Grammar and Terminology

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Grammar and Terminology

When writing is it better to go for "period correct" terminology or terms that are easier to understand for a 21st century reader. I've always felt that clarity should be more important, and as long as you're consistent with your usage all is well. For example, you don't fire arrows but it scans clunkily when using phrases such as "loose arrows" or "release arrows". This mostly came up when I was working on Hero's Journey. I did do some research to find appropriate terms for things. Sometimes, this resulted in a few surprises. Such as the term "concussion" being used by the ancient Greeks to describe head injuries.

For dialogue, I've always felt that writing grammar should always take a back seat in regards to the way a person speaks. I'm not saying that you should ignore it, but if a character would naturally use a grammatically incorrect phrase, then it should be included in the dialogue. Lord knows I mangle grammar in a way that would even make a Joss Whedon highschool character wince.

What do you thing?

Of course, you should always proofread what you write/type. Something I still need to work on as the above post proves. ;-)
Entirely a matter of taste, I reckon.


With my historically based stories, i write everything 21st century, although i try to give the dialogue and description a more periosd feel if i can.
Considering writing in Bristolian 21st Century grammar, which might confuse the Americans!


Heh, it'd probably confuse me and I've got relatives from Bristol! :-)
I love Joss Whedon's dialogue. But the creation of a sci-fi milieu through invented idion is a different question again. I reckon that whether you like it or not you'll always end up writing a little 21st Century, but that's got to be better that trying to produce faux 18th Century or 19th Century for example. You're the bridge to the period aren't you? You're the conduit to take people into a different era; you have to have a foot in each camp. Have you read 'The Last of the Mohicans' by James Fennimore-Cooper? Wow, it took me a couple of hundred pages to get to used to the density of his 19th Century style and on top of that he was trying to produce something that evoked the 18th. By preference I'd like to read an adventure story like that in our language rather than his.
I know what you mean, one of my friends posted his "short" fantasy story on his deviantart page. The prose was incredibly dense, no line spaces between paragraphs (which I need on a computer screen) and on top of it, it had the most formal sounding dialoge I'd ever read. in attempt to write faux-medieval, he'd made his story virtually unreadable.


This is an interesting topic. At the risk of being labeled a literary heretic, the subject brings to mind a rather well known writer whose works use "period grammar." Its use is, in my opinion, much to the detriment of the writing.I offer for examination the works of one William Shakespeare. His Plays have universal themes, wonderful dialogue and fascinating morals, but I could never readily follow all of the "Thees ahd thous and forsooths." I think period grammar in this case much detracts from the clarity of the work.He wrote these pieces when such language was the lingua franca of the day, but what relevance does it serve to employ it today? Even annotated versions of his works sometimes leave me saying "Huh?" I have enjoyed "modern versions" of Hamlet and other Shakespeare plays.They stand the test of time and are much more relevant and interesting to me without the "period grammar." J.X.M
I'd say generally that clarity *is* the most important thing, but through that clarity one needs to convey character, mood, authenticity, etc - a narrow and wobbly tightrope to walk! An author I'd strongly recommend in this respect is Stephen Baxter. He is ostensibly a writer of science fiction, but he frequently delves into historical content. When he does so, his attention to detail is such that one truly feels as if one is experiencing the events he describes first-hand... I wouldn't necessarily say, however, that his descriptions of events or even his dialogue are truly, authentically "of the period." Read his "Time's Tapestry" series ("Emperor," "Conqueror," "Navigator" & "Weaver") for fantastic centuries-spanning examples of the above! pe ps oid "the progenitor" "the art of tea" "that's an odd courgette"

The All New Pepsoid the Second!

Yeah, good advice from the peps sh it wri ter "most boring blogger ever"
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