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Posts tagged ‘grammar’

Monday Classroom: Dangling Participles . . . dang I’ma gonna ‘splain it like this:

DSC_0174In my Monday Classroom Series, I rarely explain “grammar stuff” by explaining it too technically—you know why? Because I cannot be too technical since for me it’s mostly become the instinctual. Oh, I had horrid grammar for many years, and the comma drove me to distraction. But when I became an editor for Rose & Thorn years ago, I learned on the job what it meant to be a better editor. I not only noticed things in the structure and tone and cadence of the story, but also by how grammar was used as a tool either to ignore the rule or to enhance by breaking the rule. In the process, the story shone brighter. It’s all about CONTROL. Know what is right, apply it where necessary, and then break those rules when creativity asks for it: with CONTROL.

Grammar may be one of those things you “get” or one of those things that makes you want to pull out your hair and run screaming into the streets. For me, things began to click when I related them to my writing (or the writer’s story I edited) in a tangible way. What I will try to do here is to explain things in a way with the hope my explanations will make it easier for you to apply the rules, or break them effectively, in your writing, even if you don’t exactly know the whys or deep grammatical explanations.

If you want a more technical explanation, there’s always Grammar Girl

We know what Dangling means; that’s easy. But what in tarnation is a Dangling Participle? A Dangling Participle will have an “ING” word in a phrase that usually precedes a sentence, which modifies the wrong noun/subject.

ING words are sneaky! I often do a “find/search” of my first draft for ING words just to see how I’ve slipped up. First off, many times I find that instead of an ING word, I could/should use ED (or some sister/brother of ED)—go into your manuscript/story and look at some ING words. Now, change ING to ED (and you may or may not need to fiddle-dee-dee with the sentence a bit) and then read it aloud. Huh? Huh? Yeah? See? The more I am instinctually aware, the less I worry I’ll miss something; however, when I do a search, I’m always surprised at what I miss.

Today, let’s look at those ING words as Dangling Participles—dangling ING words in phrases.

Dangling Participles “attach themselves” to the wrong subject, and make the sentence, the scene, sound a bit ridiculous or implausible.

Example:

10305604_10152463711914176_2993508658427162551_n Drinking her coffee, Mary told John to stop drumming his fingers on the table.

Now, imagine that scene above—don’t just nod your head about it, really picture that scene as if it’s a movie scene or happening right in front of you:

Mary is drinking her coffee, so how can she talk to John with a mouthful of coffee?

Sure, we all know what the sentence means; but if you picture that scene, it does not work. I could explain things in a “Grammarish” kind of way about modifiers and nouns and who or what is carrying out the action and blah blah blah, but if the whys confuse you, I want you to see the results to strengthen your scene and not necessarily the grammar whys.

And in the case of the Dangling Participle, I am not so much worried about you remembering the Term, but instead remembering that ING word there in the beginning phrase that knocks the scene all wonkity.  And you can do that by imagining the scene you are writing as if it is happening in front of you or in a movie scene—yeah, I stuck lots-o ING words right there in this paragraph, didn’t I? Ha! But they ain’t a-danglin.

So, in my example: Mary can’t talk and drink her coffee at the same time. Something doesn’t jive here. Let Mary finish her gulp of coffee and then she can tell John to stop his drumming before she goes mad mad MAD with it! (For me, it’s whistling – dang if I don’t hate whistling!)

Running to her car, Debbie revved the motor and raced away.

I’m still imagining Debbie in a full-out run to the car, and then whammalammadingdong I have to adjust my thinking. No, wait! She’s in the car and driving away! This scene is awkward.

Because grammar is so AWESOME in this way, sometimes those ING words can work as beginning phrases.

well, sheee'it

well, sheee’it

Standing in the doorway, George was knocked to the floor by a large angry ape.

Do you see the difference? George is standing in the doorway when BA-BAM! A big ole ape slams into him. George is the focus here—George standing in the doorway is the focus. The ape comes out of nowhere and knocks George down. I can see the scene even if it could be rewritten to be more efficient.

I’m being simplistic here, and my examples aren’t meant to be perfect. What I want here is for you to picture the scene and in picturing the scene understand the effect on your manuscript/scene.

Typing her examples, Kathryn hoped everyone would understand.

Works for me! Kathryn is typing her examples with the hope that you all will understand. Is the sentence strong and lovely? I dunno. But I can picture the scene just fine. Kathryn typed examples. Kathryn hoped everyone understood. She did and can do both at the same time. Now if Kathryn did this:

Typing her examples, Kathryn ate her scone.

Nope, I’m typing so it would be hard to eat my delicious cranberry orange scone (dang! Wish I had one right now!). Unless I jammed my face on my plate and ate like a dawg—and I probably have done just that, haw!

There are great beautiful perfect grammatical explanations for all this, and any google of “dangling participles” and “participles” will give you clear instruction (like Grammar Girl link above).

Find a way to internalize the explanations so that they become clear to you in a tangible way. If you can relate something to your own experience, it’s easier to understand. If you can imagine your scenes as if watching a movie or as if it is happening right in front of you, then perhaps applying correct grammar, or breaking the rule, will give you much more control. So think about your scenes in another way, and in the process, gain an understanding of sentence structure and how it can make your work weaker or stronger.

Now, go WRITE!

 

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Touty Plug of the day: I don’t feel like being touty. I will only say that if you want a new book to read, then perhaps consider one of mine. You can pick out all my grammatical mistakes–particularly in the first books–and sneeringly sneerificate at me *laugh!* I have a website kathrynmagendie.com and an Amazon Page and my books are available wherever books are sold–and if they aren’t there, then they can be ordered. As always, your support is needed and appreciated and never forgotten. It’s all for you, this crazy writing life: You–dear Readers.

Monday Classroom: The Comma (sending us into comas) . . . .

. Write write write! write with abandon; edit with a keen critical eye!

. Write write write! write with abandon; edit with a keen critical eye!

Commas, those squiggly little cuties, cause more torn out hair and gnashed teeth.  I’m not the perfect Comma Momma (teeheehee), so I do invite you to use the links below to learn allllllllll about those tiny little trouble-makers–particularly The Comma Splice, for which I do not talk about here, but if I did I would, have an example right here–see what I did? I put a comma between would and have that does not belong because it breaks up the sentence when it should not: the heinous comma splice. Really, there is simply too much information about that little teeny bitty itty squiggle than I can place here in one post without tearing out my own hair. In fact, that teeny bitty itty squiggle’s size is deceiving, for it makes Big Arse Trouble for so many out there, and not only writers.

