By focusing on the syntax of a sentence, you can largely prosper in the grammar department.
For most of us, placing adjectives and adverbs in correct locations is half of our grammar problems. It’s the one issue with your writing that is constantly making your writing skills seem amateur even if you’re a well-educated student/graduate of creative writing…or anything else. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. We can solve our grammar problems, little by little, just by bearing in mind a basic set of rules as we read, write, and edit.
But first, let’s simplify what grammar really is. Basically, grammar serves as the appropriate structure of a sentence – the structure that makes the sentence make sense.
If words are placed in the right locations within a sentence, you have a sentence that precisely communicates the point of itself. When words are not placed in their appropriate locations, they miscommunicate the ideas that are intended to be presented. You’ll have a sentence we’ve all heard before (because, often times, grammar mistakes are not corrected), but one that is frankly illogical and senseless… if only we’d had the wisdom to know as much.
By correctly identifying the words in a sentence that are nouns/pronouns and verbs, and which others are adjectives and adverbs, we can properly structure any sentence, thereby improving its grammar, by improving word placement.
See what I did there? “Correctly,” “properly,” and “which” are key words that have distinct, specific placements in the sentence, in correlation to the nouns/pronouns and verbs.
The 2 questions that serve as a checklist for eradicating this specific grammar problem are: 1) what are the adjectives and adverbs in the sentence, and 2) is the adjective placed in a location where it is obvious that it is describing a specific verb or noun/pronoun?
Read the following sentence for a brief case study, if you will: “Sara brushed her hair, and as she did so, she walked over to the kitchen cabinet for the oil that the magical fairy princess had promised would change Sara’s life to grab forever.”
By addressing what’s wrong in that sentence, you can clearly understand how grammar works and why it is important to perfect in order for the text to make sense and convey the intended point of the sentence.
Let’s start with the first part. “Sarah brushed her hair,” is perfect; noun (Sarah) did verb (brushed) to pronoun (her) other noun (hair).
The problem arises in the second half of the sentence, after, “and as she did so.” Let’s break it down.
“She walked over to the kitchen cabinet for the oil,” great, “that the magical fairy princess had promised would change Sara’s life,” still fine and dandy, “to grab forever,” not so good. The placements of adjectives/adverbs, “to grab” and “forever,” are severely off. Looking at the words’ current placements, the sentence currently implies is that Sara’s life would be grabbed forever.
That does not relay the actual point of the sentence at all, obviously.
What is the point of the sentence, then? It is to convey that Sara grabbed the oil to apply while she brushed her hair, all because the fairy princess had told her that the oil would forever change her life – plain and simple. Bearing that point in mind, “to grab” and “forever” must be re-placed.
This is the correct version of the above sentence: “Sara brushed her hair, and as she did so, she walked over to the kitchen cabinet to grab the oil that the magical fairy princess had promised would forever change Sara’s life.”
What did Sara brush? Her hair. Where did she walk? To the kitchen. Why? To grab the oil – not her life, the oil. For what purpose? She grabbed the oil while tending to her hair because she wanted to change her life for good, and that’s what the fairy princess had told her would happen.
The correct version of the sentence is effective communication. It’s logical, so it makes sense. It’s to the point (thanks to the syntax/grammar fix), but creatively conveyed, so it’s entertaining to read and pithy, too.
And if I wasn’t given a single other clue as to the story that that sentence came from, I’d be totally okay with it, because the correctly written sentence implies the basics of everything I need to know about that story.
Protagonist – Sara. Antagonist – probably the magical fairy princess, but if not, then the person she forms a strong relationship/connection with after her life completely changes. Catalyst for hero’s journey: magical fairy princess offering Sara a way out, or cure, of her current circumstances by guiding her to use some powerful oil that may or may not be what it seems to be. Protagonist’s motivation – a desire to change her life for the better. Themes – the grass isn’t always greener on the other side; be careful what you wish for, because it might come true and you may never find a way out of it. Genre – probably a tragic coming of age.
All this, and probably more if we put our minds to it, can be implied from just one well-written, or at least effectively communicated, sentence.
THAT, is the power of words, my friends.