JaniceHeck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “grammar”

#AtoZ: Q is for Quirky Index and a Q Post Round-Up

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Quirky Index to the #AtoZ, 2014:  Twenty-Six Writing Quirks written specifically for the 2014 AtoZ Challenge

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Week 1 (April 1-5)

#AtoZ, 2014: A is for Ampersands. Right or Wrong.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
#AtoZ, 2014: B is for BBQ and Buffalo Chips
#AtoZ, 2014: C is for Calendar Quirks
#AtoZ, 2014: D is for Deep-Fried Hyphens
#AtoZ, 2014: E is for Exclamations from High School

 

Week 2 (April 7-12)

#AtoZ, 2014: F is for Freshly Squeezed Adverbspub izzes..2
#AtoZ, 2014: G is for Gobs of Hyphens Used Correctly
#AtoZ, 2014: Hyperventilating on Hyphens
#AtoZ, 2014: I iz for Iz-zies, Ar-zies, Waz-zies, & Wer-zies
#AtoZ, 2014: J is for Jarfuls of Jam: Another Quirk?
#AtoZ, 2014: K is for Knights-Errant, Kit and Caboodle, and Kitty-cornered

photo credit: writerscafe.org

photo credit: writerscafe.org

 Week 3 (April 14-19)

Granddaughter Madelynn is equally loose-limbed, loose-jointed, and talented. Amazing granddaughters!

Granddaughter Madelynn

#AtoZ, 2014: L is for Lose and Loose, Loosey-goosey, and LOL
#AtoZ, 2014: M is for Mahjong, Majiang, Mah-jongg, Mahjongg, or Mah jongg
#AtoZ, 2014: N is for Neither–Nor, but not Humpty Dumpty
#AtoZ, 2014: Oh, On Top (Weekly Photo Challenge) and O Writing Posts
#AtoZ, 2014: P is for Photo Blog and On Top Again
#AtoZ, 2014: Q is for Quirk Index and Q Round-Up

Week 4 What’s next? (April 21-26)

#AtoZ, 2014: R is for Resent or Re-sent? Hyphen Hysterics
#AtoZ, 2014, S is for #Cee’s Photo: S is for Shadows… and Shakespeare Sayings
#AtoZ, 2014: S is for From Cee’s to Shiny Cee’s
#AtoZ, 2014: T is for Totally Twitter: Follow, Autofollow, or Not
#AtoZ, 2014: U is for Unfinished, Underdeveloped, Unprintable Posts
#AtoZ, 2014: V is for Verb-less Sentences
#AtoZ, 2014: W is for Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

Week 5  (April 28-30)

#AtoZ, 2014: X is for X. Is It Better to Be Safe Or Sorry
#AtoZ, 2014: Y is for Yadda, Yadda, Yadda and Yakety-yak
#AtoZ, 2014: Z is for Zero the Hero in a Repeat Performance

May A to Z Wrap-up Posts

1. #AtoZ, 2014: Bonus Wrap-up: Writers I Met on the AtoZ Highway
2.
#AtoZ Wrap-Up Post 2: A to Z Reflections and Five More Writers
Q Posts from other bloggers:

Eclectic Odds n Sods: Quirky A-Z: Vintage & Emotions
Hanna Plummer, Q is for Quote
Terribly Write: Guess what’s not a question
Basil Rene, Life as an Anomaly: Quietly Question Everything
MJ Wright: Writing only looks easy. But it can be learned.

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Your turn: What writing quirks or interesting words do you find in writing?

***
Janice Hall Heck, retired educator, blogger, and nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

logo 2.2Oh Heck! Another Writing Quirk,  theme for the amazing 2014 A to Z Challenge, suggests ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that cramp our writing style.

=<^;^>=

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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*

001 (11)

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

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.

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^>=

J is for Jabberwocky and Invented Words

a-to-z-letters-2013J-Day in the A to Z Challenge. That means it Thursday! That’s cool.already Thursday cat

Yesterday I wrote about invented spelling of kids and cats; today I’m writing about invented words by poets. How are these similar?

Kids use their developing knowledge of phonetics to sound out words as they write. Before they become proficient in formal spelling, they write strings of letters to represent individual whole words. Of course, they can “read” their own stories back to listening adults who can’t quite comprehend this early genius.

Invented words, on the other hand, combine familiar sounds with familiar word parts and word meanings to form new words.  Invented words also follow grammatical rules. Nonsense nouns, for example, can have an article, be a plural and/or a possessive, or have a noun ending. Nonsense verbs show past, present, or future tense. Adjectives fall into their place just before a noun.jabberwocky_340x400

One fairly well-known nonsense poem, “Jabberwocky,” is a poem written by Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-1898) in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872).

Alice is none other than the major character in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, the little girl who fell asleep on a riverbank and journeyed to another world, a strange one at that. (And Alice, it turns out, was a real person, the daughter of Dean Liddell, dean of Oxford University, and friend of Carroll.)

