PDA

View Full Version : Best Author To Read For Grammar



Serenity Bear
03-03-2015, 01:22 AM
In your opinion who are the best authors to read and study for English Grammar? Who has the best Grammar, is it the classics like Dickens, Conan Doyle, Christie or someone more modern?


My idea is to take one book and study sentence structure etc. I believe a University did something similar with one of Christies works a few years back.

Osulagh
03-03-2015, 01:49 AM
The point of grammar is to enforce a set of guidelines to help the writer and reader communicate better. There is no "better" grammar or "worse" grammar; if it works for the reader, it works. In addition to that: Writing styles vary between writers and certain styles work better for certain readers.

I suggest you find an author you enjoy reading, someone you enjoy reading and feel like they have clear communication with you, and read more of them. It works for you: figure out why.

King Neptune
03-03-2015, 01:56 AM
If you are interested in sentence structure and what is communicated through that, then you might want to get a copy of Styles and Structures by Charles Kay Smith. http://www.amazon.com/Styles-Structures-Alternative-Approaches-College/dp/0393092739/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425333051&sr=1-1&keywords=charles+kay+smith
After you have read that you will be able to better understand the sentence structure of any author.

The question of who might have the best grammar is largely unanswerable for several reasons: grammar keeps changing, and grammatical errors are one of the many techniques one can use to show a character through dialogue. What was regarded as excellent English 150 years ago it not considered such anymore. While E. A. Poe was an excellent writer, some of his writing is almost painful to read nowbecause of his style.

guttersquid
03-03-2015, 03:52 AM
Agree with all of the above, but for a more direct answer to your question: pick up a novel by Dean Koontz. His narrative grammar and syntax are damn near formal.

Neegh
03-03-2015, 04:37 AM
George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946


https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm


George Orwell’s works (full texts)

http://orwell.ru/library/index_en

Coconut
03-03-2015, 05:22 AM
Did you learn English in your teens? Most books are written on a 4th-8th grade reading level, so if you're a native English speaker, the most complicated thing you should ever have to learn is how to use a comma.

I read your verb phrases thread and I've never met a writer who cared about any of that stuff. In fact, I've never met anyone over 18 who cared about that stuff...including tenured English professors.

Just remember:
1) Don't use semicolons
2) Use active verbs - avoid passive verbs, adverbs and infinitives
3) People like short sentences

blacbird
03-03-2015, 06:06 AM
Charles Dickens
Edith Wharton
John Steinbeck
Ernest Hemingway
Willa Cather
Graham Greene
John D. Macdonald
Flannery O'Connor
Ursula LeGuin
Joseph Heller
Bernard Malamud
Robert Silverberg
J.G. Ballard
Gore Vidal
. . .

It could be a much longer list.

caw

Serenity Bear
03-03-2015, 12:16 PM
Thanks for all your wonderful replies. I've noted the books so I can take a look next time in WHSmiths.

Coconut I have many reasons for wanting to do this:

1. To improve my truely awful grammar and spelling so it is acceptable for an Agent and Publisher.
2. To study how others write, not just what they say but how they say it. In the programme about Agatha Christie the conclusion was that she used a method of sentence length etc., that actually put the reader into a semi trance like state which cut short. This in itself would force the reader to get her next book.
3. Lastly I truely believe writing is a craft, just like woodwork or embroidery, and as I'm a perfectionist I want to be one of the best at it. To reach well beyond what I am now, to discover new realms of the art. It's not ok for me just to get to a standard where my novels will be accepted by an Agent/Publisher, but to be known for my standard of writing as well.

cornflake
03-03-2015, 12:36 PM
Did you learn English in your teens? Most books are written on a 4th-8th grade reading level, so if you're a native English speaker, the most complicated thing you should ever have to learn is how to use a comma.

Where did you get that statistic, please?

People often don't know how to use commas; how to punctuate correctly using most punctuation, including commas; how to recognize errors like misplaced modifiers, common in casual speech; etc. These are things often not taught in schools.

I read your verb phrases thread and I've never met a writer who cared about any of that stuff. In fact, I've never met anyone over 18 who cared about that stuff...including tenured English professors.

