Tag Archives: writing

Fun With Grammar

Hey, all! I feel like I’ve been severely neglecting this blog, and I want to apologize because that is not my intention. I’ve just been busy working on some creative writing projects, some non-fiction as well as reading as much as I can so I can better update this very blog! I promise (though I feel like I say that all too often) that I will get to a new, thought-provoking (at least I hope) post soon, but for now I thought I’d compile a fun one based on a few things I’ve learned as of late. Working as a proofreader, I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing over words and punctuation. I have a BA in Literature and have been an English/Literature enthusiast since grammar school. However, years and years of writing, rewriting, revisions and editing surprisingly do not prepare us for all the grammatical errors we will encounter in later life. Proofreading has also taught me that grammar is ever-changing.

I consider myself pretty affluent in spelling, grammar and punctuation but I’ve been knocked off my high horse many times for having such thoughts. There are certain things in the English language that I just never really gave a second thought to, or  as it is in many instances, have just been doing wrong all along. And while the internet is a great resource for correcting errors, one will find that it’s hard sometimes to get the  various sources to agree on the same topic (will the MLA, AP and CMS ever agree?!). This has led me to another discovery: grammar is not only evolving, but also way more flexible than one might think! Sure there are plenty of “rules” in grammar (and many that can often be broken in creative writing–with sufficient knowledge of them first), but there are also plenty of instances where the writer has much more control over what to use and how to use it; That’s where the “fun” part comes in.

So, as I’ve been going along I’ve been taking note of certain grammatical tips that I find interesting, and many I’ve made notes of as a reminder myself to keep a keen eye for–not only in proofing, but in writing as well. (Can we skip the part where we go back and count how many I’ve goofed on in these prior two paragraphs?–I’m still learning!!*) I’ve decided to share the notes I’ve made on here, as both useful tips for myself and for anyone who reads this. I’m going to try my best to put these in some kind of readable order, but bear with me; I’m working from notes I’ve jotted quickly in passing.  This is, of course, just an abridged version of grammar and syntax tricks and tips and there’s much more out there to learn on the topic. Below the entry I will include all of the sources I look to most for further reading. That said, here are my notes:

**Keep in mind, these rules are strictly for American English, many of them will differ in British English, etc.**

Our Friend (and Foe): The Comma

  • The Oxford/serial comma boils down to a matter of taste. I suggest always using a serial comma when listing names, especially when crediting them with a piece of work, so no one feels as though they’re lumped in with another person or that two people worked as a team instead of individually. (e.g. “Kevin Mitchell, Jonie Watson, and Michael Tulley,” and especially when only last names are used, so it doesn’t end up sounding like a law firm!)
  •  While listing inanimate objects, it’s okay to omit that extra comma: “please pick up milk, butter and bread.”
  • However, it is best to drop in a serial comma in order to eliminate any ambiguity/confusion: “I’d like to thank my parents, God and my cat” (your parents have some mighty interesting names)  does not read as well as “I’d like to thank my parents, God, and my cat.” But remember: it is always best to be consistent. Oh, and about that whole AP dropping the Oxford comma for good debacle? Just a misunderstanding. Here’s a great article all about it, as well as all about the comma itself.
  • Do not use a comma to replace the word “that.”

Colons v. Semi-Colons  

  • A semi-colon is used to separate two main clauses that are closely related to each other, but could stand on their own as complete sentences.
  • The purpose of a colon is to introduce or define.
  • Do NOT use a capital letter after a semi-colon, unless it is followed by a proper noun.
  • The semi-colon and the colon are the only two punctuation marks which should be placed after closing quotation marks when they follow a quoted text.
  • After a colon, more often than not, the following sentence should start with a capital letter. A few exceptions to this rule include: if the independent clause is a quote, if the explanatory statement is more than one sentence, if the introductory phrase is very brief, or if the second clause expresses a rule.

