Are you used to hearing that you need to brush up your grammar? If so, you are in good company: many famous writers made mistakes that would give your average English teacher a heart attack, which didn’t preclude them from, well, becoming famous. Let’s take a look at some of them!
1. William Shakespeare
Does one get any more classic than that? Nevertheless, a man instrumental in the formation of modern English language often neglected to follow the rule most of us learn at school – that one doesn’t end a sentence or an independent clause with a preposition. One can easily understand why – a phrase like “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” immediately loses all its dynamism and rhythm when transformed into “Dreams are made on such stuff as we are.”
2. James Joyce
The next time your teacher says your punctuation is hopeless and every essay you write is a capital offence against the English language, it may be comforting to know that no matter how bad you are, you are never going to be as bad as James Joyce, one of the most celebrated English-speaking authors in history. Ulysses, his magnum opus, is barely readable due to many factors, not the least important being its punctuation. For you to get an idea: the final segment of the novel consists of 24,048 words that have two full stops and one comma to go around.
3. William Faulkner
If you are berated for your run-on sentences and writing that is generally rambling and incomprehensible, you may proudly think of yourself as a Faulkner’s disciple – after all, can a man who won one Nobel and two Pulitzer prizes be wrong? This man couldn’t be bothered to make his sentences crisper and more intelligible and advised to read the more convoluted specimens four times to get the meaning. Try it on your teacher next time.
4. F. Scott Fitzgerald
Alright, grammar and punctuation is one thing, you may say, they are debatable and open for alteration when a literary need arises. But surely you have to know how to spell if you want to write novels, right?
Wrong. One of the most prominent American writers of the 20th century, F. Scott Fitzgerald, had a notoriously god-awful spelling. He went as far as to misaddress one of his best friends, Hemingway, as “Earnest Hemminway” in letters and caused many a facepalm among the editors who had a misfortune to work on his texts.
5. Jane Austen
Austen may be considered one of the iconic English-speaking writers nowadays, but research shows that her spelling and grammar were often full of mistakes, only a part of which can be explained by stylistic preferences. Double negatives can be used for a specific emotional effect, spelling “scissors” as “scissars”… probably not.
As you can see, people who are considered genius are not perfect at all. So, next time somebody calls your writing deplorable, think of this as a sign of impending greatness.