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  #1  
Old Mar 24th, 2014, 06:25 PM
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Got Grammar?

-- Grammar for All --

Do you have questions about the correct way to use an ellipsis? What about sentence fragments? This is the place to ask. You can include snippets of text to show what you're doing, or to ask which version is better. If you're looking for a full-on critique of a story, try the Want Story Feedback? thread.

Got Grammar?
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I posted the beginning of some grammar lessons/guidelines, typically things that bother me when I see someone's post that includes such a problem. Any thoughts always welcome. The thread is linked in my signature and it's pinned in The Library, should you want to find it.
~Aethera

For the record, I hold the Chicago Manual of Style to be the definitive answer on the English language. I am, however, American, and perhaps there might be a Brit who could better speak to British English. Most rules, however, are the same in either variant of the English language.

Please don't expect overnight responses. This is voluntary, so please keep that in mind. That said, if you don't get any responses, feel free to post again here or in either this folder's OOC thread or the Coffee Shop. Any problems, please PM Aethera.

Posting Guidelines
  • Any written content is fine, poetry or prose, provided that all content follows the site's rules.
  • Please don't post long excerpts, and if you have several of them, please use the SPOILERBUTTON.
  • Plagarism is a crime. I recommend citing anything not created by you (such as a story set in someone else's game world).

Oh, and one last thing. Don't forget to THANK the people who stopped to comment!

Offering Feedback
  • Please respect each others' writing. This includes not flaming/trolling, telling someone they did it "wrong", etc. Grammar has rules, but after you are familiar with them, there are reasons to break them. (Note that I specified after.)
  • Critique must be constructive. It is not okay to say a post was bad. It is fine to say a sentence ran on and you lost the story for a bit.
  • The point of feedback is to help the author improve.
  • If you can't say anything nice, it is better to not say anything at all.

If there are multiple pieces in the thread that you could be commenting on, please post a header such as "For Aethera's 'Stuff'n'Nonsense'..." or "Aethera, I'd suggest..." so the different authors know what feedback is for whom.

Thank you all!

Last edited by Aethera; May 1st, 2020 at 01:50 PM.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 01:47 PM
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Hi Aethera!

I over-use ellipses... (as well as hyphenation, commas, dashes, semicolons, and parentheses). I'm not sure there is an appropriate use for parentheses, though I think I just demonstrated a good use of italics. I could probably use a lot of help.

I have heard that most of the time that people use the word "that" in a sentence, that it is superfluous. My guess is (that) the first "that" in the preceding sentence was appropriate, but the rest of them, aside from the one in quotation marks, were unnecessary. Am I correct? Should I have used that comma after the word "marks" in the previous sentence?

It seems like I'm making a joke of this, and of course in one sense I am, but I honestly appreciate the offer, and could use some good advice in a few specific areas, particularly easy-to-remember rules-of-thumb. (See? There's those hyphens again...)

Since nobody (or would "no one" be more appropriate there?) has taken you up on your offer, I'm willing to expose my ignorance on this fascinating topic by asking some questions that stump me.

What are the correct uses of dashes? (Not hyphens - dashes, like that).

What are the correct uses of semicolons? Why are words following semicolons sometimes capitalized and other times not?

I tend to write like I speak, and I tend to verbally construct lengthy nested sentences, and it is difficult to decide how to break them up when I'm writing so they read as closely as possible to the way they'd sound spoken.

I don't expect a serious answer to any of the questions I posed, but I would appreciate any that you can give. Frankly, I think I'm just too lazy about my writing, and should spend more time researching these questions when they occur to me, during writing.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 01:58 PM
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Hi there ItsaVerb! I've got a nasty migraine just now, so it's going to be a bit hard to give you a real answer until it's at least mostly gone. But I can definitely explain the differences. Getting you to use them, that's your problem. I'll try and come back to this in a few hours, if I'm that lucky.

~Aethera
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 04:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aethera View Post
Hi there ItsaVerb! I've got a nasty migraine just now, so it's going to be a bit hard to give you a real answer until it's at least mostly gone. But I can definitely explain the differences. Getting you to use them, that's your problem. I'll try and come back to this in a few hours, if I'm that lucky.

~Aethera
Take all the time you need, and take good care! I'm fortunate to not know what one of those is like, but I know people who do, and it sounds absolutely dreadful.

