Run, Run-on Rudolph!

Soooo, as you noticed we (I) missed #wwat Wednesday, BUT don’t worry; it’s Christmas Eve, and we’re here! Notice what I did there? Independent clauses…lots of them and not the Santa kind. All joined with proper punctuation.  But if I hadn’t? Bad things would happen. Well, actually, nothing would happen. It would just be incorrect, and that’s the thing with run-on sentences. Really, in the grand literary scheme of things, nothing horribly bad happens–meaning no misunderstandings usually happen. Let’s look at a few different examples. Example one: I bought my wife a necklace for Christmas she really liked it. This in the truest, is a run-on sentence. It’s two independent clauses (each having a subject and a verb). Both clauses are separated by nothing.  In order to fix this travesty in the grammar world, you would have to insert a comma AND an appropriate conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, yet, or so) in between Christmas and she. If you just inserted the conjunction without the comma? Well, if you lived on this side of the pond (USA), it would be wrong. Cheeky Brits only need insert an appropriate conjunction. What if you only inserted a comma…? Example two: She thought the necklace was amazing, she gave me a smooch. This, dear friends, is known as a comma splice. Two independent clauses separated only by a comma. No bueno. Can you still understand it? Most likely. But in order to be in the good graces of the grammar gods, one must do what one must do. Example three: Not really an example but three more ways to fix run-ons like these. Her smooch was amazing it was the best Christmas gift. As mentioned above, this can be fixed:   With a comma and an appropriate conjunction. OR by simply placing a period in between amazing and it and capitalizing the “I” in it. OR by using a semi-colon in the correct place. Now semi-colons are usually the snooty neighbor that you only invite to the holiday party when you want to show people how uppity you are. They also have a fairly specific usage–two independent clauses that don’t warrant a complete stop by using a period and would more effectively benefit from merely just a pause. When using one, you usually draw attention to it–not good as it may draw a reader out of the story.   So that pretty much sums up run-ons, and as I said before, (in my opinion) they don’t usually mess with... read more

Happy Homonym!

So, you’re busy this time of year…I’m busy this time of year. I’ll keep this short. In fact, I don’t really need to catch you up to speed, because you and I are probably already on the same page when it comes to homonyms. Groan. Certainly as a journalism-trained writer, I am quite persnickety about a writer’s knowledge of his or her craft. Not just in the way writers “show” a story or present a character I can’t tear my mind away from, but in their handling of the nuts and bolts of grammar and punctuation. I used to joke when I was an editor at a government agency, “I’ll tell you where to stick your commas.” And as long as I knew my big momma grammar words—such as predicate nominative, subjunctive tense, etc.—I could convince even the most high and mighty PhDs the error of their grammar ways. So why do I struggle with something as simple as, say, homonyms? (You know, those words that sound alike but have vastly different meanings?) Again, it comes back to my mind, which runs faster than my fingers. But while Word may not catch these suckers, using the “find and replace” feature to sniff out my worst offenders does come in handy. Here are my top 10 opponents… Their/There/They’re Hear/Here To/Too (I generally don’t mess up that other two) Bare/ Bear Your/You’re It’s/Its Fare/Fair Course/Coarse Complement/Compliment Principle/Principal I think the best example of my sufferings, an error that almost made it to print, is the (almost) homonym of Calvary verses Cavalry. My very first novel, Accidental Mobster, was about to go to press with a character saying he hoped someone would send in the “calvary.” Well, I guess if you can’t be saved by one cavalry, you could be saved by the other? Anyway, I’m glad my super editor caught that one regardless! So, this year’s New Year’s resolution for me? Well, I’m just determined to double check these grammar boogers before I line up my beta readers. Because you know, I really don’t want to get a chuckle off of something that’s not funny! You here what I’m saying? (Just... read more

Oh Dialogue Tag –The present I wish I had received sooner.

Oh dialogue tag! Oh dialogue tag! Thy mystery confounds me. Oh dialogue tag! Oh dialogue tag! Name/pronoun and say verb variation Thou never included within quotation Used sparingly & interweaving narrative. Oh dialogue tag! Oh dialogue tag! To introduce, identify, add context. Oh dialogue tag! Oh dialogue tag! When at the start, add comma then quotation. Oh dialogue tag! Oh dialogue tag! End pronoun lower case and finish with punctuation. Oh dialogue tag! Oh dialogue tag! Followed by comma inside a quoted sentence First half quotation, capital, set off by comma The second half starts lower case Oh dialogue tag! Oh dialogue tag! Thou stops with a period amid sentences complete. Examples: “Merry Christmas,” said Jess, “and a Happy New Year!” “You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch.” She looked at me and sang. “You really are a pill.” Jess mumbled, “Bah humbug!” “Happy Chanukah,” she... read more

A Case of the Middles

Like the middle of a novel, the middle book of a series is important. We’ve all read the second book in a series that felt all too familiar or confused the bejeebers (it’s totally a word) out of us. So to help with your middle books, here are a few dos and don’ts. I’ll be referencing an old favorite the Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. (Just because there are so many middles to choose from, and she got it right!) The Three C’s of Dos: Cohesion: The middle of the series needs to fit the story. Familiar threads should run throughout the entire story and not get lost in the shuffle. In Harry Potter, the themes (good vs evil) and settings (Hogwarts) remained consistent. Each book had its own arc and can stand on its own, but they all flow into one cohesive story. Character: The characters should grow and develop in the middle of a series. Characters should never be flat. Just like in the real world, trials and tribulations change us. Harry Potter doesn’t stay the same uncertain, shy kid. He grows into a strong confident wizard throughout the series, and the change doesn’t happen all at once. Connection: The middle in a series should lead the reader through an entire story from book one to the last book. Harry Potter spends seven years fighting Voldemort. Harry faces new threats, but Voldemort is the ultimate enemy. Each book in the series gives him (and the reader) a piece of the puzzle. The Three R’s of Don’ts: Repeat: The middle books shouldn’t be a basic repeat of book one. Nothing’s worse than reading a book and realizing it’s the same story as book one with different names and places. Rewind: The middle books shouldn’t completely unravel your story line. If you are a master writer, you can probably get away with manipulating time lines and twisting stories into knots. Personally, I’m not. So I don’t. No matter how you write, a story still needs a beginning, middle, and end. Ramble: Unfortunately, some authors use the middle books as filler. It’s always easy to tell an author who never meant for one book to be a series. The middle books usually ramble all over the place. It’s like going to your mom’s house for Christmas. The goal is to keep your reader on the journey, not to visit every family member along the way. So, if you have... read more