Thing is, folks, it really is not so difficult once you Pay Attention to what you are writing and how the sentence “flows” and the rhythm of your words/sentence. I’ve written those two words before: Pay Attention. Because when you do, you learn. As I write this post, I am using commas without thinking about it. If I this were my novel, I may go in and remove some of my commas, just to make sure everything sings along musically to where there are not a lot of choppy sentences that leave the reader’s brain squeezing. Ungh. Squeezed brains hurrrrt. When you Pay Attention, you begin to see how the comma interacts with your work. How the comma sets things off. How the comma groups things together and separates them. How it considers the natural pause—where you take that bit of a hitch of a breath after an introductory phrase.

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around with it.

Sometimes I leave them out because I want to keep the sentence moving along without any pauses as if one is talking all at once and does not pause even to take a breath because they are in OMG OMG OMG mode *gasp for air* . . . folks, use this sparingly or else your readers’ eyes may fall out and follow someone to the door, and in fact, their eyes may not return for many a week because you simply exhausted them and they needed a long long vacation and I think I am doing it again, oh dear! *Eyes falling out of my head and traveling to the door, suitcase in hand (hands? Do eyes have hands? Well, if we’re giving them a suitcase, guess they best. Yes, I am talking about when people write “his/her eyes followed him/her” etc etc – the disembodied body parts – a post for another day).*

Consider the sentence below as an example of a pause.

Introduction: Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use (a natural pause) feel free to play around it.

Now read that sentence aloud with and without the comma and decide for yourself what happens:

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use feel free to play around it—does saying this aloud without a pause make you feel rushed or a bit breathless?

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around it—does the natural pause here give you a chance to hitch in a breath?

If you think, “Well I like both ways.” Fine, go ye to write it how it works for you! In fact, when I’m reading something that doesn’t have commas where I like them to be, I insert them myself. Yeah! I do! Ha! You can’t escape my Comma-ndo!

Though, again, there are times I leave out commas because I want the sentence to move along without a pause. I don’t want the sentence to be broken up or choppy. But when I catch myself pausing after that “introduction,” I add a comma. Because. “Because whyyyyy, Kat?” Because I said so, that’s why.

The comma separates incomplete sentences—another form of a “pause” – like a parentheses.

Kathryn has, and always has had, a tiny pea-head. Kathryn has (pause to say/qualify: and always will have) a tiny pea-head.

Kathryn has—that’s an incomplete sentence that is separated by “and always has had” and then another incomplete sentence “a tiny pea-head” – I paused in the middle of those two phrases to tell you something else. I used commas to pause. Bless my wittle tiny pea-headed brain.

What you don’t want to do is to stick commas everywhere willy nilly. Those commas, small as they may be, will chop up your sentence and make them read stoooopid. Do you want choppy stoooopid sentences? Of course not! I’d rather see fewer commas than a litter of them crawling around all over the page mewling and making a mess all over creation. Listen to the rhythm of your words/the language. Listen for those pauses. Those parenthetical pauses. Those introductory phrases that then lead to a little hitch of breath before going on to the next part of the sentence. That’s where the comma goes.

Commas as lists or grouper-togetherers:

I like cornbread, cookies, beans and ice cream. But I do not like this sentence—ewwww! (Intro)If you want beans in your ice-cream, (pause/hitch breath) go right ahead.

But I do like the serial—not cereal—comma. Although wouldn’t that be cute? A bowlful of punctuation-shaped cereal for grammarians/writers? Haw! *Kat considers giving up novel-writing to create a Punctuation Cereal and becoming a millionaire* Anyway, *back to reality, Kat* the serial comma makes sense in the world of grouper-togetherers.

I like cornbread, cookies, beans, and ice cream.

See how each list of food has its own place in the sentence world?

I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans. I like ice cream.

is not:

I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans and ice cream. Ewwwwww!

I can also do a grouping, thusly,

I like cornbread and beans, cookies and ice cream, and serial commas. Teehee.

Notice above how each little family of words has their own little neat home to live in. Their own little grouping. The items that go together are placed together. Those that do not go together are separated by commas.

Clear as the mud on the bottom of your boot, ain’t it? Or maybe you are beginning to understand. Maybe I am a Geeeeenius at explaining the teeny tiny wittle squiggly and suddenly the clouds are clearing and you shout EUREKA! and you name your dog after me or something. *Kat has dreamy expression thinking of puppies running around named “Kat” because that sounds contradictory and funny haw haw haw—at least to her pea-headed brain—stop judging me!*

Look folks, here’s the thing: commas are irritating little shitters and they always will be. I mean, geeeezzzz, I have a headache just trying to explain them. And even as I type these words, I know I will miss one, or I’ll place one in the wrong spot. I’ll be in a hurry and someone out there will gloat and scream how I messed up. Ungh!  I’ll go back and read this and think, “This could be better.” But isn’t that the Thang about writing? How we always should be growing and learning. How we should think: “This could be better,” and then we make it better—until it is Done, for at some point we must be Done, right?

Below are some grammar sites that talk about the comma and may be a better help to you than my pea-headed self. I invite you to visit and then study them. Pay Attention. When your AHA! moment comes, you may then begin to manipulate the language with Knowledge, and folks, that’s when the real fun begins.

This first one has whole-lotto comma madness—lawd!

Guide to Grammar & writing

Grammar Girl

(this is a repost!)

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1461250_496657083765127_1387255473_nTouty Plug of the day: The Lightning Charmer
The spell was cast when they were children. That bond cannot be broken. In the deep hollows and high ridges of the ancient Appalachian Mountains, a legacy of stunning magic will change their lives forever. 

Laura is caught between the modern and the mystical, struggling to lead a normal life in New York despite a powerful psychic connection to her childhood home in North Carolina—and to the mysterious stranger who calls her name. She’s a synesthete—someone who mentally “sees” and “tastes” splashes of color connected to people, emotions, and things. She’s struggled against the distracting ability all her life; now the effects have grown stronger. She returns home to the mountains, desperate to resolve the obsessive pull of their mysteries.

But life in her mountain community is far from peaceful. An arsonist has the town on edge, and she discovers Ayron, scarred and tormented, an irresistible recluse who rarely leaves the forest. As her childhood memories of him surface, the façade of her ordinary world begins to fade. The knots she’s tied around her heart and her beliefs start unraveling. Ayron has never forgotten her or the meaning of their astonishing bond. If his kind is to survive in modern times, he and Laura must face the consequences of falling in love.

Monday Classroom: To be or to not be! – aw now.

There are writing “Rules” that have attached themselves to me—as leeches will do, some may quip – haw! And I have become rather picky when it comes to these particulars.

