Monday, December 24, 2007

Priorities in Writing

I interviewed with Katherine K. Lee of the Tuscaloosa News a few weeks ago, and she wrote an article about the good-grammar movement for the Sunday, 12/23 edition of the paper. I just realized it was online tonight, so here's the link.

Katherine also quoted an English professor at the University of Alabama:
Michael Martone, a professor of English at UA, said that where sticklers for grammar see mistakes, he sees creative minds at work.

The use of the word "ain't," for instance, in the right context can be effective and dramatic, just what a writer is looking for.

But Martone said he understands why bad grammar might drive someone in the law profession crazy.

"Law wants language to be static and universally recognized," he said. "But for creative writing, part of the creativity is taking perceived categories and opening them up to possibilities."
I've never really thought about it like that, but Michael is right. In most contexts, my preference is for language to be static in nature and precisely used. Without a common base, how could we communicate? But, when it's appropriate, I do appreciate the creative use of language.

Now that I'm analyzing it -- I appreciate the unconventional use of words when describing a thought or feeling more precisely (albeit unorthodoxly) than it would be described with conventional words used conventionally. So precision is my priority.

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