Tag Archive | grammar

Tense and POV

I don’t know how much you have or have not experimented with tense. I haven’t that much. At least, not until this year.

We all know what tense is. It’s the time that the story takes place in basically. So right now, I would say, “Abigail types a blog post.” Whereas if I’m talking about something that has already happened, I can say, “This afternoon, Abigail role played online intead of doing her homework.”

The other element that I’m going to define is POV–point of view. POV shows up typically in first or third person. Yes, I know, second person can be done, but I’ve never even attempted that so I’m not going with that. First person is when you tell about something that happened to you. Third person is when you look at something that happened to someone else. Example can be, “I type a blog post,”  versus, “Elianna plays the piano.” Same tense, different POV.

So why I am even bringing this up? Because both of these should be considered when writing a story.

When I typically write, I write in third person past tense. That’s probably because that’s how a lot of my books have been written it, it’s familiar, and it’s easy. I can then foreshadow and other things. Most importantly, I can easily bounce between POV’s of characters. (Write something from Nessa’s and then write something from Avi’s.) If I was going to help someone write, I would (at least up until recently) recommended writing in third person past tense.

However… I began writing in first person POV. And that has changed some things.

The first story I wrote in first person POV is Watching from a Distance. (Which I actually began as a response to the massive number of Paranormal Romance I saw. Not sure if that theme carried over though.) Anyway, I started that in past tense because that’s just what people write in, right? I mean, why not?

Then I began thinking about it. Reve, the main character, would have a totally different reaction to this story if he knew the ending. If he was telling this story later on, he would tell it differently than I had written. So I had two choices: I had to figure out how he could tell this story later (which I didn’t do until later) or I had to change the whole tense.

I changed the tense.

And suddenly the story began flowing like he was telling it as it was happening. It worked and I think it worked out well. This began having me tell all of Reve’s stories (I have three different ones, not including two I have yet to write.) in this first person present tense.

But, so what, you say? After all, many people write in first person present tense now. (I should abbreviate that to FPNT. First person now tense. :D )

What made the difference is that I wrote a story in first person past tense. Why? Because  I wrote it in the manner that the main character is telling you the story of how he killed his wife. (Intrigued now, no?) Eventually, you (the reader) also finds out that he is asking you to marry him. Eventually this’ll all be moved into my novel, but for now, I’m working it as a stand-alone.

I don’t know if I’ve ever written something like this before. I actually think it came out pretty awesomely.

The other thing I should mention is that first person allows the reader to get closer to the character. I’m having a hard time switching back into third person and still showing the emotions, because I’ve been writing so much in first person.

To summarize, when you start writing your next story, consider the POV and what you can do with the POV. It’s not just something vague that means whatever. It’s something that you can use to further the story you have to tell.

Grammar Attacks!

Just in time for link day appears this blog post. Even though it’s freshly pressed, it is so funny  I must share, just in case you missed it. (And you might, with how wordpress is looking these days. Why did they have to move that column? It’s quite annoying.)

Anyway, Grammar Lolcatz.

Grammar’s so confusing with all those terms!

As a writer, I, obviously, use grammar on a daily basis. As someone who works in a writer center (I edit students’ papers for them.) I also come across grammar regularly.

However, when I’m editing someone else’s paper, we’ll call her Mary, my convesation generally goes like this:

“Now, we want to place a comma here, because this is–it’s something special, but I forgot the name to it. But it’s like when we have ‘My sister, comma, Ellanna,’ that’s what we’re going for here.”

The only grammatical terms I can remember right now involve noun, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions and articles. If I’m lucky, I’ll remember the difference between a phrase and a clause.

And yet… And yet my boss in the writing center (G.), thinks I’m good. Why? I’m not sure. But I made the comment that I’m thinking about being an English teacher and I still can’t remember a lot of the names of things yesterday. Nearly all of my editing is intuitive.

