How do I let James Joyce--and others--develop my prose without...?


Literature makes a lion out of me. In its acquaintance, I'm prone to brash punctuation, archaic language, and woeful redundancy. In my young-adult fervor I attempt to emulate the masters.


As I read elegant prose I tend to notice the following grammatical inconsistencies in my work:

  1. Redundancy - Victorians used extra language (often french synonyms) to bolster social status.
  2. Overly complex compound clauses.
  3. Complex, and misused punctuation (hyphens, colon, semicolon etc.).** this might be the worst
  4. Archaic language.

How do I let Joyce develop my prose without getting too far ahead of myself? What warnings or tips do you have that could help me avoid try-hard grammatical failure?

2 answers


I am not a professional writer, editor, or teacher, Iain, but that isn't going to stop me from offering my two cents.  ;-)


I think that part of the best answer for you will depend on what sort of writing you are doing.  Do you intend to earn something for your writing?  If so, who is your audience?  There are modern masters for any genre you can think of.  It depends on what you want to master most.  If your goal is to die with a legacy of being a great writer, you might achieve that but the only people who know it are your grandchildren.  If your goal is to become a well-known, popular, or wealthy writer, then you need to look to modern writers who have mastered the ability to become popular and wealthy.  What do those writers do?  How do they attract readers? 


There are writing groups, in person and online, that you can join.  These groups share their material and offer feedback to each other.  This could be a good place for you to hone your skills while still maintaining your own voice and personality.  As for your issues with punctuation, perhaps more study and practice will help resolve most of those problems. 

link edited Feb 17 '13 at 03:44 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

Thank you for your two cents Patty! Now that I think of it, you have answered the heart of my question: this is all I can ask for. Thank you for your encouraging words.

Iain SutherlandFeb 17 '13 at 04:40

You are quite welcome, Iain, and welcome to the forum here. Stick around!

Patty TFeb 17 '13 at 09:35

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I have one thing to add to Patty's excellent answer.


Focus first on what the writer is saying -- the content and meaning -- rather than the writer's style. Joyce is a great writer primarily because what he said he said had lasting truth -- and secondarily because he was a great stylist.


If a writer's words carry no essential meaning or truth, no amount of wordsmithing can save the day.


I hope this helps.

link answered Feb 17 '13 at 19:48 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

I see now! So, style is a vessel for lasting truth. Partly we remember Shakespeare's elegance, but most of all we remember the incredible truth of his words. This is exceptionally helpful, thank you, Jeff.

Iain SutherlandFeb 17 '13 at 23:08

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