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Author Topic: What's in a Handbook and Manual?
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Quite often, reading here and elsewhere, I encounter minor diction and syntax glitches. Grammar handbooks like the Little, Brown Handbook, which has twenty-two pages covering diction and many more about syntax, discusses and details assorted word choice glitches, and provides the standard correction symbol ww for wrong word. Though as an editor myself and not a grammarian, I at least follow ww with a question mark on print copy.

For syntax glitches, several correction symbols are standard: awk for awkward sentence construction, pass for ineffective passive voice, ref for error in pronoun reference, run-on for run-on sentence, // for faulty parallelism, ^ for something missing, to name a few of many.

On the one hand, creative writers and English grammar and literature study haters loathe those chicken scratch marks inline and in the margins of writing papers. This I understand and feel the grief of it too. My first freshman college writing papers bled with red ink and all but turned me off to composition writing.

On the other hand, grammar or, more comprehensively, mechanical style is a creative writer's strongest tool, and can be a writer's best partner during revisions, and contemporaneous with creativity. A hunch something's not quite working, in the senses of accessible and appealing to readers, often may be satisfied by resorting to grammar and style manuals for guidance.

log for faulty logic is another handbook correction symbol. Handbooks expend an entire chapter covering composition logic, which is credible, reasonable, and linear causation that persuades readers convincingly. One point of note from my handbook, underplaying a point is more pesuasive than overplaying it, since readers resist persuasion, one reason why opening a performance composition (creative writing composition) with a bold "hook" might not be a best practice. Underplaying develops tension from developing curiosity through artful revelation delays.

Causation glitches are one of the more common logic glitches I encounter: either lack of an initiating cause, effect preceding cause, cause lumped onto cause artlessly delaying expressing effect, effect lumped onto effect artlessly stalling momentum, or no effect whatsoever as a consequence of a cause. Note that a dramatic complication's want or problem wanting satisfaction is causal, perhaps the single most important causation of a dramatic composition.


Do you have and resort to grammar handbooks and style manuals when you write? When you rewrite? When you're stuck? When you have doubts or hunches something's off?

I know there's considerable resistance to grammar and style study, after the tedious and grievious hassles of grammar school about beat you into denial. Do you nonetheless consider trying to further develop your grammar and style skills?

Lastly for now, when a critiquer offers grammar and style guidance on your manuscript, do you balk? Or do you consider or reconsider rewriting? Or do you reject and throw guidance to the wind? Do you defensively argue against grammar and style guidance instead? When an editor offers guidance, do you consider rewriting? When you receive guidance, do you just recast or do you seek further guidance from handbooks and manuals?

None of this above, by the way, no handbook or manual advises otherwise, is intended to quash creativity. The first law of all writing is to facilitate reading appeal, accessibility, ease, and comprehension. Doing otherwise breaks the implicit contract between writer and reader. Reading audiences have grammar and style expectations from writers based upon handbook and manual principles that incorporate the ever-evolving standards of effective communication. Grammar handbooks and style manuals express those expectations and standards.

[ August 30, 2013, 12:15 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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