Tag Archives: grammar

Unique Grammar Lessons

I seem to have unusual ways of doing things or unusual things happen to me. You, dear reader, can decide if this is an example.

Years ago, when I was preparing to move into my college dorm, my mother helped me pack clothes and the two of us tried to imagine all the other things I’d need to start my very first semester.

Mom was used to having me close where she would be available to help with homework or guidance for different circumstances, and I’m sure, since I was an only child, she was prematurely suffering from “Empty Nest” syndrome. I, on the other hand, was looking forward to making new friends and having a bit more freedom than I’d previously had.

Once there, the transition went smoothly and I got settled in nicely. Everyone with whom I came in contact was friendly and helpful. My roommate and I hit it off right away. It was a whole new world and I couldn’t wait to experience it.

I got the feeling as I finished unpacking that my mother was worried I’d forget about her, because I soon discovered she’d packed a tablet of stationary along with an equal amount of stamped envelopes addressed to her, so it wouldn’t be inconvenient for me to write letters home. She even wrote the salutation, “Dear Mom” at the top of each sheet of stationery and valediction and my name at the bottom. FYI that was before cell phones and e-mail, i.e. people used to write letters back then.

Anyway, I tried to be a good dutiful daughter and wrote every week telling my mom about all my classes and activities, the people I’d met and how lovely the campus was. I even justified why I needed money occasionally. Sound familiar?

The surprise came when my mom wrote back to me. I guess I need to explain that my mother was a former college professor and very picky about grammar, so when I opened her very thick letters, I realized my previous letter was enclosed. I couldn’t imagine why she had returned my letter until I unfolded the paper and looked at it. She had gone over it and corrected all my grammar and spelling errors and marked them in red pencil!

Some college kids might have been aggravated by that. Not me. Once I realized what she did, I thought it was so funny it made me laugh out loud. That was my mom, all right. Bless her heart; she was a teacher through and through. Even from a thousand miles away, she was trying to help me.

As I look back on that time in my life, I am so grateful she took the time and effort to go that extra step, odd and insignificant as it seemed at the time. It really made me conscious of grammar and spelling and has made me aware to this day, many, many years hence. In fact, I think I have “become my mother” in that regard. I’m a real stickler, but that trait has helped me since I decided I wanted to be a writer. I still make mistakes, but I try to look things up if I’m not sure about them.

What influenced you to learn correct grammar? Was it memorable? Lasting, like mine?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.  Join here here each 11th of the month.

 

 

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Developing A Whole New Appreciation For Publishers by Sheila Deeth

I got an email today from one of the bold brave editors of a journal soon to be released by our local writers’ group. She complimented me on the fact that there were fewer egregious errors this year than in last year’s document. The reason, mostly, is I learned from last year’s mistakes and from her excellent efforts in editing them.

A good friend collected all the submissions (over thirty of them!) in files and directories online. Then I spent a week-and-a-half (ask my long-suffering husband–really I did), combining those multiply-formatted documents together, sorting and ordering, setting the styles, and finally doing those painfully slow steps of minimal editing. At the end of it all iI’ve developed a whole new appreciation for publishers. No wonder they have submission guidelines, or they and their long-suffering spouses would all go crazy!

So here, in case you’re interested, is the task I set myself for that week-and-a-half. It’s also the reason I haven’t had time to send in submissions, edit novels, or write any halfway decent blogposts. But I’m sure my novels will be all the easier to read because of what I’ve learned.

General Stuff after formatting the files

  1. Headers: Are the titles consistent—THIS STORY by This Author
  2. Sections: I’m trying to start each section strong and end with a link to the next. Ordering the stories is Aghghghgh!
  3. Contents List: Making sure I don’t lose anything. And
  4. Separators: We settled on single-blank line separators, not stars, not dots, not multiple lines.

Then there are the details

  1. Dashes: e.g
    1. He followed the girl—the one he’d seen before,” with a long dash and no spaces.
    2. counting 1 – 10” has a long-ish dash and two spaces.
    3. And “long-ish” has a short dash within a word.
  2. Ellipses: Three dots within a sentence, no spaces to either side: four dots (three plus a period) at the end. But do we want the Word ellipsis or just the periods?
  3. Paragraphs: Ah, the joys of entries with hard tabs, or, even worse, hard spaces and hard returns! Aghghgh!
  4. Numbers: e.g. two or three, not 2 or 3. But what about dates and times and measurements (I’ll get them right next year).
  5. Italics: for internal dialog, emphasis, and air-quotes. No underlines!
  6. Quote marks and apostrophes: Change vertical ones to “ ” and ‘ ’, (The trials of people using such different programs). Then remove leading and trailing spaces, and make sure punctuation works:
    1. He said, “Go away.” The period goes inside the quote, and there’s a comma before the quote.
    2. “Go away,” he said. There is a comma before the quote mark.
    3. Did he really say, “Go away”? (This is an exception. Since his statement wasn’t a question, the question mark goes outside the quote.)
    4. She said, “What did he say?” (Here her statement was a question, so the question mark is within the quote.)
  7. More About Apostrophes: e.g
    1. Apostrophes replacing missing letters should be of the end-quote style: e.g. ’cause we need ’em, not ‘cause we need ‘em.
    2. No apostrophes for plurals and dates: e.g. 1960s, not 1960’s, IQs, not IQ’s. But note, the ’60s does have a leading apostrophe (for the missing 19).
  8. More About Quotes: e.g
    1. Quotes should start and end with quote marks. If the same quote continues don’t use a quotemark at the end of the paragraph, but start the next with one.
    2. Otherwise changes in speaker should match up to changes in paragraph.
    3. Use commas.  He said, “Okay,” not He said “Okay,” And “Hey, Mom,” not, “Hey Mom.”
    4. Dialog tags should be possible: We can nod, but we can’t nod words.
  9. Capital letters: start sentences and names. Non-names start with non-capitals: e.g. “He asked his mom,” not, “He asked his Mom.” But, “He asked Mom,” not “He asked mom.”
  10. Commas: e.g
    1. They bought apples, pear, and bananas. We decided to keep (therefore have to check for) the serial comma.
    2. He bought apples, and she bought bananas. Commas if the clauses are complete sentences.
    3. He bought apples and went to the bookstore. No comma if the clause isn’t a complete sentence.
  11. Run on sentences: e.g. “It won’t work; there’s nothing to be done.” Not “It won’t work, there’s nothing to be done.”  But don’t change the author’s style.
  12. hyphens  and compound words My favorite bug-bear, or should it be bugbear. We’re going with whatever Word says is right. And finally…
  13. First person pronoun: e.g. I will format, and the file comes from me, so “You and I” will edit now, and the file comes from “you and me.”

