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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills


Beware lurking non sequiturs!

Non sequitur is Latin and means “it does not follow”—that is, “it’s not logical; it doesn’t make sense.” A sentence with a non sequitur contains a statement that has no logical connection with the rest of the sentence.

Examples:
Born in a log cabin, Abraham Lincoln became the sixteenth President of the United States.
(It does not logically follow that because Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin, he would become the sixteenth President of the United States. The two ideas should not be united in one sentence.)

A successful and popular athlete admired by his classmates, Joe was fatally injured in a traffic accident today.
(There is no logical connection between Joe’s fatal injury and his status as a popular athlete. The two ideas should not be united in one sentence.)

To correct a non sequitur, put it with information that is logically related, or remove it altogether from the sentence. 

TOMORROW: ENTRIES FOR THE FICTION WRITERS CONTEST WILL BE ACCEPTED AUGUST 1-11. AT LAST!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ornery Omissions


Don't omit words that are necessary for clarity.

Grammar Rule #1: Don’t omit a necessary verb.

         Examples:
         Incorrect: Sam was sure he could do what no one had before.
         Correct: Sam was sure he could do what no one had done before.

         Incorrect: Rebecca has not and probably never will eat brains.
         Correct: Rebecca has not eaten and probably never will eat brains.


Grammar Rule #2: Don’t omit necessary articles (a, an, the).

         Examples:
         Incorrect: Aaron has a pear and peach tree.
         Correct: Aaron has a pear and a peach tree.

         Incorrect: Lisa owns the green and red car. (Oops, two cars here!)
         Correct: Lisa owns the green and the red car.


Grammar Rule #3: Don’t omit necessary prepositions.

         Examples:
         Incorrect: The teacher has much confidence and affection for her students.
Correct: The teacher has much confidence in and affection for her students.

Incorrect: Orville talked to the owner and grocer. (Oops, two people here!)
Correct: Orville talked to the owner and to the grocer.
        

Grammar Rule #4: Don’t omit words necessary to complete an alternate comparison.

         Examples:
         Incorrect: Nate’s idea was as good, if not better, than John’s.
Correct: Nate’s idea was as good as, if not better than, John’s.

Incorrect: Don was one of the fastest if not the fastest runner on the team.
Correct: Don was one of the fastest runners on the team, if not the fastest.


Grammar Challenge—Your Turn! Choose the correct sentences.
         1. Brenda wants to write a story no author has before.
         2. Erin bought a chair and sofa for her living room.
         3. Arnold had no belief or respect for capitalism.
         4. Jonathan was as hungry as, if not hungrier than, Tim.
         5. I own two pets, a brown and a white cat.
         6. Eva is the shortest girl in her class, and maybe the skinniest.
(Answers are below)

TUESDAY: TIPS FOR SHARPENING YOUR WRITING SKILLS
AUGUST 1-11: YES! TIME TO ENTER THE FICTION WRITERS CONTEST TO WIN A CRITIQUE!

Answers:
         1. Corrected to: Brenda wants to write a story no author has written before.
         2. Corrected to: Erin bought a chair and a sofa for her living room.
         3. Corrected to: Arnold had no belief in or respect for capitalism.
         4. Correct
         5. Correct
         6. Correct

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fiction Writers Contest


Win a critique of the first 1,000 words of your opening chapter.


A kind recommendation from my critique partner:
When it comes to critiquing, Steph has a hawk's eye not only for grammar problems, but for story and plot issues. She continuously challenges me to become a better writer. It is largely due to her help that my contemporary romance is a finalist and my women's fiction a semi-finalist in the 2012 ACFW Genesis contest. If you're looking for an honest and detailed critique, I highly recommend Stephanie Prichard. --Brenda Anderson


INSTRUCTIONS FOR ENTERING THE CONTEST

1.   Sign up NOW to be a “Follower” (no later than August 11). 
      Look for FOLLOWERS on the right side of this page. Underneath it is a blue box that says “Join this site.” Click on it and follow the instructions.
Yes, you can be a follower without having to participate in the contest. Becoming a follower simply indicates you like my blog. :)

2.   Who can enter the contest?
Both unpublished and published authors may enter the contest. The winner will be given a code name to preserve anonymity.

3.   What should be submitted?
The entry must be an unpublished novel (i.e., not a short story, poem, essay, etc.). It does not need to be completed.
It must be your own original work.
It must be in English.

4.   What format should it be in?
Word 97 – 2003 or 2004, your choice of font and spacing (I’ll convert it to mine).

5.   How do you submit it?
As an attachment to me at ssp2and4u (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.

6.   What should you include in the attachment?
Your name.
The genre of your entry (romance, mystery, etc.).
Title of your entry (optional).
The first 1,000 words of your opening chapter or prologue.

7.   WHEN should you send it?
Any time between August 1-11 but not before or after.

Winner will be drawn at random and notified no later than August 31.

In September, the winning entry will be posted along with my critique for a week and be available for comments from other readers of Grammar Yammer. 

CONTESTS will be held quarterly for old and new Followers.

The critique will comment on content such as—
#1 – an opening hook
#2 – scene setting
#3 – characterization
#4 – dialogue
#5 – scene flow
#6 – conflict and tension

ANY QUESTIONS?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Parallelism


(Continued from Monday and Wednesday)

GRAMMAR RULE #6: The expressions and who, and whom, and and which must be preceded by a parallel who-, whom-, or which-clause. (Ditto for but who, but whom, and but which.)

         Examples:
         Incorrect: Your paper contains serious grammar errors and which is a week late, cannot be accepted. (The conjunction and incorrectly joins a dependent clause to an independent clause.)
         Correct: Your paper, which contains serious grammar errors and which is a week late, cannot be accepted. (Now and correctly joins two dependent clauses.)

         Incorrect: Angela is a teacher of great talent but who fails to return homework in a timely manner. (The conjunction but incorrectly joins a dependent clause to an independent clause.)
         Correct: Angela is a teacher who has great talent but who fails to return homework in a timely manner. (Now but correctly joins two dependent clauses.)


GRAMMAR RULE #7: Absolute parallelism is not always possible or desirable.

         Examples:
         Andre enjoys soccer and swimming. (Soccer and swimming are not parallel in grammatical form, but they are parallel in use [noun].)

         The old veteran spoke slowly but with dignity. (Slowly and with dignity are not parallel in grammatical form, but they are parallel in use [adverb].)


GRAMMAR CHALLENGE—Your Turn! Choose the sentences with correct parallelism.
         1. I listened attentively and with great care to the startling news.
2. Mr. Madden, whom I work for and whom my sister secretly longs for, announced his engagement to his secretary today.
3. The announcement I'd heard earlier at lunch, but which my friend said was only a rumor, proved to be true.
4. The secretary is a woman of great beauty on the outside but who is a witch on the inside, and is mean and haughty toward the rest of us secretaries.
5. Her talk is snooty and without conscience.
6. Fortunately, my sister is a gal who is very sensible and who can shrug off what wasn’t meant to be, so I’m not worried.
(Answers are below.)

SATURDAY: DETAILS ON HOW TO ENTER THE FICTION WRITERS CONTEST TO WIN A CRITIQUE

Answers:
         1. Corrected to: I listened attentively and carefully to the startling news. (with great care can be easily changed to the adverb carefully)
2. Correct
3. Corrected to: The announcement, which I'd heard earlier at lunch but which my friend said was only a rumor, proved to be true.
4. Corrected to: The secretary, who is a woman of great beauty on the outside but who is a witch on the inside, is mean and haughty toward the rest of us secretaries.
5. Acceptable (without conscience is used as a predicate adjective and thus parallels snooty)
6. Correct

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills


MAKE USE OF THE 20 FIGURES OF SPEECH
(Thursdays, from May 24 to October 4)

10. Litotes (LI-toe-teez): a delibrate understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite. “Not bad”  = “Good”


Uses:
To add variation, embellishment, and adornment through unusual and vivid images
To emphasize through drawing attention to a double negative
To talk about something discreetly by avoiding it directly


Examples of litotes:

Instead of “attractive,” saying “not unattractive.”
Instead of “old,” saying “not young.”
Instead of “You’re correct,” saying “You’re not wrong.”

He’s no oil painting.

I was not a little upset.

She's not the brightest bulb in the tanning bed.


"Are you also aware, Mrs. Bueller, that Ferris does not have what we consider to be an exemplary attendance record?"
(Jeffrey Jones as Principal Ed Rooney, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, 1986)

"Now we have a refuge to go to. A refuge that the Cylons know nothing about! It won't be an easy journey."
(Battlestar Galactica, 2003)

"Keep an eye on your mother whom we both know doesn't have both oars in the water."
(Jim Harrison, The Road Home, 1999)

"[W]ith a vigorous and sudden snatch, I brought my assailant harmlessly, his full length, on the not over clean ground--for we were now in the cow yard."
(Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855)

"Because though no beauty by fashion-mag standards, the ample-bodied Ms. Klause, we agreed, was a not unclever, not unattractive young woman, not unpopular with her classmates both male and female."
(John Barth, "The Bard Award," in The Development: Nine Stories, 2008)

"'Not a bad day's work on the whole,' he muttered, as he quietly took off his mask, and his pale, fox-like eyes glittered in the red glow of the fire. 'Not a bad day's work.'"
(Baroness Emmuska Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1905)

“Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you.” (Romans 1:13, NKJV)

FRIDAY: MORE ON PARALLELISM
SATURDAY: DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS FOR ENTERING THE FICTION WRITERS CONTEST

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Parallelism


(Continued from Monday, July 23)

GRAMMAR RULE #4: Place paired conjunctions (either—or, both—and, etc.) immediately in front of parallel items.

         Examples:
         Incorrect: You can either stay at my house or a hotel. (stay at my house is not parallel to a hotel)
         Correct: You can stay at either my house or a hotel. (my house and a hotel are parallel noun phrases)

         Incorrect: If you study both grammar and build vocabulary, you will improve your writing skills. (grammar is not parallel to build vocabulary)
         Correct: If you both study grammar and build vocabulary, you will improve your writing skills. (study grammar and build vocabulary are parallel verb phrases)


GRAMMAR RULE #5: Repeat any key words necessary to make the parallelism clear.

         Examples:
         Sam is good at cooking and teaching chefs. (not clear—is Sam good at cooking chefs as well as teaching them?)
         Sam is good at cooking and at teaching chefs. (Repeat at to clarify the parallelism.)

         Beth likes to read books that are scary and picture the action in her imagination. (not clear—do the books picture the action, or does Beth?)
          Beth likes to read books that are scary and to picture the action in her imagination. (Repeat to so that you know it’s Beth)


GRAMMAR CHALLENGE—Your Turn! Choose the sentences with correct parallelisms.
         1. The teacher wants us not only to tidy our desks at the end of the day but also to throw away litter from the floor.
2. Jim neither drives his wife to work nor his children to school.
3. Larry likes to run and judge races.
4. Ron often writes both short stories and poetry for the same magazine.
5. Mr. Owens is excellent at inventing and inspiring students to solve mechanical problems.
6. Either Anna is coming or she isn’t, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
(Answers are below.)

THURSDAY: TIPS FOR SHARPENING YOUR WRITING SKILLS
FRIDAY: MORE ON PARALLELISM

Answers:
         1. Correct (not only to tidy and but also to throw are parallel)
2. Corrected to two noun phrases: Jim drives neither his wife to work nor his children to school.
3. Unclear: Does Larry run while he judges races? Correct to clarify: Larry likes to run and to judge races.
4. Correct (both short stories and and poetry are parallel)
5. Unclear: Does Mr. Owens invent the students as well as inspire them? Correct to clarify: Mr. Owens is excellent at inventing and at inspiring students to solve mechanical problems.
6. Correct (Either Anna and or she are parallel)

CHECK OUT HOW TO ENTER THE FICTION WRITERS CONTEST ON SATURDAY’S POST.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills


LOSE THE FAT!

Be concise: use only as many words as are necessary to express an idea correctly, clearly, and effectively.

One way to sharpen this skill is to reduce dependent clauses to phrases.
Which clauses? Usually those containing details of time, place, manner, cause, purpose, appearance, etc.
        
Reduce some clauses to prepositional phrases:
When we were in India, we saw the Taj Mahal. (reduced detail of place)

Reduce some clauses to appositive phrases:
George Washington, who was our first President, got our nation off to a good start. (reduced detail of description)

Reduce some clauses to participial phrases:
The dinosaur fossils were found in 1826 and they have never been removed. (reduced detail of time)

Reduce some clauses to infinitive phrases:
He wanted to save money, so he bought his clothes at Good Will. (reduced detail of purpose)

ALWAYS FEATURE THE MAIN IDEA IN AN INDEPENDENT CLAUSE.
         In India, we saw the Taj Mahal.
         George Washington, our first President, got our nation off to a good start.
         The dinosaur fossils found in 1826 have never been removed.
         To save money, he bought his clothes at Good Will.

WEDNESDAY: MORE ON PARALLELISM
SATURDAY: DETAILS FOR ENTERING THE FICTION WRITERS CONTEST TO WIN A CRITIQUE

Monday, July 23, 2012

Parallelism


GRAMMAR RULE #1: Ideas that are logically parallel should be stated in the same grammatical form.

This means you must balance (parallel) noun with noun, adjective with adjective, prepositional phrase with prepositional phrase, infinitive phrase with infinitive phrase, dependent clause with dependent clause, etc.

