JaniceHeck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the category “Grammar-You-Can-See”

Favorite Posts from My Archives

BlogEverday[1]

Blog Every Day in May, Prompt 21:  A list of links to your favorite posts in your archives.

Those wonderful WordPress stats have identified my most popular posts over the past year:

Travel:

Italy: It’s 4 P.M.  Have You Had Your Gelato Yet?  2012/05/30

Italy: A Visit to Tuscany  2012/05/16

353

New Jersey: My Home State

Got Blueberries? 2012/07/12

Easy-Peasey Blueberry Tart

Easy-Peasey Blueberry Tart

Bike MS: City-to-Shore  2012/9/30

Family

B is for Big Brother’s Bits about Being Blind  2012/04/03

Adam cross-country skiing with Ski for Light buddies

Adam cross-country skiing with Ski for Light buddies

Social Media:

They Laughed When I Sat Down to Twitter  2012/03/22

Grammar:

This post did not get many comments, but it got a surprising number of views.

Q is for Quirky Dreams, Susie Q, and Prepositional Phrases  2013/04/20

The Last Meow.

And my cat....must be fed before you have coffeeReruns. Blah. I hate reruns. I’d better go take a nap.

Meow for now.  =<^;^>=

Usage You Can See: Everyday or Every Day?

every day posterShudder. I woke up this morning thinking, “Oh my gosh. I have been misusing “every day” every day on my blog this week!”   Yikes.  (I didn’t misuse it. My brain was overreacting!)

It’s true. Don’t laugh. I did wake up thinking about these words.

But then as my early morning brain muddle started to clear, my more rational self came alive, and “blog topic!” “blog topic!” “blog topic!” flashed before my eyes.  (Now I know you’re really laughing at this poor, sick grammar and usage geek.)

I reviewed the possibility with my barely-awake husband (aka sounding board and editor). He said, “Yes, dear. Whatever.”

Laugh all you want, but I have a topic for today! So there.

Everyday and every day.

Yes, everyday and every day are different, and unfortunately, often confused.  If you know your parts of speech, you can easily straighten out these two often confused words. But you need examples so you can see the difference.

1. Everyday = one word = adjective.         

  • Meaning of everyday: common, ordinary, usual, suitable for ordinary days
  • Placement in sentence:  Adjectives come before the noun they modify.
  • Check: does a noun follow everyday?    If so, use the single word everyday. Everyday stays next to the noun.

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2. Every day = two words

  • Every (adjective) +  day (noun) = adverbial phrase telling when
  • Meaning: each day, daily, every single day; something occurs on a daily basis.
  • Placement in sentence: Moves around. Can be in beginning, middle, or ending.
  • Check 1: substitute “each day” for every day.  This happens each day.
  • Check 2: insert single between every and day. Does it make sense?  This happens every single day.
  • Check 3: Can you move every day to different places in the sentence? If so, use two words.

This happens every day.
Every day this happens.

Marietta goes to school every day.
Every day Marietta goes to school.

Every day you make the same complaint.
You make the same complaint every day.
Every day you make the same everyday complaints.

The custodian does the same tasks every day.
Every day the custodian does the same tasks.
Every day, the custodian does the same everyday tasks.

Real Life Quotes written correctly on Twitter using every day.

Don’t count every day of the week; make every day of the week count. @Wiseman
I don’t know what the “breakthrough” point will be, but I know that every day I hammer away, I’m one day closer. @Curtmega
Every day is a new beginning, so treat it that way.   @OMGFunniest
Waking up every day is a blessing, not a privilege. @idillionaire
Every day, do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow. Doug Firebaugh
We thank nurses for the work they do every day to support us and keep us happy.
Every day should be Teacher Appreciation Day. #Thank a teacher.
Love. Enjoy your work. Pray every day. Have fun. Don’t complicate life. @Paul Coelho
Reinventing yourself after cancer would mean finding little ways every day to live with mindful awareness. @DanMezick

Grammar and Usage and Twitter

I happened to check Twitter about the time the above poster quote using everyday/every day was tweeted and retweeted. Some tweeters got it right; but others got it wrong by dropping the space between every and day (see the poster). Some retweeters did not notice this omission. That’s how bad grammar and usage get perpetuated!  (Poster credit: PicNQuotes)

And for those of you who must say “Justin Bieber” every day, use two words: every day, as in “every single day.”

        Twitter tweet today:
“Justin Bieber Fan 
I say ”Justin” or ”Justin Bieber” everyday! RT if you do to ♡”

Read

The Last Meow   

This everyday food is just too boring. It’s putting me to sleeeee…     Photo: catlovingcare.com

images[3]

Please, everyone, use your White House manners, not your everyday manners.  Photo: 2pawsupinc

eat at dinner table 2pawsupinc.