You don’t write books? No matter! For your letters, business documents, and may I dare say texts and emails?, and other areas where you communicate, can become stronger and smoother.

Or perhaps you will say my “tips” are actually “tics.” You decide. Meanwhile, I can drive myself crazy reading/listening . . . ungh . . . but I won’t! I won’t, I say!

When I see my own mistakes in my own earlier writing—earlier even could mean my last novel—ungh! Or a recent blog post when I was in a hurry and/or distracted—oh dear! I am shamed, shaaaaaaaamed! *kat hangs head*

Yet, many times I throw rules right out the window and simply go by the rhythm of the phrase/sentence. I want my work to be rhythmic but in a natural way, so breaking the rules is sometimes necessary to create a mood or feeling or a sentence that Fits. And of course, when I write in a character’s voice/pov, I must be true to that voice/pov—not all characters will be as picky as: is it picky as me or picky as I?—it is I (am)—see below! Virginia Kate has her VK’isms and I stand true to them; Melissa is the storyteller in Sweetie and she’s a bit more “formal” in her speech.

 So tip or tic?

There are times you can “finish the thought/sentence” or re-arrange it and this can help you to find the “correct” grammar or sentence structure. As in the following:

I and Me.

 “You and I” is often used for everything because people are afraid of saying/writing it incorrectly, but sometimes “you and me” is correct.

Harry and me had a great time eating kumquats. No.

Harry and I had a great time eating kumquats. Correct.

 Harry had a great time eating kumquats. I had a great time eating kumquats.

Water is good for you and I. No.

Water is good for you and me. Correct

Water is good for you. Water is good for I – sounds funny, right? Water is good for me.

Not everyone is as picky as me. No.

Not everyone is as picky as I (am). Correct.

I am picky. Me is picky.

She is better than I (am) to craft these examples.

She is better than me to craft these examples.

She is better than I am.  She is better than me am.

Between you and me, this can be really confusing

Between you and I, this can be really confusing.

Guess which one is it? It’s the first one!

Between you, and between me, this is really confusing. Between you, and between I, this is really confusing.

See? Clear as the mud you just threw in my face, right? Haw!

The Split Infinitive:

To be or not to be is not to be or to not be. Haha! To be or to not be just doesn’t have the same rhythm does it?

I split many an infinitive in my life, and sometimes it does make the sentence read smoother. However, most times I unsplit my infinitives and lean back with an ahhhh. Am I never to do it again? Or am I to never do it again—ha! I am never to do it again! To and do go together, not to be split by never.

I am never to speak of it again! I am to never speak of it again! The first one: to speak! Not: to never.

Aw, now, I think those are great examples. *kat sniffs a bit sardonically at those who are poo-pooing her and yes I know I spelled poo poo incorrectly in this instance – huh.*

Take to/bring back.

This one is in honor of my father, who drummed it into my head over and over. I can hear him so clearly:

“It’s take to, bring back. Say it, Kathy, take to, bring back.” (My family called/calls me Kathy—no one else is allowed! Dang you!).

 We take something to and then we bring back from. Take me to the grocery for cookies, or bring me back some cookies. Although I don’t like “bring me back some cookies;” I like “If you show up from the grocery without any cookies, you’ll regret it! By gawd!”

I’ve got. Pull out the sentence and see how it reads/sounds:

“I’ve got a cup of coffee by my side.”

“I have got a cup of coffee by my side.” Awkward!

Perhaps try: “I have a cup of coffee by my side,” or “I’ve a cup of coffee in my stomach.” (well, now I do!)

You’ve rid yourself of an extra word, to boot! Now doesn’t that feel zippity do dah day! Come on, doesn’t it? *kat is starting to (see below)—no—kat is feeling a bit discombobulated*

“Got” tends to drive me batty, for it is oft-times used excessively, and once I “notice” a word—as in: got, or had, or suddenly, then my brain BUMPS on it.

Further/Farther

Farther is a physical distance. I am farther from the kitchen than you are.

Further is not a physical distance.  “You are further along in your chef career than I am.”

The farther she walked down that long dusty road, the further her thoughts spiraled into bing bang bongs dang-a-lang-a-ding-dongs.

Snuck/Sneaked

Snuck is a colloquialism. Yes, I recognize that “snuck” is universally accepted. But . . . still . . . sneaked is correct! “I sneaked to the kitchen to steal cookies” instead of “I snuck to the kitchen to steal cookies.” The only time I use “snuck” is in dialogue, because some of my characters do say “snuck” just as many (most) people do.

Sneak/Sneaked.

Started to

We all say or have said “started to.” I wrote “started to” quite frequently until it “started to” blare out at me as extra words that are not required. Can “started to” be changed to a more direct action?

It started to rain: It rained. I started to cry. I cried. I starting running or I started to run. I ran. I started to pull out my hair. I pulled out my hair. You started to pull out Kathryn’s hair for all these tic/tips. You pulled out Kathryn’s hair and watched her cry—oh wait . . . ungh.

We are not perfect writing machines, but the more we do instinctively and naturally, the less time spent on “fixing” what we write, or even how we speak; though I admit my “Speak” is much more casual than my “Write.” Our editors, bosses, Aunt Pitty Mae Joeleen who was an English teacher long long long ago, and whomever else cares about this stuff (hey, I do and I bet they do, too!) will notice and love you for it. And even if they do not know why they love you for it, you will know why and be the stronger for it.

What do you think? And do you have any tics/tips you are strict about in your language?

As always, if I ferckled up anything, feel free to point er out!

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Touty Plug of the Day:

walter bald and kat author photo shots 109

My lil ole kathrynmagendie.com author/editor website that the wonderful and beautiful Kim of TechBelle created. She did a lovely job and I often forget to go by there and update it; shame on me! There’s links and pics and info and bio and etc etc etc . . . .

Monday Classroom: More Grammar Tidbitters (ain’t you gladeravated?)

10305604_10152463711914176_2993508658427162551_nMorning, all y’allses! What? You think all y’allses isn’t correct? Well, it ain’t. It ain’t even correct in many southern towns. Nope. But it’s correct in my pea-head, so there y’allses goes’ses.

Our manuscripts will never be perfect. Yeah, I know! It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it? That we aren’t or will never be perfect? Nor will our books/essays/short stories, and so on. Lawd and Dang. However, we can do our best to strengthen our work by learning The Rules and applying them when we “should.” Then, we can break those rules with a firm and knowledgeable hand. Right? Riighhht!

downloadDo you own a Strunk & White? No? *Gasp!* Go ye and purchase one. I don’t care if you’ve heard it’s all stuffy-fied. I’ll wait whilst you do. *Jeopardy music here* You back? All right then (and notice, yes sir and yes m’am, that all right is two words—two!).