You're so right, btw! I can be taught, but I'll have to change my practices too. I've got plenty more questions where this came from. You might be able to turn it into a grammar FAQ, or BOF (birds of a feather) thread. I can't be the only one who screws up these basics!
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Last edited by ItsaVerb; Jun 3rd, 2014 at 04:54 PM.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2014, 05:51 PM
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Here is what I remember from high school. Take it with a grain of salt until someone who knows what they are talking about comes around.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ItsaVerb View Post
What are the correct uses of dashes? (Not hyphens - dashes, like that).
en dashes (the short one) is used to replaced "to" as in from _____ to _____.

Example: "5:00PM-6:00PM" or "pages 3-9"

em dashes (the long one) can be used in informal writing to replace all the pausing punctuation marks (comma, semicolon, parenthesis, colons) and are used to emphasize the change in thought or direction of your sentence.

Example: My husband has all the brains--I can barely speak English.
(pretend that double dash was an em dash )

Quote:
Originally Posted by ItsaVerb View Post
What are the correct uses of semicolons? Why are words following semicolons sometimes capitalized and other times not?
My grammar Nazi English teacher only allowed us to use semicolons in two circumstances:

1. When you want to connect together two independent clauses that are closely related.

Example: My husband is so smart; he's a frikin' genius.

2. When you would normally use a comma but a comma would be confusing because of other commas.

Example: There are three things I hate: frogs; fruits like bananas, apples, and pears; and birds that wear hats.

We were taught that words following semicolons were never capitalized (unless they were proper names).
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Old Jun 4th, 2014, 09:32 AM
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That's very helpful! Thank you RedRab! What confounds me are the conditions under which we break the rules in English. If they were all "Never, ever do this, and always do that." it would be much easier!

I've noticed in just a few months my writing has changed quite a bit - the mechanical parts. It's fascinating, and I really would like to have a better command of grammar.

I have another one! I might be wondering (and why wouldn't I?) how to insert a question in mid-sentence the way I just attempted to do. It seems a question mark is necessary there, but how does one introduce sentence-ending punctuation like that without ending the sentence?
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Old Jun 5th, 2014, 03:36 PM
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As far as I know (again, from memory), the technical answer is, "Don't. Avoid those constructions in formal writing."

In formal writing, say . . .

I might be wondering how to insert a question in the middle of a sentence. And why wouldn't I?

Problem solved.

But very often, in fiction, I see just what you did, in parentheses, quotes, and dashes. When they do it, they just treat it like a separate sentence as you did. Most use a capital letter for the "and" but some don't. I just saw this both ways in two different novels. You will regularly find this in novels . . .

Bailey turned and yelled, "What are you doing?" before running after her son to stop him from swinging off the roof.

Because "What are you doing?" is in quotes (or parentheses or surrounded by em dashes), it is treated just like a stand alone sentence.

Last edited by RedRab; Jun 5th, 2014 at 06:02 PM.
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Old Jun 5th, 2014, 04:38 PM
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Gotcha. That makes sense. If I start to think of my game posts as "formal writing", though, it might start to seem too serious, then the next thing I know I'm pouring over every word, agonizing for days before finally hitting the post button, and probably editing it a dozen times afterward. Wait - I already do that.

Thanks again for the advice! In all seriousness (which in my case is a very small amount to start with, but this is still all of it), I do intend to improve my writing, if only incrementally!
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Old Jun 5th, 2014, 05:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ItsaVerb View Post
I tend to write like I speak, and I tend to verbally construct lengthy nested sentences, and it is difficult to decide how to break them up when I'm writing so they read as closely as possible to the way they'd sound spoken.
I find that whenever there is a comma there is a chance to break the longer sentence into two sentences. This is especially true when the comma is followed by "and". It is not always the case but usually that is where you can find a good break.

The difference between listening to one speak and reading what they write, is that when speaking you can add inflections in your voice which naturally break the sentence further. When writing you do not have that inflection but you need to convey that to the reader, hence a larger break than a comma. So if the above doesn't work, then write your post and then read it back to yourself out loud. When you find yourself adding certain inflections in your speech while reading that might be another place to break the sentence.