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero and its soon-to-be-released sequel, Infinite Sum. She runs a writers’ group at her local library and is helping them compile their fourth anthology.

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To comma, or not to comma: that is the question(mark)

When I was a senior in high school, my English teacher, Mrs. Umeck, gave us a first-year college grammar exam…just for fun. I was the only student in my class of 30 to pass the test, and I passed it with a 100% at that. I suppose that should have been my first sign that not everyone understood grammar – that it was as complicated and elusive as Algebra or Physics. And while I’ve grown to understand this, I still cringe when I see an egregious grammatical mistake.

Don’t get me wrong, though! I’m not judging when I’m reading a rough draft of a novel, or a novel in general. Typos happen, things fall through the cracks, schools of thought vary from time to time…in an 80,000 word manuscript, I don’t  get obsessed.

But! When I’m walking down the street and see a one-line sign that has a glaring grammatical error…Well, there’s a part of me that wants to take a magic marker — or eraser, depending on the situation — to it. And another part of me that’s proud that I know it’s wrong. There’s one I have to stare at every single day on my subway commute: No eating, drinking on Path. Unfortunately, and very much to my chagrin, the sign is too high up for me to reach without standing on the seats.

Now, I know I’m not perfect — I know my copy-editor friend finds plenty of errors for me — but I do pride myself on having a pretty good grasp of English grammar. And when I’m feeling down about my writing, I can at least say to myself, “At least I know when to use a comma and when to use a semi-colon!” *sigh* Sad, but true 🙂

But I’m curious…Am I alone in this? Are there other people who are OCD about grammar? Do you have an example of a street sign that drives you insane? Or do you prefer not to let technicalities bog you down when you’re writing? And are you now thinking, “Wow! This girl is insane!” LOL!

Jerrica Knight-Catania is the author of  A Gentleman Never Tells, soon to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

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One-eyed One-Horned Flying Purple People Eater by Claire Collins

My seven year old daughter came home from school very excited to show me the new song and dance she learned. The song was “One-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater.” As a child, I had the record of the song and it always made me laugh, it also made me wonder where the creature found purple people. I looked at my daughter and asked her that very question.

“Addy, you’re so cute. I love your song and dance, but where did he find purple people?”

She stopped and looked at me. She didn’t question why I didn’t find fault with this amazing creature to begin with since obviously she’s used to my quirks. She laughed at me.

“Mom, the people aren’t purple, the bird is purple!”

Okay, now I never imagined this creature as a bird, but her imagination is her own, and not mine. I just imagined him as a big fat furry purple thing with wings. She sees him as a bird. She sang the song again with the proper movements while she sang.  

“One-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eater.”

“Right Addy, he’s a one-eyed—“

“Right”

“One-horned—“

“Right”

“Flying—“

“Purple people eater!”

“No Mom!” Addy sighed and rolled her eyes. She’s very dramatic for a seven year old. “He’s a flying…purplepeople eater!”

“Okay, honey. Fine. He doesn’t eat purple people. Why do you think he’s a bird?” She left me there pondering that question and went to show daddy her new song and dance.

This exchange happens in books all the time. I recently read over a rough draft someone wrote. Okay, since she is usually the victim of my blogs, I will go ahead and admit that it was my sister, Suzette Vaughn.

While reading through her wonderful prose, and looking for misplaced commas and typos, I came across the following sentence:

He pushed his glasses up his nose.

I stopped reading immediately. He did what? Then I cracked up laughing because while reading the scene, totally into the dialogue between the characters, the lead man suddenly stops, takes his glasses off, and shoves them UP his nose! Through my fits of hysterical laughter, I managed to wake my husband up and reword the sentence. I suggested she write something more like: “He situated his glasses on the bridge of his nose” or “He slid his glasses into place on the bridge of his nose”.

 

The intended meaning is obvious, but while reading, the original words gave me a completely different meaning than what was intended. Just remember it is very important to have the correct wording and order of words while writing. You don’t really want your character to shove things up his nose do you?

 

Claire Collins, author of Fate and Destiny and Images of Betrayal, will be in the Greensboro, North Carolina area over Valentine’s Day for Second Wind Publishing’s Author Event.

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