Saturday, November 13, 2010

Crossing Me or Mine

My writer friends and I joke a lot about a beta-read rejection form.  In truth, I have more of a beta-reader indemnity clause.  It reads something like this.  "Be forewarned, grammar is not my forte.  I will correct any glaring errors I see, but will undoubtedly miss more than I catch.”  To be honest, Im actually quite adept at grammar; I just hate to read for it.  See, I’m the daughter of a copy-editor who took great pleasure in schooling her children on their grammar mistakes.  Mom would hand me back an essay (or my WIP as the case is today) with little asterisks in the margin with a note telling me to go find the error in the sentence.

Plus I’m from Boston, and we are all “whicked smhart” up here!”

Yesterday I had the privilege of reading a third round of edits for a talented, amazingly-creative writer friend of mine.  The edited copy had already been marked up by another critique partner.  That particular critique partner, after a few choice phrases like “this project needs a lot of work,” and “you are going about this all wrong,” and “trust me, I am a bit of an expert at this,” went to town on my friend – specifically her use of passive voice.  

I held my tongue for the last two critiques, but yesterday I let her other critique partner have it.  If she wants to condemn my friend's book for grammar errors, then she should at least take the time to get it right!  I included charts, graphs, and even solicited the advice of my copy-editor mother to make my case.  It was a little over the top, even by my snarky standards, but I was pissed – that whole cross me or mine protective instinct kicking in.

A noun of direct address does need a comma.  A hyphen is used to connect two words that form a single-thought adjective.  And grAy is the traditional spelling of the color in America.   I could stomach all that; but, when the faux Grammar-Goddess instructed my writer friend to bring her passive-voice sentences into active voice, I lost it.  I totally agree that active voice is a more effective choice for our writing.  Problem is, last time I checked, phrases like I heard, I sang, or I thought aren’t written in passive voice.  They’re active-voice, past-tense!  HUGE DIFFERENCE!!!

So thank you for listening to my rant.  I don’t do it often, and I promise not to do it again for at least a couple of weeks.  I will leave with one of my charts – one created by me and approved my copy-editor Mom!
                  Active Voice     Passive Voice                                    
Present       I sang               It is being sung (by someone)

Past            I sing               It was sung (by someone)                                                      
Future        I will sing            It will be swung (by someone)                                                                       


  1. Wow, I feel so special. Can't say anything but thank you. You are a constant source of encouragement and knowledge. Thanks for always scraping us up off of the pavement when we fall.

  2. Now I know why your novel was very well written! lol

  3. Thanks for the reminder! Sometimes we all need a good grammar lesson.

  4. I so thought you could spell gray whatever you wanted LOL. Now I know..And I also I looked up passive voice. I have a cheat sticky note about a moose running over a boy. OR is it a boy running over a moose.... I'm not the best at grammar, but I have my paper and memorizing the dumb stuff that I don't remember. I also bought this program, whitesmoke, so if mine is wrong, my program told me! LOL

  5. I get confused with spelling gray as well, but it's because we Canadians generally use the British spelling...

  6. I try not to get too technical when beta reading for someone unless they are asking me to look for certain things. I sometimes can be a nit pick but I don't think that I have ever murdered or took someone across the coals for their work.

    Everyone deserves their own voice, past...present. Whatever. I just try to make sure that the story makes sense to me and that it flows. If I am getting it as a reader, not a grammar specialist. I like to be encouraging because it is hard enough to stick your neck out there and share your work with anyone let alone someone to just tell you that you are all wrong by their standards.