She responded by pointing out that it’s actually okay. The fact that I know it intuitively is actually good. When I need to teach about something, I’ll have a textbook.

This brings up the whole question of whether one should even bother teaching grammar at a school, or if one should teach students how to edit instead. Right now, my intuitive skill has been developed over years and years of editing.  However, that’s a whole entire other post.

The point is right now that you don’t need to know a lot. My advice: know what makes a sentence. That’s all you need to know and all you need to know how to place are commas and periods. Don’t bother with M-dashes, and semicolons, and colons. Then, get people to edit it for you, look at how other people write, and I think you may learn in time.

Just remember: EDIT, EDIT, EDIT!

“I’m not a very good writer, but I am an excellent rewriter.”

–James Michener

Follow the rules… or not. Whatever.

As part of a critiquing website that I occasionally take part in, we are told to make recommendations. Dont’ slam the person in the critique  and realize that grammar rules are meant to be broken. They are more guidelines .

That is all fine and good, until I critiqued  a story for a guy who could not get his quotations right. It drove me insane. He sometimes had the punctuation on the inside, sometimes on the outside, sometimes he didn’t even close it.

Because of time, I edited one chapter, sent that to him, and then edited the other two later on in the week. In the between time, he made a comment that caused me to think he is still maybe late highschool or early college. He writes a lot–yes!–but I think I misjudged his age.

As such, at the end of my critique, I sent him a quick summary of quotation rules, and phrased it as, If you didn’t know these, well, here go.  Soon afterwards, I wrote a post about quotations as an FYI.

This may seem like a side note, but my brother is going to school for graphic design. He is so good at what he does that he is making things like videos and ecards for the school.  He gets frustrated though with video tutorials that say something along the lines of, “Here’s the rule of thirds. But you know what? This is art. Be creative.”

This is his opinion, and as such, I think it very much applies to writing.

Follow the rules of grammar, unless you can give me a good reason why you aren’t.

So I’m not saying that you can’t be creative with how you present information. Writing is creativity. But make sure you have a good reason why you don’t follow that rule before you decide to break it.

“You say what?”

Very, very few stories can get by without any quotes of characters. Some can’t. Some famous books have no quote marks at all, although characters talk. However, especially for the newer writer, it is probably better to know how to write quotes and since I ran into a writer who didn’t know how to use them well, I will go over them with you. (And really, these are very easy.)

1) Each speaker gets a new paragraph.

So, you got on the captian’s bad side again?” Max said.

Daria turned as Max approuched her and shrugged. “You weren’t suppose to hear about that.”

“I keep finding that you, my dear little sister, are keeping things from me that I am suppose to know. How am I to protect you if you don’t even tell me what you need protection from?”

“I don’t need protection from the captain, Max.”

2) If a person is speaking something that requires or improves with the use of two paragraphs, place beginning quotes at the beginning of both paragraphs, but no ending quotes until the person has finished speaking.

Example:

Father stared at me with hard, cold eyes. “For the last five generations, the Retinal family has been the capstone of society, the pillar in our community. Whenever anyone needed help, we knew who to go to. Whenever someone needed advice, we knew who to go to. Whenever someone needed parenting advice, or job advice, they knew who to go to. Whenever anyone needed a boast in their venture, they knew who to go to to get the community on board.  That’s right; the Retinal family.

“And in the matter of two weeks, you, Samuel Markus Retinal, have ruined that reputation.”

“But–I didn’t do anything wrong!” I protested.

3) Punctuation goes inside the quote mark.

The punctuation mark, whether it be a period, question mark, or comma, always goes inside the quote marks. This is applicable even if it isn’t something a person says (in American English).

Correct:

“And have you sent in a requestion for this device here?”

“Yes, sir, I have. Twice now.”

Incorrect:

“And have you sent in a requestion for this device here”?

“Yes, sir, I have. Twice now”.

OR

“And have you sent in a requestion for this device here”

“Yes, sir, I have. Twice now”

4) If there is a dialog marker (such as he said), a comma goes where the period should be.

