I just finished Spelled by Betsy Schow. Great book with an interesting take on the land of fairy tales. It has a really brisk pace and is imaginative and funny–really delightful, clever, and funny! But…
Somehow a few grammar-y things slipped through (yes, I know–grammar is not mechanics, punctuation, or usage, but we’re going with the colloquial usage here). I’m not sure who is responsible for that sort of thing these days–I know that editors are given less time with books. And certainly, the lack of teaching grammar (usage, mechanics, punctuation) in school has decreased. But I hate when I am reading for pleasure and I get pulled out of the story for errors. (I realize that because I am making a post about grammar (and the rest) that I will make at least one dunderheaded error in this post. So be it.)
The first thing that I noticed was an ever more common hyper-correction–people who seem to believe that the word “me” is a naughty word to be avoided whenever possible. I think it began in elementary school. Susie says “Me and Billy got ice cream.” Teacher corrects “Billy and I got ice cream.” This is all good. Certainly, a person should not say “Me got ice cream” no matter what else is going on (except Tarzan. He’s allowed). There is also the tradition in English that the other person in a sentence is supposed to go first. It’s a bit of chivalry that lingers, and I like it.
Here’s the problem. Because no one explains the rules, people have to guess what standard English is, if something else is spoken at home and/or the person in question doesn’t read enough. So the person hyper-corrects and begins saying things like “People who got ice cream included Billy and I.” Ugh. It’s just ugly, isn’t it? It should read “People who got ice cream included Billy and me.” Because if you can replace the phrase (someone’s name and pronoun) with us, you’d use me. If you can replace it with we, then you’d use I. An even simpler trick is to just (temporarily–I’m not advocating killing people to make sentences easier) get rid of the phrase and keep the pronoun. “People who got ice cream included I”? Nope. Ugly. Makes me shudder (yes, really). “Give the present to I”? No present for you, until you clear your speech of barbarisms.
There were a few instances in the novel of those. And every time, I stopped reading to say “me.”
The other problem might be a little more controversial. I’m pretty sure there were comma splices. Ish. Lemme explain. Here’s an example (not from the book): “I love rabbits, I hate radishes, but I do like them cooked.” To my way of thinking, there should be a semicolon between “rabbits” and “I.” “I love rabbits; I hate radishes, but I do like them cooked.” I’d be interested in seeing how other people interpret it.
In another book I read recently, there were sentences like “I walked down the lane, I stood at the window, and I dodged the crossbow bolt fired from behind me.” I know that that’s a series there, but I don’t like it. Why not three short sentences or one short sentence and a semicolon between the last two independent clauses?
And there was a third thing that for the life of me I can’t remember. I’ll edit this and add it in when it comes back to me (not comes back to I!).
Believe it or not, I don’t want to do this–I want to become immersed in a world and enjoy. But my internal copy editor just won’t let me sometimes. But do read the book–the very few flaws don’t outweigh the loveliness of it all.