JaniceHeck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the category “Grammar”

Dear Readers: On Flying Deeper into the Blogosphere

Dear Readers,

From time to time, I sit back and evaluate my purpose and progress in maintaining a blog.

Three years ago, on a lark after I retired from the world of education, I started my first blog, Janice Heck: My Time to Write. I tiptoed into the blogosphere, filled with beginner’s anxiety, to test the atmosphere. I joined Kristin Lamb’s little army of baby bloggers in WANA112 (We Are Not Alone) and launched out into unknown territory.

Feeding My Blog

At first I wondered how I could maintain a blog because these word-swallowing vacuums have voracious appetites and must be fed constantly. I thought I would rapidly run out of ideas. I also wondered if I had the sustaining power to keep a blog going. After all, I have been known to start projects, and then let them drop when other interests crashed the party. (Moi? Yes, moi.)

But look! Now, almost three years later, my blog is still alive, still begging for fodder, still holding my attention, still getting regular visitors.

I call myself an “eclectic blogger.” That is, I write articles or post photographs about whatever strikes my fancy: cats, family, travel, book reviews, current events, food, recipes, senior health issues, eldercare, grammar, writing tips, writing quirks, and writing “fix-its.”

I love blog challenges and have entered a number of writing and photography challenges.

My first A to Z Challenge (to publish a post six days a week in the month of April) in 2012 helped me prove to myself that I really could blog every day. I began to see myself in a new light: as a writer and a blogger. Since then, I have joined the A to Z every year and met that same goal. In the process, I have met many amazing bloggers and photographers.  Here are my three survivor badges from those challenges.

I joined other challenges well and enjoyed posting on them: Cee’s Photo Challenges, WordPress Weekly Photo Challenges, Post-A-Day Photo Challenges, and others.

Feeding my blog has been easier than I thought possible.

Stats Report

My stats look pretty good with 52,593 visits (as of 8-31-14) and almost 500 regular followers. I’m not a Jeff Bullas, a Kristin Lamb, a Bradley Will, or Matt Wolfe, but I have had fair success (i.e. regular readers) for a novice. My Time to Write has had visitors from 176 countries. Alas, Greenland is still white on this map. (Hint, hint, Greenland bloggers. I know you are there.)

Blog Viewers by Country-Janice Heck, My Time to Write

Blog Viewers by Country-Janice Heck, My Time to Write

Of course, no visitors from Iran have dropped by. No surprise there. But look at Africa. Each time I check this map, more readers from Africa have visited my blog. Amazing. English as second language (ESL, ESOL) readers pop up everywhere. I have had visitors from countries that I have never heard of until I started blogging. (Brunei Darussalam? Djibouti? Vanuatu?) Yes, Mr. Disney, “It’s a small world after all.”

Funny thing, though, the posts that I thought would be the least interesting have turned out to be the ones that people search for: grammar posts, “writing quirks,” and other topics related to writing. With the exception of one oddball post, Two Oceans Meet in Gulf of Alaska. Not., which has now had 15,279 hits, the English writing and grammar posts get the most daily visits. (For a sampling of these posts, check the end of this post.) Other posts have shorter term interest.

Decision Point

The stats on my blog dashboard indicate that my free WordPress blog is currently at 87% capacity (2667.67 MB). In other words, a decision point. Should I shell out some bucks and buy more space? Or should I morph into a dotcom? WordPress encourages me almost daily to do either of these things. Should I? Shouldn’t I?

Focus, Focus, Focus

Years ago, I went to a writer’s conference and met with an editor who gave me this advice: “You are a good writer… BUT… [always the but ! ] you need to FOCUS.”

He called me on my eclectic writing behavior, my tendency for random thinking, my propensity for great ideas, and, well, my many unfinished writing projects. How did he know?

At any rate, I see now, that he was right. And that is the issue on my current blog. It is eclectic. On the one hand, that is good because it has wider audience appeal; on the other hand, people who visit my blog looking for help with writing have to surf through all sorts of material not immediately relevant to writing.

