Grammar is as hot a topic as religion or politics. Epic flame wars revolve around the Oxford comma. (It’s optional, get over it.) But we who publish online live in an age of English speakers from many countries and cultures sharing their written words.
The British have some really weird preposition uses. Except it’s not at all weird, just not what I’m used to. I’m going to talk about style and specifics in a series of grammar posts. Because it truly is more like guidelines, anyway. And the only real rule is:
MAKE YOURSELF CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD.
FORWARD(S), BACKWARD(S), INWARD(S), OUTWARD(S)
Generally, the British like to add the “s” and the Americans and Canadians, don’t.
That’s it. There’s no correct way. If you write for AP or The New York Times, they’ll have a style manual for consistency and probably prefer no “s.” I personally don’t use an “s” but also don’t give a crap if you do.
LESSON 1: If you adopt an anal insistence on perfect grammar, failure is inevitable.
Incorporating words and word use, grammar and formatting practices from other English-speaking countries and cultures gives us new ways to give our stories clearly to our readers.
There are various uses of single and double quotes. The end of sentence pile up of quote marks looks like crap. “No one ever said ‘play it again, Sam.'” I adopted the British way, so much better: “No one ever said ‘play it again, Sam’.” Perfect. It’s what you’d do, anyway, if you hadn’t run smack up against a period: “No one ever said ‘play it again, Sam’ in Casablanca, you know.” Why would we stick the single quote outside the sentence? It’s ugly and looks like a mistake.
My grammar guidelines are: know the rules and why they exist and make choices that best serve your work and your reader.
“Drama advances with technology.”
From Drama 101. At first, stories were told around a campfire. You couldn’t move around too much or you’d be outside the light. Or you could go outside the light and make spooky noises. The first stage wings!
Jump forward. Moving pictures. No sound. Talkies. Color. Advances in special effects. Is there a visual we cannot show today?
The cell phone advanced storytelling and interfered with it. If you want to strand a character in a contemporary setting, you must explain away their cell phone.
Evolution is change over time. It’s what happens and should. We have new technology, new freedoms, as well as new restrictions, and we will evolve new forms.
Whatever you do, put the story first along with the reader. Strunk, White and your ego come last.
Mostly – never stop writing. And never let this kind of stuff stop you. Ever.