Yum. Yum. I could eat this delicious cantaloupe every day.  (Photo credit: Emmie Mears)

cat and cataloupe Emmie Mears 4-18-13

Meow for now. ={^;^}=

R is for. . . Reflexive Pronouns Cause A Ruckus

a-to-z-letters-2013A to Z 2013R-Day in the A to Z Challenge. The month is winding down, and the remaining letters are thinning out. Let’s see. Eight more letters after this, but who’s counting?

Reflexive Pronouns Cause A Ruckus

Grammar Girl, a popular grammar and writing blog found on the Internet, says that she receives a lot of questions related to proper and improper use of reflexive pronouns.

People seem to have strong opinions on this topic. One group sees or hears mistakes in using reflexive pronouns, and they get bent out of shape. Another group doesn’t even notice the mistakes. And some think the improperly used reflexive pronouns are used correctly and look down on those who don’t use them the same way. What’s the truth? Who is right?

One theory is that people get confused on when to use I or me in sentences, so they use the reflexive pronoun myself instead.  Another theory is that using a reflexive pronoun like myself sounds smarter, so people use it more frequently. And some people think the right reflexive pronoun is wrong, so they change it to the wrong one. They hypercorrect.

Form of Reflexive Pronouns:
Add    ––self to singular pronouns:    myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself
Add    —-selves to plural personal pronoun:    ourselves, yourselves, themselves

Do not add  —self to his or our    hisself       ourself
Do not add  —selves to their         theirselves

Function of Reflexive Pronouns
Reflexive pronouns refer back to the subject of the sentence.
Note: Subject and object are the same person or persons.        Subject  =  Object
The reflexive pronoun comes after a verb or preposition and completes the meaning of a sentence.
Drop the reflexive pronoun, and the sentence is incomplete in meaning.

Here’s how reflexive pronouns look in short, Subject-Verb-Object (S-V-O) sentences.
Read sentences across chart. Notice how the reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject pronoun.

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Look at the reflexive pronouns in the well-known fairy tale, Cinderella and The Handsome Prince Reflexive Pronoun.

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Errors on Compound Subjects
Now that you see the correct way to use reflexive pronouns, we’ll look at some improper reflexive pronoun use. Many common reflexive pronoun errors occur with compound subjects.

Note: Never use a reflexive pronouns as a subject or part of a compound subject.
Note: Name yourself last in compound subjects and objects. That’s good manners.

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To check on accuracy of compound subjects, read the subject as a single subject first.

Myself went out for dinner.
I went out for dinner.

Can you see how this helps you pick out the right pronoun to use?

Wrong:

Myself      went out for dinner.
Ourselves   went out for ice cream.
Himself    will announce the prize winners.

Errors on Compound Objects

Use the same strategy to check on compound objects. Read the two objects one at a time as a single object. Your ear will tell which one is correct.

001 (7)

Don’t be afraid to use I and me in sentences. Just use I as the subject pronoun, and me as the object pronoun.

Your Turn:
Can you find the reflexive pronouns in these sentences?

1. The winning athlete patted himself on the back.
2. I taught myself to play mah-jongg.
3. Our visitors kept to themselves during the party.
4. The Boy Scouts congratulated themselves on their championship award.
5. The Boy Scout Troop congratulated itself on its victory.
6. Jeremy reminded himself to do his homework before watching TV.
7. I promised myself that one day I would go on a Caribbean cruise.

So what. Who cares?
Incorrect use of reflexive pronouns seems to irritate those people who know how to use them correctly. Why not join those who know the difference.

Just one other thing. Grammar and usage change over time, so we need to check back on this particular issue in a few years.  Who knows, it may become more acceptable to use myself in subject and object positions in a sentence since so many people do use it that way now. I hope not, but that’s how our language changes.

The Last Meow

princess catHey, I’m already asleep.Grumpy cat says no

I’m dreaming about Cinderella at the ball.

Maybe a handsome prince will come and carry me off.

What did Grumpy Cat say?

Aww, c’mon, Grumpy Cat, give a sweet princess a break.

Meow for now.  ={^.^}=

Q is for Quirky Dreams, Susie Q, and Prepositional Phrases

a-to-z-letters-2013Today is Q-Day in the A to Z Challenge.

I had a quirky dream about prepositional phrases last night. No kidding.

I think it’s because I had intended to write about these preppie guys yesterday on P-Day. Unfortunately, my snarky button jammed, and I couldn’t think up anything clever to write about them. I bet you’d have trouble writing something clever about prepositional phrases, too. Admit it.

