looks like a fool. But I'm a writer. If I make obvious errors, I'm afraid editors, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, readers, and students in AP English won't take me seriously.

I have it on good authority that the copy editors at Putnam get together and talk about the way I use commas. I've also heard there's been some talk around the water cooler about whether I the use of the subjunctive.

I do, as a matter of fact. I don't use it a lot because I don't think any self-respecting child would use it.

This leads to my subjunctive story. I recalled the subjunctive story recently because I'm reading Word Court, as I mentioned earlier. Because of Word Court, I am dwelling on all kinds of things grammatical and...wordie. I'm talking about such things at the dinner table.

I'm going to be writing about such things here.

You can look forward to reading my subjunctive story in Grammar and Usage and Stuff Part II.

No comments: