grammatical errors


Posted on Posted in Screenwriting Tips

Hopefully,  I spelt it appropriately. In my day, we would say “she tabonned” meaning she made a grammatical error. It, later, moved on to “she shelled”. I don’t know what these kids are up to these days, but I sure do catch them giggle at some grammatical errors – so they must have something they say when people tabon.

Some people just get really excited whenever they hear that the rules can be broken. Hold up, aight? The rules can be broken, but there are rules to breaking the rules. You don’t just leave your work unattended to with all the grammar errors, believing that if people saw them, they’d think it was intentional. Yeah, that’s intentional crap!


There are many ways of executing hilarious dialogues or speeches in movie scripts; and making your character “tabon” is one of them. But what happens when we, the audience, don’t get the joke? It then looks like a poorly written script; your audience won’t believe that after several edits, you still missed out obvious errors.


There are set concepts about introducing grammatical errors in your scripts that are generally acceptable, and would, surprisingly, have your audience looking forward to more of these errors. One of such concepts is what we, literary inclined, call Malapropism. We’ve seen it in the character of Mrs. Malaprop in Richard Sheridan’s “The Rivals” (He is the very pine-apple (pinnacle) of politeness), and we’ve also seen it in the character of Dogberry in Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” (Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended [apprehended] two auspicious [suspicious] persons).

They unintentionally use words that sound similar to the words that they actually mean, creating a humorous effect, or thereby, probably, sending their audience to a confused pool of calculated thoughts. But the beautiful thing about this kind of grammatical error usage in writings is that the real meanings almost always are easily perceivable by the audience – so, it becomes more of a joke than an error.

Yes to grammatical errors.

The same concept can be applied in movie scripts. Even if it’s not on the word level, the idea is still there when you structure it on the level of phonetics or concord (subject/verb agreement). Your character needs to be involved in the story in such a way that we understand certain things. He has a speech disorder. She is from a humble background. He is from the hood. She is a child (or some other reason), and that’s why (s)he’s taboning so bad.

When you have such characters in your scripts, you find yourself taboning on their behalf. Yeah, you need to learn to speak all sorts of English varieties. This also helps the characters speak differently, and have a distinct word-personality.

Mind you, everybody in the movie cannot have a reason to tabon (who are you writing all that tabon for? A bunch of idiots?  Just one (or two) distinct personality is fine.

These are the kind of criteria for taboning in movie scripts. Should be careful on them damned auto-corrects though, they sure do know how to spoil the art.

Read another post on grammar HERE.


Isedehi Aigbogun, also known as ISD, is a staunch academic, holding a B.A., M.A., and PhD (in view) in English Language.

She’s a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analyst, Consultant, and Film Scriptic.

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