At any rate, Susie Q, my secret mentor, urged me to go back a day in time and reconsider those pesky prepositions and their phrases. At first I resisted, but as sleep further eluded me,  a song I learned in third or fourth grade sixty alotta years go popped into my head:Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.” (See the three prepositional phrases in a row?)

That’s when I knew I had to get up and write my post.

Okay. So here it is. Snarky or not.

Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases
Prepositions are words that connect or form relationships with nouns, noun phrases, pronouns, and sometimes verbs in sentences.  They fall in pre-position to, or before, nouns, noun phrases, and pronouns (Kolln, 1994). Eight prepositions (of, to, in, for, with, on, at, by) are among the twenty most frequently used words in English. Here are a bunch more prepositions:

001

Prepositions have been called a lot of names: the Big Daddy of Phrases (Rozakis, 2003), tasty morsels for the grammar gourmet (Michael Strumpf, 2004), and mushy abstractions and great circumlocutions (Hale, 1999), to name a few.  June Casagrande (2010) calls them “devious” because they sometimes get plunked in the wrong place in the sentence causing humorous gaffes.

Constance Hale, in Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Effective Prose (1999), had this to say about prepositions:

In the hands of Charles Dodgson, Sr., [Lewis Carrol] [didn’t we just talk about him just a couple of days ago?]  create mischief, what with cows rushing up chimneys and mayors in soup plates and men in teapots and donkeys in thimbles. Most writers, though, are content to use prepositions to ground their material, to tie noun and pronouns logically to other parts of speech. In this regard, prepositions are indispensable.

Form
Prepositions are groupies, not loners. They love company and crowds. In fact, they need company in order to function; otherwise they sit in the corner hanging their heads. Look around for some nouns, and you will find prepositions near by, hanging on for dear life. Rarely will you see a preposition hanging out by itself. (Well maybe on restroom doors!) That’s just no fun. Boring!

And worse than being groupies, prepositions are grabbers. They latch onto nouns and pronouns to justify their existence. Their job is to tell location, direction, time, and relationships in sentences. Here you can see how they grab nouns to help them. (We’ll talk about pronouns and prepositions another day.)

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  • Prepositions form phrases.
  • Prepositional phrases begin with prepositions.
  • The preposition in the phrase grabs an object: a noun or pronoun.
  • Prepositions can be simple (one word: of, to, behind) or compound (two or more words: in back of, in addition to).
  • Sentences may have one or more prepositional phrases.

Red Alert: Don’t be tricked: the noun that the preposition grabs is NOT the subject of the sentence! You can hear those preppies chortle when they catch you in that mistake.

Prepositions have another famous trick; they cozy up to verbs, you know, maybe to make the nouns and pronouns jealous. They like to “show off,” “object to,” “interfere with,” and “be shocked at” whatever is going on.

Let them have their fun. After all, if you were a preposition, wouldn’t you feel entitled to a little action now and then? Beats just sitting around with those boring do-nothing pronouns, doesn’t it?

Function of Prepositions
1.
 Prepositions are noun-stickers (Goode, 2002).  Look at how these prepositions stick phrases into this song.

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through white and drifted snow-oh.

Read these lyrics without prepositional phrases, and the song just doesn’t sound right or make sense.

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through white and drifted snow-oh.

2. Prepositional phrases answer questions. Which one? When? Where? Which direction?
The answers to these questions enrich writing by adding specific details and depth to sentences and stories. They describe the setting and action and help readers form pictures in their minds.

3 Prepositions act like adjectives and adverbs. They are great pretenders. They are chameleons and change their colors depending on whether they want to act like adjectives or whether they want to be adverbs. Because people use prepositional phrases in speech all the time, they are hardly aware that they are using adjectival prepositional phrases or adverbial prepositional phrases. Maybe you don’t need to know whether the phrases are acting like adjectives or adverbs, but you do need to recognize these prepositional phrases in writing because they cause some common writing errors.

So what. Who cares?
Writers have a love-hate relationship with prepositional phrases. They love prepositions because they enrich writing and woo the reader, but prepositional phrases can cause problems. They might

  1. leave a sing-song lilt to the writing (example:  “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go”);
  2. lead you down the garden path to passive voice;
  3. lead  to subject-verb agreement errors (remember that Red Alert above?);
  4. lead to wordiness, either with extra words or with extra phrases;
  5. cause ambiguity when the prepositional phrases land in the wrong spot in the sentence; and
  6. cause ambiguity when subtle differences between words change intended meanings.

I will write about these problems individually in future posts.

Finally, I will not write about that myth that lies about prepositions not ending sentences. It’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition if otherwise the sentence would sound odd. But so many grammarian reformers, satirists, and critics have already written about that, that I won’t expound on it any further. That okay with you? Besides, Roy Peter Clark (2006) will call you a crotchety critic and one other rather disparaging epithet (that I won’t print here) if you bring up that subject again. Enough said.

