As writers, we have the license to take liberties in our writing. When we’re writing dialogue, no one expects us to write in perfectly formed sentences. People don’t always speak in perfectly formed sentences. We speak in sentence fragments. Style often dictates that sentence fragments also be used in narrative. But there are grammar rules that should never be broken.
If you want to be a writer, you need a firm grasp of the English language. You may ask why this is important. Won’t the editor correct whatever needs correcting? Once upon a time that may have been the case but not any more. Editors don’t have the luxury of time to mollycoddle an author who refuses to learn how to write well, no matter how good a storyteller that author is. There are plenty of other well-written manuscripts sitting in piles on editors’ desks. No editor is interested in a high maintenance author. Submit a manuscript full of grammatical errors to an editor/agent and you’ll receive a swift rejection.
As I said above, thanks to Peggy Riley Hughes, I know grammar. However, thanks to Peggy Riley Hughes, when I read books where grammar rules are ignored, I’m pulled right out of a story. The grammar error that grates my nerves the most is the one people deliberately make because they think it sounds more intelligent and educated. Because this is such a pervasive error, I often find it on every other page of many books.
Are you ready to learn that error?
My grammar pet peeve is the misuse of pronouns.
A little background on pronouns. There are 3 types:
Nominative: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, and who
Possessive: my, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs, and whose
Objective: me, you, him, her, it, us, them, and whom
Too many people substitute the nominative form for the objective form. The nominative form is used when the pronoun is the subject of a sentence. The objective form is used when the pronoun is the direct object of the sentence or is part of a prepositional phrase.
WRONG: He likes Mary and I.
RIGHT: He likes Mary and me.
WRONG: He gave the papers to Mary and I.
RIGHT: He gave the papers to Mary and me.
You wouldn’t say, He likes I, so why would you say, He likes Mary and I? Nor would you say, He gave the papers to I, so why would you say, He gave the papers to Mary and I?
The use of the nominative in direct objects and prepositional phrases are the worst pronoun rule offenders, but here are a few more pronoun rules to keep in mind:
If a pronoun follows than or as, mentally insert the missing words to determine the correct case.
WRONG: I am as tall as him.
RIGHT: I am as tall as he (is).
WRONG: The coach picks John more often than I.
RIGHT: The coach picks John more often than (he picks) me.
Avoid reflexive pronouns -- pronouns ending in self or selves. Reflexive pronouns are used only when they refer back to the subject: He injured himself.
WRONG: The award was shared by my partner and myself.
RIGHT: The award was shared by my partner and me.
So there you have it. A few simple grammar rules governing pronouns that will make you stand out from the grammar-challenged masses.
Do you have a grammar pet peeve?
Lois Winston is currently hard at work on the third book in her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. The first book, Assault With A Deadly Glue Gun, was a January 2011 release and received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Death by Killer Mop Doll will be a January 2012 release. Visit Lois at http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, http://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.