Final Decision: New Focus, New Dotcom Blog

With T. S. Eliot’s line from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” firmly in mind, “decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse…,” I started playing with a blog (Janice Heck Writes) that has been sitting dormant on my WordPress shelf since I initiated my first blog.

Now with my first blog pool almost filled to capacity, I have decided to officially launch Janice Heck Writes as a dotcom. focusing completely on the writing process and writing craft. My goal is to help writers move to the next level in their writing abilities, whether they be wannabe writers or published writers.

As I attend writing conferences and meet and read the writing attempts of many wannabe writers, I encourage them to keep writing and writing and writing. Then when I notice the randomness of their writing, I tell them to focus. There it is. That advice given to me more than ten years ago has come spouting out of my own mouth! We become like our own editors!

Posts on my new blog will focus on helping writers develop their writing craft using this formula:

Writing graphic by Janice Heck

While natural talent and a wide background in reading help create a good writer, a strong grasp of writing craft (grammar, usage, punctuation) helps build a writer’s power. Effective writing strategies can be learned.

So this new blog Janice Heck Writes: Power-up Your Writing! Build Your Writing Craft will focus on the specific writing techniques to enhance your writing as well as quick fixes for the most common errors in writing. I will also include book reviews and writer interviews that focus on building effectiveness as a writer.

Of course, I will keep my darling kitties (a regular feature on my first blog) in my posts as often as possible because their witty remarks often bring chuckles to readers… and extra comments to my blog. But don’t worry, my dear eclectic readers, I promise to post on this ole blog as well. Since I love the writing and photography challenges and the relative freedom of topics of my first blog, I will continue to post there. Gradually, I will pull my grammar, usage, punctuation, and writing tips posts over to the new blog.

Come on over and check out my new blog: Janice Heck Writes: Power-up Your Writing! Build Your Craft.  I’d love to see you there. Leave a comment if you have time. (Launch date: September 1, 2014)

Read the first post here: What? Another Blog on Writing?   URL address: http://janiceheckwrites.com/

Your Turn

So, what do you think? Am I making the right decision? Do I have any other options?

Popular posts of the past in order of highest frequency of hits. (Alphabetical posts come from the A to Z Challenges.)

Q is for Quirky Dreams, Susie Q., and Prepositional Phrases
R is for Reflexive Pronouns Cause a Ruckus
K is for Kernel Sentences: Nouns and Verbs Control the World
D is for Direct Object or Happy Birthday
A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks
Hyper-hyphenated Words Make Surprising Adjectives
I is for Invented Spelling of Kids and Cats
“Don’t Use Adverbs.” Book Reviewers Use Them!
Common Errors or Effective Writing?
G is for Great Gobs of Gramma’s Grammar Goodies and Goofs
And more…

 

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Don’t Use Adverbs? Book Reviewers Use Them!

Adverbs have been thoroughly trashed in the writer’s world. Read more about that here: Who Murdered Those Poor, Pitiful Adverbs?

Even so, adverbs remain a handy tool in the writer’s toolbox. Adverbs modify (add meaning) to verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. “At their best, adverbs spice up a verb or an adjective. At their worst, they express a meaning already contained in [the verb].” Roy Peter Clark, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

Look carefully, and you will find those ostracized adverbs being featured prominently in book review blurbs. Check these out:

“Wickedly funny, deviously twisted and enormously satisfying. This is a big juicy bite of zombie goodness. Two decaying thumbs up!”
Jonathan Maberry on Kevin J. Anderson’s, Death Warmed Over: Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.001 (22)

“Rather than rest on her laurels, Grafton does the exact opposite, and U is for Undertow is her most structurally complex, psychologically potent book to date.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review included on flyleaf of Sue Grafton’s, V is for Vengeance

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“A slice of American history beautifully told by three young Americans coming of age in a turbulent time.”
Jodi Thomas, New York Times best-selling author on Jan Morrill’s, The Red Kimono

001 (23)

“Move over, grumpy schoolmarms everywhere. Your time has come. For the writer or wannabe, Sin and Syntax is urgently needed, updated, and hip guide to modern language and writing.”
Jon Katz, media critic and author of Running to the Mountain, on Constance Hale’s, Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose.

