Crafting Beautiful Sentences Series, II
Why Sentences Matter in the Grand Scheme of Everything
In the first post in this series I hope I raised an eyebrow or rung your inner alarm bell about sentences. Did you think about sentences? Honestly, I'm aware that I'm probably one of few nerds walking around with a desire to make people write and speak beautiful sentences, but for just a few moments out of my busy day I sit and hope that I do. So lie to me if you must, and let's continue on this road towards beautiful sentences.
After I went on for ten minutes last night boring E with a conversation on beautiful sentences, he asked me one simple question--"What's rhetorical grammar?"
If I was a professor and our bedroom was a class I'd say "great question" and then jump feet first onto my soapbox about why grammar matters for everybody.
So let me begin...
Before we go anywhere we need to get clear on a few things. If you're like most people you probably think "ain't" is a naughty grammar word. Someone somewhere told you that it isn't proper grammar/English and that you shouldn't use it.
I'm here to tell you they are wrong.
The truth is "ain't" is not a "standard" grammatical English word, but it is a legitimate contraction of am not, are not, and a few other contractions. It follows the same rules as don't and won't, yet it's often considered the mark of an ignorant speaker. By some.
"Ain't" helps me to explain what grammar is. Grammar is the standard accepted structure of our language. In other words, it is what we as a society collectively view and accept as the "proper" way of speaking. It's a system of communicating where we have learned rules, styles, and ways of communicating. Most of these "rules" are instinctual to us. We don't stop to think how to ask a question, or how to say someone or something owns something. We automatically know how to construct a question, including how to influctuate our voice, and we also know to add a "s" to change Mike bike to Mike's bike.
In this sense, grammar is "simple."
Grammar is standard accepted structures of language. But there's a small caveat in that statement. Dialects and other non-standard languages can be grammatically correct too. Why? Because they have their own grammatic rules and styles that dictate what is correct and not correct. The difference is in "standard;" individual communities may decide a certain way of speaking is correct, but the larger society may not. Therefore we have dialects, and regionalisms.
So what about Rhetoric?
Rhetoric is just as simple; it is "the art or study of using language effectively and persuasively." Rhetoric simply means being aware of your audience (who your communicating with), topic (what your communicating about), and purpose (why your communicating).
Now, if we put those two words together we are studying how to use grammar to successfully communicate our topic to our audience for a specific purpose.
Let me break it down.
Our use of language changes from one medium to another. At least it should. From text, to email, to social networking, to blogging, to academic writing, to creative writing there should be differing degrees of separation. "ur" for "your" is acceptable in text messaging or im-ing. Contractions are favored in fiction writing but not in academic writing.
The point is that at each level of writing the audience, the topic, and the purpose changes and grammar should reflect those differences to be effective. This gets more important as you move from informal writing to academic and professional writing, but it is important to understand this idea even if you are not writing academically or professionally. And especially if you are a blogger or creative writer.
I like to think of academic writing as having a "captured audience." What I mean by that is most times when people read academic writing they are doing so because they either have to, or really seriously want to. In my eyes they are sort of held captive to you as the writer, but of course with some limitations.
But, blogging and creative writing differs for me. I see those audiences as "fleeting" audiences. In other words, as the writer I have to work to keep the reader from clicking off my page or putting down my book and filling their freetime with some other activity.
This is where rhetorical grammar shines. Knowing your audience, your topic, and your purpose means using the right words, language, style to keep your fleeting audience captive.
What if your not a blogger? Creative writer?
Everyone has to write in their life--letters to your child's teacher, emails to co-workers/bossess, cover letters, hardship letters, business proposals/plans. Paying attention to grammar means making sure that your writing fits the occassion. Not every piece of writing is meant to sound like it came out of a scholarly, academic journal, but on the same hand not all writing should read like a facebook update, tweet, or text message.
Because you'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar, take the time to learn to craft beautiful sentences that clearly express your thoughts and ideas.
Next post will cover the different sentence patterns/types. Stay tuned!
♥, Nerdy Ki
*This series of post are built around the content found in Understanding English Grammar and Rhetorical Grammar. If you are serious about learning Grammar and Rhetorical Grammar these are excellent choices and will open up your understanding about how grammar works. I highly reccommend both books.