Grammar Day 2018

I love grammar.

More precisely, I love grammar, usage, syntax, semantics, and mechanics.

I’m one of those bitchy editors who will point out that “grammar” as used by Average  Robin encompasses all of those things, which is why “grammar quizzes” are usually bullshit. Most of what’s in them isn’t grammar. It’s mechanics or spelling or usage or style. And that last one has a lot of gray areas, so making a generalized quiz about it is fucking cruel. No, it’s NOT wrong if you don’t use a serial comma. Not as clear as it could be, perhaps, but it’s not wrong.

I diagram sentences for fun. (All the kids in school thought I was weird for liking that. Now, most of the adults think so. I don’t give a fuck.)

I read the dictionary. Just because. (Not that it helped me at all at last year’s ACES spelling bee …)

Style isn’t grammar at all. It’s a method of using mechanics to provide a consistent text treatment, so readers will be comfortable and know what to expect from products using that style. By “consistent text treatment” I mean, for instance, always italicizing titles of books, and always putting song titles in quotation marks. Within the title, consistent text treatment means always capitalizing the nouns and verbs, the first and last words,  and all adjectives and adverbs, and lowercasing all prepositions no matter how long they are except when they’re used as adjectives or adverbs (which I despise and only do if I have to, which is nearly  never, because I think [for example] “between” in a title looks ridiculous without a capital B).

There’s no “right” or “wrong” to style, really; it can get messy if you don’t pay attention, though, and if you’ve been using, say, Chicago for years and suddenly have to switch to AP, there’ll be a learning curve. And I won’t even get started on APA.

So I’ve spent my Grammar Day post talking mostly about style, by way of (I hope) educating my readers to the difference between those two things (grammar and style). Know that when this editor says grammar, she means grammar.


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