Things seem to be backwards in this strange world, so when Alice finds a strangely written book, she holds it in front of a mirror, and lo and behold, a story appears. Or is it a story?

            Jabberwocky

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mom raths outgrabe.
***
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
. . .

What? Even Alice, wise little one that she was, could not understand the poem. Alice meets up with Humpty Dumpty who explains the meaning of the poem.borogoves

brillig (noun)….four o’clock in the afternoon (tea-time?)
(the time to begin broiling something for dinner)
slithy (adj)…..lithe and slimy
toves (noun)…badger/lizard creatures with corkscrew tails and noses that can dig holes
gyre (verb)…..  go round and round
gimble (verb)… make holes
wabe (noun)…   in the grass

mimsy (adj)…flimsy and miserable
borogoves (noun)…shabby looking birds with mop-like feathers
raths  (noun)……sort of a green pig
mom (adj)…..lost, away from from home
outgrabe (verb)….. bellow and whistle, shriek and squeak

Does it make better sense now?

Around dinner time, all kinds of crazy things started happening! Weird-looking animals (toves, borogoves, and raths)  began doing strange things like digging holes and making a lot of noise. Maybe they sensed the frightful Jabberwocky lurking nearby!

So what. Who cares?

Nonsense poems have a long history. Some say they have been around since Aesop’s fables and early folk tales.  The writers play with words and present humorous scenes to stimulate the imaginations of readers. Sometimes hidden meanings lurk behind the words, as when jesters make fun of the ruling powers that be, when double meanings hide the true intent of the words. But as often as not, the words just tell a silly story. The words flow in a rhythmical and pleasing way and provide entertainment for listeners.

The Last Meow

Jabberwocky. Smabberwocky. Enough of that nonsense. How about getting me a snack? All this educational stuff tires my brain.

Meow for now.   =<^-^>=weekend cat

B is for Blogging Bliss, Boohoos, and Booyahs

a-to-z-letters-2013April 2013 A to Z Challenge: 26 days. 26 posts. (Sundays are freebee days. *clap* clap* clap.*)

I joined the A to Z Challenge last year and despite some nail biting and hair pulling, I finished. Booyah.

Would I do that again? Hmmm.

But here it is again, the 2013 A to Z Challenge with 1969 participants lined up at the starting line. How many of us will make it to the end?  Well, one day at a time. Let’s just see how it goes. How far will we get before life interferes and brings us back to reality? In the meantime, let’s have some fun.

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.

B is for Blogging Bliss, Booboos, and Booyahs

Blogging is a good way to develop your writing skill. Take a letter of the alphabet and write a brief commentary on it, add a picture, and post. Easy. Right?

Last year I published 67 posts before I caved in and took a hiatus. I went through the whole blogging learning curve, from dimwit to getting it. I managed to finish the A to Z, then added an equal number of posts on random topics of food, travel, weather, health, grammar, cats, and assorted other you-name-it topics.

Then along came a cold and nasty winter along with brain freeze, travel-to-warmer-climes wishes, and drat-it-all, family health issues.  Blogging fell by the wayside, until *tadah* the announcement of the 2013 A to Z Challenge. Memories of blogging past seemed blissful. Yes, I can do that. I did it once. I can do it again. I remembered the double-punch-in-the-air booyahs I gave myself when I published blog post number 26 in 2012. What could be more fun?

Boohoos

Theoretically, it should have been easy. I pulled up my dormant WordPress blog, raring to go. But yikes.  It looked different.  It was uncooperative and frustrating. Sometime during my absence, WordPress came in and changed a few things.

I couldn’t find my old media. I couldn’t pull up all my photo folders from my computer to select media (only some of them came up). I couldn’t remember how to add widgets.

Draft after draft disappeared. I typed and saved and typed and saved only to see my best wording and glamorous writing get swallowed up by who knows what? Whatever. Not once. Multiple times.

One post. Four hours and nothing final to show for it. Paranoia set in. I started saving drafts every two minutes, but I still lost my most recent draft.

Now I see. Part of this process is learning humility. Developing patience. Building character. I had to start back at the bottom of the learning curve again, back where it says, “Dimwit.”  Boohoo.

Okay, enough of that. Thankfully, I have already found some helpful advice from other AtoZers. Thanks, guys.

Booyahs

Along the way back up the learning curve, I outsmarted WordPress and printed off a hard copy of my post, well, several hard copies. Why hadn’t I thought of that before?

I also knew WordPress must be saving these drafts somewhere, but where? After a little exploration, I found “Screen Options” and under that “revisions,” and there I found draft after draft of my post all neatly numbered and dated.

Booyah.

Now to solve the widget puzzle.

In the meantime, booyah! B is done.

So What? Who Cares?

When out to dinner with friends a month or so ago, the topic of blogging came up. “Who reads your blog?” someone asked.  The obvious answer, “my husband;  my sister-in-law, Carol; and my blogger friends.”