Now, let us begin.

As I wrote above, all right should be two words. Not alright. Because I say so. So does “Grammar Girl,” who I do agree with (and yes I know what I just did with that sentence and how I ended it!). And I don’t care if people are beginning to “accept things that are used all the time.” Nope. All right?

Do you feel badly? Well, what’s wrong with your hands? Yep. Feeling badly, or feel badly: think about it. Roll that around on your tongue-brain. It is: I feel bad. I feel bad that you think I’m being a grammar bitch (I really don’t feel bad – haha!).

Another of those pesky “ly” words: Most always when we write “hopefully” we mean “I hope or with hope.” Yup. It is with hope that I write this tip prompting you to stop saying “Hopefully, I will understand all this mess.” Well, dang me but “hope” looks like it’s spelled all wrong and I know it is not. Ain’t that funny when a word does that in our heads? One we’ve written many times will all of a sudden be all wrong in said heads?

Of course there are many “ly” words that are perfectly acceptable. Those adverbs — ly words — flummox people right and left and up and down. Another day with the ly-ers.

well, sheee'it

well, sheee’it

Who that? I often see/hear “that” used instead of “who—” if you are writing/speaking of a person, then it is who. She is a woman who likes strawberries right off the vine; not, she is a woman that likes strawberries right off the vine.

Commas before which’s. The dog wanted his walk, which was most inconvenient for the woman who wasn’t yet ready. What? I don’t care! It’s correct! Because Strunk & White say so! And I do, too. Humph. If you hate commas, “that” can be used instead of “which” in many sentences. But if you are going to use “which” then use the comma, which is proper grammar that can be used today and tomorrow and so on and so forth and la tee dah tee dah.

We Southern/Mountain folk often add words and such all and all that stuff and a little bit of this and that the t’other. I often use colloquialism in my work, since my settings are usually in the Appalachian/Deep South. So if you read my work, you will see grammar discombobulations when I am in the character’s voice. However:

Off of is incorrect, and plain old “off” is correct. The woman jumped off of the couch and ran to the porch to yell, “Git off’n my land!” should be The woman jumped off the couch and ran to the porch to yell “Git off’n my land!”

As well, instead of “Could of” we should write/say “could have” – I could of had a V8 is incorrect! Don’t you watch commercials to learn yer grammarfications? It’s I could have had a V8! Or “I could’ve had . . . .” That said, I it may sound as if I am saying the “could of” because I’m southern and charming and oh so mysteriously colloquial. Tee hee.

you nauseate me - just say'n

you nauseate me – just say’n

Nauseous versus Nauseated. If you feel it, it is nauseated. If you or someone or something else is causing the nausea, well then, that is nauseous.  I am nauseated because you vomited on my just-mopped floor, you nauseous pile of vomitus!

Y’allses gots any grammerfications and other writin bloooperdoops you wanna tawlk about?And, as always, if I have an error, which does happen because I’m imperfectly perfect, point ‘er out and I’ll fix it (if I agree).

Now, go do the day!

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Touty Plug of the day: Family Graces, the 3rd book in the Graces Trilogy. This explores Momma’s and Rebekha’s lives more, and we finally learn what happens with Virginia Kate and Gary.

family_graces_-_screen

Monday Classroom: grammar tidbits

Just Do It

Grammar really isn’t difficult. Yes, I laughed a little when I wrote that. I can remember the days when certain “grammar rules” made little sense to me. I struggled and stumbled and cursed the comma. But then, for whatever reason in the universe, my pea-headed brain had some kind of Oh! AHA! moment and the grammar rules began to make (im)perfect sense to me (though I break them many times, but I do it with purpose). I’m sure it was an insidious inky thing spreading out and snapping through the mysterious regions of my brain–helped by my work as an editor (and then Publishing Editor with Angie Ledbetter) at the Rose & Thorn Journal (a fine fine literary journal that we both grieved shutting down–the archives are still there, should you wish to peruse and enjoy!). I had to find ways to help my brain make sense of it all by using my own little “memory tics;” or, just accept what is, is, and forever more may be.

So, my fine beautiful lovelies: some tidbits for your grammar angstesess:

Less/Fewer

An apple a day may be a cliche, but it is solid advice--it just may keep the doc away, uh huh

Simply put: think of fewer as “counting things” and less as “time and space and things you don’t count.”

I ate fewer apples (three) today because I had less time (about an hour) to chew.

There are fewer dogs (twelve) in the dog park so there’s way less barking (who knows how many dogs are barking; I just hear noise).

Take fewer cookies (three) so you’ll spend less time on the treadmill (get on that treadmill anyway – no matter how many cookies you’ve eaten, or not eaten!).

Fewer coins (ten) means less money (you are probably broke if you are a writer) to spend.

Most Important/Most Importantly

It’s important. Period. Most important, it’s important not importantly. Because I said so. Because I consulted the Most High Poombahs of Grammar and they said so. Most important, I said so.

But wait! There’s more! There is quite a controversy on the “important/importantly” debate. I will stick to my “most important” and continue to correct people in my head – hahahaha!

Your/You’re

Do we really need to discuss this? Yes. Because even people I dearly love still use “your” as “you’re.” Your is possessive: Your (possessive – you own the pants) pants are falling down so you’re (you are) going to trip on them. You’re is the contraction of “You are.”

You’re (you are) so cute when your (possessive) pants fall down. You can only use “you’re” as You Are and nothing else–if you write “you’re” you are saying “you are” and if you write “your” you are saying that person owns the thing that it is attached to it.

Your (the person the lips are attached to) lips are kissable; you’re (you are) sexy.

It’s/Its

010-001Often, writers write the it’s/its incorrectly by accident. I scour my manuscript with a fine-toothed eye to catch any it’s/its -ses I may have missed just by a slip of the finger — or! Word sometimes plays tricks that I must watch out for.

It’s: contraction of it is.  Note that “it’s” can be a contraction for “it has” as well: It’s been nice but I gotta go –it has been nice but I gotta go. That’s it. That’s the use of it’s: it is or it has. Nothing else.

Its: a possessor that is neutral. Consider that his and her is a “possessor” – his legs are strong but her thighs can crack a walnut.  Think of its replacing his or her as in the case of the example below: the dog and the dog’s house.

It’s (it is) chilly outside and the dog shivers in its (possessor) dog house. (So I let the dog in my house–okay, I had to add this because I kept feeling sorry for this imaginary dog. Haw!)

The swan knows it’s beautiful in its watery kingdom at the lake.