And do you think I could type this whole post without misspelling preposition each time? Nah. Each time I typed preposition I got that cute red squiggly underlining to nag me to fix the spelling. Okay, I did.

References:
Casagrande, June. It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2010.
Clark, Roy Peter. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. New York: Little, Brown, 2006.
Goode, C. Edward. A Grammar Book for You and I (Oops Me!). Sterling, VA: Capital, 2002.
Hale, Constance. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose. New York: Broadway, 1999.
Kolln, Martha. Understanding English Grammar, 4th ed. New York: MacMillan, 1994.
Rozakis, Laurie. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grammar and Style. New York: Alpha, 2003.
Strumpf, Michael and Douglas, Auriel. The Grammar Bible. New York: Holt,2004.

A to Z Blogging Challenge Post Q. Find a list of all my 2013 A to Z Challenge posts here.

The Last Meowcat on cactus Curt

All this yammering about prepositions is boring and definitely not spine-tingling excitement. I’d rather sleep on a cactus than pay attention to this stuff.  Better yet, maybe a nice nap on a sunny windowsill. Hmmmm. Yes. That sounds about right.

=(^;^)= Meow for now. 

And My Cat  Where do cats sleep

K is for Kernel Sentences: Nouns and Verbs Control the World

a-to-z-letters-2013Today is K-Day in the A to Z Challenge. It is also Friday. Yippee! My kitty friends are happy about that.

Today we will focus on some easy grammar:

kernel sentences.

A kernel sentence is one type of base sentence structure on which longer sentences can be built. It has a pattern that looks like this:

__________________    __________________
Subject                                               Verb

For now, fill in the slots with one noun and one verb and you will have a kernel sentence. These two words can easily be expanded into longer sentences at another time.

One way to do have fun doing this is to write S-V list poems.

Begin with a title, then add specific, present-tense, active verbs to expand the topic. Repeat the title at the end, perhaps adding a twist.

basketballBasketball
Mario dribbles.
Maria screams.
Manuel shoots
Jose dashes.
Jorge pants.
Cole sweats
Larry scores.
Sasha cheers.
Latitia swoons.
Basketball Romance!

paradeParade
Hands clap.
Feet stomp.
Men march.
Sirens wail.
Balloons float.
Flags wave.
Drummers bang.
Buglers blow.
Ladies dance.
Children cheer.
Popsicles melt.
Lines overflow.
Bodies jive.
Parade

Be creative and have fun with this. Brainstorm topics with students, then let them have a go at it. You will be surprised at the results.

So what. Who cares?

When students get a very firm handle on nouns and verbs, grammatical problems eventually disappear.

Teachers can teach the following concepts in very simple form using kernel sentences. It is much easier to see the patterns in two-word sentences. When students master the concept in the simplest form, they can then move on to expanding sentences.

  • subject-verb agreement
  • verb tense consistency
  • active verbs
  • parallel structure
  • vocabulary nuances

A firm handle on nouns and verbs will later help students reduce long sentences down to kernel sentences. If students can do this, they will be able to straighten out some of the most common errors.

  • sentence fragments
  • fused sentences (comma splice)
  • run-on sentences
  • lack of agreement between subject and verb
  • verb tense shifts in sentences
  • faulty parallel structure
  • punctuation errors

Of course, any programs designed to improve students’ speaking and writing must have lots of opportunity for conversation and creative and academic writing.  Writing subject/verb poems is only one aspect of a much larger focus on language, but it can help those students who are unsure of basic sentence structure concepts.  Spend a few minutes each class on grammatical structures and your students will learn patterns that will help them improve in both speaking (ESOL) and writing.

The Last Meow

I have only one word for you all:

cats FridayMeow for now.    =<^o^>=

D is for Direct Object or Happy Birthday?

a-to-z-letters-2013Today is D-Day in the A to Z Challenge.

I made a mental list of all the exciting, fun grammatical terms that I could write about on D-Day: direct objects, dangling modifiers, declarative sentences, dependent clauses, descriptive writing, diagramming sentences, dialogue…and many more. You know, all those things that thrill you when you read about them. It’s more than enough to keep me writing for hours.

But dang it, it’s my birthday, so let’s have some real fun. I’ve got some party kitties just hanging around impatiently waiting for some good times.

happy birthday kitty chorusOf course, Mr. Sassy Cat Smarty Pants is hanging around ready to make a smart aleck remark!

cat birthday imageAll right. I’ve got that out of my system now. And since you laughed at Mr. Sassy Cat, you get a grammar lesson on subject pronouns, object pronouns, and direct objects.

Easy. Just think of “I love you.”

I love you image

“I love you” is a perfect Subject-Verb-Object sentence using a subject pronoun ( I ) and an object pronoun ( you ).

