Saturday, March 28, 2009

Drowning and suffocating in grammar

As many of my regular readership will know, (that's a nod to you, mum) I am completing an MA in contemporary British history. The feedback I've received from my tutors has been most instructive: I have to improve on my grammar. It's a long, slow process. I have spent the entire afternoon devouring the latest books on the topic from Chapel Allerton library; to be honest I am not sure it has helped. I will cut a long story short: I am ok on sentences I think (they recommend short ones); I'm fast learning when to use a semi-colon (I plan to use it more, as a long comma); if I use a sentence, such as mum saying this morning, "I will look at your transcript later, darling" it is in the same paragraph. Longer, quoted paragraphs are indented - without speechmarks. The UK system uses double speechmarks, like so, "blah". In the UK you put the punctuation inside the speechmarks, "Anna said her mother, 'Congratulations!'" There is no need to then put another fullstop in after that. I've tended to overuse capital letters for nouns and under-hyphenate. But I am in very good company. The greatest writers all used to do this. Shakespeare's grammar was appalling. And various other greats. They (the grammar-experts) don't like sentences beginning with "and" and "but". Shame. But I disagree. Lynne Truss has undoubtedly cheered me up. I almost went onto facebook and started commenting on people's grammar where they've cocked up. Tomatoes does not have an apostrophe. But then I realised: I have a life. OK, it's a life transcribing interviews and reading the Guardian where they no longer italicise the names of books and journals. Yet, I do have a life. A pretty good one.

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