The academically minded among us, plus the vast majority of editors still cling desperately to the fervent belief that a book sans correct grammar will inevitably never make it. While that may be true for books of a historical, biographical or academic nature i.e text books, when it comes to fiction the real key is whether or not the writer can actually tell a story, not if he or she adheres to the accepted rules of English.
When your characters speak, by insisting that they do it correctly you will do yourself no favours. In fact these days it almost guarantees that your book will be lucky to sell more than a dozen copies. In essence, the story and the way your characters converse in a mix of correct speech and common parlance is the key, not the use of perfect English as rigidly laid down by close-minded professors within the English departments of universities worldwide, or even the majority of editors come to that.
Not surprisingly, a lot of the comments in favour of correct grammar are contributed by people from countries whose native language is not English. It’s not their fault. They are merely echoing what they were taught by their teachers.
Think about today’s best selling writers. Do they stick rigidly to the rules of grammar? Most don’t. Gone are the days when the likes of Emile Bronte, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe et al wrote to entertain the educated elite minority. And yet they are still held up as the ideal in literature.
Why when today’s writers must write for the majority. In fact you must know your target readers better than they know themselves. I write specifically for the US market for two reasons.
1. The greater majority in the US are brought up on soap operas, reality shows and film, not literature.
2. Because they are more switched on than any other people, I also only publish my books in Kindle form (Ebooks)
They are my readers, not my own countrymen (the English) and certainly not academics. They will be yours as well if you are brave enough to break away from the idea of literary rules. As my good friend and fellow Antipodean Derek Haines has stated on numerous occasions – when it comes to writing there are no rules…
Writing this article is one example of using correct English. But if I had written my books in the same way, I would not now be enjoying my regular monthly royalty income from them.
If you feel strongly one way or another about the subject of correct English and grammar, don’t just read this article and tut-tut under your breath. I don’t bite. Be brave. Write your comments below.