Friday, August 24, 2012

This is why I'm still in school...Grammar and Mechanics

I’ve always thought myself to have a decent literacy when it comes to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. They are very important to me and hold a special place in my heart and mind. But, like everyone else, I am not perfect. Hell, I missed 7 points during that grammar “quiz” we took the other day.

I guess the main issue I have is the semicolon. I’ve never known how to use it, and I’ve never bothered to learn how/when it is appropriate. The semicolon is like the “end” of the game Portal. You think it’s over, but you’re really only half way done. Everything leading up to it IS EASY, METHODICAL, CALCULATED [Pattern: 3+ word list with no commas]. But once I get to a spot I believe a semicolon should go, I instead change the entire structure of the sentence (sometimes even the entire paragraph) to avoid using it completely. I find it sad that at the age of 25 I still don’t know how to properly use this mark of punctuation.

You had said yesterday that the structure surrounding the use of a semicolon looks like this:

"General statement; detailed statement."

Off hand, I don’t have any personal examples from my writing due to my habit of avoiding semicolons like the plague. Honestly, I just really don’t know what I could write as an example sentence other than what I just have. This is exactly why I would thoroughly enjoy learning about the many uses of the semicolon and the contexts in which it is appropriate.

Something else I need to work on is learning and memorizing the different parts of speech. It’s not often I am able to sit down with someone and discuss things like this, so they never have the opportunity to stick in my mind. I can remember noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, and adjective, but the others always find a way to escape my memory. I believe it would be very beneficial to be able to look at a sentence with a student and really explain what’s going on so that they’ll understand writing better.

For example: Jonny is my best friend.

I want to be able to say, “Oh! There’s the noun and the verb! We can substitute ‘Johnny’ for ‘he’ (a pronoun) here since you’ve used his name in the last sentence.” That to me would be great and would help improve my own writing too.

Lastly, I believe that working on sentence structure is a must for me as a writer. I have always been prone to compound and complex sentences. I just love using them, but I do it too often. My sentences end up being very lengthy and drawn out because I always try to cram as much information, or artistic freedom, and possible into each one. Most of my sentences within this blog most likely follow this trend.

Here’s an example of an extremely long and drawn out sentence I wrote during my English 351 class last Spring:

“Ripples blossomed outward from the toes of his boots, disrupting the clear image of his face, turning it into something disfigured and ugly -- barely recognizable in the gleam of sunlight reflecting off of the waves’ crests.”

I realize now, after reading further into that prompt, that I should also work on sentence variation as well. I have an entire paragraph that, although was part of an artistic piece of writing, used one clause sentences throughout. No sentence variation at all. As a writer, I’m not famous enough to get away with that yet. Haha.