Gillian Polack has six novels published, as well as several works of non-fiction and many short pieces. She won the Ditmar for Special Achievement in 2010 and has two doctorates, and she has been teaching writing and language skills for over two decades.
For a writer, what’s the benefit of mastering grammar and punctuation? Isn’t that what editors are for?
If a writer doesn’t have a feel for grammar (whether they have technical terms to describe grammar or not), then their sentences will range from messy to entirely unreadable. If you want your writing to be intelligible, you need grammar.
If someone has never studied grammar before, how difficult is it to learn?
It varies. How difficult grammar is depends on a combination of the teaching approach and the mind of the learner. People who are good with rules and equations, for instance, find the principles of grammar very easy. They usually find parsing as fun as algebra. People who have a strong sense of language find it straightforward to create beautifully grammatical text, but are less comfortable with the technical side.
What’s your favourite piece of punctuation?
My favourite piece of punctuation is one I’ve never had the courage to use. It’s called an ‘interrobang’ and is an exclamation mark on top of a question mark. My second favourite is sadly deceased: it’s a very curved backwards question mark that indicates irony. My life would be so much easier if readers could be certain that I was being ironic.
Join Gillian for her crash course in Grammar and Punctuation Basics, Saturday 4 March, 10am-4pm at the NSW Writers’ Centre.