December 19, 2013

Getting the Grammar Right

Dear M,

I am a little put off. I had been reading a bit of stuff online. Whenever I see something that is classified as 'short story', I am interested. I came across something today. Reading the introduction about the author, I was immediately enthralled. I left the rest of the intro and plunged into the story.

I admit that before I completed reading the first paragraph, I scrolled down to see how long it is, how does it look in its entirety, etc. Stupid things, but I like to get the feel of it before I read it. These facts do not alter my overall judgement, they just help me decide if I should read it now or put it for later.

And in that scroll-down, my eye settled on a couple of sentences of dialog. Then I closed the window and left the area.

Call me a grammar Nazi if you like, but if we are attempting a story in English, we should get the grammar right. At least as close to right as possible. I am not talking about small typos or errors that escape our eye. Trust me, we can make out if the writer knows English or not. And a story written in bad English is not a captivating story-in-English.

We should write in whatever language we are comfortable in. Why are you so adamant that you should write in English? If you are eager to reach a wider audience, get someone to translate it for you.

And this statement does not include general blogs, email communication, comments and a host of other things. We can excuse the mistakes in all of those, and say that it is the idea that counts. Language is after all, intended to communicate. But if you call it a story in English, the language has to be at least above average. There's no escaping it. Otherwise people are going to close it and run away - like I did.


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  1. There are a lot of Indian authors in the market nowadays, and frankly, I notice a lot of grammatical errors in their work. Somehow, people love these authors, and do not notice the flaws (I am the only one who ends up giving them a bad rating on goodreads!) In turn, they call me a snob. I am not a snob, but I would prefer to close that window/book!

  2. Yeah, it is worse when we see it in a book, right? One would wonder what those publishers did in the name of editing.

  3. I am a grammar nazi too.. And bad grammar is such a turn off.. And dats exactly wat I do.. just close the window..