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WRITING: SENTENCES November 7, 2017

WRITING:  SENTENCES                                                   November 7, 2017 In writing, if all sentences were the same type and of a similar length, reading could become less interesting.  Alternating sentence types and lengths, whenever possible, makes writing and reading more interesting.  Fortunately, we have three different types of sentences.   Simple:  I am going to cut the grass. Very-simple and very-short sentences are most often geared toward young children to suit their limited reading and/or comprehension levels.   Compound (more than one part):  I am going to cut the grass, and then I am going to trim the bushes. Compound sentences are for readers of average ability.   Complex:  I am going to cut the grass [Part 1, independent clause, complete thought/sentence], and then I am going to trim the bushes [Part 2, independent clause, complete thought/sentence], which is what all homeowners should do to take good care of their properties [Part 3, dependent clause, incomplete thought/sentence].   Complex sentences that contain short, easy-to-understand independent clauses and a short dependent clause also are usually for average readers.   However, a complex sentence can become more complex as more and longer parts are added.  Those parts can be independent clauses (they usually follow a semicolon), but they’re often dependent clauses.  The more parts that are added, the more difficult the sentence becomes for less-sophisticated readers to follow.   Varying sentence type and length is okay to keep interest in your writing, but more important than that is to tailor sentence length and word choice appropriately for your readers.   Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus of courses covering Grammar, Punctuation, Proofreading, and Editing.  If you need help, we’re here for you.  (Note: Our very-old Web site, https://writestyle.com, is being revamped but is still accessible.)   Vickie L. Weaver’s beloved rhyming picture book, My Child, I’ll Still Be Loving You, highlights the parent-child bond while her biography, Dancing in the Stars, entertains and inspires via dance, romance, history, Vaudeville and Hollywood.  ...

WRITING: DANGLING MODIFIERS October 24, 2017

WRITING:  DANGLING MODIFIERS                  October 24, 2017 Another common problem in writing and grammar concerns modifiers that don’t modify clearly or at all. Dangling and misplaced modifiers can leave your reader confused and calling you for clarifications. This week, we’ll discuss dangling modifiers and use an example so that we can learn to put these modifiers in their place. (Another time, we’ll supply a similar treatment about misplaced modifiers–with explanations, examples, and fixes included.) A dangling modifier usually appears at the beginning of a sentence. At first glance it may seem to modify the word/words that follow it; a thorough read, though, will prove otherwise. Unlike some transitions, dangling modifiers can’t be “fixed” by moving them elsewhere in the sentence because no matter where they’re located they can’t adequately modify anything in the sentence. The fix: Either eliminate the modifier or rewrite the sentence. The problematic sentence: Tarnished beyond repair, I threw away my favorite vase. The problem: (Who or what was tarnished, the narrator, or the vase?) Fix #1 eliminates the modifier: I threw away my favorite vase. Fix #2 rewrites the sentence: I threw away my favorite vase; it was tarnished beyond repair. I threw away my favorite vase because it was tarnished beyond repair. Because my favorite vase was tarnished beyond repair, I threw it away. I threw away my favorite vase, tarnished beyond repair. As you can tell, modifiers play a key role in writing for reader comprehension.  To communicate clearly, first construct the sentence logically in your mind; then, write it down. Later, proofread your piece objectively to be sure that your message is clear for your reader to understand. If you follow these steps faithfully, you’ll never leave your readers “dangling” again. Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus of courses covering Grammar, Punctuation, Proofreading, and Editing.  If you need help, we’re here for you.      ...

WRITING: THE 5 W’s October 13, 2017

WRITING:  THE 5 W’s                                                                   October 13, 2017 We’re constantly reading and writing, aren’t we?  Even if we aren’t, someone else is, and we want all necessary key elements to be included in the story.  You’ve probably noticed that in writing, nearly every newspaper story tells who did the what, as well as when, where, why and how he/she did it (unless some details are not yet available to law-enforcement personnel or they cannot be released to the public until after next of kin have been notified).  Those “W” key elements are known as the 5 W’s of journalism, with “how” sometimes included, too.  The same basics hold true for other story forms, too, whether nonfiction (true) or fiction (not true).  The game of “Clue” is a good example. Who:  especially the protagonist/main character.  Miss Plum? What:  a key part of the story’s plot.  What happened? When:  daytime? Nighttime? Between 4 and 6 a.m.? Where:  the setting for a story or a scene in a story/an article, a short story, a poem, a book.  In the drawing room? Why:  motive.  Because his partner had embezzled all of their joint funds? How:  With a gun? A knife? A candlestick? If you don’t have the 5 W’s in your story, you don’t have a complete story.   Not having a complete story gives a bad impression of your writing of that particular piece and can cause readers to question your credibility as a writer across the board.  It also causes inconvenience and extra use of time for readers who need the rest of the facts right now and for you if you’re going back in to fix/finish the story.  Always double-check that you have answered these questions fully and clearly for readers.   Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus of courses covering Grammar, Punctuation, Proofreading, and Editing.  If you need help, we’re here for you.      ...

