As I delve into the world of grammar, with the end goal of becoming a good grammarian, my own poor habits as a writer begin to appear. I don’t post here at Two Drops as much as I’d like to, however, when I do, the site has a decent following, and I love to share these important discussions about grammar.
One of my habits as a writer is to emphasize my point at the end of the sentence in almost all of my sentence constructions; I love to use the “em dash” and throw a stinging retort or a resounding point at the end of my sentences. This is fine as a rhetorical device if a writer sprinkles his/her writing with this technique, but don’t do it every sentence. I’m no authority on grammar, so you may disagree, that’s what we do here—share knowledge and ideas as writers.
Another issue I have, at times, is clarity in a sentence structure. I have a horrible habit of missing this little fuzzy bugger. Here is an example: “The students discussed their problems with the teacher.” The grammarians out there may immediately recognize the problem of clarity in this sentence; however, some writers like me may have the bad habit of using a construction like this one, regularly. The issue in this construction is whether this sentence is saying the students discussed THEIR problems with THE TEACHER (meaning they talked to the teacher about their problems), or they discussed their PROBLEMS WITH THE TEACHER amongst themselves (they did not like this teacher). I want to use strong nouns and verbs in my sentence structures; this is a “back to basics” sentence structure that we as writers can build on (yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition).
A better construction of this example sentence could be the following: “The students have a problem with the teacher, so they discussed it amongst themselves.” Another option might be, “The students had a problem, and they discussed it with the teacher.
My professor loves this sentence: “Karen baked a cake.” This basic sentence has a subject, a transitive verb, and a direct object. The sentence is, of course, boring; however, this construction is the foundation with which we should learn to build more complex sentences that convey clarity and keep readers turning the page. If you would like a great example, study the writing of Cormac McCarthy. This man has clarity down to a “T.”