When you talk to your friends, do you sometimes talk in slang or incorrect grammar? I do. I don’t talk in a lot of slang or incorrect grammar, but I use it when needed or when I am being grammatically lazy.
Here’s another question. If you were to give a public address, would you speak to the audience using slang or incorrect grammar?
No, you wouldn’t, right?
If you said, “Yes, I would use slang when addressing my audience,” I would probably ask you—No, I WOULD ask you, “Is your audience incapable of understanding the Standard English language? Or, are the audience members only your friends and family?”
The point I am getting at is slang is reserved for certain situations. Slang is reserved for when you’re comfortable talking around your friends, homies, siblings, or whomever you use it around. Slang is not okay when giving public addresses because it appears unprofessional. Using incorrect grammar around your friends, homies, siblings and others can be a slippery slope depending on the person you are talking to, but it is usually forgiven.
All right. What does all of this mean? Many of us have broken the rules concerning slang and incorrect grammar in our everyday conversation. However, where we shouldn’t break the rules when it comes to slang and incorrect grammar is in writing. I’ve done it quite a few times. I’m in a groove and my words are just pouring onto the paper or computer screen, and when I reread my work, I find myself asking aloud, “Who wrote this shit?” I’ll have present and past tense combined. I’ll have incomplete sentences or incoherent sentences. I’ll definitely have comma splices, run-on sentences, slang and whatever else shouldn’t be in my narrative writing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Slang and incorrect grammar in narrative is not a faux pas. It can exist in first-person narrative, third-person narrative, third-person subjective, and third-person limited because the character may speak in slang or use incorrect grammar. That may be his or her shtick. However, if your narrative isn’t first-person, third-person, third-person subjective or third-person limited, there shouldn’t be any use of slang or incorrect grammar in your narrative. Seriously, there shouldn’t be any. The only place where slang and incorrect grammar should be used is in dialogue.
Dialogue is a fiction writer’s best friend. At least it is my best friend (oh, how I love to write in script style ;-)). Dialogue allows you, the writer, to use slang words, incorrect grammar and thoughts that you can’t necessarily use in narrative, especially if it isn’t being used in one of the above narratives.
For example, if I wrote this as my narrative, what would you think? Oh! My narrative is third-person omniscient.
He ain’t see nothing. Bobby creeps up the spiraling staircase and cause he didn’t see what was ahead of him he fell and got bumped on the head as he fell over ‘em shoelaces.
Uh … What? Do you understand that sentence? I don’t. So, I know that you don’t! And if you think that that sentence is correct, we have to talk. The narrative above has present and past tense within it. The narrative has poor sentence structure and inconsistencies in it.
Now, suppose I took the above information in that narrative and made it into dialogue between two characters. It would be a bit more understandable.
“What happened to Bobby?” asks Bo.
“Man, he crept up the spiraling staircase and ‘cause he didn’t see what was ahead of him, he fell and got bumped on the head,” says Carrie.
“He probably fell over ‘em shoelaces again,” says Bo.
Doesn’t the wording read better and sound better in dialogue? One can surmise that the characters are comfortable speaking to one another, so correct grammar isn’t an issue between them. The incorrect grammar also keeps the dialogue from being stuffy and more conversational in a loose grammar sort of way.
Okay. Please, don’t think that I am making fun of you because I am not. I’m reading my rough draft of my second novel, and it is a doozy! It really doesn’t read well. Remember, I’m a fellow “reject” just like you.
I am only writing this blog entry to give you some advice if you are one who writes the way you talk because believe it or not, it will hold you up in the long run. Plus, you should want to get a better grasp on sentence structure, punctuation and tense. It’ll make you a better writer, and it will help you be able to edit your own work when you are finished writing your novel. I still suggest that you get a line editor or copyeditor, but if you can do a good bulk of your editing because you have a handle on grammaticism/grammar, you’ll be good. That’s called winning, my friend (thanks, Charlie Sheen).
There ya have it, homies! I’ll talk to ya later!
Blog Entry #4 – How Many Times Should I Revise My Manuscript?