Santa’s Helpers a.k.a. Subordinate Clauses

  • Subjunctive: “Wishful” sentences call for the subjunctive mood of the verb “to be,” so the right choice is “were” instead of “was.”
  • The subjunctive “were” is hypothetical in meaning and is used in conditional and concessive sentences and in subordinate clauses after verbs like “wish.” The form is “were” for all persons.
  • “Was” is used when supposing something that might be true, but it all depends on the context of the sentence.
  • Conditional mood: Indicating a conditional state that will cause something else to happen. Marked by the words might, could and would.
  • Concessive clause:  A subordinate clause which refers to a situation that contrasts with the one described in the main clause. For example: “Although he was tired, he couldn’t get to sleep.”
  • Subordinate (or dependent) clauses are groups of words containing both a subject and a verb, but cannot stand alone as a sentence. Some examples include: if, although, as, because, since, though, unless, whenever, whether.

Em Dashes, En Dashes and Hyphens–Oh My! 

  • The em dash is an elongated or double dash: ““ or “– –“ (it should be the length of the typed letter “m”).  Always use in formal writing as opposed to a hyphen (“-“).
  • Spaces should typically not be used around an em dash but can change based on dramatic emphasis or the publication it appears in.
  • The en dash is a shorter dash, but longer than a hyphen: “–“ (it should be length of the typed letter “n”). It is only used to denote amount of time or numbers (e.g. “the years 2001–2006,” “April–May”).
  • Do NOT use the en dash with the word “from,” instead use the word “to.” For example, you would write “from April to May” as opposed to “from April–May.”

Apostrophe Catastrophes

  • Apostrophes ONLY indicate a contraction or possession.
  • Apostrophe after names that end in “s”: Classic pre-CE names only need apostrophe, not ‘s. The same goes for names ending with a z-sound (Adams’), and for plural nouns (e.g. cats’, boys’, men’s). But in most other cases, “‘s” is correct. The idea is to convey the notion of possession without creating an awkward pronunciation. Though this can be chalked up to a style choice.
  • Possessive of singular nouns ending in an S or Z sound are usually formed by adding ‘s, unless the next word begins with an S or Z sound.
  • When writing out an abbreviated version of decades:  the apostrophe should only go BEFORE the first number, and nowhere else!
  • The apostrophe at the beginning of the number should be pointing in the direction of the omitted numbers, it should look almost like a small number 9: “ ’80s”
  • Possessive of plural nouns ending in an S or Z sound are formed by adding only an apostrophe, e.g. churches’.

 Verb Agreement

  • Collective nouns are nouns that describe a group, such as “family,” “band” or “couple.”
  • When you are thinking of the individuals within the group as separate things, use a plural verb. (The couple are travelling home in separate cars.”) However, when you think of it as a single unit, use a singular verb. But there is no real rule attached to using was/were with collective nouns.
  • “None” can be singular or plural. It can mean “not one” and followed by a singular verb, or it can mean “not any” and take a plural verb.

 Miscellaneous Musings

  • “Somewhere” is classified as an adverb, but actually has a noun-like function.
  • The phrase “somewhere where” is not necessarily superfluous since “somewhere” can be an antecedent of a relative clause (e.g. “where”).
  • The word “farther” indicates physical distance, while “further” is used metaphorically.
  • In certain cases, “further” and “farther” can be used interchangeably, but if you can’t decide which to use, you’re safer using “further” because “farther” has some restrictions.
  • Avoid using wordy phrases in place of “because.”
  • “Internet” is capitalized because it is a proper noun referring to a specific network, “website,” however, is not.
  • “Web” as a proper noun can be either.
  • Dropping the “had” in “had better” is acceptable only in speech or recorded language.
  • The word “yet” is what’s known as a coordinating conjunction. Others include: for, nor, but, or and so.
  • “i.e.” stands for “that is,” while “e.g.” stands for “for example.” I.e. is used to further clarify a subject, while e.g. introduces examples. Example: “Michelle likes reading old mystery novels (i.e. And Then There Were None and The Hound of the Baskervilles).” These are the only two novels of the genre she likes.  “Michelle likes reading old mystery novels (e.g. And Then There Were None and The Hound of the Baskervilles).  These are just two of the mystery novels she likes.
  • The word for this punctuation mark “?!” is called an interrobang.

