There are over fifty countries where English is the official language. That’s out of about 196. In other words, over 25%. There are many more where English is commonly spoken. That makes it far reaching and diverse, and more confusing than ever (link to a Wiki article on what countries speak English HERE).
*For details on how the list was created and what the allocated points mean, click HERE.
As a writer, I constantly struggle with what English to use, and writing Jane Austen Fan Fiction adds a whole additional layer of confusion. Do I dedicate myself to reconstructing the language used by the peerage in England in the early 1800s? Do I scour manuals and the internet for correct English? Or, do I write how I and people I know talk, meaning American spoken English.
The answer, for me, is to compromise. For example, I try not to sound too American. From some of our reviews, I’m pretty sure I get a fail on that one. I also try not to sound too modern, but can’t bring myself to attempt actual replication of Miss Austen’s wording and style. This is because I would likely fail at that as well, creating some demented, awkward rendition of English that would leave both Jane Austen and modern readers cringing.
But what about the rules? Those pesky, pesky rules, both official and unofficial. One, for example, is not to start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction (i.e. and, or, but). A little research, however, find this to be a grammatical myth. Technically, it’s perfectly correct to begin a sentence this way. Practically, we’ve all been told not to and doing so may make some people look down on our work. Other people, of course, won’t notice.
The example that brings me nearest to madness (not toward anger, because mad and angry are not actually synonymous . . . ) is the subjunctive mood.
Some examples include:
If I were you, I would build a house made completely of chocolate.
I wish I were ten time taller than the tallest tippy tree.
The trouble is, correct doesn’t always look and sound correct. My ongoing question is, what do I do? When I write it correctly, I feel as if many readers think it’s an error because no one speaks that way. If I write it incorrectly, but how many people think it should be, people who know better may turn up their noses at my poor grammar. It leaves me wondering if maybe I shouldn’t have learned the rules at all, so I could live in blissful ignorance.
Because I really want to know, here are some questions on the topic of English:
- As a writer, do you try to follow all of the rules, or do you write colloquially?
- As a reader, how much do you care if you agree with the grammatical choices the author made?
- Also, what are some of your pet peeve errors? For example, people not knowing the difference between further and farther bugs me, or less and fewer.
- Lastly, do you have any pet peeves with English itself? I do! Sometimes English seems designed specifically to torment. For example: meddle medal metal mettle or mantel mantle or rain reign rein . . . basically any homophone, though I can understand how they came to be (link to a homophone site HERE).