[Reblog] 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

APRIL 17, 2009 

April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released.

I won’t be celebrating.

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students’ grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.

The authors won’t be hurt by these critical remarks. They are long dead. William Strunk was a professor of English at Cornell about a hundred years ago, and E.B. White, later the much-admired author of Charlotte’s Web, took English with him in 1919, purchasing as a required text the first edition, which Strunk had published privately. After Strunk’s death, White published a New Yorker article reminiscing about him and was asked by Macmillan to revise and expand Elements for commercial publication. It took off like a rocket (in 1959) and has sold millions.


How embarrassing

Ever do something, then look back over it later and go “what in God’s name was I thinking?!

Yeah, I had one of those moments.

Maybe you recall the end of this summer where I did my Now & Forever A-B-Cs series?  If not, I think I might be grateful …

By and large it’s fine.  Not always exceptionally well written, but it was just a bit of fun, so who cares?  Still, it was meant to be accurate, and that … not always so much.  More than not, if I want to be honest with myself, but still enough to bother me and my perfectionist nature (just as I cringe every time I re-read Love or Lust and discover a new typo or mistake I missed, not to worry, as soon as my editor and I have  a chance those will be fixed, and by the magic of ebooks you will all have a corrected copy).  I get a few people’s birthdays terribly wrong, mostly.

I know it isn’t important.  I know it shouldn’t matter.  Certainly I understand this well enough I’m not bothering to delete those posts.  I should, eventually, go back and edit them … but I’ve more pressing things to do, like the continuing work on Ready or Not.  Suffice to say, blogposts probably are not a good source of solid cannon — I may be making them at 2AM and off the cuff;  blog pages and the books should be safe, those I’m wont to take more time with.

Speaking of Ready or Not, my editor thinks we may be able to have it ready to ship as early as Easter!  Worst case, she says, it ought to be around the first anniversary of Love or Lust‘s release.  We wait and see.  I’m still terribly nervous, especially of the bits I wrote during NaNoWriMo and CampWriMo.  I will say this, however, while I would rather release one or more of the Now & Forever books each year (I’d have put the entire series out at one time if I’d had it all written!), but if a book isn’t ready it isn’t ready and I won’t release it.  I hope my readers will understand.


Suddenly Google is being more helpful.  I’ve gone from two solid sounding agents and a few flaky looking ones none of whom looked like they were remotely relevant to my search except to be literary agents to several agencies.

I’m not querying them all, I’m still being selective by criterion I’m sure I couldn’t explain since I’m not fully aware — call it Vibes and move on — but I am querying several.  I shan’t bother naming them all, but I would like to list some of the more interesting and promising ones whether I’ve queried them or not just to (hopefully) help others.

By all means, if you’d like to suggest an agent or agency for me to query leave a comment or shoot me a message.

A small list, but there you are.  There actually was another agency I was trying to find, I stumbled on them once upon a time looking for a SF agent for something and now I can’t find them.  Pity.

Writer’s block of the ugliest sort

I’ve been a bit stuck in Ready or Not for awhile. Far longer than I even realised (I hate file date stamping; it’s depressing sometimes. Last time I edited the file for the book was near the beginning of September!).

Writer’s block is never fun, but it has different forms and I’ve got the one I hate the most. See, there’s the writer’s block where you’ve no idea what happens next, that’s the normal sort. The next sort is arguably not writer’s block, but I think of it as being so, and that’s where you have a brilliant idea in your mind but can’t get it to come out of your head and play nice with the written word; I’ll admit this one is pretty bad and can lead to tears and madness, but it’s still (for me) not as bad as the third and final sort. The sort to which I refer is when you know exactly what comes next, yessiree bob you do. You know lots of happening nexts. The problem is you’ve got to get the story there! Yeah, I’m stuck like that. I’m at the start of chapter nine. I need to get from the end of chapter 8 to the bits and pieces in my head. Either all of chapter 9 or its opening paragraphs need to fulfill this job. I can’t seem to manage.

In my own defense I’ve been a bit overworked at work – something that has been mercifully alleviated as of this week (and remember, buy lots of copies of my books when they’re out, and encourage your friends, family, acquaintances, enemies, and random people on the street to do the same and I could quit this silly job thing and write full time … just a thought). I’ve been ill, both actual illness and just a kind of recurring migraine I always get this time of year thanks to the horribly awful and hellish place I live (I am not a native of this place and my fondest wish is to one day be far removed from it and ne’er return again). It has all combined to leave me a bit too spaced and blah to write much of anything.

Still, things are improving so I hope to be back to work on book 2 shortly. As for Love or Lust it’s coming along well. My editor is happily devouring it and will be handing me back a copy that looks quite thoroughly bled upon in short order, at which point it should quickly find itself available for sale.

Færie Patrol still only exists as a couple of pages and a handful of concept.