Mechanics

Learn about mechanics -- the rules and conventions that inform written as opposed to spoken discourse.

Getting the mechanics right when revising can take a little magic. "The Making of Harry Potter 29-05-2012" by Karen Roe is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

What are Mechanics?

Mechanics are the conventions or rules that govern written language, including

Mechanics are a socio-cultural-rhetorical construct. Mechanics evolve over time as communication technologies and discourse communities/communities of practice evolve.

Related Concepts: Grammar; Register


Why Do Mechanics Matter?

Mechanics enable writers, speakers, and knowledge makers . . . to communicate with audiences.

Mechanics and grammar are the rules and conventions that inform communicative practices among members of a discourse community. Mechanics rules are for governing written language.

When writers violate conventions related to mechanics, readers are likely to be confused.

Mechanics vs Grammar

Mechanics and grammar are interrelated concepts. For some users, they are equivalent terms. Traditionalists make this distinction, however:

  • Grammars govern the language patterns of oral discourse
  • Mechanics govern the language patterns of oral discourse.

While this distinction between mechanics and grammar is nice and tidy, it breaks down in practice.

Some elements of language practice pertain to both written and oral discourse. This may explain why Grammar Handbooks and online websites (e.g., The Owl at Purdue University or Grammarly.Com or Wikipedia) disagree about whether or not some elements of discourse such as Modifiers, Parallelism (Parallel Structure), Punctuation or Sentence Fragments should be indexed under Grammar or Mechanics.

Regardless, the takeaway here is that you need a firm grounding in grammar and mechanics in order to edit your work on the work of others.

Mechanics as a Socio-cultural-historical-Rhetorical Process

Mechanics evolve over time as technologies empower new methods of composing