001 (27)

“It’s a miracle, a daybreak, a man on the moon . . . so impeccably imagined, so courageously executed, so everlastingly moving.”
Baltimore Sun on Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: A Novel

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And finally, there’s this:

Adverbs by Daniel Handler

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No, this book is not about adverbs; it’s actually an unusual love story, and let’s even say, a very unusual love story. Every chapter boasts it own adverb title: Immediately, Obviously, Arguably, Particularly, Briefly, Soundly, Frigidly, Collectively, and so on for nine more adverb-laden chapter titles. Here’s one review blurb:

“Gymnastic prose . . . brilliantly turned reminders that there are a million ways to describe love and none of them will be the last word.”
New York Times
Book Review

The Last Meow: A Cat-A-Log of Advice for Writers

So book reviewers use a lot of adverbs. Okay. Just don’t copy their style for lengthier pieces of writing. Follow the sound advice given by professional writers:

1. Use strong nouns and verbs in your writing. Don’t rely on weak adverbs to rev up common everyday verbs.

…the hackneyed result [of using weak verbs and weak adverbs] is immediately apparent.
Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

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2. Use distinctive, fresh, surprising adverbs, and your writing will shine. Here are a few examples from The New Yorker:

001 (28)maddeningly inaccessible… (Tribeca Cinemas in NYC)
Silvia Killingsworth, “Takes for Two,” The New Yorker, April 1, 2013

..the large color pictures are…gritty, intimate, and bracingly authentic (Polaroids by Mike Brodie)
Chelsea Gallery, The New Yorker, April 1, 2003

…an outlandishly sensual red-vinyl church interior by Rodney McMillian
ART, Museums and Libraries, Whitney Museum of American Art, The New Yorker, April 1, 2013

mercilessly critical…
Marc Fisher, “The Master,” The New Yorker, April 1, 2013

Perhaps book reviews use too many adverbs, but adverbs can be a writer’s friend if used wisely, surprisingly, and judiciously.

And now it’s nap time. All this teaching tires me out.

Meow for Now. =<^;^>=

Pic by Haryo Bagus Handako

Pic by Haryo Bagus Handako

Who Murdered Those Poor, Pitiful Adverbs?

Woohoo. There’s quite a bit of mud-slinging going on over yonder about adverbs, of all things.

crime scene-blog

What with being called all kinds of dubious, diminishing, and insulting names on Internet, like “ad-thingies,” “the red-headed stepchild of modern grammarians,” and “weasel words,” it’s a wonder adverbs don’t have an inferiority complex. Oh, wait, in fact they do exhibit previously undiagnosed, partly paranoid tendencies, probably because their feelings get hurt so frequently.

Not only do Internet writers negatively brand these mild-mannered modifiers with negative descriptors, but notorious well-known writers label them with such loaded nomenclature as “flabby words” (Hale)  “stinkers” (Casagrande), and a “ragbag of hedges” (Kilgarriff). They have been called monsters and beasties, too.

Others fling disparaging remarks like flaming firecrackers tossed by taunting teenagers. Not only are adverbs “useless,” but they are “truly useless,” and “redundant.” Gordon calls them “yawningly predictable,” and Zinsser calls them “unnecessary.”

Adverbs are “crashers in the syntax house party” and “trash words” (Hale), “the dustbin” of English grammatical categories (Crystal), “the old worn-out clasp which holds words together” (Folejewski, quoted in Nordquist), “the poor stepchild” and the “Rodney Dangerfield of the parts of speech” (Nordquist).

