Don’t Get Me Started!

Language evolves all the time. As a historical novelist I know this – and the rules (there are rules) change. I accept that. But, being a bit long in the tooth, it took me many years to do so and even more to implement some of those changes into my writing. You will no doubt have observed that I began the previous sentence with the word ‘but’. But is a conjunction. Its purpose is to connect ideas that contrast. For example:

I like my coffee black but she likes hers with milk.

Had I put…I accept that but, being a bit long in the tooth etc…there would be no controversy. However it seems to me that it carries more weight this way. And, while I’m talking about breaking old rules, what is more important? Adhering to convention or using the best way to make your point? My poor English teacher would turn in her grave. Not only have I begun one sentence with But, but I began another with And.

A fairly recent innovation in the spoken word, not so much yet in the written, is the use of the word So at the beginning of speech, a propos of absolutely nothing at all, with not the remotest connection to what is to follow or anything that came before. Now this one really irritates me – I’m sorry if you’re a convert but I’m not.

Imagine my dismay then when, in the middle of the night, one of those times when a jumble of thoughts comes flooding in when you’d far rather be asleep, I found myself thinking…So, I wonder how my day will pan out tomorrow? Why the So? What’s the matter with just I wonder? And then I giggled. Silently. I didn’t want to wake my husband. Well, (a similar misuse I fear) was that so very bad? It isn’t the best example but it made me (metaphorically) sit up and think.

I’ve been known, when editing my work, to alter the text because it feels old-fashioned and stilted. I know I write historical fiction but I still want it to flow. Does the grammar really matter when what we’re trying to do is entertain? Old habits die hard but newly-acquired ones aren’t always so bad. (acceptable use of both but and so in that sentence)

And (see, I’ve done it again) don’t even get me started on split infinitives. I’m prepared to be shot down in flames. What do you think?

Until next time

Natalie

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