Without readers, our blogs would have little purpose. We are all in this A to Z Challenge together. Reading each other’s blogs and making comments motivates us to keep going.

Blogger responses to my A blog mentioned a few grammar pet peeves: apostrophe abuse, contractions abuse, and plurals abuse. I’ll write about these in future posts. Thanks family, followers, and friends for your comments.

The Last Meow

Paw Nation...BAd CtsSince this is B day, here’s a little cat humor for you. What do cats read on B day?

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.

Writers at Play: The Lucky 7 Meme

I mentioned in an earlier blog (They Laughed When I Started to Twitter) that writers have fun tweeting and blogging. Of course, sometimes these distractions keep us from doing what we should be doing.  Or maybe we just, plain and simple, procrastinate. Whatever.

The Lucky 7 Meme is one good example of the fun we have. Well,  Elaine Smothers (www.elainesmothers.wordpress.com) calls the Lucky 7 Meme a zombie virus, but no matter. And though this is supposed to be lucky, my personal Writer Troll thought otherwise. (Read more about the Writer Troll on Myndi Shafer’s blog- www.myndishafer.wordpress.com.) With the Troll’s help, WordPress hiccupped and produced seven non-identical draft versions of this post on my dashboard! Lucky me. I had to sort through the unlucky seven to find the latest version. Fooled him though. I found it.

Special thanks to Judythe Morgan (www.judythewriter.wordpress.com)  for the Lucky 7 Meme nomination!

Here are the game rules for Lucky 7 Meme:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP.

2. Go to line 7.

3. Copy the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.

4. If your WIP doesn’t have 77 pages, you can post 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs from page 7.

5. Tag 7 other writers and let them know.

So far in the Lucky 7 Meme event, I have read well-written, attention-getting excerpts from novels of my writer friends. But alas, I do not write crime novels, murder mysteries, historical fiction, memoirs,  romance, westerns, YA, or kidlit.

I write nonfiction about (are you ready for this?) teaching writing and grammar to struggling and unmotivated students! How’s that for excitement, mystery, intrique, danger, romance, inspiration, or whatever?

Yes, I teach students with learning disabilities, behavior and emotional problems, and even drug and alcohol problems. Some of these students are high school dropouts. Some have zero or less interest in education and routinely challenge the purpose behind assignments. “Why do we have to do this?”  Others don’t mind writing; it’s the revising and editing they don’t like.

Some want to take the GED (General Educational Development-high school equvalency test), and for this they must write an essay and complete a multiple-choice test on writing conventions. They must also take tests in reading, math, science, and social studies. By the time they get ready to take the GED, they know they need help!

The pages of my WIP are not numbered yet. Rather I have them in chapters printed out in notebooks. Here is an excerpt that comes from page 7. The working title is Grammar You Can See: Strategies for Helping Struggling and Unmotivated Students. My sister, Judie Rush, my biggest fan and director of a local GED program, keeps bugging me about when “The Book” will be finished, but I manage to avoid commitment each time she asks. One of these days, I promise. But right now I have to break up this nasty argument between the Lucky 7 Meme and my Writer Troll. Why can’t they get along?

***

“Noun? What’s a noun?”  Paul asks.

Paul, a thirty-year-old high school dropout, drifted through elementary and junior high, then quit high school at his first opportunity. Now, as an adult with young children of his own, he is determined to give himself (and his children) a better life, so he has enrolled in a school district-sponsored GED prep program that’s hidden in the dimly-lit basement of the local library. He meets almost daily with twenty or more dropouts (some teens, some adults in their 20s, 30s, or 40s, and one in his 60s!) to work individually or in small groups on basic reading, writing, and math skills.

Some of these students come voluntarily, eager to improve their skills, to advance their educational and professional goals, and to obtain better paying jobs. Others attend because they must: the local judicial court system and social welfare services require their attendance. Regardless of their reason for joining the GED program, these students works quietly and independently, making gradual, but steady improvement in their academic performance–a total contrast to the time they admit they wasted in high school.

The GED writing test is a major hurdle for Paul whose simple, bare-bones paragraphs have so many sentence fragments, run-ons, verb tense agreement errors, and misspellings that his good ideas get lost in the jumble. To make matters worse, he has no interest in revising any of his work. “One and done” is his motto. And the multiple-choice questions related to writing conventions? Forget it!

***

Now to name seven other Lucky Memers:

M. J. Monaghan      www.mjmonaghan.com

Linda Adams          www.Linda-Adams.com

Helen McMullin    www.conantstation.com

S. J. Driscoll             http://sjdriscoll.com

Emmie Mears          http://emmiemears.com

Jacqui Talbot              www.justjacqui2.com

Lanita Bradley Boyd     http://lanitaboyd.com

Have fun meeting these bloggers. I have already enjoyed reading their blogs!

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