Adverbs have even been called promiscuous because they have multiple partners: verbs, other adverbs, adjectives, and whole sentences. (Hale).

Mark Twain hated them and called them a plague. Stephen King hated them and jumped feet-first into the fracas ranting that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Adverbs, he says, are like dandelions that totally, completely, and profligately cover his lawn.

(These guys are a bit melodramatic, don’t you think? Besides that, these frequently repeated quotes are becoming trite and clichéd. Enough already.)

And it doesn’t stop there either. People who innocently use adverbs reap heaps of disparaging labels: “linguistic dwarfs” use adverbs because they can’t quite connect with stronger verbs (Kilgarriff); “weak minds” use adverbs because they are lazy; (Outbreak movie); “timid,” “cautious,” and “fearful” writers use adverbs because, well, they are timid, cautious, and fearful (King).

Indeed, some published “immature” writers have been castigated for using weak verbs and redundant adverbs in their money-gushing published novels. Of course, these writers have no worries about such criticism; they are busy counting the mega moolah that arrives by railroad cars at their multi-million dollar mansions. They sip their martinis shaken, not stirred, on the veranda by the pool, thumbing their noses at those snobby don’t-use-adverbs critics.

I mean, if you were J. K. Rowling, wouldn’t you have the pompous and malicious Dunsley family (the miserly stepparents in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) describe themselves as “perfectly normal.” Fits, doesn’t it. Come on, where’s your spirit of fun?

Grammar snobs point fingers at grammar slobs. From their lofty position on their judgment thrones, they pick out the puny prattlings of printless peons beneath them. Sometimes the grammar snobs point fingers at each other, ranting on opposite points of view on the same topic.

Criticizing adverb use is akin to criticizing Strunk & White; it’s the popular thing to do. Both are juicy targets, ripe for criticism. S & W give simplistic advice (avoid the use of qualifiers…), and adverbs can be simple and trite.

Whoa now…. Let’s just stop and take a breath. With all this maelstrom of adverb criticism, do writers even dare to use them?

True. Writers do misuse adverbs, especially the –ly brand and those linked to “said”, but is that any reason to banish all adverbs to Stephen King’s fiery furnace? Why all the melodramatic fire and brimstone? Why all this bullying of adverbs?

Adverbs can be badly, awkwardly, redundantly, and even outrageously used by writers, but possibly, just possibly, could adverbs have any good qualities?  Must they always be demoted to being the poor, pitiful underdogs in the linguistic world?

Critics focus on the minor crimes of adverb abusers and ignore the benefits that well-behaved adverbs freely and willingly offer to the world. Adverbs have a proper place in writing; in fact, we can’t do without them.

Why should writers care about adverbs?

Adverbs affect writing style, yes, for better or for worse and happily ever after. Selective use of adverbs creates well-crafted writing while indiscriminate use creates tedious, clichéd writing. Adverbs can bring subtle distinctions as well as major, dramatic distinctions. And besides that, clever use of adverbs makes me chuckle.

You have heard the quote “familiarity breeds contempt”; well, that’s what’s happened to adverbs. These words have become the plain-vanilla-ice-cream-cone-every-day-after-school treat. Repetitious. Monotonous. Boring. And yes, Ms. Gordon, yawningly predictable.

But make that an apple-blueberry-peach, honey nut Cheerios ice cream sundae with Heathbar–crunch-topping adverb, and you 001 (18)have a different story.

“Adverbs add character, sizzle, and fizz to your phrase or your sentence, whatever it is!” Brian P. Cleary, Clearly, Dearly, Nearly, Insincerely: What Is an Adverb?

Brian Cleary may write children’s books, but he’s right about adverbs.

What is an adverb anyway?

Adverbs are a category of words (a part of speech) that can change (qualify, limit, describe, modify, intensify, minimize) the meaning of verbs, other adverbs, adjectives, phrases, and clauses.

I know. You learned that in third grade. But think about this: Anything that has the power to change something else has….power. Take hold of that power and use it wisely.

