Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Monday, 10 August 2009

And, But, and a lot more in between

What is your take on using 'and' and 'but' to begin sentences? Generally, I find, people are completely divided on this. There are those who regularly do it with out a care, but there are also those who take a sharp intake of breath and shake their heads when they see it. The reason I am asking is because as I was browsing in my favourite book shop yesterday, I came across a second hand copy of Eats, shoots and leaves by Lynne Truss. I know the book was published in 2003 but I hadn't yet got round to reading it, until last night.

I love books like this that get down to the bare bones of writing and grammar and I'd heard this book was good - it is. What is apparent, however, is just how divided people are on the issues surrounding grammar. People have argued for hundreds of years on what constititutes good grammar and are yet to agree. It's no wonder that most of us are confused! There are some really funny examples of grammatical clangers that completely change the meaning of the sentence in the book, and it had certainly made me think about the importance of getting to grips with grammar in my own writing.

My grammar isn't great but it's a lot better than it used to be. The trouble is that different editors have different standards and ideas on the proper use of grammar. Some will allow sentences that begin with 'and' and 'but' whilst others take you to task over it, as I have found, to my cost, recently.

But what is a writer to do?! How can we be expected to write grammatically correct pieces of work if the experts and editors can't agree on what is grammatically correct in the first place. It's enough to give one a headache. I suppose the only thing to do is read the magazines you want to write for and see how they use grammar and follow the house style - it's still migraine inducing, though.
Julie ( a self confessed gramma book collector/freak) xx
PS. How do I post photos on the blog so that they all don't appear at the top of the post and that I can spread them about the post with wild abandon and add captions to them? It's been bugging me for weeks!


Teresa Ashby said...

I used to think my grammar was pretty good - but I'm not so sure now! I get so hung up over things not looking right sometimes that I delete sentences and rewrite them in a different way!

To put pics in the middle of your blog : when you compose your message you'll see a little box up next to "compose" that says "Edit html". If put your picture in "compose" then go to "Edit html" you'll see the code for the picture at the top of your text - highlight it then cut and paste it where you want it in the text! I find it easiest if you just do one at a time.

I'm not very good at explaining things - I'm sure someone out there could do it better!

Julie P said...

Thanks, Teresa. I knew someone would know how to position the photos! I'll give it a go later.

I rewrite sentences if the grammar looks wrong too - otherwise I go into a blind panic trying to find out the right way to write it!!

Julie xx

Olivia Ryan said...

I really enjoyed 'Eats Shoots & Leaves', Julie. Like Teresa, I used to think my grammar was pretty good. But then I started to write novels with a lot of modern dialogue, and of course, grammar goes out of the window then because the important thing is making it sound realistic and contemporary - very few people speak grammatically, and in fact when they do, it often sounds stilted and awful!

With regard to starting sentences with And or But - I must admit I do it, because the other point to bear in mind is the tone of the story or article you're writing. As with dialogue - if it's fairly light and colloquial, it often 'feels' right to express things in ways that aren't strictly grammatical.

So I'd say - know the rules (well, as many as you can!)but also know when to ignore or bend them! As you say, people have always argued over points of grammar - and language will continue to evolve no matter how many rules are drawn up.

Julie P said...

Thanks, Olivia - you're right. You have to be able to adapt the rules of grammar to fit the type of writing you do, don't you - otherwise all our characters will sound like they come out of a 1940s film!

It is frustrating, though, when you are trying to follow the rules of grammar but they keep changing!

Julie xx

Carole Anne Carr said...

I have an excuse, Julie, I'm writing children's books and there's a tradition I can safely follow...:) but I wouldn't do this when writing for grown-ups. Carole xx

A Write Blog said...

I often use 'And' and even 'But' to start a sentence. I think I do it out of awkwardness.

If something reads nicely and you are aware of the story rather than the words then the writer has got it right.

Irrespective of the grammar.