Writing Tip: Word Order Creates Meaning

in writing, keep your DUCKS IN A ROWI am going to let you in on a well-guarded secret. Grammar was not invented to give your Grade 10 English teacher a chance to make your life miserable. It was created to ensure sentences say what we mean them to. And word order is one of the basic tools.

Here’s a rule you can bank on to solve 95% of your problems in this area. Sentence elements with relationships are closer to each other. Stands to reason. If a guy and a girl spend the whole party at opposite ends of the house, chances are they aren’t in a relationship. (Well, maybe a strange one…)

So if we take this sentence: Continue reading “Writing Tip: Word Order Creates Meaning”

Don’t Write “Instinctively”

for writers INSTINCTIVELYI may have mentioned in my post a couple of months ago that inept critics, academics and bloggers may create awareness of a certain usage simply to give themselves something to write about. That was me in my curmudgeonly mode. Now I hope to redeem myself by committing a like deed for positive reasons: creating awareness because I see overuse and misuse of a word.

And to show how much time good writers spend on choosing their words (or how obsessive certain people get about word choice), I’m going to spend this whole article on the usage of one word: instinctively.

Show and Tell

The first argument against using any adverb is when it is being used to prop up a dull verb. Showing an action or emotion is more effective than telling about it. Continue reading “Don’t Write “Instinctively””

Pronoun Confusion: Who Is the Sentence About?

grammar tip pronoun confusion All right, boys and girls, it’s time once again for your friendly, neighborhood grammar police report. Today we’re going to talk about Pronoun Confusion, those times when we have multiple characters of the same sex in a single scene, and how we keep track of them.

One of the chronic issues that we as authors have to be aware of is the fact that we have all the details of our stories in our brains, while our readers only have as much as we’ve given them. When I’m writing, I’m actually watching a movie in my head. I see my characters move, I hear them speak, and of course I know their motives and feelings. Having all this information sometimes translates into complacency; I know what my characters are doing, so it should be obvious to the reader, right? No, not always. Continue reading “Pronoun Confusion: Who Is the Sentence About?”

Grammar Tip: There Is vs. There Are

grammar there is there are“There’s two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope,” said Oscar Wilde.

No, of course he didn’t say that.  What he said was:

 “There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.”

When I’m in grammar-nazi mode, I’ll often find myself jumping up and down in front of the TV, yelling and growling at the misuse of basic grammar. One of the errors that’s guaranteed to get me into a right lather is the incorrect use of ‘there is’ and ‘there are’. For instance: Continue reading “Grammar Tip: There Is vs. There Are”