Take a gander at the following Zombie treats dissected from Kevin J. Anderson’s, Death Warmed Over, and slobber over the adverbs he uses.

1. Adverbs modify verbs

Most humans are morbidly fascinated by the dark side of the city.

Streetlights flickered ominously in an electric rhythm sure to trigger epileptic seizures…

2. Adverbs modify other adverbs

“Amazing what morticians can do these days, but I’m still only fit for the scratch-and-dent sale.” I tapped my brow, feeling the putty that Bruno had so skillfully applied.

3. Adverbs modify adjectives

The mummy spoke in a crisp Bristish accent, “So sorry I’m late. My sundial is notoriously unreliable on cloudy days.”

We assert that all spells published by Howard Phillips are completely harmless. Although Ms. Wannovich’s situation is unquestionably tragic, our good company bears no blame for the aforementioned misfortune.

4. Adverbs modify clauses

I had been inside the factory before—illicitly—while investigating the garlic-laced shampoo lawsuit.

To tell the truth, I never liked Zombie stories before I read Anderson’s Death Warmed Over. It is the perfect type of writing for tongue-in-cheek use of adverbs.

As Mark Twain once famously said about himself, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,”  reports of the death of adverbs are also greatly exaggerated.

Use adverbs, but use them wisely. Crime scene closed.

References:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/24/elmore-leonard-rules-for-writers/print
http://www.macmillandictionaryblog.com/new-years-resolution-no-adverbs (Kilgarriff)http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/03/13/stephen-king-on-adverbs/
http://grammar.about.com/od/basicsentencegrammar/a/adverbquotes.htm (Nordquist)http://www.macmillandictionaryblog.com/why-pick-on-adverbs (Rundell)http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2013/02/20/being-an-adverb/ (Pullum)

Casagrande, June. Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun & Spite.
Clark, Roy Peter. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.
Gordon, Karen Elizabeth. The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed.
Hale, Constance. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose.
Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, Sixth Edition.

The Last Meow

I clearly, dearly, and sincerely approve this post. Now may I go back to my nap?cat sleeping - academic

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.

001

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. ={^;^}=

V is for. . . Vampires Invade Grammar World

V-Day in the A to Z Challenge!a-to-z-letters-2013

Four days left in the challenge, but there are some tough letters yet to come: W, X, Y, Z.

Let’s have a go at V.

Karen Elizabeth Gordon, author of The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, loves vampires, demons, gargoyles, mastodons, and other dark creatures of the night.

Why? Because she thinks they can teach us about grammar.

001 (8)Originally published in 1984, a new edition of this book was released in 1993. Evidently there were more monsters to be found in the deep, dark, dank grammar cellar. Despite its age, The Transitive Vampire holds the number 53 spot of best selling grammar books on Amazon.com. Monsters do not slink away, it seems.

Gordon has a positive use for the gnarly “menange of revolving lunatics” that invade her book, and that is to teach grammar to the wary. Even her definition of grammar has demons in it.

Grammar is a sine qua non of language, placing its demons in the light of sense, sentencing them to the plight of prose.

And the lunatics? Their stories and digressions lead through a formidable labyrinth, through the dark tunnel of myths and mistakes to the light at the end of the tunnel: pure and lovely understanding of grammar. A feat not lightly accomplished.

The creatures teach about sentences. Here is a little tasty bite for your chewing pleasure. First subjects of sentences:

 There were fifty-five lusterless vampires  dismantling the schloss.

Predicates:

The werewolf     had a toothache.
The persona non gratia    was rebuked.

Gordon marches her vampires and demons through the parts of speech (“verbs are the heartthrob of sentences”) up through phrases and clauses, and ends with comma splices and the creation of sentences.

