contractions: Dave isn’t walking his dog. He can’t today— he’s sick. It’s a shame he is so unwell.
The apostrophe shows that two words have been mashed together, and it is placed in the position where a letter or letters have been taken out.
ownership: Dave’s dog. Penny’s cat.
If someone’s name ends in s, an apostrophe can simply be added after their name, without adding the extra ‘s’ afterwards: Jules’ car.
The only time an apostrophe should not be used for ownership is when using the pronoun it: The house was missing its chimney. Kerry gave the dog its ball.
Apostrophes should never be used to make plurals, or for regular words ending in s. This means “Dave’s dogs” only needs that one apostrophe after Dave, and “Dave rocks” doesn’t need any.
It can get complicated, though, when one needs to follow multiple conventions at the same time.
It can get complicated when a proper noun needs to be made a plural before the possessive apostrophe is added. For example, the Johnson family live in the Johnsons’ house.
Following the same rule used for Jules’ car, the de Jesus family live in the de Jesus’ house.
If the Weatherby family own a house, it is the Weatherbys’ house. Here, the family name ends in y, but because it’s a proper noun, the plural is made by simply adding an ‘s’ instead of using the conventional -ies ending for regular nouns that end in y. The apostrophe is then added at the end.
A Quick Guide to Using an Apostrophe #punctuation #writingtips
We all know the basic elements of writing a sentence in English: starting with a capital letter and finishing with some kind of ending punctuation appropriate to the form of the sentence, be it a statement, a question or an exclamation.
Most people have mastered the fact that each sentence should communicate one key idea, and that they can use punctuation and conjunctions to extend that idea.
However, the use of sentence fragments is a problem I notice frequently, both as a teacher and as an avid reader. They are not the sole domain of people still learning to write: a novel I read over the weekend was littered with them, which frustrated me so much I was sorely tempted not to finish it.
A sentence fragment is a little bit of a sentences that don’t make sense on its own, and really needs either additional information or to be attached to the previous or following sentence in order to make sense.
It’s one thing to speak or send a quick text message using sentence fragments. We do it all the time without thinking twice. When writing for someone else to read our work, though, it’s important to express complete thoughts and to make sense on the first reading.
Example: I have been busy today. Writing this essay. It’s hard going.
This example sentence fragment can be corrected it in any one of the following ways:
I have been busy today, writing this essay. It’s hard going.
I have been busy today. Writing this essay is hard going.
I have been busy today: writing this essay is hard going.
While it’s true that some writers use sentence fragments for stylistic effect, and may do so very effectively, it’s also true that they need to be proficient in constructing sentences and paragraphs so that they are able to make that technique work for them. They are useful in writing conversations, communicating a train of thought, tacking on afterthoughts, or reflecting a nervous, excited or angry character.
Most people who write sentence fragments are, alas, painfully unaware that they are even doing it. Their sentence fragments don’t work for them, because they don’t communicate ideas clearly and effectively: in fact, it tends to have the opposite effect.
As writers, we should avoid anything that frustrates or confuses their readers, particularly if they hope to develop a broad and loyal readership.
This highlights the importance of careful proofreading and editing in the writing process.
One of the most effective strategies for finding sentence fragments is to read your work aloud. Your voice and ears will alert you when things don’t sound right, much faster than your eyes will discern it. This is because your brain already knows what you intended to say, and tends to make written errors almost invisible to the eye when reading silently.
Today’s post comes in response to a heartfelt plea for clarification between sputter and splutter:
These two words are easily confused, not just because they sound so similar, but also because they can both relate to the way in which people speak.
Both suggest a degree of incoherence or inability to express oneself in a composed manner. The difference is in the manner of expression: sputter is more explosive and suggestive of anger or violence, while splutter suggests confusion that comes from excitement or struggling to find the right words.
Dona may be reassured that she has not in fact been making a terrible mistake, and most of her readers might not ever have noticed the difference.
When writing about how people speak, the choice between sputter and splutter is one of nuance and tone rather than being right or wrong.
Easily Confused Words: Sputter vs. Splutter #words #language #blog
When this image appeared on my Instagram feed this morning, my immediate response was “Yes!”
This is why I have been writing and posting poetry and blog posts to help me deal with my feelings about my first Christmas without two very special people in my life, my father and one of my closest friends, both of whom passed away within five days at the end of June.
I have been doing everything I can to make Christmas joyful. Part of that has been working through my feelings and accepting the changes in life that have happened in this mixed up and turbulent year.
It is not that I have no joy or excitement. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to celebrate or focus on the positives in life. It means I need to works out how to manage the shades of guilt I experience when I feel joy, and the weight of sorrow at the very same time as enjoying the lightness of excitement and anticipation.
I fully realise that Christmas is very different for many, many people this year. Lockdowns, halted travel plans and distance have made sure of that. Like me, many people are grieving. Others are facing different sets of challenging circumstances.
The fact is, though, that it is my life that I am living. I have to manage my grief and work out how to balance things for myself. Nobody else can do it for me, and it has to be done. To refuse or fail to deal with my feelings isn’t healthy.
So, I write poetry and blog posts. I blurt my feelings and ideas down onto the page, then shape and craft them into something that both expresses how I feel and lets others in similar situations know that they are not alone, and that their feelings are not wrong or abnormal.
That is my Christmas gift to the grieving people of the world; empathy, understanding and the room to feel as they do without judgment.
