I have a mirror on the wall- right next to my front door. After I get dressed for the day, before I walk out of my house, I look at myself in that mirror. It’s not that I’m vain really, but I would rather not step out into the world with oatmeal stuck in my teeth or toothpaste on my face. Can you imagine running into an old friend looking like that? It would be even worse if you had buttoned up your coat the wrong way. You know what I mean. You’ve buttoned the buttons in the wrong holes and now they don’t line up the right way. Somehow the left side of your coat is hanging lower than the right. Yikes!
You’d look like a mess right? What would your friend think of you? She’d think you were careless and sloppy. She might still like you on the inside, but she would think you looked like a mess on the outside!
I look in the mirror because it’s a reflection of who I am. My reflection is the first thing people see when they meet me. Looks aren’t the most important thing, but they are something. I care about what people think about me. I want them to know that I take care of myself- that I have respect for myself.
I do the same thing with my writing. Except the mirror I use is grammar.
Yeah, my mirror is grammar.
You see, grammar can be the first thing people notice about your story…if you have grammar mistakes. Like the toothpaste on your face. If you misspell a word, or forget to add a period at the end of your sentence, your readers will notice- and not in a good way. They’ll notice a run-on sentence. They’ll notice the wrong spelling of same sounding words.
Here’s an example of three words that sound the same but have different meanings and are spelled differently.
Homophones. People mix up homophones all the time, but they shouldn’t. And neither should you. Especially if you’re a writer!
“There” is the spelling to use when you’re showing a location. Ex. The car is over there.
“Their” is used to show possession- that something belongs to another person. Ex. Their car was filled with balloons.
“They’re” is used as a contraction (combination) of the words they and are. Ex. “They’re” going to drive the car to pick up the balloons.
When you mix these words up, it’s like getting caught with toothpaste on your face. And you don’t want that do you??
As you know from reading this blog, I’m all about writing creative stories…using your imagination to dream up amazing things. Many times writers will free write the draft of their story without thinking about misspelled words and punctuation. They do it because all the grammar rules can get in the way of creating real life characters that live in a made up world. Teachers encourage this in fact. They will instruct kids to free write for a time about anything they want. This is awesome because it allows writers to get into their story without getting stuck on words they don’t know how to spell, or worrying if they forgot a comma or two.
The thing is though, after you free write, you need to be sure to pull out your mirror. Take a good look at what you’ve written. Your words are a reflection of yourself. Go back and re-read your writing. Proofread for spelling errors. Make sure you’ve begun each sentence with a capitol letter. Add any periods you may have left off the ends of your sentences. Check your grammar.
It’s just as important as looking in the mirror. You want your reader to notice the cute, fluffy puppy in your story that floats up in space on a scooter, not the fact that you forgot to capitalize his name throughout your whole story. You don’t want your reader to be distracted by that stuff. You want them to focus on the story you’ve written.
Creative writers don’t have to focus all their time on grammar, but they do have to focus some time on it. So learn about punctuation. Learn about spelling. It’s not boring stuff. It’s the stuff that makes our words flow together in harmony. And next time you write an amazing story, don’t forget to pull out your mirror before you let the world see it. Your story is a reflection of you. Make it the best it can be!
And as a side note…Short Story Showcase is open next week! Stories can be about anything you want, so be brave. Send yours in this week. Details can be found on the Short Story Showcase tab.
Until next Wednesday, have a great week of springtime writing, reading and exploring the outdoors. Just don’t forget to look in the mirror before you step out the door!