Go ahead. Get this book and keep it on your nightstand. Read some of it every night. The artwork and the characters will keep you turning the pages well into the witching hours, and you will have such pleasant dreams about grammar. *devilish laugh here* *wolf howls in the distance* *skeleton bones rattle*

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Gordon also wrote The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, 19981 and 1993. This book is guaranteed to entertain as you review the rules of punctuation you learned in grammar school but promptly forgot.

The Last Meow.

monster catMonsters? Demons? Ha. We can play that game. Check us out!

Don’t mind that other kitty. She’s just a scaredy-cat.

Meow for now.  ={`;`}=

cat is it Friday

U is for Use, Usage, Utilize, and other Useful and Utilitarian Units

a-to-z-letters-2013What with all the rules about grammar, usage, and style, it’s a wonder anyone can get anything down on paper. Fortunately, native-born English speakers have internalized the rules and can speak and write from intuitive knowledge of how words work together in sentences. Any time we have a question about correctness, we can just pull our our handy reference manuals or go online to find the information we need. Or better yet, we can just let our editors fix the glitches in our writing.

What? You don’t have an editor?

Well, I don’t either, but my grammar-picky husband steps in and whacks at my writing. Sometimes he’s even right.

Grammar Reference Books and Textbooks

Good writers do use grammar reference books, and proofreaders and editors keep a large stock of them on hand. My own rather extensive collection starts with one first published in 1926. Here’s its classic opening sentence:

The Doorway to English is an outgrowth of a need of the classroom teacher of English who has been struggling long to achieve results in quality of speech from textbooks instead of making technique contribute to the quality of better speech. Almost any teacher of English can readily distribute the technique in orderly fashion through the respective grades, but few teachers are capable of allotting through a definite period of instruction the expanding qualities of good speech. L. Rader and P. Deffendall, The Doorway to English, Fifth Book, 1926.

What? Strunk and White, authors of The Elements of Style, would definitely not give this textbook writer an A for clarity.

Of course, some reference manuals vary in their pronouncements and create long-standing, hard-core devotees and crusaders, maybe even Grammar Police and Grammar Nazis.

One good example is the controversy over the serial comma, or the Oxford comma as the Brits call it. Do you use a comma after the second word in a series before the and?  Journalists frown on the use of the serial comma; academic writers adore it. Chicago Manual of Styles says yes, use it. APA says no, don’t use it. What’s a writer to do? Most writers follow what they were taught in junior high and high school, then look for evidence and authorities to support that position.

Usage and Style

Grammar and usage are different. Grammar: how words should be used in sentences. Usage: how words are used in sentences.

It’s Prescriptivist Grammar (this is the way it should be) versus Descriptivist Grammar (this is the way it is.)

Style is how an individual author puts together his or her knowledge of grammar and usage in writing.

A college professor, for example, would use a more formal, politically correct style in presenting his final report to the college president on, “The  Liberalization of the Humanities Department through the Utilization of Descriptivism in Chauvinistic Literature.”

The teenager writing on Internet uses a more informal style: mysterious acronyms that confound mature readers; pop idioms and slang; and improper spelling of there, they’re, and their, and your and you’re.

Here’s an example of a style suggestion from Strunk and White.

Avoid fancy words.

Although Strunk and White’s book does have it gallery of critics, it does offer helpful advice to developing writers. Their advice ranges from elementary rules of usage to the more hard-to-pinpoint style.

Why use a complex word when a simpler word will do? That college professor would do well to tone down his writing. The teenager will hopefully use a bit more formality in his academic writing.

The Last Meowcat editor

Hey, humans, why worry about all of this. We cats have our own grammar. The fuss that you make about these sticky details puts me to sleep. Get a life!   Meow for now.   =<^;^>=

And My Cat pic

S is for Stats and Milestones–10,000 Views Milestone! WooHoo

a-to-z-letters-201310,000 views of my blog? Really? How did that happen?

I hadn’t really paid much attention to the stats that WordPress keeps for each blog, not realizing how broad the reach of a blog can be. So in early April, when out of curiosity I clicked on my blog stats, I was surprised shocked to see that my blog had well over 9000 views.