Correct:

“My life has just never been the same,” he said. “She was the world to me.”

Incorrect:

“My life has just never been the same.” He said. “She was the world to me.”

5) If there is a dialog marker, and the person is asking a question or using an exclamation, a question mark  or exclamation mark stays.

Correct:

“Is there something I can do for you, sir?”  he xaid.

Incorrect:

“Is there something I can do for you, sir.”  He xaid.

OR

“Is there something I can do for you, sir,”  he xaid.

6) You can put an action of the character at the beginning of the quotation to indicate who is speaking.

Example:

Captain Grant slammed his fist on the desk. “Stop trying to think, Holt! You’re worse at it than your brother.”

You don’t need….

Captain Grant slammed his fist on the desk and yelled. “Stop trying to think, Holt! You’re worse at it than your brother.”

7) Said is an invisible word.

When I first saw this, I almost couldn’t believe it. One of my books on writing told me to always use something stronger than said, such as yelled, shouted, whispered, whimpered, sighed. However, I look and other people are saying not to use any of those words, because said is one of the few invisible words in the English language. Our mind just skips over it, but tells us who is talking without us realizing it. (I have observed that myself.)

I’m not going to advocate one way or the other, but keep in mind when writing, that said is invisible. Once you add any adverbs or anything to it, it becomes visible.

That’s all I have now. Hope that helps point you in the right direction.

Grammar does matter.

In almost everything I write for school, the teacher will almost always take off some points for grammar. Not always the technical things, but each teacher does expect that you can write things correctly.

That being said, my boss, for lack of better terms, recommended this website. Now, I will say that it took a bit to load, but the podcasts look very good.

And while we’re at this, this was a rather humorous video.

Concerning time, location and relationships, ie. prepositions

One of my most commonly searched posts is where I discuss grammatical elements such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and sentences.

Prepositions are probably one of the most common elements found in writing. One thing to understand about prepositions is that we don’t technically need them in writing. If we are grammatically analyzing a sentence, one of the first things we can do is cross out all of the prepositional phrases. But, I’m moving too fast I think. Let’s start with defining a preposition.

There are hundreds and hundreds of prepositions in the english language, What I didn’t know until I started writing this post is that prepositions can be more than one word long. Since there are so many prepositions, I can’t name them all off of the top of my head, but there are many lists of them online. Here are some examples:

  • aboard
  • about
  • above
  • absent
  • across
  • after
  • against
  • along
  • alongside
  • amid
  • amidst
  • among
  • amongst
  • around
  • as
  • aside
  • astride
  • at
  • athwart
  • atop
  • barring
  • before
  • behind
  • below
  • beneath
  • beside
  • besides
  • between
  • betwixt
  • beyond
  • but
  • by
  • circa

One quick thing to understand is that a preposition serves the function of informing the reader mainly of a location of an object, or of the relative time. For exmaple:

You should travel under (prep) the bridge and through (prep) the woods before (prep) the princess.

Under and through are related to in what direction the person should travel. Before is telling this person when they should do it.

Secondly, I want you to notice something else about my sample sentence. Every single preposition relates to a noun. YOu don’t go under the woods or through the bridge.  That is because once you place a preposition down, you must follow it with a noun. These nouns are called objects of the prepositions (OP for short.). BAck to the example:

You should travel under (prep) the bridge (OP) and through (prep) the woods (OP) before (prep) the princess (OP).

Pretty simple?

Not really. Although it looks like we have a pretty steady rhythm here of preposition, article, object of the preposition, it’s not always so simple. Take this next example:

After sunset, I walked to the park through the deserted streets.

If you analyze it we get:

After (prep) sunset (OP), I (sub) walked (verb) to (prep) the park (OP) through (prep) the deserted (adj) streets (OP).