Examples:
          Incorrect: Sam likes fishing, hunting, and to hike.
Correct: Sam likes fishing, hunting, and hiking.
Correct: Sam likes to fish, [to] hunt, and [to] hike.
        

GRAMMAR RULE #2: To help identify parallels that must be balanced, look for the conjunctions and, but, or, either—or, neither—nor, both—and, not only—but also.

Examples:
          Incorrect: This coupon lets you buy either canned goods or you can buy dried goods. (canned goods is a noun phrase, whereas you can buy dried goods is an independent clause)
         Correct: This coupon lets you buy either canned goods or dried goods. (two noun phrases)
         Correct: This coupon lets you buy canned goods, or you can buy dried goods. (two independent clauses)

        
GRAMMAR RULE #3: Items in a series should be parallel even though conjunctions are not used between every item.

         Examples:
         Incorrect: Enid loves spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, and to munch on crackers.
         Correct: Enid loves spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, and crackers. (all nouns)
         Correct: Enid loves to eat spaghetti, lasagna, and pizza, and to munch on crackers. (two infinitive verb phrases)


GRAMMAR CHALLENGE—Your Turn! Choose the sentences with correct parallelisms.
         1. That you are a reader and your need of books are two important reasons libraries exist.
2. Our book club reads not only classical fiction but also many contemporary novels.
3. My library card permits me both to check out books and the use of the library's computers.
4. Yesterday I took home two novels, a biography, and photocopied a magazine article.
5. I always find the librarian’s recommendation of good novels and how to find interesting biographies to be helpful.
6. Once home, I start reading the most fascinatingly and exciting book in my pile.
(Answers are below.)

TUESDAY: TIPS FOR SHARPENING YOUR WRITING SKILLS
WEDNESDAY: MORE ON PARALLELISM

Answers:
         1. Corrected to two noun clauses: That you are a reader and that you need books are two important reasons libraries exist.
2. Correct (two noun phrases)
3. Corrected to two infinitive verb phrases: My library card permits me both to check out books and to use the library's computers.
4. Corrected to a series of noun phrases: Yesterday I took home two novels, a biography, and a photocopy of a magazine article.
5. Corrected to two prepositional phrases: I always find the librarian’s recommendation of good novels and interesting biographies to be helpful.
6. Corrected to two adjectives: Once home, I start reading the most fascinating and exciting book in my pile.

CHECK OUT HOW TO ENTER THE FICTION WRITERS CONTEST ON SATURDAY’S POST.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fiction Writers Contest


Win a critique of the first 1,000 words of your opening chapter.

A kind recommendation from my critique partner:
When it comes to critiquing, Steph has a hawk's eye not only for grammar problems, but for story and plot issues. She continuously challenges me to become a better writer. It is largely due to her help that my contemporary romance is a finalist and my women's fiction a semi-finalist in the 2012 ACFW Genesis contest. If you're looking for an honest and detailed critique, I highly recommend Stephanie Prichard. --Brenda Anderson

INSTRUCTIONS FOR ENTERING THE CONTEST

1.   Sign up NOW to be a “Follower” (no later than August 11). 
      Look for FOLLOWERS on the right side of this page. Underneath it is a blue box that says “Join this site.” Click on it and follow the instructions.
Yes, you can be a follower without having to participate in the contest. Becoming a follower simply indicates you like my blog. :)

2.   Who can enter the contest?
Both unpublished and published authors may enter the contest. The winner will be given a code name to preserve anonymity.

3.   What should be submitted?
The entry must be an unpublished novel (i.e., not a short story, poem, essay, etc.). It does not need to be completed.
It must be your own original work.
It must be in English.

4.   What format should it be in?
Word 97 – 2003 or 2004, your choice of font and spacing (I’ll convert it to mine).

5.   How do you submit it?
As an attachment to me at ssp2and4u (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.

6.   What should you include in the attachment?
Your name.
The genre of your entry (romance, mystery, etc.).
Title of your entry (optional).
The first 1,000 words of your opening chapter or prologue.

7.   WHEN should you send it?
Any time between August 1-11 but not before or after.

Winner will be drawn at random and notified no later than August 31.

In September, the winning entry will be posted along with my critique for a week and be available for comments from other readers of Grammar Yammer. 

CONTESTS will be held quarterly for old and new Followers.

The critique will comment on content such as—
#1 – an opening hook
#2 – scene setting
#3 – characterization
#4 – dialogue
#5 – scene flow
#6 – conflict and tension

ANY QUESTIONS?
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