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Grammar rules for picture books

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Hello all!

I'm new to the group and have a grammar question. When writing picture books, is it ok to ignore rules such as:
  - Never start a sentence with 'And' ?
 - Never start a sentence with 'Like'?

Just wondering how much we can let the tone of the story set the rules.

#1 - December 01, 2020, 03:03 PM
« Last Edit: January 25, 2021, 10:24 AM by Mii »

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Well, I don't write picture books, but I've always felt that there really aren't that many 'rules,' per se -- and the two you've mentioned are definitely things I've done many times. I'm a writing teacher, and I tell my students that everything in moderation (though sometimes you deliberately break 'rules' repeatedly to make a point or to set up a certain rhythm in your writing).

All this to say, I'd say you can do whatever you want that enhances your content and style. :)
#2 - December 01, 2020, 04:15 PM
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I'm a PB writer and I definitely start sentences with "And" more often than I probably should. :-) And use incomplete sentences. To me, the most important thing is flow of words when reading it aloud, so if you need And to start a sentence occasionally, absolutely do it.
#3 - December 01, 2020, 04:28 PM
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I wouldn't say these are rules, just recommendations. And as such, you must decide what gives the best narrative flow.
#4 - December 01, 2020, 04:42 PM
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I'm new to the group and have a grammar question. When writing picture books, is it ok to ignore rules such as:
  - Never start a sentence with 'And' ?
 - Never start a sentence with 'Like'?

Just wondering how much we can let the tone of the story set the rules.

My suggestion is to grab a big stack of recently published picture books and read through them.  This is the best way to see what's acceptable in picture books these days.

But to give a more direct answer -- picture books vary in style. Some are more formal and lyrical. Others are more informal and conversational. 

The rule about not starting a sentence with "and," "but," or other coordinating conjunctions is really only followed in very formal, academic writing styles.  Your picture books can include sentences that start with coordinating conjunctions.

I've never heard a rule about not starting a sentence with "like."

Do you mean the verb? This is fine if it's a command. For example, "Like my tweets, please!"

Do you mean the preposition? Some people avoid ending a sentence with a preposition, but many sentences start with prepositions.  Consider the famous slogan, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." Added -- I did a quick search and found a Grammar Girl article responding to similar questions about starting sentences with prepositions. Spoiler: She's fine with it. https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/can-you-start-sentence-preposition

Do you mean the filler word? Like, OMG, you should probably avoid this unless you want to sound like a Valley Girl. (No offense to Valley Girls.) (Also, you really might want your characters to sound like this, so you might start sentences this way in dialogue.)

But really, my main suggestion is to read a bunch of picture books with these types of questions in mind. You'll learn a lot more that way.
#5 - December 01, 2020, 05:12 PM
« Last Edit: December 01, 2020, 05:15 PM by laurel-gale »
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Yes, it's great to start PB sentences with "And" and "Like!"
#6 - December 01, 2020, 05:49 PM
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Well, I don't write picture books, but I've always felt that there really aren't that many 'rules,' per se -- and the two you've mentioned are definitely things I've done many times. I'm a writing teacher, and I tell my students that everything in moderation (though sometimes you deliberately break 'rules' repeatedly to make a point or to set up a certain rhythm in your writing).

All this to say, I'd say you can do whatever you want that enhances your content and style. :)

Thank you so much! This was really helpful!
#7 - December 01, 2020, 05:51 PM

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My suggestion is to grab a big stack of recently published picture books and read through them.  This is the best way to see what's acceptable in picture books these days.

But to give a more direct answer -- picture books vary in style. Some are more formal and lyrical. Others are more informal and conversational. 

The rule about not starting a sentence with "and," "but," or other coordinating conjunctions is really only followed in very formal, academic writing styles.  Your picture books can include sentences that start with coordinating conjunctions.

I've never heard a rule about not starting a sentence with "like."

Do you mean the verb? This is fine if it's a command. For example, "Like my tweets, please!"

Do you mean the preposition? Some people avoid ending a sentence with a preposition, but many sentences start with prepositions.  Consider the famous slogan, "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." Added -- I did a quick search and found a Grammar Girl article responding to similar questions about starting sentences with prepositions. Spoiler: She's fine with it. https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/can-you-start-sentence-preposition

Do you mean the filler word? Like, OMG, you should probably avoid this unless you want to sound like a Valley Girl. (No offense to Valley Girls.) (Also, you really might want your characters to sound like this, so you might start sentences this way in dialogue.)

But really, my main suggestion is to read a bunch of picture books with these types of questions in mind. You'll learn a lot more that way.


