Standard of Care – Or Not

7-teacherI am a strict grammarian. I cannot abide bad grammar, poor syntax, misspellings, for God’s sake!

I’ve been reading my way through a pile of scripts – a pile of 29, all to be read and assessed by the end of this week. I read them in batches – three or four in a row, before taking a break to refresh my palate. I don’t want to get jaded or dull, or overcritical. I want to be a fair judge. And I am generally regarded as a fair judge. I think of myself as one. I have no trouble liking people’s work. I genuinely want to like it. And when it’s good, I’m enthusiastic. I think most people recognize quality when they see it, that my instincts for good quality are excellent.

Over the years, I’ve read and assessed plays and solo shows, both my own and others’. I’ve developed a few attitudes and practices, based on my own personal beliefs. My attitude about the use of proper grammar is that it shows due diligence.

Wikipedia Due diligence” is an investigation of a business or person prior to signing a contract, or an act with a certain standard of care.”

It’s the standard of care part of the above definition that I’m talking about. I believe that a certain “standard of care” must be taken with the words we put on the page. Scripts should be formatted properly, things should be spelled correctly and punctuation should be used for clarity and understanding. Call me persnickety.

By the time I finished Script 12 I had read enough scripts to start turning up my nose at some of them,  giving them points for passion but faulting them for poor grammar, clichéd dialogue, hackneyed plot devices.

So I took the requisite break before resuming. I picked up Script 13. I liked the title immediately. The first line was powerful. On line three I grinned.

Then came an atrocious misspelling. They’re for their. I winced–kept reading. “Bad proofreading, that’s all. I want to like this writer.”

But the typos, and spelling errors, kept coming. “The material is punchy and bright.  I like the way this writer thinks – but this failure to notice all these errors is worrisome. If the writer doesn’t care about the form, doesn’t take the time to polish and refine the script, isn’t that a sign of laziness or lack of ambition, or lack of respect for the reader?”

But the script was really good, so I kept reading. Finally, the grumbling grammarian inside me sat down and shut up. I kept reading—grinning. “Where be your typos now?” I reached the end, put down my tablet, picked up my assessment pad and wrote, “Writing – 10. Brilliant. Stream of consciousness. Full of spelling errors.”


2 thoughts on “Standard of Care – Or Not

  1. I love persnickety, and proper grammar, unless there’s a damn good reason. If, for instance, a person is writing in a dialect and wants to cast a particular inflection or slang to a voice, then by all means, hack away. With passion. xox

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