Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Grammar.... The word writers fear.

How is everyone today?

You're a writer, and you've just finished writing your book. It feels good doesn't it? You've probably read the book a thousand times cover to cover. You're convinced it's great, there's nothing to add, and nothing left to change. Wait though; how good is your grammar?

The first time I was asked that question I was taken aback. Hang on! Is someone questioning me? I'm an author, and I've written a great book. How dare they, but maybe I will look it over one more time just to be sure. Now that I read it again I'm not so sure those commas are all in the correct places. When do I use a semi colon instead of a comma? What's a hyphen? Oh my god do I even know how to use a full stop!! Ok the last one is a little dramatic, but you get the idea.

I wrote The Viking's Apprentice, and I was completely happy with it until I gave it to an editor to have a look at. I expected it back with a few corrections and suggestions. What I got back was the same story covered in red marks and suggestions for improving my grammar. Again. How very dare they!! Then I read it with their changes and without their changes. You'll never guess what; they were right. I was so caught up in the story I hadn't paid enough attention to the grammar.

I decided to take myself to grammar school. There are a lot of aides and websites out there that promise to check your work in an automated fashion. Do you trust those? I don't, and my reasons are simple. Isn't that what Word is supposed to do? Also an automated programme is only as good as the programmer who makes it. What if they don't know their stuff then how does the software they push out? 'Garbage in = Garbage out!' as my computer teacher used to say.

I went old school. I took the time to learn how to do it for myself.

I have visited 100's of sites and a lot of them just want to sell you something that will apparently make your life easier. What will actually make your life easier (as I have found out) is sitting down and reading. Learn how to use grammar correctly. Practice it daily, and become more confident in yourself. You won't get every line of your book right, but you will know that it is a lot closer than my first attempt.

Here are some of the links that helped me most.

Summary of commas

Semi colons

Comparing colons and semi colons

The Apostrophe

The Hyphen

All of these links will hopefully help you write a story which is structured correctly, which will add to the overall appeal to the reader. Also when you click on these links if you scroll around you will find links to more grammar help.

Oh, now here's something I'm going to admit. Should I.... OK I will. My second book The Master's Revenge which is book 2 in the Viking series was on it's final read through when I was asked this question. Is that the correct use of 'past'? What do you mean? I answered; suddenly doubting myself. Well, do you walk past something or do you walk passed something? There it was, I was stuck, suddenly completely useless in the world of English, a language I have spoken since I was about 2! 36 years later I am wondering if I have ever used the words past and passed correctly. I put on my learning head and went to the web for answers. I found a great site that helped me answer this question and some others.

Grammar monster past v passed

Just so we are clear, I am in no way affiliated with any websites, and I receive no money for offering up links. I just want to help you find the best sites out there quickly and easily to aid your writing.

Please don't waste your hard earned money buying up grammar checkers. Get the knowledge from the links I have suggested or others like them. Take the time to make your story even better.

I hope this has helped some of you. If you would like to contact me to talk about this post or anything else then here is how to do it.

kevinmcleodauthor@gmail.com or twitter @bannon1975 or www.kevinmcleodauthor.com or even my facebook fan page

Currently I am happy to say that both of my books are in the top 25 in their genre on Amazon.com. The Viking's Apprentice is a previous number 1 best seller in Canada and number 2 in America. If you would like to purchase either book or find out more about them please click on these links.

The Viking's Apprentice

The Viking's Apprentice II: The Master's Revenge


  1. I know I've recently had my two books to be proof read. Semicolons - I'm never sure about these. Also, I split of hyp[henated wors a lot that were actually a single word. The other thing she noted for me was that I had a lot of raised eyebrows! I blogged on this - http://wp.me/p3ycbY-ah

  2. Ian I think when we write we tend to think how we would react to situations or comments. This can lead to lots of the same action IE 'raised eyebrows', as this is the action we would perform. It's an easy trap to fall into and is another good example of why an editor and proof reader are needed. I have had a few chats with other authors and some readers recently and the subject of writing conversations has come up often. My next blog will be my tips for writing conversations.

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