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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills

(Thursdays, from May 24 to October 4)

13. Onomatopoeia (ON-a-MAT-a-PEE-a): The use of words whose pronunciations suggest their meaning (e. g., meow, buzz, hiss, zip).

To produce strong images, particularly in poetry
To create mood
To add aural sensory

Examples of onomatopoeia:

Animal noises such as oink, moo, roar, chirp, purr.

Birds named after their calls, such as the Bobwhite quail, killdeer, chickadee, cuckoo, whooping crane, and whip-poor-will.

Automobile sounds such as honk or beep-beep for the horn, and vroom or brum for the engine.

Other common English-language examples include hiccup, zoom, bang, slurp, and splash.

Nursery rhymes such as “Baa Baa Black Sheep.”

Knock-knock jokes:
“Knock, knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Boo who?”
“Don’t cry, I was only joking.”

"Klunk! Klick! Every trip."
(U.K. promotion for seat belts)

Advertising jingles such as in Alka-Seltzer’s "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is!" and Rice Krispies’ “Snap, crackle, pop."

Marvel Comics trademarked two words of their own invention: thwip! the sound of Spider Man’s web shooter, and snikt! the switchblade-sound of Wolverine’s claws locking into place.

"He saw nothing and heard nothing but he could feel his heart pounding and then he heard the clack on stone and the leaping, dropping clicks of a small rock falling."
(Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls)

"[Aredelia] found Starling in the warm laundry room, dozing against the slow rump-rump of a washing machine."
(Thomas Harris, Silence of the Lambs)

In Sir Alfred Tennyson’s poem “Come Down, O Maid,” the m and n sounds produce an atmosphere of murmuring insects:
“… the moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.”

In book 4 of Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels, the name of the Houyhnhnms is an onomatopoeia for the whinny of a horse.

"Like every other device of the writing art, onomatopoeia can be overdone, but it is effective in creating mood or pace. If we skip through the alphabet we find plenty of words to slow the pace: balk, crawl, dawdle, meander, trudge and so on.

"The writer who wants to write 'fast' has many choices. Her hero can bolt, dash, hurry or hustle."
(James Kilpatrick, "Listening to What We Write." The Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 1, 2007)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Preposition Problems

GRAMMAR RULE #1: A “dangling preposition” at the end of a sentence is grammatically correct and therefore acceptable.

Acceptable: These are the rules you want to stick to.
          Awkward: These are the rules to which you want to stick.
          Better (reword): Stick to these rules.

GRAMMAR RULE #2: Do not use the preposition like in place of the conjunctions as or as if. (Remember, a preposition is followed by a noun or pronoun, whereas a conjunction is followed by a clause.)

         Correct as a preposition: He acted like the owner of the store.
         Incorrect as a conjunction: He acted like he owned the store.
         Correct as a conjunction: He acted as if he owned the store.

         Correct as a preposition: It happened just like a prophecy.
         Incorrect as a conjunction: It happened just like Sam said it would.
Correct as a conjunction: It happened just as Sam said it would.

GRAMMAR RULE #3: Use the preposition in for location within; use the preposition into for motion from outside to inside.

         Correct: Allison learns a lot in school. (Her location is inside the school.)
         Incorrect: Allison goes in the school for her cooking class.
         Correct: Allison goes into the school for her cooking class. (She moves from outside the school to inside the school.)

GRAMMAR CHALLENGE—Your Turn! Choose the correct answer.
         1. You look (like, as if) you lost something.
2. Antonio considers himself a hero (like, as) his brother.
3. The fish jumped back (in, into) the lake.
4. Orville grunts (like, as if) he lives in a zoo.
5. Can Cynthia get (in, into) your apartment without a key?
6. You can go (like, as) you are.
(Answers are below.)


1.   as if
2. like
3. into
4. as if
5. into
6. as


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills

(Thursdays, from May 24 to October 4)

11. Metonymy (me-TON-uh-me): a word or phrase in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name but by the name of something intimately associated with it. For example, “The White House says …” is a metonym for “The President of the United States says …”
How does metonymy differ from metaphor?
Both figures of speech involve the substitution of one term for another. In metaphor, this substitution is based on some specific similarity, whereas, in metonymy, the substitution is based on some understood association.

To double the impact: two concepts are activated while only one is explicitly mentioned.
To add color and dimension
To create humor

Examples of metonymy:

Places used as metonyms to refer to the industries located there:
Wall Street = finance
Hollywood = entertainment
Pentagon = military

Common metonyms:
the press = reporters
go to bed = go to sleep
Danish = Danish pastry
wallets wallet-sized photos
Southport High = Southport High School
the States = the United States

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

“The suits on Wall Street walked off with most of our savings.”

"The B.L.T. left without paying."
(waitress referring to a customer)

"Detroit is still hard at work on an SUV that runs on rain forest trees and panda blood."
(Conan O'Brien)

From Pride and Prejudice:
“Metonymy also may refer to the rhetorical strategy of describing something indirectly, by referring to things contiguous to it, in either time or space. For example, in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, the main character Elizabeth's change of heart and love for her suitor, Mr. Darcy, is first revealed when she sees his house:

They gradually ascended for half-a-mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.
Jane AustenPride and Prejudice, Chapter 43.

“Austen describes the house and Elizabeth's admiration for the estate at length as an indirect way of describing her feelings for Mr. Darcy.… Each of the things she describes she associates with Darcy, and in the end we feel that Darcy is as beautiful as the place to which he is compared and that he belongs within it. Metonymy of this kind, thus, helps define a person or thing through a set of mutually reinforcing associations rather than through a comparison.” (Wikipedia)
Can you think of any metonyms you use?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Which Comes First, Noun or Pronoun?

Should you say, “You and Sam are eating pizza for lunch" or "Sam and you are eating pizza for lunch"?

GRAMMAR RULE #1: All pronouns except I normally come before a noun in a compound subject.

Incorrect: Sam and you are eating pizza for lunch.
Correct: You and Sam are eating pizza for lunch.

Incorrect: Sam and he are eating pizza for lunch.
Correct: He and Sam are eating pizza for lunch.

Incorrect: I and Sam are eating pizza for lunch
Correct: Sam and I are eating pizza for lunch

Should you say, "Sarah will give you and Sam a pizza" or "Sarah will give Sam and you a pizza"?

GRAMMAR RULE #2: All pronouns except me normally come before a noun in a compound object.

Incorrect: Sarah will give Sam and you a pizza.
Correct: Sarah will give you and Sam a pizza.

Incorrect: Sarah will give Sam and him a pizza.
Correct: Sarah will give him and Sam a pizza.

Incorrect: Sarah will give me and Sam a pizza.
Correct: Sarah will give Sam and me a pizza.

GRAMMAR CHALLENGE—Your Turn! Choose the correct answer.
         1. What kind of pizza do (Sam and you, you and Sam) like?
2. (My sister and I, I and my sister, me and my sister) prefer pepperoni.
3. Of all the kinds of pizza, mushroom is the least favorite of (me and my parents, my parents and me).
4. (She and Carlos, Carlos and she) prefer tacos to pizza.
5. I love eating homemade tacos with (she and Carlos, her and Carlos, Carlos and her).
6. They’d be happy to invite (you and Sam, Sam and you) to eat with them.
(Answers are below.)


1. you and Sam
2. My sister and I
3. my parents and me
4. She and Carlos
5. her and Carlos
6. you and Sam


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills

(Thursdays, from May 24 to October 4)

10. Metaphor (MET-ah-for): an implied comparison between two unlike things that actually have something important in common. It describes a subject by asserting that it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object.

How is a metaphor different from a simile? A metaphor uses words, not literally, but figuratively. It takes a word from its literal context and uses it figuratively in another.
"I beat him with a stick" = literal meaning of beat.
"I beat him in an argument" = metaphorical meaning of beat.

To express the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar
To create a more vivid image in the reader’s mind
To make an indirect comparison without using “like” or “as”
To express a comparison more forcefully than a simile would

Examples of metaphors:

He was drowning in paperwork.