Just remember:
1) Don't use semicolons
2) Use active verbs - avoid passive verbs, adverbs and infinitives
3) People like short sentences

You've never met writers who cared about grammar? If you don't recognize a verb, you may not realize when one is missing.

Ok, I'll bite - why shouldn't someone use semicolons?

Why in the world should someone avoid adverbs (as well as passive verbs? and infinitives)?

I'm not touching the third point.

In a general sense, SB, I think reading widely and voraciously is your best best, along with the grammar studying you're doing.

Helix
03-03-2015, 01:26 PM
I read your verb phrases thread and I've never met a writer who cared about any of that stuff. In fact, I've never met anyone over 18 who cared about that stuff...including tenured English professors.

Good heavens. You move in different circles from me.



Just remember:
1) Don't use semicolons
2) Use active verbs - avoid passive verbs, adverbs and infinitives
3) People like short sentences

Or you could use semi-colons, infinitives and so on when they're appropriate, and vary sentence length to avoid staccato or rambling text.

Heroine'sJourney
03-03-2015, 01:37 PM
Well, not James Joyce

Jamesaritchie
03-03-2015, 07:14 PM
3) People like short sentences

This one simply isn't true.

Jamesaritchie
03-03-2015, 07:21 PM
Nearly all published books use excellent grammar, unless they're written in first person, and the character isn't well educated. Even if teh writer isn't an expert on grammar, his editor is.

Different styles do not mean one writer uses better grammar than teh other. That's just wrong. I don't care how many styles writers use, they all use the best grammar possible. Not that there really are all that many styles. Differences in style come mostly from differences in vocabulary, and difference sin cadence, not from difference sin grammar.

Nor does grade level have anything to do with grammar. The average novel is written at seventh grade level, which has no meaning whatsoever except that the average seventh grader can read those words. Grammar is the same as high school, the same as college, etc. Content is also the same as high school, or college, etc.

There is no such thing as "better' or "worse" grammar. There is only good and bad grammar. Reading novels will help tremendously, but you also need to read good grammar and style books. Either you know good grammar, or you aren't likely to go far as a writer.

Jamesaritchie
03-03-2015, 07:28 PM
In fact, I've never met anyone over 18 who cared about that stuff...including tenured English professors.




Then you must have been a hermit your entire life. In thrity-five years as a writer and editor, I've never met any successful writer, any editor, or any English professor, or Journalism professor, or, for that matter, darned near any tenured or otherwise, who didn't care about that "stuff". Not a single one.

Just keep your eyes on this forum, or pretty much any writer's forum, or any writer's blog or website, and you'll meet hundreds who care deeply about that "stuff". Do a simply Google search, and you'll find hundreds of thousands who care deeply about that" stuff".

Someone who doesn't care about that "stuff" also doesn't care about communicating as well as possible, and it shows.

I'd be deeply suspicious about a writer who doesn't care, and wouldn't expect to see his name on the bestseller list anytime soon.

Jamesaritchie
03-03-2015, 07:35 PM
Ok, I'll bite - why shouldn't someone use semicolons?

.

I agree that semicolons in fiction are almost always a bad idea because they almost always mean the writer could have written a much better sentence. Or two better sentences. Semicolons are nearly always an afterthought. The writer starts writing a sentence, gets to a certain point in that sentence, realizes he wants to say more than that sentence can contain, and slaps in a semicolon.

Even in nonfiction, I don't think I've met a writer who plans to use a semicolon before starting the sentence.

Nonfiction aside, semicolons simply don't fit the style of fiction, and I've never found a sentence containing a semicolon that couldn't be rewritten into better sentences.

The problem, I think, isn't really with teh semicolon, it's with writers who don't want to throw away a sentence and start over from scratch. It's easier to stick in a semicolon.

I also hate semicolons because at least ninety percent of the ones I see are used improperly, but this aside, to me, it's about writing the best possible sentences, and semicolons are not the best choice for doing this.

Chase
03-04-2015, 03:16 AM
I also hate semicolons because at least ninety percent of the ones I see are used improperly, but this aside, to me, it's about writing the best possible sentences, and semicolons are not the best choice for doing this.

