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Editor's Notes #58, Who Writes Those Grammar Rules, Anyway?
September 18, 2008
Hello,

"A writer is a person who cares what words mean,
what they say, how they say it.
Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom,
and so they use them with care, with thought,
with fear, with delight."

-- Urusla K. LeGuin


In this issue:

1. Grammar Rules
2. Tickled My Funnybone
3. I've Told You A Million Times

1. Grammar Rules
North American is awash in elections as both Canada and the United States prepare to choose a new government that will set the laws of the land. Do you ever wish you could elect someone to write grammar rules that suit your preferences?

Grammar rules are more like scientific laws than social legislation. But they are not exactly like scientific laws.

Scientists discover the way the world works and then codify what they have discovered. Grammarians discover the way a language functions and then codify what they have discovered and call the code grammar rules.

One difference is that language changes more often than things like gravity or how bees reproduce, and that leads to grammar rules that lean a little to the social legislation side of rule making.

Another difference is that since language is a social invention, people can break the rules. You can ignore the law of gravity, but you can't break it. We are forced to work within the constraints of the natural world.

Even when we change things up by heating our houses instead of growing furry coats, we have to work within laws much bigger than we are. But if we take it upon ourselves to stop using whom, for example, we may be part of a movement that truly changes the grammar of our language.

In the process of language growth and our developing knowledge about our language, debates arise. I have written about some of my own pet peeves, grammar rules that are often broken to what I consider the detriment of good communication.

http://www.writershelper.com/writers-style-guide.html

Recently a friend sent me the link below with a much longer list compiled by the general public. One thing I like about this list is that it points out the errors of a few of the submissions. Sometimes we forget that we could be wrong about our pet peeves.

Note that this is an online news item, so it is likely to disappear. I have no control over that, so if you want to know which grammar rules annoy the public, check this out soon.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7595509.stm

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2. Tickled My Funnybone
Here's another headline that could have been worded better. Do you think this one would apply to writers?

“Miners Refuse to Work After Death”

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3. I've Told You A Million Times
One of the first figures of speech we learn to use is the hyperbole. A hyperbole is an exaggeration used to emphasize a point or to make a strong statement. Notice that little word hyper in hyperbole?

My personal preference is to use hyperbole with a touch of humor that serves to point out a falsehood to disarm an opponent. Get them laughing at an exaggeration (or pretty much anything else), and the lowered defenses allow you to make your point more easily.

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