I tend to write like I speak. I tend to verbally construct lengthy nested sentences. This makes it is difficult to decide how to break them up when I'm writing. That is how I feel they read as closely as possible to the way they'd sound spoken.

I didn't change much of what you wrote, only some minor changes around where I broke your sentence apart. I also broke them at every opportunity, you may not want to be that drastic, but you can. From there you can edit it further to make more sense or flow better. I would suggest that if you have a long post you write it in an editor so you can edit it the several times before you post it. Then you can post and preview to make final changes. Even then you will find things you missed or wanted to say differently later.

As far as technique, continue what you are doing. Writing them as you would say them is a form of free writing, that gets your concept onto the paper. From there go through and find your sentences that seem to run on and break them apart. Then you can go back and tweak those to flow a bit better now that you see them broken apart.
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Old Jun 5th, 2014, 05:57 PM
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Thanks, TeufelHeunden! (That's a mouthful. I wouldn't want to try pronouncing it!)

I notice I've been doing a bit more breaking up of the long phrases into smaller sentences. Truly, it seems that simply because I'm writing so much more regularly, I'm able to "feel" the right thing better and better. I guess there really is no substitute for practice!

As for the editor - totally. I do that. I tend to rely a bit much on self-deprecating humor. Still, even after I think I've got it right, I'll almost always notice the same adverb repeated too quickly, or something of that sort, and I'll go fix it after posting anyway.

I appreciate the advice! Thanks again for taking the time to mentor!
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Old Jun 7th, 2014, 03:06 PM
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Looks like you don't need my broken brain with the good guys around here. Everything they've said is good advice. Here's the quick reactions I did have.

Dashes: Technically when you insert an em-dash to break a sentence, it should be typed as two hyphens without space on either side. But I find myself writing them much as you were doing, with a single dash and spaces. So I certainly can't argue one way or the other.

Inserting Questions: Try not to. The example sentence that RedRab used with the spoken question is technically incorrect, and shouldn't appear in fiction any more than here in posts. (Doesn't stop that happening, of course.) You can actually insert questions in parentheses without punctuation, because when you read the sentence you would naturally add the inflection. Your example could work without the question mark. Perhaps it might leave a bit more leeway for interpretation than specifically what you mean, but it would still be within a certain margin that I would call acceptable.

Formal writing: The boundaries are a bit weird, because a post is formal in the sense we don't want every IM abbreviation or slang slurred words breaking up the nice readability, yet it's not as formal as a college essay. You'll find that it's easier to process formal sentences and imagine the slurred words than it necessarily is to read and process words that are written as you might speak them.

Thanks, RedRab, Teufel, for speaking up, and ItsaVerb for breaking the ice!
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Old Apr 13th, 2021, 03:17 PM
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Feeling Tense in the Present Tense.

Hey there! I hope this is the right place for me to ask some advice on this subject!

I've always been a third-person-past-tense kind of girl, but thought I'd push the boat out with my newest character and try present tense. I'm finding it harder to construct nice sounding writing, but It's a challenge I want to stick with!

Turns out habits are hard to break and I always end up slipping back into the past, OK, no problem, just requires proof reading and editing, but I keep finding myself confused about when it is acceptable to slip back into the past tense.

At the start of a scene when telling what's happened over the past few days I see that it makes sense, but figuring out exactly what point to swap was a little confusing for me here- did I get it right? Could I have changed a paragraph earlier?
link (the change is in the 7th paragraph, to save some reading)

Further, when doing something like recalling infromation, should I change then or is it confusing for readers? For example, the post I'm writing at the moment- I have this-

'It clicks into place as he hears Wolf calling to the sailor atop the crowsnest- a brief passage in his book describing a similar phenomenon.

'That night the Fell Wind blew...' he mutters to himself, dredging up the paragraph from his memory. He'd read the whole tome enough times that once he'd recalled it, the gist of the paragraph came to him in its entirety. It is not particularly helpful, but still he recites it to those close enough to hear.
'

Should I just be sticking with the present? 'He has read the whole tome enough times that once he has recalled it, the gist of the paragraph comes to him in it's entirety.

Maybe it's not the best example, but yeah, if you are loking back to a previous event, should you change tense?

Any advice is appreciated!
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Last edited by Wishkamon; Apr 13th, 2021 at 03:23 PM.
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