Notice, the first prepositional phrase we don’t have an article. The second one we have a typical preposition, article, object of the preposition, and the third we have an adjective tossed in for good measure. Not only that, but “to” is sometimes a preposition, like in the example above, and sometimes an infinitive, like in, “To play”.

The beauty of prepositional phrases however, is that once you figure out where the preposition is, and where the object of the preposition is, you can usually cross everything in between out and this makes analyzing  sentences very easy.  We can take a sentence:

During rainstorms, I can jump over tall trees, from buildings, through raindrops without a scratch on me.

And if we cross out all prepositional phrases we get:

I can jump.

That sentence is much easier to analyze to make sure it is complete , am I right?

Annoying Talkers

By the vary nature of being writers, we need to be aware of grammar and how thing should be said properly. Once, when I was younger, I submitted a story into a writing contest that “would of” and “could of” instead of “would’ve” and “could’ve”. Or would have and could have as I would do it most of the time now. That error, in part,  gave me only honorable mention.

My reasoning with grammar is that if we speak as we should write, then our writing with be better the first time around and we can focus on more serious problems with our manuscripts instead of handling grammatical errors we should have fixed the first time through. With that in mind, I often try to speak, shall we say, properly, even though I do fail quite often.

So, my question for you this week is:

What grammatical mistake that people will use often drives you insane or do you find yourself correctly?

For myself, it’s good versus well. If someone uses good instead of well, I’ll correct them (if polite) including radio DJs. (No, I don’t call them, but I do make nasty comments at the radio.) I’ve been doing it for a little over a year now and most everyone in my family is getting much better.

spice up the writing

Yesterday I talked about the basic grammar of sentences and what you need to know. That’s all fine and good but in all honestly, basic nouns and verbs only go so far. Even when you add in adjectives and adverbs, you sound wonderful.

One of the things that writers need to avoid is excessively littering your writing with adjective and adverbs. They do serve a place–don’t get me wrong–but using two or three of them per sentence will not result in good writing.

Take for this sentences for example:

The girl ran across the road and entered the library.

I could go on and on how we could modify this sentence to make it sound very good with plenty of description  but I won’t. (If you are interested, it can be found in The Art of Fiction somewhere.)

If I were to add perhaps two adjectives/adverbs, it’d sound okay.

The girl quickly ran across the road and entered the grand library.

However, if I litter the sentence with adjectives and adverbs, it doesn’t sound all that good.

The stocky, red-head girl quickly and directly ran across the dusty, pebble road and cautiously entered the tall, grand library.

See what I mean?

So if you can’t add in any number of adjectives and adverbs to get your point, what is one to do? This is where we spice up the writing.

I shall introduce something to you that I call strong words. I don’t know what an English teacher would call them but this is what I call them.

Strong words are words that denote a vivid picture. They are generally adjectives (combining several adjectives into one word) or verbs, although they can occasionally be nouns or adverbs. The goal of these is to create a better picture than flat words.

Here is the sentence when I insert strong words:

The girl darted across the road and slipped into the library.

See? That gives a much better picture. And now, I can still add in a few adjectives.

The ragged girl darted across the road and slipped into the elegant  library.

And that still works, it still sound relatively good, and it gives a picture. Pictures, in writing, are good.

Now, something that you must understand about this is that almost every single word has a sliding scale to it. If I say I am sad, then I’m kinda down, kinda so-so, but i’ll be fine tomorrow. If I say I’m despondent, that gives a much clearer picture.

Strong words are always better than adjectives or adverbs when writing. If you need help, try creating a sliding scale. Take your word–say, happy–and insert all the possible words to describe happy from the least happy to the most happy. Then, you should be able to figure out which one fits the best.

Just a note too. Question of the Week due by Saturday night. That’s two days left.

please know the following terms: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, sentences

I have been writing for almost eight years now, I’ve taken an English class at school (and did well enough that the teacher recommended that I apply for a tutoring job) and I have worked at the writing center editing students’ papers for a whole semester. So I have some clue about grammar.

