Speaking in Bad Grammar

I just finished reading a book that I got as a gift.  It was an interesting book; not my usual style but I did enjoy it.  The only minor issue I had with it was the occasional poor grammar, particularly in dialog.  It got me thinking about writing conversations.

The grammar issues were things that are fairly common in everyday speech.  For example, the first “as” in a simile was omitted in several conversations, as in, “His bathtub was big as a car.”  It doesn’t sound wrong, exactly, just a bit odd, even if it is technically incorrect.  Because it is heard in the everyday speech of some people, it is acceptable to include it in dialog.

But should an author write that way?  I understand writing really wrong grammar, or using excessive slang or clichés, to make a point about a character.  Does dropping in the occasional slightly incorrect sentence structure have the same effect?

I haven’t decided my exact opinion on this subject.  Do you have any thoughts?

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kanundra
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 10:17:43

    Personally I would prefer it to read ‘his bathtub was as big as a car’ 🙂 just my thoughts. I’m not totally perfect in my word choices or grammar though…


  2. Tammy J Rizzo
    Dec 27, 2012 @ 16:05:25

    I’ve always felt that dialogue needs to be more free from stringent grammatical rules of construction, since no one really uses them in face-to-face conversation, anyway. Still, as dialogue is still written word, lacking tone of voice and facial expression to aid with understanding, grammar can’t be kicked completely to the side. Therefore, bending and even breaking grammar rules for dialogue, in order to make it sound more like real people talking, probably should be the preferred method, but only in moderation, since dialogue still has to be readable.

    By the way, do you read your dialogue out loud? That’s an excellent way to see if it flows organically.


    • Leigh Townsend
      Dec 27, 2012 @ 20:45:27

      Good thoughts on dialog being a reflection of how people speak!
      I’m auditory, so I read almost everything out loud. 🙂 I can’t tell how well it works if I don’t. (This includes blog posts!)


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