Subject pronouns and object pronouns get mixed up all the time. Douglas Cazort, author Under the Grammar Hammer: The 25 Most Important Grammar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, writes that using objective case pronouns as subjects is the GRAND NUMBER ONE of all mistakes, causing “a strong negative reaction in a great majority of readers.”

People generally do not have difficulty with singular subject and object pronouns. They are easy-peasey. Just look at this chart.  There may be some odd romantic triangles here, but there are no grammatical errors. People have more difficulty with two or more subject pronouns or object pronouns. The second chart should help with that.

You just have to remember that “I” is the subject pronoun and “me” is the object pronoun and never switch them.  If you keep the subject pronouns in the front of the sentence and the object pronouns in the back of the sentence, you should get your pronoun use correct.

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The trouble comes when two people love the same two people. Romantically, that’s an argument a fistfight a brawl waiting to happen. And grammatically, it causes anguish. People overthink their pronouns, then make the wrong choice.

Again, if you keep the subject pronouns in the front of the sentence and the object pronouns in the back of the sentence, you should get your subject and object pronoun use correct.

Look at this chart of mixed-up romantic relationships. These people are bound for even more trouble romantically, but they get five stars for correct grammar.

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So What? Who Cares?

Here are a few reasons for trying to get your subject pronouns and object pronouns correct.men's tee grammar

correcting your grammar Zazzle1. Turns out a lot of people care about grammar. Here’s one clue. You can buy buttons or T-shirts that proclaim that people evaluate your grammar. It happens all the time. So be careful. Get your pronouns right, and people will know that you got an A in English in the fourth grade.

2. If you know your subject/object pronouns you, too, can wear the green button or the orange T-shirt. You can also correct TV newscasters and commentators. You might think twice before correcting your mother-in-law.

The Last Meow

So the cats are tired of all this grammar stuff and want to get back to the birthday party. I hear that Grumpy Cat is eyeing my cake and licking his lips. Knowing him, he’ll dive into the cake before anyone else has a chance to have a piece. See you on E-Day.

grumpy cat and cake

C is for… Complements and Compliments: So What? Who Cares?

a-to-z-letters-201326 letters of the alphabet, 26 days, 26 posts (Sundays are freebee days. *clap* clap* clap.*)

My theme for 2013: Writing PLUS Grammar You Can See

A strong knowledge of grammar helps writers produce more effective writing; more effective writing improves communication.

Each post will feature one aspect of writing with a grammar connection. Most posts will include a “So What? Who Cares?” section and a “Goals/Suggestions” section.  The goals won’t be to just write more; anyone can do that. The goal will be to write better.

Along the way, I plan to throw in a cat or two. Sorry, they just have a way of sneaking into my blogs.

C is for Complements and Compliments:  So What? Who Cares?

Complements and compliments often get mixed up in writing; in fact, these two words are on many common error in writing lists. This is a usage problem, not a grammar problem. Personally, I prefer compliments, but complements can be very effective in writing when used wisely.

Usage: complement and compliment

Usage is the customary way we use words in Standard Written English. Unfortunately, we sometimes switch words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings. Complement and compliment are two of these commonly confused words. The chart below summarizes definitions, examples, and memory tricks to help avoid this mix-up.

001

Grammar: Complement

Everyone loves compliments, but the word compliment is not a grammatical term, so we can drop that word from our discussion.  Complement, on the other hand, is a much more functional term. It is a grammatical term, and it has the power to improve your writing skills.

A complement is a word or group of words that, with the verb, complete the structure and meaning in the predicate of a sentence. (Webster’s) Complements take two forms: predicate nouns and predicate adjectives. Both give more information about the subject of the sentence. Both fall in a common sentence pattern:  S  +   LV   +   C.

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Just as little children learn language patterns through listening and speaking without ever learning the grammatical terminology, we have learned about subject complements without having to memorize the terms.

So What? Who Cares?

You already know about complements intuitively from using our language for so many years, so why bother to review this?  Why? Because complements affect style in writing, and style sets you apart from other writers.

 Style

Everyone learns about basic sentence structure in the elementary grades. Even with snow days, field trips, bomb scares, and tie-dying days thrown in to interrupt the teaching schedules, everyone seems to learn about the basic sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Students and writers use these types of sentences in their writing without even thinking about the terms. Yet those writers who do know these terms and how they function learn to manipulate their sentence structure and vocabulary to have a stronger impact on their readers. Here is how you can do this, too.

1.       Count your izzes and wazzes, then exchange these weak verbs for stronger ones.

Complements require the use of linking verbs, thus these verbs become very repetitive. Because they are so overused, they are weak. Count how many times you use linking verbs in your sentences, and you will discover an opportunity to sharpen your writing.

