'Sin and Syntax' author deals in tension between perfect grammar and good writing

'Sin and Syntax' by Constance Hale
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Constance Hale is a writer and teacher of writing who says she is "aware of this tension between people who walk the hypercorrect grammatical line and people who swing a little bit."

"And I have never felt happy in either camp," she told The Rumpus. "As a writer, I like to know what's grammatically correct, because I'm interested in it, but I don't really think grammatically correct prose is always the most interesting prose to read."

That tension between "descriptivists and prescriptivists, or grammarians and linguists," inhabits her books about style and grammar, including the newly revised and updated "Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose." The book aims to guide modern writers in perfecting their grammar without losing their personality. Hale also provides tips for texting and tweeting.

"What I'm trying to do in my books is not sit there and be this sort of prissy grammar diva," she told The Rumpus. "I'm not interested in being the Miss Manners of grammar. What I'm trying to do is give my readers a handle on language so when that reader sits down to write, some choices are at the front of that person's mind that may not have been there in the first place, because they know more and understand more about language."


The Way to Wicked Good Prose
Whether you're a floodgates-open writer or a blocked writer, remember: the first draft is just for getting the ideas down. It's in the revising that we sift through our words, letting only the most perfect specimens adorn the thread of syntax. These principles will help you banish the potatoes and burnish the pearls. (Constance Hale, Huffington Post)

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