1. Ninety percent of all percentages are bogus and inflated or deflated (like Patriot footballs) to fool us. :D

2. A high number of commas and other marks of punctuation are used improperly; however, it doesn't mean we should not use any. :Shrug:

3. Good writers learn the correct use of all punctuation, then choose the best to help their readers understand.:yessmiley

WWWalt
03-04-2015, 05:37 AM
Nonfiction aside, semicolons simply don't fit the style of fiction,

"the style of fiction" is a funny phrase, as if there is One Style for all of Fiction. It is true that semicolons simply don't fit some styles of fiction.


and I've never found a sentence containing a semicolon that couldn't be rewritten into better sentences.

Since you hate semicolons, of course you believe any sentence that has one could be improved by rewriting to remove it; that's a tautology based on your distaste.

CAMueller
03-04-2015, 05:49 AM
Do we need to form a fan club for thoughtful and correctly used semicolons?

Serenity Bear
03-04-2015, 08:36 PM
The thing I was told on another forum years ago, is that any work sent to the Agent or Publisher without good Grammar and punctuation would just be binned straight away without a second thought.

guttersquid
03-04-2015, 09:42 PM
Semicolons are nearly always an afterthought. The writer starts writing a sentence, gets to a certain point in that sentence, realizes he wants to say more than that sentence can contain, and slaps in a semicolon.

How do you know that, James? Are you psychic? Are you somehow privy to writers' thoughts while they're writing? Or do you simply believe most writers are too lazy to revise their sentences, and their use of semicolons is proof of that?

And so what if the use of a semicolon is an afterthought? Aren't all revisions afterthoughts?

Even in nonfiction, I don't think I've met a writer who plans to use a semicolon before starting the sentence.

So what? Except for periods, question marks, and quotation marks, I never plan my punctuation before starting a sentence. How can I know in advance what punctuation I will need before I've written the sentence?"

Nonfiction aside, semicolons simply don't fit the style of fiction [yet there they are], and I've never found a sentence containing a semicolon that couldn't be rewritten into better sentences. Because you're the best writer in the world, far superior to the countless accomplished writers who use semicolons?

The problem, I think, isn't really with teh semicolon, it's with writers who don't want to throw away a sentence and start over from scratch. It's easier to stick in a semicolon. But how do you know who those writers are?

I also hate semicolons because at least ninety percent of the ones I see are used improperly, but this aside, to me, it's about writing the best possible sentences, and semicolons are not the best choice for doing this. This is your opinion, and many writers would disagree.

About the only thing I agree with in your post is that many semicolons are used improperly, but if that is the logic you use for hating semicolons, you should hate commas even more.

King Neptune
03-04-2015, 10:05 PM
Do we need to form a fan club for thoughtful and correctly used semicolons?

That might be a good idea. Semicolons are extremely useful. The written English language would be easier to understand, if people used semicolons in appropriate places.

evilrooster
03-04-2015, 11:19 PM
As it happens, I was quoting a passage from The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin elseweb today. If you're not familiar with it, it's a book that won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards and is generally considered one of the finest works of science fiction ever. Even outside of the genre, it's regarded as a major work of the twentieth century. Le Guin is a brilliant stylist, with a real clarity of voice and a sound ear for language. Last year, she was awarded the National Book Award's medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Here's the quote.


I never knew a person who reacted so wholly and rapidly to a changed situation as Estraven. I was recovering, and willing to go; he was out of thangen; the instant that was all clear, he was off. He was never rash or hurried, but he was always ready. It was the secret, no doubt, of the extraordinary political career he threw away for my sake; it was also the explanation of his belief in me and devotion to my mission. When I came, he was ready. Nobody else on Winter was.

Yet he considered himself a slow man, poor in emergencies.

Once he told me that, being so slow-thinking, he had to guide his acts by a general intuition of which way his "luck" was running, and that this intuition rarely failed him. He said it seriously; it may have been true. The Foretellers of the Fastnesses are not the only people on Winter who can see ahead. They have tamed and trained the hunch, but not increased its certainty. In this matter the Yomeshta also have a point: the gift is perhaps not strictly or simply one of foretelling, but is rather the power of seeing (if only for a flash) everything at once: seeing whole.

