Book Discussion: Accidence Will Happen, by Oliver Kamm

Right off the bat, let me say that there isn’t a typographical error in the title. I wager most of this blog’s followers know that, but some might not. My college-student stepdaughter winced when she saw my copy of this lying on the table, and said, “That typo on the cover, though.” I set her straight immediately.

Accidence is that portion of grammar that deals with inflection. Inflection is the way a word changes to denote a specific grammatical category. For example: “Sang” is the past tense of “sing.” We know that because it changes form. It changes again for the past participle “sung.” Of course, that’s an irregular form. The same process happens with regular verbs, like talk/talked/talked, but by adding a suffix instead of altering the spelling of the root form. It happens with nouns, too: cat/cats, goose/geese. Now you know, if you didn’t before.

Now that I’ve concluded the brief grammar lesson, on to the discussion. Continue reading

It’s not all GUMmy stuff.

What editors do to a project isn’t all GUMmy stuff. It’s not only grammar and usage and mechanics. Especially for those of us who work with fiction writers, a lot of the work is about appropriateness.

Don’t get all pissy. I’m not talking about censorship. I’m talking about whether a given item or word fits (is appropriate for) the setting of the story. For example, when I read the phrase “flavor of the day” in a steampunk story set in Africa, my “timeline radar” went off. Was that phrase used then? Nope, at least not as we know it today, which was how it appeared in the story. In that sense it took off in the 40s, and it’s American in origin. Two strikes against its appropriateness to the steampunk setting. First, the time frame is way off, and second, there are no Americans in the story anyway. A young British girl wouldn’t use that phrase in casual conversation, the way we do. I flagged it as a problem and explained it in a comment.

And it might not even be words that are the issue. It might be clothing. As in fabric types, garment construction, the order in which a lady put on said garments (that boned corset goes on over the chemise, not under it! No one wants something like that against their bare skin), and so on.

It might be timing. As in a timeline of the story. Editors pay close attention to days/dates, times, and so on, to ensure that things really could happen as the author’s written them. And of course traveling from, say, London to Paris took much longer in the 18th century than it does today. Or consider a story in which the children leave for camp on a Wednesday. We mark that down somewhere, somehow, and when it’s brought up that they’re coming home on whatever day however many days or weeks later, we check to see if the timing is on the money. Authors can prevent a lot of headaches by making a timeline for themselves. A corollary to this: If you have MCs who work, we expect to see mentions of that in the text. If they never go to the office (or wherever), we’re bound to notice. Not that we need to follow their every move, but if actions take place for a few days, we’ll expect to see something related to their movements, even if it’s a side comment from someone that “Joe hasn’t been at work for a while” or “Samantha’s working really late every night and even on the weekends.” Of course, if you’ve told us that Joe is flying to Fiji for two weeks, then we’ll be noting that instead. If we see something indicating he’s at work or the local bar or the laundromat before those two weeks are up? Maybe he came home early. Maybe he has a doppelganger. Maybe the timeline got screwed up. We’ll comment/query in any case: “What happened to two weeks in Fiji?”

Popular culture references are killers. With the ability to find just about anything on the internet, there’s no excuse for guessing about things like “the most popular songs in 1912 in America.” (I used to have to go to the library or use the telephone to get this kind of information. In the snow. Uphill both ways.)

I could go on, but I’m sure you’ve got the picture by now. Commas are important, but there’s a lot more to editing than the GUMmy stuff.

Grammar Day, 2016

I see I didn’t bother writing anything for last year’s Grammar Day. I was probably busy working. I’m sure I wasn’t writing haiku. (Why would I write haiku, you ask? Because of the annual ACES Grammar Day Haiku contest.)

But, I digress. While pondering what to write for this year, I picked up my copy of Huddleston and Pullum’s A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar (Cambridge 2005) and flipped idly through its pages. Scattered throughout the text (not randomly, of course, but with forethought) are “Prescriptive grammar notes.” If you don’t know what “prescriptive” means, here’s a link to my post about the different types of grammar. I’ll wait while you go read. ::sips coffee:: Continue reading

The tenth link of Christmas: Homophone Hell!

One October I made this a theme, because of that whole Halloween/devil/demon/hell thing.

It’s not really seasonal at all, though. Homophone hell is ever present. Here’s the proof.

My gift to you: LINKS! (Post the first of over a dozen!)

While I’ve been less than perfect about posting here, I’m very active over on G+. In fact, most of my business is done there, whether it’s getting referrals or discussing projects. Because I spend so much time there, I’ve embraced the Collections feature and set up sixteen groupings of posts. I won’t link to all of them here (my Editing Projects, for example, aren’t really germane to everyone in the blogosphere, and the GRAMMARGEDDON! posts are already here, duh), but I’ll post a link to each Collection with a brief description of it so you good people can see the rest of my inspiring content. ::cough::

I just realized I’m posting at least a dozen links over the next few weeks. Rather like an editorial “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

But not. Anyway . . .

First up, in keeping with the theme of this blog, is my GUMmy Stuff. These are all about grammar, usage, and mechanics. Some of them are original content, some are links to other folks’ blogs, some are cartoons, but all are focused on GUMmy Stuff.

Here you go. Don’t get stuck in there. It can be messy.

GUMmy Stuff (Grammar, Usage, Mechanics)

Ginger Page? No thanks.

Pursuant to a discussion with Google+ user Fiber Babble about proofreaders and grammar checkers, I looked into Ginger Page, a free grammar and spelling checker (and supposedly much more) that I heard about on Twitter.

What follows is an edited version of a series of posts I made at G+ earlier this morning. You can read the original here. Continue reading

I assure you, insurance will ensure your peace of mind.

I just wrote a quick usage post over on G+ in my “GUMmy Stuff” collection. Rather than reproduce it here, how about a link? Here you go.

Superannuated Syntax: Fast Might Not Mean Quick

“Tight Times at Ridgemont High”?

“The Tight and the Furious”?

Karen, what in tarnation are you on about now? Those titles make no sense.

Nope, they don’t. I’m playing with words to introduce today’s topic: “fast,” in the sense of “tight” or “secure.” As in “hold fast,” or “steadfast,” or even “a fastener.” Continue reading

Superannuated Syntax: Say what, now?

In the last week or so I’ve had conversations around the ‘net with people about syntax, word choices, and usages that confound many “modern” readers and writers and speakers of English (native and otherwise). One such usage is “suffer” in the sense of “allow.” “Suffer the children” does not mean “the children are suffering.” It means “allow the children” (“suffer the children, and forbid them not, to come unto me,” in context as attributed to Christ in Matthew 9:14, KJV). Anyone who says otherwise has fallen victim to superannuated syntax.

I deliberately avoided calling this series “Outmoded Syntax” because that’s associated with programming, and this ain’t that.

In any case, this series is meant to talk about phrasing we don’t hear much anymore and wording that confuses “modern readers,” and maybe even to provide some tips and suggestions for strengthening historical fiction by using appropriately outdated choices (in appropriate ways, of course). I’ve not yet decided on that part of it, but know I’m thinking about it.

To kick things off, here’s a link to a post at from 2012 about the language of Christmas carols. Chock full of superannuated syntax/usage/vocabulary!

He loves pizza more than . . .

“more than me?”

Or “more than I?”

Well, it depends. I know, you all HATE when that’s the answer, but it’s the answer. Suck it up and keep reading.

What are you trying to say? What possible difference can that make? It can make or break a relationship. