Tag Archives: Grammar

Self-Editing Tip #25–Those Confusing Verbs

10 Apr

Welcome back, everyone! It’s been a while. Today’s tip focuses on these confusing verbs: lie, lay, sit, set, rise, and raise. I am guilty of using these words in the wrong context on occasion. They can get very tricky because of their similar meanings and frequent misuse in colloquial speech.

Perhaps the trickiest on the list is the lie/lay distinction, so we’ll tackle that first.

The word lie, at least in the context of this discussion, means to rest or recline. “Lay” means to place or put. Before considering the rest of your sentence, determine which you are trying to say. Did x, y, or z rest or recline? If so, this is the word you’ll use. If not, lay is probably the right choice, but don’t get these mixed up when writing or speaking in the past tense.

Here’s a chart to clarify before we go on. Notice how “lay” is the past tense of “lie” as well as the present tense of “lay.” This is why it is critical to pinpoint from the start which verb you need to use.

Lie-Lay chart

One way to determine which word is appropriate for your sentence is to look for a direct object in the sentence. The direct object answers what is receiving the action of the verb in a sentence. In a sentence WITHOUT a direct object, you will always use “lie/(is) lying/lay.” In a sentence WITH a direct object, you will always use “lay/(is) laying/laid.” When considering direct objects, remember that they will never be within a prepositional phrase.

Ex. “The book is lying on the table.” There is no direct object in this sentence. “The table” is located within a prepositional phrase and does not count as a direct object.
Ex. “Lay the book on the table.” “The book” is the direct object in this sentence because it answers what is laid on the table.

The remaining pairs, Sit/Set and Rise/Raise follow the same pattern of rules as Lie/Lay.
Here’s another chart.

Sit-Set Rise-Raise Chart

For “sit” and “rise,” follow the same pattern as “lie.” These words do not take a direct object in their sentences.
Ex. “Sit down on the chair.” There is no direct object because “the chair” is within a prepositional phrase.
Ex. “Set the book down on the chair.” “Book” is the direct object because it is receiving the action of the verb “set.” “Chair” is still part of a prepositional phrase.
Ex. “I rise from bed at six.” There is no direct object because “bed” is within a prepositional phrase.
Ex. “Raise the curtains when you get out of bed.” “Curtains” are the direct object because it describes what is receiving the action of the verb “raise.” “Bed” is still within a prepositional phrase.

So, to determine which word is appropriate for your sentence, consider the nuances in definition of the two words in the pair, and then search for direct objects and prepositional phrases.
Here’s a quick reference chart for using these words.

No DO Yes DO Chart

With these distinctions in mind, I wish you happy writing! Comment or email with questions or anything you’d like to add to the discussion.

–Amanda Marsico
Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com
http://www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite
https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/amanda-marsico/7b/ab8/b/

Self-Editing Tip #17–Writing Character’s Private Thoughts

20 Aug

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from chapter 3 of my novel Acephalous. In a private email, a reader questioned why a portion of the text was underlined. Here is that text:

“She had to give him a definitive explanation of her hesitations, now. As if I could really tell him… As she turned her car off, Jordan let his foot fall down from the tire he had it propped on.”

The underlined text above indicates the main character’s private thoughts—what she’s saying in her head in that moment. Normally, I would write this type of text in italics. That’s generally how I prefer to set apart character thought. However, when preparing a manuscript for submission, sources generally recommend removing italics from the submission-ready manuscript and replacing them with underlined text. In the publishing process, all of those underlined areas will be converted to italics upon printing. This is the reason I chose underlining versus italicizing.

There are other ways to set apart inner speech in writing. It’s really a personal and stylistic choice.

Start a new paragraph for the thought and change the font beyond just italics, underlines, or bolded text. Maybe choose a font that looks like handwriting, or one that reflects the character’s personality—prissy, stoic, fancy, sloppy, you get it.

Ex.

I wish I could tell you what Molly told me yesterday.

Start a new line and use asterisks above and below the thought.

Ex.

**********

It’s not like I have anything better to do right now…

**********

This method is better for large portions of thought like dreams, flashbacks, and letter-writing because having ********** every few lines will get very annoying visually.

Save inner musings for designated sections of the text, and then treat them like chapters and use the chapter title to indicate whose thoughts are to follow. Another similar option is the epistle form—letters, diary/journal entries, or blog/vlog posts written by the character (or any other method of self-recording).

Ex.—Journal

Chapter 11—Chris

It wasn’t like I really needed that job. More than anything, I just needed a place to go during the day where I would be around other people. People that I didn’t know. Staying in this building full of other guys my age is stifling. You’d think it would be cool living with your friends, going to school with those people, coming back home knowing they’re all still there. I thought it would be one huge party at first—like a frat house! Not so. There is no privacy. Boarding school sucks.

Ex.

May 5, 2013

I can’t believe senior year is almost over. It’s sad. Those statistics they read in class today say we’ll never see each other again in all likelihood. You grow up with these people, act like you care about them, then poof. Separate ways.

Yadda, yadda, yadda… you get the picture.

The last note I’ll leave you to consider is that these variations on setting apart character thought can be used for stories written in any point of view. Even if the plot unfolds in first person (where your main character says, “I,”) you can still have moments where that person thinks or talks to herself. Just because they say, “I,” this, and, “I,” that aloud doesn’t mean that they don’t have “I” thoughts they don’t want to say publicly. This is a way to help your reader get to know that character better by taking a look at their personal feelings. It’s also a way for you to write more realistically human characters. For creating characters that are two-faced, shy, lying, conflicted, or keeping any type of secret, this is a method of defining private and public for that character, just as we do in real life.

If I’ve left anything out, let me know! How do YOU designate private thoughts in your writing? Have you run across any point of view scenario where these ideas would not work well?

I appreciate your readership and your input! Read and write on!

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/marsicowritesite

https://twitter.com/MarsWriteSite

http://pinterest.com/wordsnsounds/

Self-Editing Tip #15

14 Aug

Quotation Marks

On many people’s list of pet peeves is the misplaced quotation mark. I’m reminded of the episode of Friends where Joey puts air quotes around almost every word because he’s not sure how to use them. It makes for a humorous show, but can really take your credibility down a notch. On a side note, there are slews of people who have a pet peeve about air quotes in general, even when used correctly, but I digress.

Quotation marks in their most common usages 1) set apart dialogue in writing that has speech between characters and 2) distinguish information used verbatim from other sources.

Ex. of dialogue

“Go to time out, John. Is putting your hands on your friends the way you’re supposed to solve an argument?”

“No.”

“What do you need to do instead?”

“Talk to them or get a teacher…”

Notice when a new speaker takes a turn talking, a new line of text is started and it is indented as if it is a new paragraph (even if it’s just one sentence long).  This rule of dialogue also applies to statements where you might repeat what someone said.

Ex. Did you just say, “I ate cats,” or, “I make hats,” Ken?

Also remember that Standard Written American English requires all commas, question marks, ellipses, etc. that pertain to what the character says go within the quotation marks. Other English-speaking nations put their punctuation outside of the quotation marks. Punctuation that pertains to the sentence as a whole, not the speech taking place, goes outside of the quotation marks (like in the example above).

Ex. of quotation

As a result, the child’s “true identity…remains hidden. This pattern distorts intimate relationships and may continue into adult life” (Schaverien 138).

Source

Schaverien, Joy. “Boarding School Syndrome: Broken Attachments A Hidden Trauma.” British Journal Of Psychotherapy 27.2 (2011): 138-155. Academic Search Complete. Web. 7 May 2013.

In this sentence, the quotation marks surround the text which is borrowed, or quoted, from another source. Because I have taken the phrase verbatim from its original author, a source citation is needed in addition to the quotation marks in order to give credit to that author. When summarizing or paraphrasing from another author (meaning your text is not identical to the original source), no quotation marks are needed around the text, but a citation is still required. Failure to cite that borrowed thoughts are borrowed is plagiarism.

Now, back to Joey and his air quotes. Though he placed his quotes in all the wrong places, the concept he was trying to employ was the use of quotation marks to emphasize irony, sarcasm, the unusual, or the unlikely/unreal.

Ex. That “alien” you thought you saw under your bed was really just a pile of dirty clothes and some scary shadows.

Ex. Yeah, we’re too busy “working” to do that.

So, when Joey said he was, “Sorry,” that implied that he didn’t truly mean it. In the graphic, you can see another example of misplaced quotations that disrupt the meaning (semantics) of a message.  It leads you to question whether they actually DO want people to use the bottled water, and whether it really is coffee they’re making with it or not. Simple lesson to take away from Joey and bad signs everywhere: quotation marks do not increase emphasis on a word, change the intonation when read aloud, or magically make ordinary words titles of objects as in the case of “coffee.”

It’s also necessary to place quotation marks around titles of small works.

DO use quotation marks DON’T use quotation marks
Individual Poems and Short Stories Collections of Poems or Stories/Anthologies
Individual Songs Album/Opera/Musical Composition Title
Short Plays Plays with more than 3 acts
Individual Essays Collections of Essays/ Anthologies
Magazine/Journal/Periodical Articles Newspaper/Magazine/Journal as a whole
Episodes of TV or Radio Show Title of Show/Movie
Theses/Dissertations/Reports Conference Proceedings/Legal Cases
Unpublished Writing
Manuscripts Books
Art Exhibits Work of Art

Chart made based on list by: Robin. “Quotation Marks Rules: Grammar Guide.” Hub Pages. Hub Pages Inc. 2013.

Web. 14 Aug. 2013.

The less common occasion of a quote within a quote is handled with the help of two apostrophes. In this case, the innermost quotation will use an apostrophe at the beginning and end of the quotation and the outermost quote will get the full quotation marks.

Ex. As a courtesan, Angellica Bianca, much “’Like the actress [and] the woman dramatist[,] is sexualized, circulated, [and] denied a subject position.’” For actresses and writers, the ladies are prevented from having that subjectivity “’in the theater hierarchy’” (Elin quoted by Herrin 20).

Source

Herron, Shane Michael. “’Ludicrous Solemnity’: Satire’s Aesthetic Turn.” State University of New York at Buffalo, 2011. United States — New York: ProQuest. Web. 28 May 2013.

In this essay on Aphra Behn’s The Rover, I quoted a source who quoted a source. Because the quote I used was already a quote, I had to make the original quote marks into apostrophes and then add my own quotation marks on the outside of them in order to indicate I was quoting a quote. In the citation, I noted for the reader’s clarity that my source, Herrin, quoted a source, Elin. In the end, I was quoting both of them, so they both needed credit. In a works cited page, only the source you get the quote from needs inclusion (even if it is not the original source of the phrase).

Feel free to contact me with any grammar questions you may have (on this topic or others) using the form. I also take suggestions for future topics you’d like me to cover! Looking forward to hearing from you. Write on!

–Amanda Marsico

Editor, Proofreader, Red Ink Enthusiast

marsicoam@gmail.com


Self-Editing Tip #14

13 Aug

Parentheses

Parentheses are punctuation marks used to set aside information that may be useful to the reader, but not essential. Interjectory information like explanations/clarification, comments, qualifiers, and appositives are appropriate phrases to put inside parentheses. Information enclosed in parentheses gives further detail to a sentence, but when reading, can be totally skipped without negatively impacting the sentence outside of the parentheses. Essentially, you should still have a complete thought/idea/sentence whether the reader chooses to read what’s in the parenthesis or skim over that portion.

Ex. There are five (5) shipping options for your order. –clarification

Ex. The forecast called for rain (but I’ll believe it when I see it). -comment

Ex. You will face (very) harsh consequences for failing to meet the deadline. –qualifier

Ex. Mr. Hart (the author) will be giving a special lecture tomorrow. –appositive

In each of the above sentences, you can skip the portion in parentheses and still understand the sentence. You simply have fewer details about the matter.

When using parentheses, it is important to remember to place the punctuation of the complete sentence outside of the final parenthesis unless the entire sentence is within both parentheses.

Ex.

The forecast called for rain (but I’ll believe it when I see it).

VS.

(The forecast called for rain but I’ll believe it when I see it.)

Also, try not to use parentheses within parentheses. That gets confusing. Find another way to say it.

As for the strange parentheses and/or/maybe apostrophes in the image, neither parentheses nor apostrophes are appropriate for what the sign says (whatever those marks are supposed to be). For more discussion on the image, see Self-Editing Tip #10–Apostrophes.

Self-Editing Tip #13

7 Aug

The Comma Continued: Clauses

The last subtopic of commas are clauses. We’ve already discussed how independent clauses need a comma and conjunction, or a semicolon, in order to be joined into one sentence to avoid a comma splice. Dependent clauses also require commas in order to join with a complete sentence. They cannot stand alone because they are not complete sentences, hence the name dependent. They depend on the rest of the sentence to be whole. A dependent clause can be an adverbial, nominal, or adjectival.

  • Adverbial—functions as a modifier of a verb
Purpose of Adverbial Word
Time After, as, as long as, as soon as, before, now, now that, once, since, till, until, when, whenever, while
Concession Although, even though, if, though, while
Contingency If, once
Condition As long as, if, in case, provided that, unless
Reason As long as, because, since
Result So, so that
Comparison As, as if, just as
Contrast Whereas, while
  Source: Kolln, Martha and Loretta Gray. Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects. 6th ed. New York: Pearson Education, 2010. Print.
  • Nominal—Functions like a noun or noun phrase
Type of Nominal Definition
Appositive Renames the subject of the sentence and adds information about it Ex. The car that hit me, the blue Volvo, was totaled.  *Note—sometimes a colon is used to introduce an appositive, but only after a complete independent clause. Ex. I’ll always have a soft spot for my first car: a silver Ford Escort.
Sentence Appositive Renames or condenses the idea of the sentences as a whole into a dependent clause. Unlike other appositives, this kind is punctuated with an Em-Dash.Ex. The movie premiere was packed with A-list stars and busy photographers—a glamorous and expensive affair.
Dangling Gerund When a verb phrase opens the sentence it requires a comma to join it. Ex. To exit the building, take a left at the bottom of the staircase.
  Source: Kolln, Martha and Loretta Gray. Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects. 6th ed. New York: Pearson Education, 2010. Print. 
  • Adjectival—Functions as a modifier of a noun
Type of Adjectival Definition
Adjective Phrase When an adjective follows the subject of a sentence, it is set off by commas Ex. The basketball team, tall and lanky, practiced endlessly.
Moveable Participle When an adjectival phrase is moved to the beginning of a sentence in order to modify the subject, it is set off by a comma Ex. Hurrying in the morning, I tried my best to leave on time. Because it is a moveable participle, the phrase can also come at the end of a sentence, also set off by a comma. Ex. I tried my best to leave on time, hurrying in the morning.
 
  *Note—A participle refers to both the present and past forms of a verb when functioning as adjectivals. Present Pariciple= the –ing (gerund) form of a verb  Past Participle=the form of the verb used with “have” to form active voice and “be” to form passive voice
  Source: Kolln, Martha and Loretta Gray. “Coordination and Subordination.” Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects. 6th ed. New York: Pearson Education, 2010. Print. 

Self-Editing Tip #12

6 Aug

The Comma Continued: Series and Lists

Commas are used in series to join three or more words, phrases, or clauses.

Ex. While on the playground, the girls used the slide, the boys used the swings, and the teachers chatted.

This is different than a list because the series becomes part of one complete sentence rather than an add-on to a sentence. In a list, commas are used to separate multiple words, phrases, or clauses which have been set apart by a colon (:).

Ex. The following ingredients are needed for our cake recipe: flour, baking soda, eggs, sugar, vanilla, butter, and salt.

Shown above is a simple example of a list of individual words. When listing phrases, clauses, or complete sentences, especially those containing commas, it is important to use semi-colons (;) in place of commas to differentiate between each list item.

Ex. To make a cake, complete the following steps: cream butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs; mix flour, salt, and baking soda in separate bowl; while stirring wet ingredients, mix dry ingredients into batter little by little.

In both series and lists, there are opportunities to use or forgo what is called the Oxford Comma (or serial comma). This is the comma before the “and” which precedes the last item in a list or series.

Ex. For breakfast, I ate bacon, eggs, and orange juice.

Consider what the sentence would really mean if the Oxford Comma was removed.

Ex. For breakfast, I ate bacon, eggs and orange juice.

The debate on which form is correct, whether the semantics of the sentence are truly changed by this comma or not, and if the Oxford Comma will ever go away is a heated one. Many newspapers no longer use the Oxford Comma. Titles like The Economist, USA TODAY, even Oxford University’s own style book no longer use this punctuation. However, the Associated Press’ most current AP Handbook release still does not end this debate. Most writers outside of the UK, Australia, (if I’ve left out a country, add to this list in the comments section) and those in the newspaper industry, continue to punctuate in this manner. It is a personal choice. I strongly believe in the Oxford Comma. Decide what it means to you—a sensible breakfast or talking to your breakfast about breakfast?

Self-Editing Tip #11

2 Aug

Coordinating and Correlative Conjunctions–Coordinating conjunctions connect phrases or sentences within a single sentence as equal structures. And, but, nor, for, or, and yet are all excellent choices for employing this form for more complex sentences. Correlative conjunctions are similar, but come in pairs. Think of them as power conjunctions. Correlative conjunctions allow a writer to place emphases on certain parts of a sentence over others, compare and contrast ideas, and list in order of importance. However, the pairs must be used correctly to have these sentence-boosting effects. The following lists the prescribed pairs for correlative conjunctions: either-or; neither (and sometimes not)-nor; both-and; not only-but also. Without the proper conjunction in the pair, the first conjunction has no impact, and the sentence makes little sense.

Ex. Correct= The hotel boasts both four Michelin Stars at its in-house restaurant and a world-class spa.

Incorrect= The hotel boasts both four Michelin Stars at its in-house restaurant or a world-class spa.

To use correlative conjunctions for emphasis, consider which part of the sentence you naturally inflect when reading aloud. Write your sentence. Read it aloud. Does your voice inflect at the point you want attention drawn to most? No? Try moving the conjunction, or using a different conjunction.

Ex. The hotel boasts both four Michelin Stars at its in-house restaurant and a world-class spa.

VS.

The hotel both boasts four Michelin Stars at its in-house restaurant and touts a world-class spa.

By placing “both” before the object of the sentence, in the first example, the idea that the hotel boasts more than one extraordinary feature is emphasized. By placing “both” before the verb of the sentence, it suggests that the hotel does more than one thing. Each example is correct grammatically. On a semantic level, the placement of the correlative conjunctions can change the meaning of the entire sentence. It is up to the writer to decide what element of a sentence means the most.

To use correlative conjunctions to compare and contrast ideas use “both-and” (grouping/comparison); “neither-nor” (grouping/comparison); or “either-or” (choices/contrast) between related or opposing points to link ideas in an powerful way.

Ex. Characteristic of both cats and dogs (1) is an extraordinary sense of smell. Smell as they may, neither cats nor dogs (2) can hear as well as bats which use echolocation for sight, navigation, and hunting. It would be interesting to see which hunting method is most successful—either the dog’s sense of smell (3), useful for tracking, or the bat’s echolocation (3), useful for targeting prey.

(1) Comparison of cats and dogs

(2) Comparison of cats and dogs PLUS contrasting the pair with bats later in the sentence

(3) Giving choices between two contrasting options—dogs or bats

To use correlative conjunctions for listing, caution must be taken. When listing more than two items or ideas, “both-and” is not an option. “Both” suggests two of something. In fact, the only option for listing more than two of anything is “not only-but also.” Here, the words do not suggest any quantity or a choice between two options like “either-or” and “neither-nor” do.

Ex. Not only do we sell chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream—the classics—but also mint chip, butter pecan, crazy vanilla, orange sherbet, brownie bite, cake batter, and cotton candy.

There are obviously many ways to use coordinate conjunctions to combine two simple sentences or phrases into one complex and interesting sentence. However, equally important as matching conjunctions with their proper mate is matching sentence/phrase structures in parallel form. Just like coordinating conjunctions connect phrases as equals, the structure of those sentence parts must also be equals.

Ex. Correct= Everyone hid in the storm cellar as the rushing winds passed, tense and silent.=both adjectives

Incorrect= Your flat farmland and cutting down the trees provided the perfect landscape for a funnel cloud to form.= “Your flat farmland” is a noun phrase. “Cutting down the trees” is a gerund, a verb phrase where the verb is in the “ing” form.

In writing, the parts of a sentence need to be as consistent as your message. You wouldn’t want to contradict your main point, right? You probably also don’t want to negate your point at sentence-level with distracting disturbances in tone, rhythm, syntax, and clarity.

Coordinating and correlative conjunctions: Use them correctly, or don’t use them.

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