Bliss in blizzardMr. Terry is a hiker.

Mr. Terry hikes on the Appalachian Trail even when a blizzard swirls around him.

2.        Choose more specific adjectives. Add specific detail.

“Show, don’t tell” is a common piece of advice for writers. When we replace weak adjectives with stronger verbs and add more specific detail, we strengthen our writing.

Mr. Terry is tired. He is stumbling through the deep snow.

Mr. Terry trudges through the deep snow of the Appalachian Trail, moving only a few yards before he has to rest on his walking poles.

3.         Introduce word pairs and trios in place of vague adjectives and try them in different places.

Mr. Terry is tired.

Mr. Terry is stumbling through the snow, breathing heavily, and mumbling to himself. He is panicking because the storm has intensified, and he cannot see the next trail marker.

Stumbling through the snow, breathing heavily, and mumbling to himself, Mr. Terry panics when he can’t locate the next trail marker.

4.       Use comparisons: similes and metaphors.

Initially students write common comparisons, but we can encourage them to use original comparisons.

Mr. Terry is as tired as an old man after working all day.

Mr. Terry feels as tired as a hiker on Mount Everest without a Sherpa to carry his overstuffed backpack.

Feeling as tired as a hiker on Mount Everest without a Sherpa to carry his overstuffed backpack, Mr. Terry falls into a deep sleep in a mountain shelter near the trail.

Half the fun of writing is manipulating words and sentences to make them more interesting. Have fun with complements. I’m sure you’ll do a good job. That’s a compliment!

The Last Meow

And My Cat...in the snowHere’s a little kitty that loves the snow.

Writers and cats go together like chocolate and peanuts. Here’s a link to a post I wrote last year entitled, Cat-A-Log of Cat Crimes against Writers. You might enjoy reading about these crime perpetuators. https://janiceheck.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/a-to-z-c-is-for-cat-a-log-of-cat-crimes-against-writers/

Alison at alisonamazed likes kitties, too. Her post has a neat video of a cat leading a dog on a leash back to their home.

http://alisonamazed.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/a-z-gratitude-c-is-for-cats/

A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks

a-to-z-letters-2013

Welcome to the 2013 A to Z Challenge where bloggers write a series of 26 posts during the month of April.
This year our faithful organizers encouraged hope-filled A-Z participants to develop a theme for posts rather than posting on random topics as many of us did last year.
My theme for this year is . . .

Writing PLUS Grammar You Can See.

Through the month of April, I plan to give examples of how a strong knowledge of grammar can help writers produce more effective writing. More effective writing improves communication.

Along the way, I plan to throw in a cat or two. Sorry, they just have a way of sneaking into my blogs.
And now with a *blast of the trumpet* and a *roll on the snare drum*, we begin with . . .

A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks

Pigs Little Three
Bad Wolf Big
Little Hood Riding Red

Did you grimace when you read these familiar characters?
Take a common phrase and mix up the adjectives, and it sounds like an off-key prima donna singing an aria at the Met. Our ears tell us something just isn’t right.

Parents read nursery rhymes and classic stories to their wee ones over and over and over and over, a trillion times in parent-count, to calm them at bed-time. At the same time, they unwittingly teach their little sponges unspoken rules for how our language works. Diaper-wearing toddlers learn the order of adjectives as they babble away practicing their early communication skills.

three pigs LGBMom reads The Three Little Pigs.
Rule: Adjectives come before nouns. (They can also be in two other places, but that’s for another post.)
Rule: Number adjectives come before size adjectives

Pattern: Adjective, adjective, adjective noun.

Dad reads Little Red Riding Hood.
Rule: size comes before color.

little-red-riding-hood-ladybird-book-first-favourite-tales-gloss-hardback-1999-1553-pChildren learn these rules seemingly by osmosis so teachers never have to teach about correct order of adjectives in school. Adjective order flows naturally in their speaking patterns without ever having to learn the official linguistic rules.

Order of adjectives is generally only a problem for non-native English speakers whose own language may have a different word order.

And yes, there is a prescribed order for adjectives. If you think about it for a bit, you can probably come up with the rules. But I’ll save you some time and give the order to you here:

1. determiners: a, an, the this, that, these, those his, hers, ours, yours several, ten, some
2. judgment (opinion, observation): beautiful, delicious, obnoxious, immature
3. physical description (fact: size, shape, age, color): small, round, ancient, golden
4. origin: Greek, Italian, Chinese, Mexican
5. composition: cotton, silk, metal, wooden
6. other specific qualifier related to the function or purpose noun . . .men’s clothing, children’s shoes
and finally, ta dah, *drum roll*, the NOUN.