I make that four semicolons and two colons. Furthermore, the two colons are in the same sentence. If that's writing badly, may I write badly all my days, and do as badly from it as Le Guin.

guttersquid
03-04-2015, 11:57 PM
Semicolons are like ly adverbs, in the sense that you can spend half an hour writing and revising a sentence, deciding whether or not to use one, only to have someone later call it lazy writing.

blacbird
03-05-2015, 01:59 AM
No one will have any difficulty finding semicolons used, properly, by all kinds of very fine writers, in any genre, fiction or nonfiction.

caw

mccardey
03-05-2015, 02:24 AM
I don't think I've met a writer who plans to use a semicolon before starting the sentence.

Nice to meet you, James. :Sun:

King Neptune
03-05-2015, 03:23 AM
As it happens, I was quoting a passage from The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin elseweb today. If you're not familiar with it, it's a book that won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards and is generally considered one of the finest works of science fiction ever. Even outside of the genre, it's regarded as a major work of the twentieth century. Le Guin is a brilliant stylist, with a real clarity of voice and a sound ear for language. Last year, she was awarded the National Book Award's medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Here's the quote.



I make that four semicolons and two colons. Furthermore, the two colons are in the same sentence. If that's writing badly, may I write badly all my days, and do as badly from it as Le Guin.

Yes, I would also like to write that badly, but I already do. I was especially impressed with the colons; the semicolon use is rather ordinary.

The sentence structure that one uses reflects the kind of thinking that one engages in. I would finish that, if it weren't so uncomplimentary to some people. Read Styles and Structures by Charles Kay Smith for the rest of that and more.

Chase
03-05-2015, 11:12 PM
Le Guin

When Queen Ursula holds court at Powell's Bookstore in her adopted hometown of Portland, we peasants fight for standing room only.

Love the regale lady, her wonderful books, and her spot-on semicolons.

Dracomada
03-25-2015, 09:37 PM
I love semicolons; however, they do have a time and place.

In all honesty, I often find the short sentences of contemporary writing to be boring. I like complicated ideas that fit together and think that semicolons can be used well when expressing such ideas. This opinion might be because my education is in math and economics; there is a lot of semicolon usage in those fields. ;)

Drachen Jager
03-25-2015, 10:45 PM
E.B. White

InspectorFarquar
04-09-2015, 08:09 PM
As it happens, I was quoting a passage from The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin elseweb today ...

Here's the quote.


I make that four semicolons and two colons. Furthermore, the two colons are in the same sentence. If that's writing badly, may I write badly all my days, and do as badly from it as Le Guin.

I don't consider that passage quite the trump card. At all. A couple more dry paragraphs like that and this reader is gone.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the author herself would re-write the quoted text. Here's an excerpt from a Paris review interview (http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6253/the-art-of-fiction-no-221-ursula-k-le-guin):

INTERVIEWER

If there’s one clear development that I can detect in your work, it’s a shift toward economy.

LE GUIN

Well, I’ve had a very long career. What I’m aware of is that I’ve eased up on the formality of the prose. I like using a more colloquial voice to write in these days.

INTERVIEWER

Why do you think that is?

LE GUIN

In the sixties and seventies, the language of serious fantasy was still based largely on the styles of writers of earlier generations—Tolkien, of course, but also Dunsany, Eddison, MacDonald, clear back to Malory. As I began to depart from the heroic or adventure tradition of fantasy, I found a less formal vocabulary and a cadence better suited to what I had to say.

As for my writing voice in general, well, you get old and your language gets like your shoes or your kitchen gear—you don’t need fancy stuff any more. You’ve learned how to just say it. Rereading some of my earlier novels, I often think to myself, I didn’t need all that stuff—I didn’t have to say that much. I could cut that whole bit. Cut!

I want the story to have a rhythm that keeps moving forward. Because that’s the whole point of telling a story. You’re on a journey—you’re going from here to there. It’s got to move. Even if the rhythm is very complicated and subtle, that’s what’s going to carry the reader. This all sounds a little mystical, I suppose.

apchelopech
04-17-2015, 09:53 AM
Even in nonfiction, I don't think I've met a writer who plans to use a semicolon before starting the sentence.



;As far as I know, I'm the only person in the world who uses a semi-colon before starting a sentence. ;I've done it all my life. ;It just feels, I don't know, right to me.