Monday, August 12, 2013

Translating from the Rei, pgs.1 to 200


I am editing my manuscript right now. Instead of endless rewrites, I'm reading through it in its entirety and making corrections--spelling, grammar, word choice, deleting repetitive phrases, deleting unnecessary adverbs, passive voice into active voice. Little nitpicky line editing things.

I often feel that my grammar is on shaky ground. As I've ranted about before, my high school English classes were almost exclusively about dissecting literature, always more about the New York State Regents Tedious Torture Exam. One of these days, I'll tell you about the Semester of Infidelity in 11th grade.

We learned verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, punctuation, predicates, and subject in elementary school, but a great deal of English grammar has come to me through osmosis--hearing other people speak, reading others' words.

Which is fine for everyday. Except that it reminds me of a time in 8th grade: I was doing homework. My dad read over my mini-essay and said, "That sentence is backwards."

"Huh?"

"No, honey, this is the way it should go. That clause first, then a comma, then that clause. They don't teach you grammar in English?"

"No."

My teachers and I shared a bizarre New York City dialect, which tends to shorten words and construct sentences backwards. My father grew up in Queens, too, but he's good at linguistics.

My written grammar was a mess. I don't write like that anymore and certainly not in this story. But sometimes--yeah, there are bits and pieces that I came across during the editing of pages 1 to 200 that made me laugh. They may not all be grammatically incorrect. They just struck me as odd. Snarky comments are below in red.

Walking into his bedroom, Miles saw that the housekeeper, who was arranging a bowl, plate and utensils back on a tray, had relieved Pearl. Holy passive voice, Batman!

The first thing he did after washing and dressing was take a sip of black coffee.
Not technically incorrect, but just plain odd to read aloud.

The Avon was a skinny river, narrow, but it was tidal. "Narrow" and "skinny" are pretty much the same here. And why is narrow set apart in the middle of this sentence?

"I suppose he must have desired to return to civilization," Mrs. Brown interjected. This is less New York grammar and more "trying to be 18th century grammar."

There was a monument to a saint there whose nose had been lopped off sometime during the Reformation.
So that saint's actual nose was lopped off? Oh, the statue's nose was knocked off? What?

"Have you read the letter yet?" Juliet, Viscountess Banston, asked her husband, breezing into her boudoir that evening. Who done did the breezing?

"What sort of terms is Mr. Pitt seeking?" Is? Are?

But anything more could not happen. Kind of stumbly with too many words.

Then the drops fell, one, two at a time, then more, until Miles' ears heard the pitter-patter of raindrops through falling through leaves. Typo!

There was a right-of-way from the lane where John lived toward the big house.
Really? Is this Yiddish or English?

Do you ever read over your sentences and wonder if anybody else will ever understand it? Did you learn grammar in school? Off to go study Strunk & White.

Note: apparently Blogger decided to mess with spacing and font size today.


-Rei

8 comments:

  1. I don't see any passive voice in your first example. ;) Past progressive and past perfect, but no passive voice . . .

    Every once in a while I read one of my sentences and say, "That is utterly unreadable." It makes me incredibly nervous because sometimes it's only on the fifth read-through that I think that, and I wonder how many unreadable sentences I'm still missing!

    Thanks for being brave enough to share your awkward sentence bonanza!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not passive? Sweet! Corrected it, though.

      I made my Beta read the finished 2nd draft, but the structure was such a mess then that we didn't get down to sentence-level corrections. I feel bad that I made her read some of these sentences!

      Delete
  2. "What sort of terms is Mr. Pitt seeking?" is correct. The trick is to flip the sentence around. "Mr. Pitts is seeking what sort of terms?" It still makes sense because is goes with Mr. Pitt, not terms.

    I don't remember learning much grammar after 8th grade. At least none I can remember. Lol! In 12th grade we did a lot of peer critiques. I got more than my fair share because word got out that I was really good at it and with my help, their grades improved. But I had to get my mom to help me on a lot of it. I knew things would be wrong, but I wouldn't know why or how to fix it. Grammar class was definitely better in her day. I learned quite a bit from her.

    I have sentences that make me cringe sometimes. Usually it's because I wrote it too fast and it was full of mechanical errors. I did take a grammar and linguistics class in college that drove me crazy. It was so hard.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ah, I thought it might me right. Just seemed awkward at 2am.

      I have a copy of Strunk and White from college. Must study it. I want to be one of those people who knows the terms for all the different parts of grammar.

      I know when something's off--but I don't always know why and that drives me crazy.

      Delete
  3. Lol. My mom used to ask me how I could speak so sloppily and still write using decent grammar. Editing. She never saw the first draft.

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    1. Hi Linnea. Someone once told me not to write the way I speak. I don't, but awkward sentences amuse me when I catch them.

      Delete
  4. I think the saint whose nose was lopped off deserved sainthood!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for your comments and thoughts. Check back soon. I reply to all comments. Happy reading!