I was driving to work this morning and saw a disturbing sign. It was bright construction orange, and about the same size as one of those "make sure you read the entire text of this sign because you'll need it to survive the next three detours" warnings. But it only contained an arrow, pointed to the left. Yep, that's it...one big black arrow, and very definitely pointed left.
What's that mean? After *mumbledy*-five years of driving, I've come to the point where I easily grasp the meaning of most signs. I mean, there's the easy ones they teach us in those books that we all actually study before the driving test. Funny, isn't it, that millions of American kids have made it through entire literature courses without ever really getting in to the text of those books they ask us to read. Math books, meanwhile, are considered vital to read, at least insofar as the problems at the end of the chapter are concerned...but those squiggles on the pages in between are, at best, just a nuisance. Science texts get some reading, as long as by "reading" you mean "scanning for the formulas in the boxes while looking in the margins for information to be used in the inevitable book report." But the driving booklet? Hell, yeah...we spent hours glued over it, memorizing details about the number of points required to lose the license we didn't even have yet, the percentage of alcohol allowed in our bloodstream once we got to drinking age, etc. And then there were the inevitable two or three pages of pictures of signs that you had to memorize...yellow means caution, red means stop, white with a number is a speed limit sign, and so on. And orange? Orange is construction, and these days that gets you double fines. Ugh.
So I crept up on the left-pointing arrow warily. Was it a warning for a required left turn? Or did it mean that at that spot I needed to look left? There weren't any jumping deer or men with shovels on the sign, so I didn't need to worry about animals or workers to the left. What, then, did it mean???
This relates heavily, of course (yes, you knew I was going there, didn't you?) to the art and science of grammatical construction. That topic is pretty much where I started this blog, and it's where I'll probably end, and it's got several mileposts set out in the journey it describes. I mean, writing is all about the storytelling, right? All that matters is that you can follow the story from beginning to end, right? But how do you do it without knowing what the signs mean?
I saw a post on Facebook recently that claimed to describe why reviewers tend to not review self-published works in a very positive manner. I dove right in, because good reviews will be important to me. To sum up the article while paraphrasing Bill Clinton: "It's the grammar, stupid." The article did a great job of explaining why it's important to those of us who read a lot that the author follows the rules of grammar. For me, it boils down to that signage lesson. I know when to slow down because I recognize a speed limit sign. By the same token, I know when to stop one thought and continue with another when I recognize an end-of-sentence period. The grammar, which includes punctuation, word usage, and other rules, means something. Frankly, if you didn't pay attention to that part of the manual before, you really should go check out the manual again before you take off on a trip.
So...enough about signs and grammar for the night. Time to get back to revising.