And just remember: it is always important to BE CONSISTENT. If there’s anything to take away from this it’s the one major rule of writing, consistency comes first. So, if you choose to stick to an MLA-approved style while writing, make sure you don’t waver between that and Chicago style. If you want to include the Oxford comma in lists, do so every time.  It can be a pain to have to go back and check every time, but it’s worth it for the end result of having an intelligent and eloquently written piece of work. Hope this helped in some way even if it was a bit scattered! I promise to have a part two when I encounter even more grammar tips! The links for all your writing needs are below the cut.

*I’m kidding, of course. Actually, if anyone who’s read this would like to point out any errors in the body of this text, please feel free to comment and chide me. Grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling–it’s all fair game! Sometimes the hardest work to edit is one’s own, so I’m completely open to fixing my errors and learning in the process. Also, if anyone wants to point out any errors, updates, or other ideas and suggestions in the notes I’ve made, please do so! I’d love to hear what everyone has to say!

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under American Literature, Literature, Publishing, Thoughts

Happy Flash Fiction Day! – NEW ROLLING DEADLINE!

For those who might not know, today is the first-ever National (and International!) Flash Fiction Day!  Coined in 1992, the term “Flash Fiction” indicates very short stories usually created with writing prompts.  For all you could possibly need to know about Flash Fiction and the day itself, be sure to head on over to the National Flash Fiction Day website!

For more info and ways to get involved, read Flash Fiction Chronicles’ interview with National Flash Fiction Day founder/organizer Calum Kerr, check out all the awesome stories at FlashFlood and be sure to get some awesome prompts from  The Write-In! (NOTE: The Write-In Contest is now closed, but still be sure to go there to read all of the great stories and get some prompts for your own writing!) You can also follow along with Facebook and Twitter! And of course, I wouldn’t know about the day if it weren’t for the great people over at Every Day Fiction, so be sure to give them some love too!

EDIT: NEW LATER DEADLINE! While this is primarily a UK event, I’ve decided to get in on the Flash Fiction Day action as well! Indecent and Immortal will be hosting our own Flash Fiction Write-In! With a NEW ROLLING DEADLINE, feel free to send in your own fiction of anywhere from 150-800 words based on the writing prompts featured below! Any genre, any subject, any style and any perspective allowed and encouraged! All entries must be submitted to jamier.iib@gmail.com and will be featured on this blog once we get enough entries!

Here are your prompts:

Seasick nanny

Inexpressible doubt

Leather sofa

A peculiar noise

“Way to go, bastard”

Nosy children

A bad luck charm

A Dangerous Sex

“It will be a scream!”

Puny

Korean Barbeque

Collection of dusty old comics

The taste of your own blood

Cherry Motel

A moldy sandwich

Baroque Pop

“The position has been filled”

The Archies Greatest Hits

Paint-Your-Own-Pottery

Olympic-sized swimming pool

Sheep skin

Matchbox Car

Red red lips

An empty roll of toilet paper

Clay basin

Miniature poodle

Super Mario Brothers

No more rain

I need seed

Blister Kisser

Again,  submit those entries to jamier.iib@gmail.com! Be sure to add a little something about yourself (if you wish) or a link to your own blog/site to be added along with your Flash Fiction! And most importantly–have fun with it! Happy Flash Fiction day, everyone!

2 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Flash Fiction, Literature, Short Stories, Uncategorized

Like what you see?

Then contribute to the blog! If you have an opinion on literature, a book review, rants and raves about literary criticism, or even any sort of interesting prose you want to share with the viewing public, send an e-mail to jamier.iib@gmail.com  and we’ll set you up as a featured contributor! Don’t want to sign up to WordPress to contribute? Send me your article in an e-mail and 100% of the credit will go to you when it’s posted on the blog!

You can be a featured contributor if you like (and a featured contributor page will be up and running soon!) or even just a one-time or sporadic poster – it’s all up to you. I just really want to infuse this blog with as many different opinions, ideas and insights as possible.

Again, you can either comment on this post or shoot me an e-mail at jamier.iib@gmail.com. All thoughts and opinions are welcome, all the time. No one will be turned away.

So contribute! Get your word out there! Let your voice be heard!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized, Welcome