My friend, Jonah, who just started writing short stories and going to a writers club, dropped by my house unexpected one day. He looked haggard. I showed him into the lounge and we sat down opposite each other.
“What’s the matter, Jonah? You look down in the mouth.”
“I am, I just received a critique on one of my stories, saying it’s a great story and it should appeal to readers BUT it is ruined by grammatical and punctuation mistakes, and that nullifies the story.”
“It depends on how many mistakes were in the manuscript. Relax and we’ll talk about it,” I said.
“I can’t relax. I feel like ‘The Great Writing Oracle’ has thrown me in at the deep end and I’m in a dark place.”
“Well, your name is Jonah,” I smiled.
“Very funny, Dave, but this is serious.”
“So, your story, according to the critics, is an entertaining and compelling read BUT it is spoiled by grammatical mistakes and wrong punctuation. Consequently, readers will stop reading the story.”
“That’s right, but I don’t see it that way. I think a great story is of prime importance.”
“I agree, as long as the number of G&P mistakes are low.”
“Sometimes, I really get confused by the rules of grammar and punctuation,” said Jonah, dejectedly.
“Don’t feel bad, my friend, because G&P are the fiends that lurk in the shadows of our lives, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting writer, leaving confusion in its wake.”
“I know from my own experience if a book grabs me and pulls me into the story, I don’t mind a few grammar and punctuation mistakes,” said Jonah, confidently.
“Even though the story might be of prime importance, G&P are the framework that hold you story up.”
“Doesn’t it get up your nose, all this nit-picking by the pedants?” said Jonah, with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Well Jonah, it can tie you in knots at times, but G&P are necessary elements in a piece of writing. You want to communicate effectively, don’t you? So, if you want to make the meaning of your great story CLEAR, G&P are there to help you.”
“So Dave, what do you suggest I do?”
“Learn the basics of G&P, they aren’t the meat of your story, but they are the tools of your trade.”
“What about my readers?” said Jonah, quizzically.
“Don’t worry, your readers are NOT going to reject your story because of a few typos and G&P mistakes. They know how to recognize a great story.”
“I’m so glad I have you to guide me through this linguistic labyrinth,” said Jonah, smiling.
“My pleasure, but remember to study the mechanics and your stories will have a good foundation.”
We shook hands and I said:
“Remember, you have to know the ropes in order to pull the strings!”