Getting StartedThey laughed

I laughed when several years ago my daughter said, “You ought to start a blog.”

Why on earth would I do that? I laughed.

But once the seed fell out onto the ground, it began to take root and grow, not right away, but over time.

One of my first blog posts was, “They Laughed When I Sat Down at The Piano.” You know, sort of like, “They laughed when I sat down to blog.”

wana imageWANA: We Are Not Alone

I have been blogging for a while now. I muddled around started with a BlogSpot.com blog,  titled GED Writer, in September of 2010, writing about the GED (high school equivalency testing for dropouts) and adult education topics. I realized this was not a hot topic for a blog and decided to think the matter over a bit more.

I tried again with WordPress in December of 2011, finally getting a blog going in January of 2012. I met Kristen Lamb online and began to follow her posts at Writing Warriors. I read her book, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and I joined her WANA112 group: 100 writers who wanted to get better at blogging.  Kristen advised us to use our own names as our blog titles because we needed to build name recognition as serious bloggers. She also advised us to branch out and write about multiple interests rather than just write about our primary, more narrow, writing interests.  All of this was great and encouraging advice.

In the process of building my blog, I made lots of new writer friends. Of those 100 original writers in WANA112, 88 of us still keep in touch on Facebook on our closed group page.

And more amazing than that was that I gathered followers, kind readers who left encouraging notes.  I learned a lot from reading their posts, too. Such clever people, I thought. I will always appreciate these early followers. These are the best friends I have never met:

Tami Clayton, Taking Tea in the Kasbah
Elaine Smothers, Wonder in the Wild
emaginette, Shout With Emaginette
Glenda Mills, Meet Me On The Mountain
Barbara Forte Abate, Scribbling Outside The Lines
Judythe Morgan, Voice and Views from The Front Porch
Mike Schulenberg, Realms of Perilous Wonder
Sheila Pierson, Wonderstruck
Ellen V. Gregory, to beyond and back
Jodi Lea Stewart   Walking on Sunshine
Liv Rancourt, Laughter, life and romance under partly sunny skies
Elizabeth Fais, Where the awesome begins
Sara Walpert Foster, Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition
Siri Paulson, everyday enchantments
Linda Adams, Soldier, Storyteller
Sherry Isaac, Psychological Sizzle
Sherri Martin-Hutchins, live wonderstruck
And none of us could get anywhere without advice from Laird Sapir, of Shabby Chic Sarcasm

A to Z Badge 2012 (1)A to Z Challenge, 2012

But I didn’t really get into more serious blogging until the April 2012 A to Z Challenge (to write 26 posts in the month of April). I took the challenge seriously. I decided that if I could do 26 posts in that short a time, I could probably do more. The A to Z format certainly made it easier to come up with ideas.

I finished the 2012 A to Z with a hey,-I-can-do-this-blogging-thing attitude, further reinforcing Kristen Lamb’s yes-you-can-do-it encouragement.

Of course, blogging daily is tricky to do what with all the other commitments in life, so I settled into a doable pattern of two to three blog posts a week and continued through November of 2012 before taking a break because of family health issues. When that 2013 A to Z Challenge flashed around the Internet, I was hooked again!

Topics

In May of 2012, I traveled to Tuscany and Rome in Italy for two weeks with my sister-in-law and two other friends and found many topics to writevilla-Il Cortile del Borgo about there. We rented a villa named Il Borghetto near San Gimignano and wrote about that. We visited other intriguing Italian cities, and I wrote about them: Florence, Lucca, Sienna, Pisa, aother charming towns. We traveled to Rome, and I wrote about our adventures there, staying in an old family-run hotel near Piazza Navona.

After Italy, I returned to Southern New Jersey and wrote about surprising things there: blueberry festivals, derecho (severe wind storm), veggie farms, Relay for Life, Ocean City, and a few other events of interest in my home state. And I added recipes for my favorite foods using “Jersey Fresh” vegetables and fruits.

