Friday, January 23, 2009

A Novel Way to Learn Grammar

“Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.” -- Stephen King in On Writing.
As a writer, I learn a lot by reading other author’s works. Some of the things these books have to offer are obvious: proper character development, good plot design, effective dialog, and appropriate use of metaphors and similes are a few. But there’s another important aspect of writing that I read novels for -- grammar.

If I’m not sure how to punctuate a piece of dialog, I grab a novel off the shelf and read a few examples. The same goes for long sentences containing a number of subordinate clauses. And Mr. King is correct. Poorly written books have a lot to offer, too. I read a self-published volume of short stories recently. The errors in grammar and story design jumped off the page and smacked me in the face like an MMA champion using me as a sparring dummy.

4 comments:

Loren Christie said...

Hi Jim,
I saw a grammar mistake in Salem Falls,and felt so smart picking it out. I look at novels to check the punctuation on dialogue,(another area of personal struggle). One of the biggest challenges as an English teacher is teaching grammar. Now that I'm home with my children, I tutor once in a while, and have return to my textbooks often. It turns out that I'm a perpetual student.

Loren Christie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Christie said...

Here's a funny story. I just tried to correct my comment and I made another grammar mistake. Okay, I'll try again. There should be a space after the comma in the first sentence, and I "have returned to my textbooks often."
The lesson here is proof-reading can go on forever.

avr said...

I was always bad with grammar and still am. I know this will be an issue for me when I actually write something to get published. I am new to your blog and I really like the combination of quotes and your comments on them. I love quotes because they make you think. I got your blog information from a posting on Juiced On Writing, another blog that I follow.