I would be hugely remiss not to notice or showcase the awesome A-to-Z NaNo series that my agency, Red Sofa Literary, is putting on this month. Here is one post that sticks out at me in particular: C is for Copyedit.
It's written by the newest member of Team Sofa, Laura Zats (whose Twitter feed is kind of like a Bridget Jones' Diary take on Trainspotting - highly recommended!)
This is her auspicious opening:
There are entire books written about why your book was rejected by an agent or editor, just as there are entire books about how to ensure that they don’t reject you.Not news, right? There aren't too many dream jobs that will accommodate the do-what-feels-good school of spelling and punctuation, and Future Novelist is an especially unforgiving position. Here's the part that got me thinking, though:
But I didn’t write any of those, so I’m going to tell you one of the main reasons why I reject books: the grammar sucks.
But the above things I mentioned are conventions. They should have been drilled into you in 18+ years of school. NOT using these things says just one thing to me: you don’t quite care enough about your future colleagues’ time to do the work right the first time.This is also not news, but here's what I'm wondering about: what do you do if you missed the boat? Like, what if your school sucked? Or you didn't go to school? Or you did, but you only learned English three years ago - or you did, but that was thirty years ago and your career as an Arctic deep-sea fisherman hasn't kept you fresh on the finer points of prepositional phrases? Basically, what is your recourse if you don't already know how to write good conventional English?
When I first ventured out of my cave two years ago, I assumed that every writer's story was like mine. "What," I said incredulously, "like, didn't you guys just read a million billion books and osmotically engulf the entire standard-English ruleset?"
As it turns out, the answer is often "no"!
And you can still get yourself back up on this wagon, of course. Obviously we don't lose our capacity for learning the second they plop mortarboards on our heads and bid us a fond "don't let the door hit you."
But here's the thing. Writing overwhelmingly requires a real, live human being - traditionally in the form of an English teacher - to read your stuff, correct it, hand it back, and make you do it again. Indeed, the essay is the ONLY part of the SAT (and pretty much any other standardized US exam) that isn't machine-scored, cuz it truly does require the judgment of a fellow carbon-based life-form to evaluate its merit. And while I know that we have these things called 'critique partners' and 'beta readers' for a reason, I am perpetually surprised and dismayed by the number of writers I meet who think they can't learn this stuff - who feel that they are hopelessly ignorant, and expect that they will always have to pay freelance editors to clean up everything they ever produce, because they are not one of the Beautiful People Who Already Know This Shit.
I would absolutely love to blow that myth to pieces, and use said pieces to fertilize the budding self-esteem of aspiring writers everywhere. But while I'm okay with not speaking from experience, I don't want to be speaking from my hindparts either.
So this is my long, roundabout way of asking all you guys: for those of you who didn't acquire this knowledge in your larval stage, how did you master English grammar as an adult?
In this sentence, your victory against the bear does not need to be connected to the plague rat, so a period is used.