Thursday, January 26, 2006

Writing

Not long after I started writing articles for this blog, I began to realize that the simple act of writing is not something that you can learn as easily as reading game rules. In addition, the mere act of publishing makes you more self-conscious of your quality. This is not just posting in some forum; this is your very own online journal--a reflection of yourself.

I started looking with a more critical eye at my spelling, grammar, syntax, and other less tangibles. I started to question things I never would have questioned before. And I had to look up many aspects of writing that I had never worried about in my pre-blog days.

Spelling

It's amazing how easy it is to question the spelling of simple words. Is it weird or wierd? They both look weird to me. Thief? Their? The letters all look wrong in my head. Competent? I hope so. Irreverent? A goal, for sure.

I fall back on spellcheckers and online dictionaries/thesauri...or is it thesauruses?

Quotes

English syntax for quoting and other "bracketing" structures is horrid, especially if you are a logical person. I try to follow proper syntax in my blog, no matter how much it shakes my sensibilities.

Sentences are hierarchies of objects. For example, we have subject and predicate. The subject may be compound, and each part may have modifiers, etc.

If someone says something, the thing they say should be completely self-contained within the sentence. If I said hello, the formal syntax would be:
I said, "Hello."
The quotes are meant to enclose the spoken text into a singular object. Logically, this sentence has no ending punctuation. The period ends the quoted sentence, but not the outer one. Logic demands:
I said, "Hello.".
This looks overdone, but what about the following:
I said, "Hello?"
The question mark ending the sentence is considered proper. But is the entire sentence a question? No. Natural language is a very silly thing--perhaps a good topic for a future non-gaming post.

Rock and a hard place

Despite hating all the illogical rules imposed by language, I am still derailed when I see some of the more common blunders:
your, you're, there, they're
different from, not different than
between two things, among three or more things
one of the pens is
I would have, not I would of
Also, for some reason I am sensitive about the proper hypenation of multi-word adjectives:
my blue-colored pen
my obnoxiously-loud cat
Adverb phrases always give me trouble. If they occur at the beginning of a sentence (like this one!), do you use a comma or not? It's unclear.
Today I played a game.
Before we score, I need to get a drink.
License

At some point, you have to say enough. Adhering to strict rules makes for very dry writing. Flavorful and flowing text--which I have yet to achieve--almost demands that you break the rules.

You have to be clever with...punctuation; you have to sometimes split infinitives; you have to builderize your own words. And it's ok to begin a sentence with a conjuction. And prepositions are ok to end with. You must also know when to break the rules and when not to, so as not to seem so forcefully trying to force the thing.


Of course, for those lucky few excellent writers among us, all of the above comes as naturally as breathing. We are secretly jealous of you.


First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect
Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect
You live you life like a canary in a coalmine
You get so dizzy even walking in a straight line

Canary in a Coalmine
Words and music by Sting

2 Comments:

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Gerald McD said...

Excellent! Beautiful. Examples were perfect!

You are a true writer. English language, grammar, spelling, and punctuation were subjects I did best in when I was in school. One of my degrees is in English. Yet, I find myself constantly thinking about the very same issues you described, including frequent use of a dictionary. My wife is also excellent at English, but we almost always proofread each other's letters before they are mailed -- we prepare almost all our correspondence on the PC, so it is easy to correct before the final printing.

I try very hard to use correct words and syntax, but have decided to be more relaxed in writing for my blogs. I tend to write more as I speak (and as others speak) -- a more conversational format. It seems more personal and friendly, and I'm not being graded on my accuracy.

From what I've seen of your writing, you have nothing to worry about or to apologize for. {Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition, because that's the way I would have said it out loud.}

As Churchill once said, when chided for ending a sentence with a preposition: That is something up with which I will not put. (He knew how to make a point.)

Don't worry about your writing; it looks great. I do agree, however, that good use of language and writing "rules" make a document (or blog) easier to read.

 
At 1:12 AM, Blogger thanida said...

Great post. I have just started built one for myself.
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