Starbucks is a huge corporation and its coffees are over-priced. See that Starbucks “owns” the coffees but we don’t call Starbucks a “his or her” – still, it “possesses” the coffees it sells, so: It’s (it is) my opinion that Starbucks and its (neutral possessor) coffees are sometimes delicious and sometimes burnt-tasting.

Now, I hope I didn’t create any typos or make an embarrassing grammatical mistake while typing this out. If so, call me on it and I’ll fix ‘er up.

That’s it for today. Take those in your mouth until you’re sure you can swallow them down in your tummy. Most important, it’s widely known that grammar is its own worst enemy but dang if it’s not beautiful in its complexity. You’re going to muddle over this until your head explodes. You’ll have fewer brain cells and less synaptic activity once you have considered all of the above. Teehee.

DSC_0174Later, y’all (spelled “Y’all and not Ya’ll” – you all – y’all, y’all!) Go Write!

1461250_496657083765127_1387255473_nThe Lightning Charmer coverTouty plug of the day: The Lightning Charmer – wish my publishers (and I suppose me to some extent) luck, for TLC’s cover is a finalist in the EPIC Ariana Awards for book cover art. Winners announced in March.

Monday Classroom: Y’allses, we’s gonna clean up our languageamation, right? riiighht!

Morning, all y’allses! What? You think all y’allses isn’t correct? Well, it ain’t. It ain’t even correct in many southern towns. Nope. But it’s correct in my pea-head, so there y’allses goes’ses :-D

Our manuscripts/work/language will never be perfect. Yeah, I know! It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it? That we aren’t or will never be perfect? Nor will our books/essays/short stories/letters/posts, etc. Lawd and Dang. However, we can strengthen our work by at least knowing The Rules and applying them when we “should;” and then we can also break the rules with a firm and knowledgeable hand instead of feeling flabbergastivated by them. Right? Riighhht!

Do you own a Strunk & White? No? *Gasp!* Go ye and purchase one. I’ll wait whilst you do. *Jeopardy music here* You back? All right then (and notice, all right is two words—two!) let’s begin.

As I wrote above, all right should be two words. Not alright.

Do you feel badly? Well, what’s wrong with your hands? Oh dear! Folkses, it is: I feel bad.

Most always when we write “hopefully” we mean “I hope.” Or at least we should mean I hope. I hope y’allses will use I hope instead of hopefully, which means in a hopeful manner.

I often see “that” used instead of “who—” if you are writing/speaking of a person, then it is who. She is a woman who likes strawberries right off the vine; not, she is a woman that likes strawberries right off the vine.

Commas before which’s. The dog wanted his walk, which was most inconvenient for the woman who wasn’t yet ready.

We Southern/Mountain folk often add words and such all and all that stuff and a little bit of this and that the t’other. I often use colloquialism in my work, since my settings are usually in the Appalachian/Deep South. However, I am careful I do not over-do it, and as well, I use a firm hand by Knowing the Rules so I can break them when I want to.

Off of is incorrect, and plain old “off” is correct. The woman jumped off of the couch and ran to the porch to yell, “Git off’n my land!” should be: The woman jumped off the couch and ran to the porch to yell “Git off’n my land!”

As well, instead of “Could of” we should write/say “could have” – I could of had a V8 is incorrect! Don’t you watch commercials anymore to learn yer grammarfications? It’s I could have had a V8! I gots my verbs, yeah, and they’ses makes my sentence so nice and loverly!

We don’t have to merge together! We can simply merge! Who knew?

Let’s all go to the grammar store! wheee!

Nauseous versus Nauseated. If you feel it, it is nauseated. I am nauseated becauses I ain’t et my breakfas yet, y’allses. What? That sentence? What about it?

And this one I see misused over and over and over and over. More importantly and most importantly is incorrect. Sorry, it is! Is, too! Yes it is too incorrect. Humph! It should be more or most important. So, go ye and speak importantly no more!

Y’allses gots any grammerfications and other writin bloooperdoops you wanna tawlk about? :-D

Now, go do the day!

And P.S. – Thank you all for your support for Tender Graces Promo on Thursday & Friday to launch Family Graces, and for Mom’s day. Appreciate you all!

And a head’s up that Rose & Thorn Journal’s spring issue will go live the 15th –  that’s tomorrow! Hope you will stop by to peruse the prose, poetry, and art. We appreciate you.

Monday Classroom: DANGling Participles . . .

What in tarnation is a Participle? A Participle is a verbal that . . . hold up Kat, – a what?, a verbal? *eyes glaze over* Okay, let’s see; maybe I can ‘splain it this way: a participle is a verb that puts on an adjectives coat. *Huhn? That didn’t make a lot-o sensicles. Let’s see; a participle usually ends in ED or ING—unless it is a gerund ending in ing—Lawd! Stop!, you may be saying. Yeah, me too, y’all. It’s a jumble of ARGH UNGH, isn’t it?

Sentence structure and grammar can drive us IN-Sane. There are many things I Get and there are many grammar concepts that have me gnash my teeth to nubs as I try to explain them to you—hard to explain things that give me a big-arse head-cramp. I can understand the basic concept without quite capturing the entire Stuff of it all. So what’s a writer to do? Welp, my good friends, we do the best we can. Use as much knowledge as we can to fill our wittle brainicles and then use our good instincts for the rest. Torturing yourselves over a perfect manuscript where you obsess over every sentence, every page, every danged scene, may send you into the “World of Never-Finishers” and that’s a sucky world to live in, isn’t it? I want to be in the “Finishers” world, don’t you? But I want to be there with something I am Proud Of. And so should you. There are happy mediums instead of extremes, right? riiighhht!

So, if your eyes glaze-over at the word Participle, just remember words ending in ED and ING – who cares what they are called, right? Riigghht. We just want to get our scenes down smart and tight. Right? Riiighhht again.

Today I want to talk about the DANGling “ing” participle—emphasis mine, teeheehee. Oh, you got that the emphasis was mine, thank-yew-very-mush? Well . . . annnywaaay . . .

If I used an ING present participle, I’d write something like:

Typing on her keyboard, Kat beat her head against the wall.

kat's hair after said beating against wall

Typing is the participle. See, that’s the kind of sentence I’d want to change even if I had never heard of a participle. Because I Imagine The Scene. How can I type and beat my head against the wall at the same time? Okay, smart-arse, yes I may COULD but, in reality, I probably couldn’t or wouldn’t.

Or:

Drinking my coffee, I ponderificated what I would write next.

Drinking is the participle. Now, I could do both those at the same time, couldn’t I? Yet folkses, that’s not the greatest of sentences, is it? But not so very bad, right? Riiigghht. I find it rather weak, unlike my coffee this morning *hair standing on end*

Or:

Walking to Whale Back Rock, two bears were playing.