WRITING: ONE WORD, OR TWO? OR … September 19, 2017

WRITING:  ONE WORD, OR TWO? OR …                   September 19, 2017 Clarity is everything in writing and in speaking. In person you have a chance to clear things up if what you said or asked didn’t quite make sense.  But, in writing you don’t have that luxury; you have to be clear up front.  Correct and sufficient punctuation can do much to help across the board, including to indicate whether two words should be together as one or should stay separated. Examples:  Decision maker            life long vs. lifelong    eyedrops vs. eye drops Tom is the decision maker.  Becoming an author has been her lifelong goal.  I need to use more eyedrops.  As she turns around, an eye drops into the bucket. A list of words that people often aren’t sure about–one word, or two—can be found at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/901458.One_Word_Two_Words_Hyphenated and http://iws.collin.edu/dparker/tw_class_3211/proposals/Word-List.pdf   What’s a third option?  Hyphenation.  Two words that are working together as a compound adjective to describe a noun need a hyphen between them, without spaces. Unclear:  That face licking dog is cute. Is a face licking a dog? What’s happening here? Clear:  That face-licking dog is cute. Which dog is cute?  The dog that is licking a face is cute. Here’s another sentence that is confusing without punctuation inside it.  “We are rewarding our prizes and special access based on attendee ordering sequence.” What’s going on?  Are attendees ordering a sequence?  If so, a sequence of what? Clear correction:  We are rewarding our prizes and special access based on attendee-ordering sequence. The other way around confusion is to rethink and rewrite the sentence: We are rewarding our prizes and special access to attendees who order first. We are rewarding our prizes and special access based on the sequence in which attendees order. We are rewarding our prizes and special access on a first-come, first-served basis. We are rewarding our prizes and special access: Order first to get them first.   See how clear sentences can be with sufficient punctuation?  (Sigh) I love clarity! Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus.          ...

WRITING: GENDER-SPECIFIC PRONOUNS/LANGUAGE September 8, 2017

WRITING:  GENDER-SPECIFIC PRONOUNS/LANGUAGE       September 8, 2017 This special, extra weekly issue has been prompted by extraordinary current events. It’s important–please read and share it with others ASAP.   Usage of gender-specific pronouns verbally and in writing used to be straightforward and simple: “he” “him” “his” “boy” “man” “guy” “dude” “male” (and such) → to/about a human male; “she” “her” “hers” “girl” “woman” “gal” “broad” “female” (and such) → to/about a human female.   Nowadays, though, in turns of events that many of us never imagined, genders aren’t always as clear as they used to be; so, pronouns aren’t, either.  If you confuse us with a gender change or with how you identify with gender, we can’t always be sure how to address you.   Recently, here in the good ol’ USA, some people, even children, have gotten into legal trouble after using incorrect gender-related pronouns.  What?  Are you as shocked as I?  What’s next–being arrested for using incorrect grammar in any form?  News flash: If that’s the case, we need a million new jails, yesterday.   People who complain about incorrect usage of gender-related pronouns should do a reality check.  Pronto!  They’ll have to get over themselves and be objective.  With gender-change surgeries going on, and a person looking like one gender but in physical/private reality being the other, the reality for the rest of us is that we’re not always sure what to say and we can’t all be expected to know.  Young children are especially confused or unknowing; in many cases, explaining a gender change to a child is NOT an option.   Whether we jump to conclusions or proceed with caution, we could still say the ‘wrong’ pronoun or something else that unintentionally might offend.  Complainants who can be objective, after all, have to realize that if they were in our shoes, they probably would have as much trouble with such situations and pronouns as we’re having.   The rest of us will do our best as tactfully and courteously as we can.  So, complainants and others, including educators and law-enforcement people, should be reasonable and logical when our pronouns aren’t quite on target—or they might be the ones who get in trouble.   Traditionally, “it” has been used for animals and inanimate objects, and occasionally in reference to a stranger’s baby whose gender we don’t know (“the baby”).  An older child or adult who identifies with or has changed to the other gender is a human being; using “it” is not an acceptable option for...

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