For the 2013 A to Z Challenge, I have focused more on Writing PLUS Grammar-You-Can-See. Let’s just wait-and-see what comes along next!

Thanks, again, to all my faithful friends and followers. You truly are the best. My blogging adventure has been fun, though I must admit it has had its hours and hours moments of frustration. The learning curve is steep, but it does level off get less steep as you move along. Just keep writing!

***

Here’s a post from Ellen Gregory, a WANA112 friend, on her recent accomplishment of writing 200 posts. It’s so nice to see my blogger friends hit their own milestones. Congratulations, Ellen.

The Last Meow

Of course, kitties have been a big part of my blog. They always have something smart to say. They really don’t care for myTerribly Cute pic...cat attitude grammar posts, but they seem to like the rest of my blog topics. They celebrate with me on our 10,000 views. After all, that means they get 10,000 views, too. No grumpy cats here!

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.

001 (4)

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

001 (5)

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.

001 (6)

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.)

001 (2)

  • 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

L is for List of A to Z Challenge Posts, 2013, by Janice Heck

a-to-z-letters-2013This is a round-up of my posts in the 2013 A to Z Challenge (in progress). At this date, April 14, we are almost halfway to the finish line. At the end, all 26 posts will be listed here.

Updated May 1, 2013 at completion of A to Z Challenge.

Week 1
A is for Adjectives, Anteaters, Armadillos, and Aardvarks 2013/4/1
B is for Blogging Bliss, Boohoos, and Booyahs  2013/4/2
C is for Complements and Compliments. So what. Who Cares?  2013/4/3
D is for Direct Object or Happy Birthday  2013/4/4
E is for Eats, Shoots and Leave: Punctuation matters  2013/4/5
F is for F.A.S.T: Know the Signs of Stroke. It Can Become Personal in An Instant 2013/4/6

Week 2
G is for Great Gobs of Grammas’ Grammar Goodies and Goofs  2013/04/08
H is for Hyper-Hyphenated Words Make Surprising Adjectives 2013/4/9
I is for Invented Spelling of Kids and Cats 2013/4/10
J is for Jabberwocky and Invented Words 2013/4/11
K is for Kernel Sentences: Nouns and Verbs Control the World  2013/04/12
L is for List of A to Z Challenge Posts, 2013, by Janice Heck   2013/04/13

Week 3
M is for Marathon (Boston Marathon, April 2013)   2013/04/15
N is for Nora’s Ark: In Times of Trouble, People Help People  2013/04/16
O is for Ocean City NJ: Boardwalk Pizza, Saltwater Taffy, Frozen Custard, Caramel Corn  2013/17/13 
P is for Parades, Pies, Pain–Ocean City Doo Dah Parade 2013/04/18
Q is for Quirky Dreams, Susie Q, and Prepositional Phrases  2013/04/19
R is for. . .  Reflexive Pronouns Cause A Ruckus   2013/04/20

Week 4
S is for Stats and Milestones-10,000 Views Milestone. WooHoo.  2013/04/24
S  is for Saturday Silliness. Where Do Cats Sleep (Reblog from 2012)
T is for Tikki-Tikki-Tembo Needs a Pronoun 
U is for  use, Usage, Utilize, and Other Useful and Utilitarian Units  2013/04/25
V is for Vampires Invade Grammar World 2013/04/26
W   is for Whose Woods These Are  2013/04/27
X is for X-It Strategy 2013/04/28
X Bonus Xena Warrior Puppy Helps Autistic Boy 2013/04/28

Week 5
Y is for Your, You’re, Y’all, Ya’ll, Yall, You All, You Guys, and Yakety Yak  2013/04/29 
Z  is for Zoomorphic Architecture: Cats Immortalized 2013/04/30

The Last MeowMonday Cat

Did you say today is Monday? How many days ’til Friday?

=<^  _  ^>=      Meow for now.

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