Lawd! This last sentence/scene is a great example of sentencing/scenes that suck—and a great example of a Dangling Participle.  My character walks to Whale Back Rock. Two bears play. That’s two different actions—two different “scenes.” In rewrites, I’d recast this sentence to create a scene/scenes that the reader could more imagine/identify with/see without going “Huh?”—one that is less confusing. Yes, the reader could figure out what I mean, but why have them do all the work? I want them to work elsewhere in my novel—where it counts. I don’t want them to have to figure out what I mean because of sentence structure. I want to show the character’s action and I want to show bears’ actions. I’d want you to see/imagine the character and the bears as two separate actions or things or scenes instead of this morphy kind of weird amalgamy thang blobberated together.

I’m now working on my sixth novel, plus I’ve written a novella, so I have hope that with each work I use fewer and fewer (remember: not less and less, because I can count the instances), or none!, dangling participles. I have hope that I use fewer and fewer of all manner of “what I’m not ‘supposed to do’s’” and more of what I am. But I ain’t no programmable robot or computer; I am a biological machine with fallible parts in my pea-headed brain that whir and click and stumble-de-bumble all over creation. We all are. We must be forgiven for making mistakes. But, there is no excuse for Lazy Writing—lazy writing is when you just do not care. Lazy writing is when you flop out crap in a big-arse hurry to publish.

Lazy Writer eating chocolate and not caring

Lazy writing is when you whine about how haaaarrrd this writing life is and you just want to wriiiiite and you don’t have time for all this struuuuucturrrrre because you are an arrrttiiisst. Huhn.

So, most often when I finish a Good Draft of my novel, I do a “find” or “search” for words ending in ING to see how I’ve done; to see if I am practicing what I preachifiy . . . why? because we all know there’s a sneaky little gremlin hiding in our brains who likes to fiddle-dee-dee with our manuscripts when we aren’t paying attention. It waits until we metaphorically turn our backs and then goes into our manuscripts/blog posts/letters/emails/school papers/essays and drops in the Sneakity Sneaking Crap.

(By the way, as a side note: We have blogs, we write blog posts. Blogs are the ‘website’ and posts are the things we write on our blogs-websites. Blogs are not the posts, posts are not the blogs. That is all.)

kat's pea-headed hair all neat and contained before said tearing out or beating of head

So, do careful rewrites/edits of our manuscripts take a lot of time? Danged tootin, and I near-bouts pull out my hair when I’m down to the last few “go-rounds” of my work. The more I write, however, the more I trust I am creating tighter prose—she says with a big arse hope-filled bubble hovering over her head ready to burst and send her words back down upon said head.

The more I practice my craft and the more I understand my “scenes” the fewer times I make these mistakes (but I still make mistakes, which is why editing is so very important to our work; we must learn to read critically, and even then it’s hard to catch them all. Perfection is a bitcherly bee-otch!).

I could explain things in a “Grammarish” kind of way about modifiers and nouns and who or what is carrying out the action and blah blah blah, but that makes my head burst and brain splatter is not attractive and mucks up the keyboard works, y’allses.

In the case of the Dangling Participle, I am not so much worried about the Term, as I am those ING words/phrases: Imagine the scenes you write. What do I always tell you? Yes, Pay Attention.

To check the strength of your manuscript, do you ever do random or not-so-random “find” searches?

Monday Classroom: Those squiggly little bast—um, The Comma

The comma causes more torn out hair and gnashed teeth. You may remember what I told you in a post below, Kat’s Picky Sh*t, how I see commas as pauses and as grouper-togetherers.

I’m not the perfect Comma Momma (teeheehee), so I do invite you to use the links below to learn allllllllll about those tiny little trouble-makers. Because, really, there is simply too much information about that little teeny bitty itty squiggle than I can place here in one post without tearing out my own hair. In fact, that teeny bitty itty squiggle’s size is deceiving, for it makes Big Arse Trouble for so many out there, and not only writers.

Thing is, folks, it really is not so difficult once you Pay Attention to what you are writing and how the sentence “flows” and the rhythm of your words/sentences. I’ve written those two words before: Pay Attention. Because when you do, you learn. As I write this post, I am using commas without thinking about it. If this were my novel, I’d go in and remove some of my commas to make sure everything sings along musically to where there are not a lot of choppy sentences that leave the reader’s brain squeezing–or maybe I just want to leave the reader a bit breathless. When you Pay Attention, you begin to see how the comma interacts with your work. How the comma sets things off. How the comma groups things together and/or separates them. How it considers the natural pause—where you take that bit of a hitch of a breath after an introductory phrase.

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around with it.

Sometimes I leave out commas where Grammar says they belong because I want to keep the sentence moving along without any pauses as if one is talking all at once and does not pause even to take a breath because they are in OMG OMG OMG mode *gasp for air* . . . folks, use this sparingly or else your readers’ eyes may fall out and follow someone to the door, and in fact, their eyes may not return for many a week because you simply exhausted them and they needed a long long vacation and I think I am doing it again, oh dear! *Eyes falling out of my head and traveling to the door, suitcase in hand (hand? Do eyes have hands? Well, if we’re dropping them out of their sockets and giving them a suitcase, guess they best.).*

Consider the sentence above as an example of a pause.

(Introduction) Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use (a natural pause) feel free to play around with it.

Now read that sentence aloud with and without the comma and decide for yourself what happens:

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use feel free to play around with it—does saying this aloud without a pause make you feel rushed or a bit breathless?

Once you have a basic idea/knowledge of comma use, feel free to play around with it—does the natural pause here give you a chance to hitch in a breath?

If you think, “Well I like both ways.” Fine, go ye to write it how it works for you! I tell you this, though: when I’m reading something that doesn’t have commas where I like them to be, I insert them myself. Yeah! I do! Ha! You can’t escape my Comma-ndo! Alternatively, if you place a comma where I do not like it, I pluck it off the page and pinch off its wittle head (okay, now I feel bad. I won’t pinch off its wittle head. But I’ll do something! Yeah . . . something. . . huhn.).

Though, again, there are times I leave out commas because I want the sentence to move along without a pause. I don’t want the sentence to be broken up or choppy. But when I catch myself pausing after that “introduction,” I add a comma. Because. “Because whyyyyy, Kat?” Because I said so, that’s why.

The comma separates incomplete sentences—another form of a “pause” – like a parentheses.

Kathryn has, and always has had, a tiny pea-head. Kathryn has (pause to say/qualify: and always will have) a tiny pea-head.

