Another debate on grammar is raging on the Screenwriters’ Bulletin of Shooting People. It’s funny, but it seems nothing like the machinations of the English Language get us writers talking more: there have been so many interesting, controversial and bizarre questions regarding actual screenwriting posed on that list, yet the average poster is lucky if they get two replies… Unless they post about grammar. Then the floodgates open: insults, accusations and assertions fly with abandon. It’s extraordinary.
Regular Readers know that I’m a bit of a Grammarian. I think when you send your work out it should be the best it can be – and that includes proofing for such things as mixed tense, apostrophe misuse, blah-blah-blah. However, am I hung up on grammar? Absolutely not. I’m very glad the average writer does not know that much about grammar; I’d be out of a job if they did (I imagine approximately 80% of my reports reccommends grammar and spelling checks!) but also, get too hung up on grammar and creativity can be affected, as Adrian Mead’s very personal story about his friend’s son and the football story illustrated on the list last week. For those of you who missed it, Adrian described a friend’s child whom he persuaded to write a story about football, only for the child’s mother to deflate his effort when, instead of praising his effort (this was a child who never usually wrote creatively), told him immediately, “You don’t spell this word like that…” Argh.
Early drafts are always littered with spelling mistakes, grammar errors and bizarre typos. Mine are. Lianne, Scott The Reader, Danny Stack and Fun Joel have all seen them too, as I’ve sent my work to them for coverage (and very good they are too, check ’em out). Should I be embarrassed, then? I don’t think so. A good Reader knows, when accepting a private client, that that work will have errors. That’s the whole point of them sending it to you. They want a “trial run” if you like before they send it off to The People Who Can Get The Work Made. Us Private Readers can’t get your work made. We can only help you. Which we will, without judgement.
So is grammar important? Of course it is, but in context. It’s important on your script when you send it to an industry bigwig. Is it important on a list for Screenwriters? Now, we can make all kinds of assertions, like Writers who can’t use grammar properly AT EVERY MOMENT OF THE DAY are not REAL WRITERS, etc etc but does it really matter? And who is correct every second of the day? This blog is littered full of mistakes I’d imagine, maybe even this post, but I expect to see what it’s my head, not always what actually turns up on the page. Because of this, I get my scripts read first before I send them out – but it’s just not viable to get my blog posts checked too! ; )
Anyway, there’s my two pence worth. I’ve discovered how to make web polls (I know! I’m getting into this internet-lark – at last!), so you can leave your thoughts by clicking my sexy new grammar poll or kicking my ass in the comments section.