Saturday, November 5, 2011

Zen in the Debacle of Grammar: It's killing me with its obviousness . . .

The Fountain of Eden's release has been delayed for a week.

I discovered a . . . mistake. On the back cover blurb, no less. After the proof copy of the novel was shipped to me and approved—by me. Most of those who might have glanced over the back cover probably wouldn't even have noticed it.

But the blurb is a draw. Misuse a word there, and some readers won't even crack open the book.

Someone would have noticed.

Oh yes, it's sure someone would have.

It is, oh yes . . . it's?

So that you may learn from my follies and avoid them in your own endeavors . . . welcome to the first installment of Zen in the Debacle of Grammar, a series I will periodically run as I come across interesting grammar issues and other writer's quandaries.

It's” is a contraction that combines the words “it” and “is”, or "it" and "has". It is used in no other way.

The letter “s” with a leading apostrophe is used to show possession everywhere else throughout the English language. The phrase “Jack's toy” indicates that, well, the toy belongs to Jack. The phrase "the idiot's miscue" indicates the miscue was the idiot's.

But the possessive for the word “it” is “its”. No apostrophe. “Its toy” is correct. “It's toy" gets you a big fat X on the grammar quiz.

What happened (i.e. my excuse): Two sentences of the blurb, as it reads ("The beer is called Hoppy Heaven Ale. It's main ingredient: the Water of Life."), were originally one sentence ("Hoppy Heaven Ale's main ingredient: the Water of Life."). When revising the blurb I made the one sentence into two and left the apostrophe behind the word "ale" in there without noticing. 

"The beer is called Hoppy Heaven Ale. Its main ingredient: the Water of Life." Correct! You get a check-mark!

Indie writers, learn from my mistake. Check your work. Then double-check it. Triple-check it. Quadruple-check it. Check, check, check it hard into the boards of infinity. Step back, meditate on everything else in the universe for a while, and then check it again. Until your prose sings and your eyes bleed. You still might miss something. Actually, it's a good damn bet that you will miss something. But the more you look, the more likely you are to catch those aggravating little bastard somethings.

And don't just gloss over the obvious stuff, like the back cover blurb. Most times its the obvious stuff—like that simple, overlooked misuse of “it's”—that you're gonna miss.

As writers, we have . . . selective vision . . . when it comes to our own work. You must drop this subjective mindset--especially when you're rewriting or revising your novel, or your eyes are glancing over your back cover blurb, distracted by all the pretty artwork everywhere. Let go of your writer's ego. Place yourself outside of yourself, and rip yourself a new one. Leave no word uninspected.

Apostrophe, translated from the Greek, means "to turn away".

Damn. It sorta all makes sense now, huh?

(By the way, did you catch the misuse of "its" in this post?)

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