Wednesday, 4 October 2006

Punctuation & Spelling

SPELLING - don't be afraid.

I'm the last person to bang on about spelling...I'm terrible. Often as not (honest!) I do know how to spell a word correctly, once it's pointed out I've made a mistake, and sometimes it is just a typo, but I hold up my hands and confess, I'm a copywriter's (just been back to edit this word!) nightmare.

Yes, give me the dunce's cap and I'll stand in the naughty corner if you like, but my argument is I'm a story teller, a weaver of fantasies, not an English language graduate. In fact, other than basic English literature and language 'O' levels (oops, that dates me) I have no other formal qualifications in writing. Unless you count a course on creative writing with The Writers Bureau, but they don't hand out pretty certificates to hang on your wall that confirms 'Hey, this gal can write'.

I liken it to the musician who can't read music but can play by ear. Or the artist who can paint beautifully but doesn't know his Rembrandt from his Picasso.

What I'm saying is, if you read avidly, love the rhythm of words, if you have any sort of imagination, don't be scared to have a go at writing. Obviously you need to know the basics, but don't obsess over it. Use a spellchecker (*see below). Use a good dictionary and thesaurus. You can buy them cheaply enough or use an online one - I use Merriam Webster.

Join a writing group or if you're a shy wallflower (like me!) look for an on-line group that offers critiques. Posting anonymously will build up your confidence, believe me!

*Spellcheckers are useful tools but not infallible as can be seen in this little ditty.

Eye have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.



Eats Shoots & Leaves - The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

by Lynne Truss ISBN 1-86197-612-7

A book for people who love punctuation (or are scared of it). It pokes fun yet it's informative. A must read, IMO.

Look it up on Amazon where you can have a peek inside to get an idea what she's about.

It's out in paperback now so you should be able to pick it up cheaply.

A Punctuation Parable

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior.You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy - will you let me be yours?

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior.You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?


The Victorians had a simple yet effective way of remembering the basic rules of punctuation:

Sentences start with a capital letter, so as to make your writing better.
Use a full stop to mark the end. It closes every sentence penned.
Insert a comma for short pauses and breaks,
And also for lists the writer makes.
Dashes - like these - are for thoughts.
They provide additional information (so do brackets, of course).
These two dots are colons: they pause to compare.
They also do this: list, explain and prepare.
The semicolon makes a break; followed by a clause.
It does the job of words that link; it's also a short pause.
An apostrophe shows the owner of anyone's things,
It's quite useful for shortenings.I'm glad! He's mad! Don't walk on the grass!
To show strong feelings use an exclamation mark!
A question mark follows Where? When? Why? What? and How?Can I? Do you? Shall We? Tell us now!
"Quotation marks" enclose what is said.
Which is why they are often called "speech marks" instead.


zorba said...

Really informative.
I will be very thankful to you if you can shed little light on the skills and contacts you need to write and publish a book.

Robyn Savitri said...

Oh, Rahul, where to begin? If you have the basic grammar and writing skills you'll need perseverance, persistence, a love of what you do to help you cope with the rejections and heaps of luck!
Begin with writing short stories or articles and try to sell them to magazines first.

Build up your CV so once you've written your novel (which you will be doing at the same time as submitting to the magazines!)an agent will know you are a professional. And yes, you'll need an agent as most publishers won't even consider looking at a manuscript without representation.
Look up on Amazon, Carole Blake's book, From Pitch To Publication. It will tell you everything you need to know about getting published.
Good luck!

zorba said...

Thanks .

as you mentioned that you have gone through the course from writers bureau ,i would like to know ,was that beneficial and does it really helps.

also likes to know how can i sell my articles to a magazine or newspaper i.e, through net or by contacting them personally.

Hope you had a festive diwali.

Robyn Savitri said...

If you can find a writing course that suits you, you should go for it. Writer's Bureau suited me as I wanted to learn at my own pace.

Writing for the magazines is not easy. There's a lot of competition and editors are choosey.

Before sending anything to a magazine, you need to read several copies to get a feel for what they publish. Send your work to them snail mail and include a SAE. Oh, and expect to wait about 8 - 12 weeks for a reply!