Friday, January 27, 2012

This Writing Thing

In a rough draft of my blog post about Thanksgiving, I wrote this sentence:

I have a lot of thing to be thankful.

Writing is much easier for me than even two months ago. But still, almost every sentence I write has a mistake--usually several. Sometimes I can't remember the word I want. Sometimes I leave out several words. My spelling is awful. But the thing that pains me most is the grammar: the confused word endings; the mixed-up genders; the wrong tenses.

So I usually re-read every sentence in a whisper before going on. I spotted an error in the sentence, fixed it, and then re-read it again:

I have a lot of things to be thankful.

I don't use a grammar checker, partly because I worry that if I don't correct errors myself, my language skills won't improve. But I was still sure that something was wrong. But what? I whispered the sentence to myself over and over, trying to figure out why it still didn't sound right: For thanksful? By thankful? To thankful? Ah, I know. I had left out the final word. I fixed it:

I have a lot of things to be thankful for.

But then a voice--a chorus of high school English teachers, actually--in my head said: never end a sentence with a preposition.

Was that really true, I wondered? But I heard the chorus, again: when in doubt, leave it out.

I deleted the sentence. Back to the blank screen. Damn this writing thing is hard.


  1. Yes, writing is hard...and I don't have aphasia. There are so many rules to remember and choices to be made. Good for you for working so hard at it. When reading your blog, I often forget what a challenge it must be to put together each post. Each sentence is literally proof of your hard work and dedication to recover. Great job!!!

  2. Grace you are being too hard on yourself. First, I have understood every one of your posts that I've read. Second, every book and journal article I've published has errors in it and that is after being read by editors and peer reviewers. Getting 100s on spelling tests in 2nd grade creates the unrealistic expectation that we are supposed to get 100s in life. I look forward to reading your blog so please keep telling your story.

  3. Grace, you are doing a great job! Your posts are always beautiful. Don't worry so much about proper grammar. I am a "professional published author" but I am always dangling those modifiers and participles and whatever those other things are called! I figure that if the sentence makes sense, and gets the point across, well, it's good enough for me! Keep up the good work!

  4. Writing is hard, even if you haven't a had a stroke, I try to remind myself. Having a blogging community is incredibly helpful. Thanks, guys.

    1. Your writing is as fabulous as ever. But should you ever be in doubt, I'd be happy to send you some of Pete's writing. Um, don't tell him I said that. He's actually gotten a lot better, what with having a hard-nosed copy-editing-freakazoid peering over his shoulder. Your writing remains smart, incisive, hilarious. Prepositions at the ends of sentences? Puh-leese.

      I've been catching up on your blog after a few months off, and have been laughing out loud (sorry, that's "LOLing" for all you young'uns) for the past hour.

  5. Grace, As a professional editor, I followed my father's advice: Never use a preposition to end a sentence with. We all make these mistakes, if they are mistakes, aphasic or not. And we all fill in the blanks when one of us leaves out a word. It's the message that matters and yours is wonderful.

  6. Hey, Grace, As a pain-in-the-ass professional editor - and perfectionist - I have to comment about this entry. BTW, that sentence will act as an example later in this comment. Fasten your seatbelt, please.

    Yes, according to those no-dangling-preposition supporters, your sentence would read " I have a lot of things for which to be grateful." Awkward as all get-out, right? At least you didn't include "alot," which is not a word at all.

    On the other hand, there are "implied" words, although I have only ever read about the topic once - in a bit about comparisons. For example, in the phrase " She is taller than ..." Is it "he" or "him"? It's "he" because there's an implied "is" at the end. As in "She is taller than he is." You can leave a word out if it's implied.

    Another example is my first sentence, which has an implied "a" before "perfectionist."

    Besides, you are a wonderful writer with a refreshing voice. In my business, "refreshing" covers a lot of idiosynchrocies. Yes the spelling of that is wrong, but it's hard to pick up my dictionary one-handed, so I'm taking the easy way out. You know what I mean.

  7. Grace, I love reading your posts. I think you are incredibly clever and funny and sometimes so poignant. In just a few words you communicate so much!

    I am intimidated by our group of on-line writer friends. I have never had any interest in being a good writer so this is a brand new skill set for me. I keep thinking I should find a book about grammar and writing skills somewhere. (I don't even know what a preposition is or why it might be dangling) My eldest daughter told me to keep practicing by actually writing.

  8. But you do it so well. Were you a writer before the stroke?
    - Marcelle

  9. I was in a transition--from programmer to journalism student/freelance writer. Now the writing is so much harder, but you have said, now we have so much more material ;)