The Grammar Gestapo

I live with the grammar Gestapo. It’s my husband. I alternately admire and hate his grammar skills and word crafting. I admire his gift as a word smith and his grasp of the English language with all the complex rules that govern it. I hate it when it is directed at me and my writing because it illuminates my lack.

I have no good excuse for my abysmal grammar skills. They are the result of a mediocre public education and a lackadaisical college career. However, I fear the more people are like me than my husband, which means that word crafting is becoming an ancient skill.

I am in the process of reading Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer to my daughter. What a word smith he was! It is not surprising that this book has survived and thrived for so many years even though it has many politically incorrect sentiments. Few authors today have the grasp of the English language that Twain had.

I shudder to think of what texting is doing to the younger generations’ ability with the English language. Teachers and employers have begun to complain that many in the younger generation are beginning to use text spelling for everyday use; such as you becoming u in school papers and letters. One can even find books written in text. Last year, a novel was published in Finland where the entire narrative consisted of mobile phone text messages (see http://www.usatoday.com/news/offbeat/2007-01-24-textmessagenovel_x.htm).

If we write for God, then we should work at our writing with all our hearts as though writing directly for Him and not for man (Colossians 3:23). This includes our prose.

I am not saying that books that don’t measure up to the word genius of Mark Twain’s works won’t have an impact for the Kingdom of God. What I am saying is that nothing trips up a great message faster than a poor delivery. If we constantly try to improve our word crafting our books will have a greater influence for the Kingdom and touch more lives. Yes, God can take any book and use it for His purposes, but I believe the he wants us to put our whole hearts and minds into the things that he calls us to do. This includes crafting prose that shines reaching deep into the hearts of our readers.

I keep telling myself that I am going to read a good grammar book to improve my grammar skills. The two books on my list are Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss and Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Connor. Hopefully, I will accomplish this goal this year so that my writing can begin to really shine for God.

What resources have you found helpful for improving your grammar and writing skills?

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