Writing It Instead of Carrying It #emotions #grief #WritingCommunity
The practice of leaving a preposition at the end of a sentence, often referred to as preposition stranding, has long been considered to be “against the rules”. Generations of teachers and grammarians have condemned it as a grammatical taboo.
That isolated, lonely preposition, separated from its noun, is known as a terminal preposition, and may also be described as danging, hanging or stranded.
Albeit with the best of intentions, this was drummed into me as a child, so I simply accepted it and tried to avoid doing so in whatever I wrote.
As I got older, though, I came to realise that it’s something we do very naturally in speaking. In fact, avoiding it in spoken English can make what one is saying seem very formal and stilted.
When I was in high school, one of my History teachers told us a story about one of Winston Churchill’s famous comebacks. On receiving a correction about finishing a sentence with a preposition in the draft of a speech, he responded, “This is nonsense, up with which I shall not put.”
As it turned out, it probably wasn’t Churchill who first made the joke. I don’t know if he ever did, despite numerous and varied attributions. It has also been attributed to various other people, and there are variations on the line that was said to have been delivered, so it’s hard to know who said what, and when.
Either way, the story demonstrates that the rule is actually a bit ridiculous.
So where did this rule come from? And is it something we still have to abide by?
Back in the 1600s, a grammarian named Joshua Poole developed some principles about how and where in a sentence prepositions should be used, based on Latin grammar.
A few years later, the poet John Dryden, a contemporary of John Milton, took those rules one step further when he openly criticised Ben Johnson— another great poet— for ending a sentence with a preposition. Dryden decreed that this was something that should never be done. Nobody bothered to correct or oppose Dryden, and Ben Johnson certainly couldn’t because he had been dead for years, so Dryden’s strident and public protestations popularised the principle into a rule. Over time, strict grammarians and pedants began to actively oppose the practice, and the rule became widely accepted and firmly established.
Ironically, despite all the wise and clever plays, poetry and essays written by John Dryden, it was his consistent complaint about the terminal preposition that became his most enduring legacy.
Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in 1926, calls it a “cherished superstition that prepositions must, in spite of the incurable English instinct for putting them late… be kept true to their name and placed before the word they govern.” Fowler goes on to assert that even Dryden had to go back and edit all of his work to eliminate the terminal prepositions in his own writing.
In the last century or so, people have become progressively less fussy and worried about it, but some still seem determined to cling to the rule no matter what.
I advise my students that in formal writing such as essays, speeches, official letters and submissions, it is best to avoid the terminal preposition just in case their reader is someone who might judge them for it. Any other time, in keeping with standard spoken English, they are free to use their prepositions wherever they feel most natural and make the most sense.
Nobody in the 21st century is going to naturally ask someone “On which char did you sit?” rather than “Which chair did you sit on?”, nor will they say “I wonder for whom that parcel is intended” Instead of “I wonder who that parcel is for.”
In the 21st century, that really is nonsense up with which we do not have to put.
All writers get the same advice. Read the great writers; study the great works. Learn how seasoned, professional, and successful authors get the job done. All true, but I maintain that it’s also crucial for writers to read crap to learn what not to do.
As a poet and author, I know full well what many do not: delivering a message of great import in one hundred words is much more difficult than writing it in one thousand. Condensing meaning, crafting and shaping ideas with an efficiency of words, is harder than it looks.
I enjoy the challenge, though, of telling a story in such a very compact form. A well-written drabble is a thing of beauty, and while I am not suggesting every one I write is excellent, some of them are.
The poem ‘Inside My Head’ was published on The Drabble blog yesterday. It is one hundred words long, yet captures the experience of being inside my own mind perfectly. It’s so relatable, so deep, so powerful – and yet, so concise. I doubt I could explain it better, so I am sharing it here for your enlightenment and enjoyment.
Daniel Radcliffe is a man who obviously loves good poetry. This is an indication to me that he has good taste. In fact, in my mind it’s a genre recommending a person, instead of the other way around.
He’s mentioned his love for poetry more than once.
While I’m thrilled to see that short stories and poetry are his two literary passions- they are, after all, my favourite forms of writing- I do dispute that writing a novel takes more stamina, skill or ability. In fact, it’s a different set of skills and abilities, and using them requires as much stamina as writing a novel.
He is right, though, about the ability to use one’s own words to create and communicate meaning. It’s incredibly liberating and empowering.
There has been quite some consternation among Indie authors over past months in various ways that dishonourable people have found to scam the system and get quite rich selling books that are not what they should be, particularly on Amazon, or who steal others’ books and make them available on pirate websites, or plagiarise and “rebrand” them as their own work..
Understandably, those who put a lot of effort into writing and publishing excellent books find such situations discouraging. It’s hard to be upbeat about what we do when others seem to “win” with shortcuts that are plain wrong.
It’s up to us to keep on creating fantastic stories and poetry for the readers out there who crave excellent books.
It’s up to us to hold our heads high, proclaim “I write every word of my books!” and then show the world what we’ve got.
In short, it’s up to us to show the cheaters and scammers how it should be done.
Nobody but honest and hard-working authors can restore the faith of readers in Indoe and self publishing. The only way to do that is to maintain a premium of quality in the books on the shelves in stores, libraries and homes all over the world.
We may have to work harder, smarter and cleaner than ever before. Still, we’ve had to do that in order to give traditional publishing a good shake, and we’ve certainly achieved that.
We Indies have so much to offer. We have each other for support and an entire future that is yet to be shaped ahead of each of us.
I refuse to quit. I refuse to let the scammers win. Who’s with me?