Who said What?

There’s a great sketch from Abbott and Costello called Who’s on First. In it, there are three baseball players, “Hu” (on first), “Watt”, (on second) and “I Don’t Know” (on third.) The gag lies in knowing these names are also questions, and thus hilarity ensues as one guy keeps trying to figure out who is on first, second and third base.

This sketch works so well in part because both Abbott and Costello have a strong command of Subject-Object Grammar.

Stay with me.

In the sketch, we the audience are totally clear who our Subjects are; “Hu”, “Watt” and “I Don’t Know”, and what our objects are; First, Second and Third Base, so we can follow the dialogue even as one of the characters is descending into total chaos.

Let’s compare this to a sentence I found while reading a trashy listacle about drunkenly buying amazon products.

“Just as you should never put car keys in the hands of someone who’s had one too many, you should also keep them as far away from the computer as possible.”

Uho. Do you see what’s happening here?

“Just as you should never put car keys in the hands of someone who’s had one too many, you should also keep them as far away from the computer as possible.”

Oops!

Here we have Subject-Object confusion, which leaves the reader wondering why they should keep their car keys away from the pc. Here, the Subject is the keys, and the Objects become a drunkard and a computer.

It’s actually a simple fix.

Just as you should keep your drunken friend from their car keys, ­so too should you keep them from their computer.

Better, and not bad advice either.

When writing a story or a poem it’s important to get your grammar right, even if it’s only the basic stuff. Obviously you care about your story, your idea, about finding truth in reality and all that beautiful talk, but you’ll nullify that beauty by confusing readers with car keys browsing google and getting wrecked on cans of dutch.

Grammar puts people off because it’s technical, complicated, and confusing. It feels so far removed from the creativity of writing a poem or a story, but I assure you it’s not as complicated as a poorly written spiel.

You don’t need to get a degree in technical writing, but you should be abreast of the basics. Get to know your grammar. Learn why sentences are structured the way they are, and why we speak the way we do. It will help you a hundred-fold and will instantly improve your writing. After all, you can’t break the rules if you don’t know them.

So be like Abbott and Costello. Know Who is on First, What is on Second, and Why you should never let your car keys drunk-drive.

 

*

Take some time to learn.

Grammar-basics: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_(grammar)

A very useful book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Elements-Style-William-Strunk-Jr/dp/020530902X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493723998&sr=8-1&keywords=strunk+and+white

Light relief: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTcRRaXV-fg

 If you have a blog idea and want to contribute, drop us a message at stanzas.limerick@gmail.com

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Who said What?

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