Okay, so this is a post that's been percolating in my mind for a while and probably isn't fully perked yet, but something I read this morning in a national newspaper made me consider it again.
First the disclaimers. I'm not a grammar guru. I don't pretend to have perfect grammar and know I make mistakes all the time. But I did have a few pretty good English teachers in school, and both of my parents were English speakers from birth, as were their parents and their parents, and one of my grandmothers was a teacher. (An aside... one of the aforementioned English teachers was Chinese-Canadian. So I don't mean to imply one needs to have been a native English speaker to have a good grasp of grammar. I just think it gives you a leg up if your parents used good grammar at home.) All that said, I suppose I have a better grasp of grammar than many, but by no means am I an expert. I look stuff up all the time, and even then, I'm often not sure... I mean, does anyone understand the rules for using which vs. that? (Okay, maybe it's just me with that one.)
But one thing I discovered when I started to write popular fiction, is that the rules seem to be looser in that piece of the publishing world. Either that or no one cares, because I've read a lot of published fiction with pretty loosely applied rules of grammar in my book.
One thing I think my very first manuscript had going for it was pretty good grammar. That manuscript boasted commas around every phrase, had zero sentences ending with prepositions, used the past perfect tense where appropriate--and was, well, stilted and dry.
So I loosened things up in my own writing. I probably went too far at first, shunning commas to the point my writing became hard to read, and overusing sentence fragments etc. (Still love sentence fragments.) But I started purposefully ending sentences with prepositions. (And starting them with conjunctions. LOL.) I started using "like" in places I felt sure "as if" was technically correct. I stopped being so hung up on grammar in my own work, and even cut back on marking up my critique partners' stuff.
So why am I blogging about this? The thing that set me off this morning, (or should "that" have been "which"?), was this sentence found in an in depth, hard news story I was reading on the subway:
"Nicole Richie's lawyer announced yesterday that her client will try and beat the driving under the influence rap...."
Now, correct me if I'm wrong... but shouldn't it be "try to beat" not "try and beat"? Don't know why that one sticks in my craw. I mean... wouldn't "and" only be correct if it were joining two separate actions the lawyer was taking? For example if he were both trying and beating? Doesn't the verb "to try" always need an infinitive after it? Something the subject of the sentence is trying TO do?
Grammar gurus out there. Am I right or wrong about this one?
Everyone else... Whether I'm right or wrong, does it matter? Does anyone care? How do you feel about grammar in popular fiction? Is it better to write the way the majority of people speak, or by doing that, are we adding to the problem by making readers assume it's correct? Am I the only one who thinks about this?
(Before someone says this in a comment... I think dialog should be written the way people speak, using the grammar the character would use, correct or not. But what about the other stuff???)