Teacher-pleasing elementary students love to write lengthy sentences loaded with adjectives. Let them have their fun.

Giant, bushy-tailed anteaters with long, sticky tongues and elongated snouts vacuum up their mid-day snack of crunchy, tasty, black ants.
giant anteater
Toothless, armor-plated, Texan and South American armadillos roam around in the pitch-black, moon-less nights but roll up into balls when threatened by ravenous predators.
armadillow
That chunky African aardvark with the round, stubby, pig-like snout, catches ants with its long, inelegant sticky tongue.
aardvark

Bierce cover largeFor additional thoughts on order of adjectives, read all about “Frozen Yogurt with Adjectives on Top” by Jan Freeman, author of Ambrose Bierce’s Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic’s Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers. http://throwgrammarfromthetrain.blogspot.com/2012/08/frozen-yogurt-with-adjectives-on-top.html

So what? Who cares? Why do writers have to think about order of adjectives?
Writing instructors say, “Show, don’t tell,” encouraging writers to give more detail in their writing, but writers need to use adjectives more selectively than those eager-beaver elementary students.

Zinsser, On Writing WellWilliam Zinsser, author of On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, says this about adjectives:

Most writers sow adjectives almost unconsciously into the soil of their prose to make it more lush and pretty, and the sentences become longer and longer as they fill up wih stately elms and frisky kittens and hard-bitten detectives and sleepy lagoons. This is adjective-by-habit — a habit you should get rid of.

Goals for Using Adjectives in Writing
1. Use adjectives selectively. Piles of adjectives bore your readers. They skip over them to get to the action in your story or to the gist of your article. Don’t be like those adjective-abusing, but fun-loving elementary students.  Use fresh, original, surprising adjectives in your writing.
2. Get rid of common adjectives (nice, pretty, lovely, romantic, exciting). They have no place in your writing because they show nothing. Instead practice writing original similes and metaphors. Look for posts on S and M, oops, I mean similes and metaphors in the future. In the meantime, Catherine Johnson posts metaphors and metaphor-generating pictures on “Metaphor Mondays.” Look there for fresh ideas.

The Last Meow

And now a word from Grumpy Cat. Too bad the meme writer didn’t go to school on the day the teacher taught about apostrophesGumpry Cay-meme-wrong apostrophes and contractions. Oh well, there’s  always room for another blog post on the proper use of these elementary, confounding constructions.

Oh great. Now the Three Little Kittens are fussing because I haven’t given them any airtime. Sometimes you just can’t win.

April 2013 A to Z Challenge

Image

April 2013        A to Z Challenge

26 letters of the alphabet, 26 days, 26 posts

Arlee Post started A to Z in 2010 with an initial 100 intrepid bloggers. A to Z has now grown to over 1700 bloggers with just six hours to go on the countdown clock.

This year our faithful challenge organizers have encouraged participants to develop a theme for posts rather than write on random topics as many of us did last year.

My theme for 2013: Writing PLUS Grammar You Can See

A strong knowledge of grammar helps writers produce more effective writing; more effective writing improves communication.

Each post will feature one aspect of writing with a grammar connection. Most posts will include a “So What? Who Cares?” section and a “Goals for ___________” section.  The goals won’t be to just write more; anyone can do that. The goal will be to write better . . . and that includes me. Perhaps you, the reader, will help with some tips and comments for me. I would love that.

Of course, the danger in doing a blog on writing and grammar is that the grammar police, the trolls, and the technicality specialists will be on the lookout for my mistakes, both minute and egregious. Writers who write about writing have to look both ways before crossing the street otherwise trolls driving semis will smash them off the road.

My first few posts are ready. We’ll start with some easy stuff and go on from there.

April 1     A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks

April 2     B is for Blogging Bliss,  Boohahs, and Booyahs

April 3     C is for Complement and Compliment Complexities

Writing can be fun, and grammar can be fun, too. Elizabeth Fais of writersinthestorm reminds us that “Making something fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior.”  Maybe we can have a little grammar fun as we take this ride on the A to Z.

Why not follow along? Perhaps we’ll come across a few of your pet peeves related to grammar.

You do have some pet peeves, don’t you? Let me know what they are. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Common Errors or Effective Writing?

Sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences have gotten bad raps having been labeled as (heaven forbid)

common errors in writing.

But these two style elements should have a place in every writer’s paintbox.

Developing writers rely on basic sentence patterns in their writing because they haven’t yet developed the ability to write more complex sentences, nor have they learned common revision techniques such as sentence combining. Unintentionally, they use sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences in their stories, reports, and essays.

The result? Boring, ho-hum, unsophisticated, first draft writing.

Yet effective writers deliberately use sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences to make their writing stronger. What’s the difference? Check these examples from Sandra Cisneros and Shammai Golan.

