It’s All About The Syntax

During my daily writing endeavours I read a lot of websites, newsletters, blog posts, emails and social media comments under the banner of ‘research’. Consequently I come across some absolute howlers. I received this in an email yesterday and was struck by the architectural aspect of it:

‘…should be reported to the office in a timely manor..’

Now, you can’t blame people for finding spelling difficult, (see my previous blog interview with writer Hugo Kerr) any more than you can blame people for struggling with maths, but sometimes do you think – Get Someone To Check It Before You Send It? Or, if you’ve been asked to read/review the work of an autonomous author, think: (Why Didn’t You) Get Someone To Check It Before You Printed It? If you want your work to work well, there really is no excuse.

Ben-Hershey-550479-Unsplash.jpg
Thank you, Ben Hershey + Unsplash.

A while ago had some short stories copy-edited by two people at the same time just to gauge their different points of view and editing techniques. One comment still stands out today. I had used the word ‘silty’, but the copy editor was sure I meant ‘salty’. I assured him I did not. ‘Was I absolutely sure?’ he asked. I confirmed I was. The other copy editor didn’t comment on this word at all, clearly happy with the word and my use of it. But it threw up an interesting point – would my readers think I meant salty even though I’d written silty? Did it matter? I think it did. It still does. From my point of view as a writer, I want my readers to enjoy my work, not stumble head-first over an unfamiliar word or a familiar word in the wrong place. Control freak? Possibly.

In an email I received last week I noticed that some of the punctuation in this sentence had fallen away – if indeed it was ever there in the first place. I suspect it wasn’t:

‘I have sent this email in edith’s best interest would you suggest this is left for edith to dispose of going forward.’

I don’t really know what this person is saying to me. But it seems rude to ask, somehow. Yes, yes, yes, I’m as guilty as the next writer of missing out or adding an extraneous word to what I thought was a perfectly formed sentence, but when it comes to syntax…ah… now you’re talking. This can take hours to get right, and yet still be wrong.

Below is a statement from a website menu I read earlier today and shared here for your delectation:

… our delicious roast dinners from just £12 each, the meat alternates each week and will be uploaded to Facebook.

I really did not make that up!

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