The United States is a melting pot

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances.” (William Shakespeare, As You Like It)

"Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations."
(Faith Baldwin, Face Toward the Spring)

"Between the lower east side tenements
the sky is a snotty handkerchief."
(Marge Piercy, "The Butt of Winter")

"The streets were a furnace, the sun an executioner."
(Cynthia Ozick, "Rosa")

"But my heart is a lonely hunter that hunts on a lonely hill."
(William Sharp, "The Lonely Hunter")

"The rain came down in long knitting needles."
(Enid Bagnold, National Velvet)

"Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food."
(Austin O'Malley, Keystones of Thought)

"But silk has nothing to do with tobacco. It’s a metaphor, a metaphor that means something like, 'smooth as silk.' Somebody in an advertising agency dreamt up the name 'Silk Cut' to suggest a cigarette that wouldn’t give you a sore throat or a hacking cough or lung cancer."
(David Lodge, Nice Work)

"Metaphor is a device for seeing something in terms of something else. It brings out the thisness of a that, or the thatness of a this."
(Kenneth Burke, A Grammar of Motives)

Which of these metaphors did you like best? I liked Bagnold’s. I could feel those knitting needles hammering me! :)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Commas and Coordinating Conjunctions

GRAMMAR RULE #1: Use a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, yet) to join two independent clauses.

         Sam brought brownies in his lunch, and we helped him eat them.
         Sam brought brownies in his lunch, but we refused his offer to share them.
         Sam brought us brownies in his lunch, or sometimes we shared chocolate candy bars instead.

GRAMMAR RULE #2: Do not confuse a subject/compound-verb structure for two independent clauses.

         Examples of compound verbs:
Sam brought brownies in his lunch and shared them with us.
         Sam brought brownies in his lunch but refused to share them.
         Sam brought us brownies in his lunch or sometimes shared chocolate candy bars instead. 

GRAMMAR RULE #3: If the independent clauses are very short, the comma may be omitted when there is no possibility of misreading the sentence.

Sam brought brownies and we ate them.
Sam brought brownies but we refused them.
Sam brought brownies or we shared candy instead. 

GRAMMAR CHALLENGE—Your Turn! Which sentences are correctly punctuated?
         1. Louise studied hard to pass all her exams, for good grades were her only hope for winning a scholarship to college.
         2. Arnold also studied hard, and easily won a scholarship to college.
         3. Joe didn’t study, but got into college on an athletic scholarship.
         4. Denise studied yet failed everything.
         5. I studied, or my mother made me use the time to cook, wash the dishes, and walk the dog.
         6. My brother never studied nor did my sisters.
(Answers are below.)


1. Correct—a comma and coordinating conjunction join two independent clauses.
         2. Incorrect—this is one independent clause containing a compound verb.
         3. Incorrect-- this is one independent clause containing a compound verb.
         4. Correct—no comma is needed since this is one independent clause containing a compound verb.
         5. Correct—a comma and coordinating conjunction join two independent clauses.
         6. Correct either with or without a comma since the two independent clauses are short.

How did you do? Are you guilty of mistaking compound verbs for two independent clauses?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

New Grammar Yammer Schedule

Mondays: grammar and punctuation
Thursdays: "Tips for Sharpening Your Writing Skills"
Quarterly: Win a critique and read comments from other writers.
Next entry date: November 1-11, 2012

To receive lessons by EMAIL, go to ”Email address . . . Submit” at the top of this page and enter your information.

To make COMMENTS, click on “Post A Comment” at the bottom of the page. If you don’t have an account with Google, etc., don’t be afraid to open one. They don’t bug you or ask you for money or advertise naughty women. :) 

After your account is set up, all you will ever have to do after clicking on “Post A Comment” is type in the squiggly letters/numbers that pop up (they keep the boogeyman Spam away). Then type in your comment. Thank you—I love hearing from you!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ta-daaaa! Entries are being accepted August 1-11!

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


1.     Sign up 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.
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?
Anytime 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



(New posts will start on August 13.)
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