Dear Indie Annie,
I’ve been criticized by teachers and even friends and family for my poor grammar. I know it’s bad, but does that mean I should give up writing anything at all?
Grammarless in Gravelotte
Let’s start by changing your name, my sweet child. How about … Grammarfree?
Think of grammar as you would the rules of the road, or as my friends in the UK would say, the Highway Code. These rules or codes provide guidelines that navigate road users safely to their destinations. Rules differ from state to state and country to country, as do the potential penalties for ignoring them. Throughout history, they have changed and adapted to new technology.
At one time, a man with a red flag had to walk in front of an automobile to warn other road users of its approach—not a sight we see very often today.
That said, some believe these codes of behavior are hard and fast rules and it is a criminal act of extreme negligence to break them. However, we all know of parts of the world where there appear to be no rules of the road, and, for the most part, drivers, passengers, and pedestrians get to where they are going safely.
Does that mean that one should drive recklessly through town without paying attention to our neighbors? No, of course, it doesn’t, my dear.
It does mean, though, that you should think again about what it means to be a writer.
Are you a conduit for a series of words funneled through a collection of transitory grammar rules? Or are you a creator of worlds, the teller of tales?
I would argue, dear one, that you are the latter and that is what makes you a writer.
I am not saying that grammar is not important. I once rode behind the driver on a purple Harley-Davidson around Marrakech and would have given away my firstborn for some road signs. But what a thrilling ride!
When you write a great story, you take your readers on a journey. Many will argue that if the story pulls them in enough, they will ignore the small grammatical bumps in the road. It is the story that counts. You are a storyteller first and foremost.