October 24, 2007
Spelling, Grammar and the Making of a Book
Each week in my son's third-grade class they have a spelling pretest on Monday. They have to write down the words for the week before they have studied them or seen them in print. This gives a gauge for the amount of studying in the week ahead before the Friday test. Last Monday one of the lines on the sheet my son brought home was "tell a fone." Ah, yes, this one needed some work, as the teacher's list of course said, "telephone."
Being the child of an editor doesn't make a kid a natural-born speller. As a matter of fact, I'm not particularly a spelling or grammar whiz myself. I did well in those areas at school, but nothing remarkable. Does that surprise you? I find that when people find out that I'm an editor they assume that I am all about grammatical correctness. They may even be fearful about sending me email!
Actually, I am much more interested in the overall flow, the big ideas and an inventive turn of phrase. Some frustrated authors will tell you that, if anything, I undo their proper grammar. In particular I am passionate about prepositions. I feel that they need to be freed from the interior of the sentence to which they belong and allow to land naturally at the end of the sentence they belong to.
So if you find yourself living in terror of that third grade spelling test or eighth grade grammar teacher, give yourself a break. Perfect spelling and grammar don't make great books!