Sandra Cisneros (1954-         )

Although born in poverty in Chicago, Sandra Cisneros, celebrated Mexican-American writer, did not remain there. Encouraged by her mother, a voracious reader, and mentored by teachers, Cisneros rose above the impoverished conditions that hold so many back. She graduated from Josephim Academy and Loyola University in Chicago, and then earned a master’s degree at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop program.

But college life was not easy for Cisneros. As a Chicano in primarily white college classes, she rebelled against the traditional reading assignments that just did not relate to her early life experiences as a Mexican-American. Out of frustration and anger, she chose to write about what others could not—her life growing up in a poor, urban, predominantly Puerto Rican Chicago neighborhood in Chicago—a place significantly different from those she read about in her college literature classes.

The result? Cisneros developed a highly distinctive voice that reflected her Mexican-American heritage, the voice of a poor, female child of Mexican parents growing up in big-city America. Speaking through Esperanza, Cisneros writes,

Everybody in our family has different hair. My Papa’s hair is like a broom, all up in the air. And me, my hair is lazy. It never obeys barrettes or bands. Carol’s hair is thick and straight. He doesn’t need to comb it. Nenny’s hair is slippery—slides out of your hand. And Kiki, who is the youngest, has hair like fur.
—Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street, “Hairs”

Here’s another piece from “A House of My Own.”

Not a flat. Not an apartment in back. Not a man’s house. Not a daddy’s. A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after.
—Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street, “A House of My Own”

Cisnero’s writing captivates. It is conversational, warm, and comfortable, as if she speaks directly to you. Her fragments and short, choppy sentences slide out in a steady, smooth stream, but they fit her intended purpose—to reflect the natural conversational tone of her childhood. Just kids sitting on the front stoop, swinging their bare-feet, and talking about life and hope. Subject these pieces to an academic sentence-combining activity and the charm, rhythm, and honesty disappear. Her writing is not unsophisticated. It is a social commentary, rich in description about the truth of life in poverty. She uses sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences effectively for her own writing purposes.

Shammai Golan (1933-           )

Israeli writer Shammai Golan uses sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences with an entirely different effect.

Golan moved to Palestine (pre-Israel) as an orphan at the age of fourteen (1947), leaving Poland and the difficult years of World War II behind. In 1951, he joined the Israeli Army in the on-going Arab-Israeli conflict, the background for this disturbing and powerful account of an Israeli’s soldier’s agonizing death.

In this brief quote, Golan conveys fear, shock, disbelief, and horror using fragments and choppy sentences to describe the last thoughts and minutes of a soldier’s life.

The Uzi’s a good weapon. Effective. For defense. For attack. In face-to-face-fighting. But today’s Friday. And there’s peace at the borders. And I’m only on watch over their road. They fired. Suddenly. Why’d they fire, suddenly? In war one fires. People get wounded. Killed. In the War of Independence. . . .
I’m breathing. With difficulty though. That’s because of the blood. I’m all wet. Maybe it suddenly rained. Sometimes it rains in September. Even before Yom Kippur. And I’m already damp. And flowing. All is flowing. And all is vanity. And you can never enter the same river twice. The Philosopher teacher. A great sage. . . .
And the leaves fall over my body. Soft. Purple. Like the water under my belly. Soft. Warm. How long can one flow like this. An hour. Two. Three. . . .
—Shammai Golan, “Ten Centimeters of Dust” in Laurel Holliday, Children of Israel, Children of Palestine: Our Own True

Golan communicates the gravity of this tragic situation as the soldier moves in and out of consciousness, hallucinating, remembering, regretting, wondering. Truncated sentences and stream of consciousness thinking create a stunning emotional impact on the reader. This must be what happens when someone thinks he is dying.

Bad Guys Turn Good

So, yes, there are rules for writing, but good writers often ignore these rules in order to develop their own style. Short, choppy sentences and sentence fragments can be effective in writing for specific purposes. Consider your purpose in writing when you use them.

Narrative writing with dialog seems especially suited for these two stylistic devices. People do not normally speak in full sentences in conversation. Instead they use body language, clipped sentences, repetition, and reliance on commonly known information to carry their meaning. They speak in fragments and in short, choppy sentences.

Academic writing, on the other hand, is not the place to overuse these structures. Teachers and professors prefer the more complex sentence structures that demonstrate higher levels of thinking and organization.

Sentence fragments and short, choppy sentences are not such bad guys after all.  But use them wisely, as part of an overall strategy to vary your sentence structure. Tell your teacher or editor I told you so.

YOUR TURN:
When have you used short, choppy sentences or fragments as stylistic strategies in your writing?
What authors have you read that use these two stylistic strategies effectively?

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