Kathryn has—that’s an incomplete sentence that is separated by “and always has had” and then another incomplete sentence “a tiny pea-head” – I paused in the middle of those two phrases to tell you something else. I used commas to pause. Bless my wittle tiny pea-headed brain.

What you don’t want to do is go sticking commas everywhere willy nilly. Those commas, small as they may be, will chop up your sentence and make them read stoooopid. Do you want choppy stoooopid sentences? Of course not! I’d rather see fewer commas than a litter of them crawling around all over the page mewling and making a mess all over creation. Listen to the rhythm of your words/the language. Listen for those pauses. Those parenthetical pauses. Those introductory phrases that then lead to a little hitch of breath before going on to the next part of the sentence. That’s where the comma goes.

Commas as lists or grouper-togetherers:

I like cornbread, cookies, beans and ice cream. But I do not like this sentence—ewwww! (Intro)If you want beans in your ice-cream, (pause/hitch breath) go right ahead.

But I do like the serial—not cereal—comma. Although wouldn’t that be cute? A bowlful of punctuation-shaped cereal for grammarians/writers? Haw! *Kat considers giving up novel-writing to create a Punctuation Cereal and becoming a millionaire* Anyway, *back to reality, Kat* the serial comma makes sense in the world of grouper-togetherers.

I like cornbread, cookies, beans, and ice cream.

See how each list of food has its own place in the sentence world?

I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans. I like ice cream.

is not:

I like cornbread. I like cookies. I like beans and ice cream. Ewwwwww!

I can also do a grouping, thusly,

I like cornbread and beans, cookies and ice cream, and serial commas. Teehee.

Notice above how each little family of words has their own little neat home to live in. Their own little grouping. The items that go together are placed together. Those that do not go together are separated by commas. The comma keeps things neatly packaged that should be neatly packaged together. The comma separates what doesn’t belong in the same package.

Clear as the mud on the bottom of your boot, ain’t it? Or maybe you are beginning to understand. Maybe I am a Geeeeenius at explaining the teeny tiny wittle cutie squiggly and suddenly the clouds are clearing and you shout EUREKA! and you name your dog after me or something. *Kat has dreamy expression thinking of puppies running around named “Kat” because that sounds contradictory and funny haw haw haw—at least to her pea-headed brain it does—stop judging me!*

Look folks, here’s the thing: commas are irritating little shitters and they always will be. I mean, geeeezzzz, I have a headache just trying to explain them. And even as I type these words for this post, I worry I will miss one or I’ll place one in the wrong spot. I’ll be in a hurry and someone out there will gloat and scream how I messed up. Ungh!  I’ll go back and read this and think, “This could be better.” But isn’t that the Thang about writing? How we always should be growing and learning? How we should think: “This could be better,” and then we make it better—until it is Done, for at some point we must be Done, right?

Below are two grammar sites that talk about the comma and may be a better help to you than my pea-headed self. I invite you to visit and to study their contents. Pay Attention. When your AHA! moment comes, you may then begin to manipulate the language with Knowledge, and folks, that’s when the real fun begins.

These have a whole-lotto comma madness—lawd!

Guide to Grammar & writing—rules for comma use: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm

Grammar Girl—an entire page of links on commas, oh yes. Pick your poison: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/SearchResults.aspx?cx=018137038020134942690:bivmuxgubrq&cof=FORID:11&ie=UTF-8&sa=Search&safe=active&q=comma

see y’all on Wednesday Free-for-All!

Monday Classroom: Strengthening our Manuscripts. Kat’s Picky Sh*t

Some things bother me that do not bother other people. But I am right. *laughing*

These picky persnickities stick in my craw and I have to dislodge them. I only wish I could go back to my previously published works, before I knew better, and eradicate the picky sh*t I am now picky over. Although, the sneakies do still tiptoe in, because it is so ingrained into our speech. Such as:

She found herself in the bedroom. She did? That sounds like some sci-fi novel/movie. You mean she went into the bedroom and only to see another version of her? A clone? How fascinating that she could actually, literally, find herself in her bedroom. That would freak me out. I don’t want any more Me’s running around. Huhn. One of me is enough–just ask GMR.

And speaking of “literally.” If I say, “I literally typed my fingers to the bones!” Then one would expect to see my wittle hands sprouting nubs. No, I figuratively typed my fingers to bones, perhaps, but never literally—though sometimes I do worry this nub-state shall occur.

He woke with a smile on his face. Well, where else would a smile be? On his butt? The only place we have a smile is on our face, so we can strike out three words by writing/saying: He woke with a smile. We can also wonder what he’s smiling about. If he’s your partner/spouse, then maybe you should worry, hmmm. Just what, or who, was he dreaming of? Hmmmmm.

She thought to herself, why is Steven smiling this morning? Is he thinking of that redhead in the coffee shop? Why, I oughta . . . Who else would she think to? She can only think to herself, unless you are writing about mind-readers. Thinking to oneself is understood. If you strike out the “to herself” then you’d be rid of a couple more words. Booyah!

I like my ellipses to have three spaces . . . like that. Notice as well the space before and after . . . see? If there aren’t spaces…then I feel things are too crowded…stop, I need space . . . thank you. Now, up until recently, very recently, I did not like the extra ‘dot’ at the end of a sentence with ellipses, but I have to admit it is correct when you consider that the ellipses are meant to stand in for a word (or phrase), and at the end of a sentence there is always punctuation. So . . . .

Did you know when we use the word “hopefully” that we are often using it incorrectly? Instead of me explaining this, I will direct you to Grammar Girl’s explanation. Hopefully (haha just kidding) — I hope you will read and learn.

And finally! Long live the Oxford Comma! The serial comma. I love boots, kittens, and cheesecake. Why would I ever write: I love boots, kittens and cheesecake. Unless I do like kitten cheesecake, or there is some other reason to “group” the kittens and cheesecake as one entity or one grouping. Try it by saying it with a pause: I love boots (comma/pause) kittens (comma/pause) and cheesecake. Now the other way: I love boots (comma/pause) kittens and cheesecake. Ungh! Second way bugs me. Ungh!

I see commas as two things: pauses and grouper-togetherers. I believe I will write up a post just on The Comma. It seems this is a passionate debate, but as I wrote above: I am right. *laugh*

That is enough for today. I need to finish my scouring of Family Graces before I send it back to the editor. She didn’t mark much (yay!), but I consider this another opportunity to look over the manuscript to see if any of the sneakity sneakers (as in the examples I place here) have sneaked into my manuscript while I wasn’t looking. They do, you know. No matter how many times I’ve read it, or others have read it, the sneakity sneakers are danged ole sneaky.

