A friend of mine once told me, “fuck grammar”. My friend, also happens to be a published author. It’s obvious from reading his book that he completely believes his statement. When I say published author, he didn’t self-publish. He got himself an agent and got published. That feels odd to say out loud.
I say that to say that grammar is the hardest part of writing for me. I have heard, and I feel that it is a critical point of writing anything. I was never an English major. I never received any formal training on grammar in high school or middle school or elementary school. In fact, I literally missed that year, as I understand it. When I went to school in the public education system of Hawaii, which I attended for third, fourth and fifth grade, I was told that we would begin to learn grammar in earnest in sixth grade. When I moved to the public education system of New Jersey, just in time for my sixth grade year, I was told (disclaimer: if I remember correctly) that we should have already learned the basic tenets of grammar before arriving in middle school. Whoops…
Basically, I have no confidence in my basic grammar. That isn’t to say that I don’t recognize a “semi-colon” or a “comma”. However, my use of grammar is almost entirely contextual and instinctual. Clues that I have picked up from reading voraciously. For the most part I can recognize poor grammar. When it is of a sub-par nature, it clearly has a negative impact on the story being told.
Thus, my concern. If I lack a deep and fundamental understanding of grammar on an active level, then I am actively hurting my storytelling. What I need is something that I don’t feel my friends can give me on any helpful level in a manner in which it is fair to ask of them. That is, while some of them may possess the ability to help me edit my work, because they are unpaid and volunteering their services, it is a burden I would never ask of them.
The only real way I have to identify whether or not my grammar is solid is my own sense of pacing when I read my work. If I feel that the flow comes across when wanted to, then I’m confident that I’ve got the grammar right, probably. However, because grammar is so imprecisely used when speaking out loud, what it sounds like when spoken may in fact not be grammatically correct. And that is a gigantic concern for me.
I need a copy editor. But I also need someone I have a good working relationship with and whom I trust. I once tried to use the Writer’s Digest editor service and did not receive any productive help with the grammar. So guess I’m never using them again. If I’m going to spend the money (invest the money really) I would like to trust the content in the comments that I receive.
Right now that’s impossible. Right now it’s also something I desperately need because I think I’m at the point where I’m looking at my manuscript and I can rearrange the words all I want but I can’t make them any better grammatically.