Thank you! I meant "like" as in. "Like Tina." (in terms of making a comparison or emphasizing the subject)
#8 - December 01, 2020, 05:52 PM

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I'm a PB writer and I definitely start sentences with "And" more often than I probably should. :-) And use incomplete sentences. To me, the most important thing is flow of words when reading it aloud, so if you need And to start a sentence occasionally, absolutely do it.

Thank you! I'd been wondering whether it was acceptable to have incomplete sentences. I wasn't sure if that was something that only editors would allow on rare occasions.
#9 - December 01, 2020, 05:54 PM

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I wouldn't say these are rules, just recommendations. And as such, you must decide what gives the best narrative flow.

Thank you Vijaya! By the way, do you still take on critique clients?
#10 - December 01, 2020, 05:58 PM

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I meant "like" as in. "Like Tina." (in terms of making a comparison or emphasizing the subject)

"Like" is a preposition in this usage, so you're talking about starting a sentence with a preposition. There's no rule against that! See the Grammar Girl link I gave above if you still have any questions about starting sentences with prepositions.
#11 - December 01, 2020, 06:23 PM
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One more question - When referring to a creature such as The Boogeyman or The Sandman, is it ok to keep the  letter T capitalized every time you refer to it in the manuscript? Or is that a no no?

I would not capitalize the letter T in these situations. (Unless, of course, it occurs at the beginning of a sentence.)

#12 - December 01, 2020, 06:30 PM
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One more question - When referring to a creature such as The Boogeyman or The Sandman, is it ok to keep the  letter T capitalized every time you refer to it in the manuscript? Or is that a no no?


It would seem odd to do this because "the" is not really part of the proper name. Consider the Empire State building of the Houses of Parliament. (These examples are from the Chicago Manual of Style.)

It is a stylistic choice though. If you have a story reason for doing this, go for it. For example, if "The" is a family name relating The Bogeyman and The Sandman or if the point is to emphasize the word "the," this might make sense.

The best thing to do is often to write the story and then get it critiqued by your critique group or by posting it on the boards.

.
#13 - December 01, 2020, 06:38 PM
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It would seem odd to do this because "the" is not really part of the proper name. Consider the Empire State building of the Houses of Parliament. (These examples are from the Chicago Manual of Style.)

It is a stylistic choice though. If you have a story reason for doing this, go for it. For example, if "The" is a family name relating The Bogeyman and The Sandman or if the point is to emphasize the word "the," this might make sense.

The best thing to do is often to write the story and then get it critiqued by your critique group or by posting it on the boards.

.

That's just it though. I wanted the "The" to be part of the proper name. It's the band a villain character. They refer to themselves that way and I want other characters to refer to them that way.
#14 - December 01, 2020, 07:28 PM

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Thank you Vijaya! By the way, do you still take on critique clients?

You're welcome. And yes, although I still take critique clients, I first recommend what Debbie suggests--joining a critique group or posting your story here for critique and critiquing others' work because you learn so much from giving and receiving critiques. It's what is best for you to grow as a writer. Paying for critiques gets expensive. I'd only do it after I'd done everything possible to make it the best story and still need a professional eye.

That's just it though. I wanted the "The" to be part of the proper name. It's the band a villain character. They refer to themselves that way and I want other characters to refer to them that way.

In this case, you would capitalize because it's part of the name, a proper noun.

Laurel has given an excellent site for grammar rules, but I'd also invest in a book if you haven't already. My favorite is Elements of Style by Strunk and White (yes, that EB White of Charlotte's Web). But if in doubt I also refer to Barron's Essentials of English and Hodges' Harbrace Handbook of Grammar.

Happy reading, writing and revising.




#15 - December 02, 2020, 06:22 AM
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Even in a band name, the gets lowercased. https://www.britannica.com/topic/the-Who. Chicago lists the Who with the lowercased also. Here's what it actually says, "A the preceding a name, even when part of the official title, is lowercased in running text."

Go for it, but know it may be changed in edits. If your story is great, it's unlikely to lead to a rejection. There is nothing wrong with breaking rules as long as you do it knowingly and have reason. (In this case, to show young readers it's part of the name.)
#16 - December 02, 2020, 07:00 PM
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Even in a band name, the gets lowercased. https://www.britannica.com/topic/the-Who. Chicago lists the Who with the lowercased also. Here's what it actually says, "A the preceding a name, even when part of the official title, is lowercased in running text."

Go for it, but know it may be changed in edits. If your story is great, it's unlikely to lead to a rejection. There is nothing wrong with breaking rules as long as you do it knowingly and have reason. (In this case, to show young readers it's part of the name.)

Thank you for this! Super helpful!
#17 - December 02, 2020, 08:01 PM

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just to add something. As you are on a tight word count, the "and" and "but", may be the words you can cut in revision. if it still make sense of course.
Happy writing.
#18 - December 27, 2020, 11:55 PM
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