The key to learning and working with grammar is to have the RIGHT attitude about it. If you look at editing for grammar as a tedious task that requires the memorization of some seemingly arbitrary rules about how to form sentences, then I can’t blame you for filing grammar under the “don’t even think about it” file in your database (your brain.)
However, if you look at grammar, and the proper use of it, as an exciting way to interject your personality into your writing as well as more effectively and more interestingly get your point across, reaching for your writer’s guide to grammar wont be a mind numbing practice of half-reading formal sounding words with eyes glazed over, waiting for the pain to be over. Instead, it would be more of a creative experience for you, with the question begging in your mind, how can I make this sentence REALLY speak to the reader? How can I say this in a more interesting way? Would a semi-colon break up the monotony of these sentences?
Below is an example of how grammar can slightly jazz up a piece of writing.
The student was late to class again. Normally he tried to give me a half thought out excuse for the tardiness. But today was different. He tried to invisibly slink into his back row seat. His eyes remained on his desk top. He was determined to not make eye contact. He was trying to mitigate his pain.
The student was late to class –again. Normally he tried to give me a half-thought-out excuse for his tardiness, but today was different. He tried to invisibly slink into his back row seat; his eyes remained on the desktop, determined to not make contact with my own. He was trying to mitigate his pain.
As you can see from the above examples, I used the same words in each draft and almost the same sentences. I simply added the use of commas, a semi-colon and a dash to emphasize my meaning.
Do you see a difference in the two paragraphs? Which do you like better? Is one more fun to read than the other? Why? Is there any change you particularly like? Is there anything you would change back?
If you would like, take the “before” paragraph and try to edit it to make it more exciting to read. Let me know how you do!