The fact is that you don’t need to know everything in grammar. Who cares what a complex-complete sentence or a past perfect verb is?  (Well, I do, but I don’t know off the top of my head. And honestly, very few people who came to me at the writing center cared to know either.)

However, there are some basic parts of grammar that you need to know in order to edit your paper.

Nouns: Simply, an noun is any visible object. A name is also a noun (properly called a noun of direct address). However, nouns can also be things like virtues and emotions. Nouns are what do the action in the sentance.

Two things to understand with nouns. Although not always, nouns can either function as subjects or objects in a basic sentence. In general, subjects come before the verb and objects come after the verb. (They also function quite commonly as objects of the preposition, but, because I don’t think you need to know what a preposition is, I won’t go there.)

Verbs: Verbs, simply, are action words, like jump, type, listen, talk, said. Other verbs, called passive verbs, are words like was, were, has, had, ect. A passive word means the action was not done by the subject. (“My comb was broken,” vs. “Someone broke my comb.”) Whenever I mention avoid passive words, I particularly mean you should delete “was/were” from your writing.

Verbs and nouns are the basic building blocks of sentences.

Adjective: Adjectives modify or describe nouns. Take a noun–girl–and put an adjective on it–tall girl, short girl, fat girl, skinny girl. Adjectives almost always go before the noun. Sometimes adjectives will come after the noun in a prepositional phrase, such as, dashboard of the car. These should be changed to read “car’s dashboard.”

Adverbs: The difference between adjectives and adverbs is that adjectives describe nouns while adverbs describe verbs. So if we take a verb–typed–and put an adverb on it–typed quickly.  in general, the way to recognize an adverb is if it ends in -LY. Also, adverbs, unlike adjectives, can be found in a variety of locations, from the beginning to the end of a sentence. Examples:

Quickly, she ran to the store.

She quickly ran to the store.

She ran quickly to the store.

She ran to the store quickly.

Although adverbs can go anywhere, as seen above, most people agree that adverbs are better the closer they are to the verb.

Conjunction: These combine two similar thoughts or phrases together to form one unit. Coordinating conjunctions are simple:  For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So.  However, there are also subordinating conjunctions, which are much more common as you shall soon see.

Now, let’s put this all together. In order to be a reasonable proofreader, you need to be able to recognize a complete sentence.

Sentences: In a sentence, you need a noun and a verb. If you have more than one of either of those, you need a conjunction, a semi colon or a period. Confusing? Yeah, probably. Just hang with me.

You can have something called a very simple sentence  which is five words long at most. An example would be:

She ate the cake.

She (noun, subject) ate (verb) the cake (noun, object)

Or you can have a very long sentence.

Sue ate the cake and Bob drank the soda while they walked to the park.

Sue (noun, subject) ate (verb) the cake (noun, object) and (conjunction) Bob (noun, subject) drank (verb) the soda (noun, object) while (conjunction) they (noun, subject) walked (verb) to the park (noun, either subject nor object. It’s actually an object of the proposition, like I mentioned earlier. To can be an preposition.)

Why is this important? Because say I have a sentence:

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, he ran across the field too.

You think it might look right but just to be on the safe side, you decide to check it.

The quick (adjective) brown (adjective) fox (noun, subject) jumped (verb) over the lazy (adjective) dog, (noun) he (noun, subject) ran (verb) across the field (noun) too.

When you analyze it like that, you find that you actually have two subjects, two verbs and no conjunction. You need to place a conjunction in the sentence, or a period, and make it two separate sentences or else you have a comma splice. (Two sentences joined with a comma.)

The other reason why you need to know these parts of speech is because once you realize that one word is an adjective, if you decide that you don’t like that particular adjective, you can replace it with any other adjective found in the dictionary.  It’s very much like the mad lib idea. But, you can’t replace one type of word for another type of word.

So now perhaps you understand not only why your teacher cared so much about nouns and verbs but how to use them while writing.