One last thing: things never flood my mind. What about you? 

(photos taken by Kat Magendie at Lake Junaluska, Waynesville, North Carolina)

Grammar/Sentence Structure: Tips or Tics? – what say you to Kat’s picky-persnickities

There are writing “Rules” that have attached themselves to me—as leeches will do, some may quip – haw! And I have become rather picky when it comes to these particulars.

You don’t write books? No matter, for your letters, business documents, may I dare say e-mails?, and other areas where you communicate, can become stronger and smoother.

Or perhaps you will say my “tips” are actually “tics.” You decide. Meanwhile, I could drive myself crazy reading/listening . . . ungh . . . but I won’t! I won’t, I say!  Especially when I see my own mistakes in my earlier writing—earlier even could mean my last novel—ungh! Or a recent blog post when I was in a hurry and/or distracted—oh dear! I am shamed, shaaaaaaaamed! *kat hangs head*

Yes, many times I throw rules right out the window and simply go by the rhythm of the phrase/sentence. I want my work to be rhythmic but in a natural way, so breaking the rules is sometimes necessary to create a mood or feeling or a sentence that Fits. And of course, when I write in a character’s voice/pov, I must be true to that voice/pov—not all characters will be as picky as . . . is it picky as me or picky as I am—it is I am—see below! . . . Virginia Kate has her VK’isms and I stand true to them, while Melissa narrates Sweetie and she’s a bit more “formal” in her speech. And sometimes I’m just lazy. *gasp – no Kat! Say it ain’t so!*

So tip or tic?

I and Me: This one trips up people often, but if you think of the sentence in another way, or restructure it, it makes more sense.

He went to the grocery with me and bought all the cookies. Correct

He went to the grocery with I, and bought all the cookies. No

He went to the grocery with me. He bought all the cookies.

Me and Harry (or Harry and me) had a great time eating cookies. No.

Harry and I had a great time eating cookies. Correct.

Harry had a great time eating cookies. I had a great time eating cookies.

This is a lesson for you and me. Correct.

This is a lesson for you and I. No.

This is a lesson for you. This is a lesson for I–nope. This is a lesson for me–yup

Not everyone is as picky as me. No.

Not everyone is as picky as I am. Correct.

I am picky. Me is picky.

The Split Infinitive:

To be or not to be is not to be or to not be. I split many an infinitive in my life, and sometimes it does make the sentence read a bit more smoothly. However, most times I unsplit my infinitives and lean back with an ahhhh. Am I never to do it again? Or am I to never do it again—ha! I am never to do it again! To and do go together, not to be split by never.

Now, aren’t these clear as the clichéd mud on your windshield? Haw! Aw, now, I think those are great examples. *kat sniffs a bit sardonically*

Take to/bring back.

This one is in honor of my father (I miss you Daddy), who drummed it into my head over and over, and even now, I still sometimes falter. I can hear him so clearly:

“It’s take to, bring back. Say it, Kathy, take to, bring back.” (My family called/calls me Kathy—no one else is allowed *laugh* except sometimes GMR).

We take something to and then we bring back from. Take me to the grocery for cookies, or bring me back some cookies. Although I don’t like “bring me back some cookies;” I like, “If you show up from the grocery without any cookies, you’ll regret it! By gawd!”

I’ve got. Pull out the sentence, and see how it reads/sounds:

I’ve got two dogs at my little log house,” means: “I have got two dogs at my little log house.” Awkward!

“I got two dogs at my little log house” – nope, still not there!

Perhaps try: “I have two dogs at my little log house,” or “I’ve two dogs at my little log house.”

In the first example, you’ve rid yourself of an extra word! SHAZAM! Now doesn’t that feel zippity do dah day! Come on, doesn’t it? *kat is starting to feel (see below)—no—kat is a bit discombobulated*

“Got” is one of those words that tends to drive me batty, for it is oft-times used excessively, and once I “notice” a word—as in: got, or had, or suddenly, then my brain BUMPS and I am then temporarily “bumped” from the story—what we don’t want, right?

Choooo choooo – chugging right along, y’all . . .  you still with me? *laughing*

Further/Farther

Farther is a physical distance. I am farther from the kitchen than you are. Further is not a physical distance, as in “You are further along in the recipe than I am.”

So, “I am farther from the kitchen ( physical distance) than you are, so you are further (not a physical distance but an “abstract  idea of being”) along in the recipe.”

Snuck/Sneaked

Snuck is a colloquialism, so yes, I recognize that “snuck” is universally accepted. But . . . still . . . sneaked is correct! “I sneaked to the kitchen to steal cookies” instead of “I snuck to the kitchen to steal cookies.” The only time I use “snuck” is in dialogue, because some of my characters do say “snuck” just as many people do.

What? I said I was picky. Dang it all!

Less/Fewer: Oh is this one often misused, and it’s really simple. No, really!

An easy way to figure out “less” and “fewer” is to think of “fewer” as items you can count as in 1, 2, 3: I have 10 items in my basket, so I can stand in the “10 items or fewer” line even though that woman in front of me has waaaaay more than 10 items and I’m burning a hole in her back because I am in a hurry and . . . and . . . ARGH!

Think of less as what you can’t count individually, one two three. I would certainly have less time to stand in line in the grocery with my ten items or fewer if you were not in front of me with your seventy-three gamillion items.

I have fewer chocolate chips (one two three) so there will be less chocolatety goodness (abstract/non countable statement) in my cookies, all because the woman in front of me not only had more than 10 items, but she took the last bag of chocolate chips. *This means war*

Started to:

We all say or have said “started to.” I wrote “started to” quite frequently until it “started to” blare out at me as extra words that are not required. Can “started to” be changed to a more direct action?

It started to rain: It rained. I started to cry. I cried. I starting running, or I started to run. I ran. I started to pull out my hair. I pulled out my hair. You started to pull out Kathryn’s hair for all these tic/tips. You pulled out Kathryn’s hair and watched her cry—oh wait . . . ungh.

We are not perfect writing machines, but the more we do instinctively and naturally, the less time spent on “fixing” what we write, or even how we speak. Our editors, bosses, and whomever else cares about this stuff (hey, I do and I bet they do, too!) will notice and love you for it. And even if they do not know why they love you for it, you will know why and will be the stronger for it.

By the way: every Monday will be a post on language, books, grammar/sentence structure (NO KAT NOOOOOOO *SOBBING from Readers*),  publishing, etc etc. So be warned, or is it forewarned, or . . . my head hurts.

What do you think? And do you have any tics/tips you are strict about in your language? Have you run off pulling out your hair? Helloooooo? Helllllooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo?

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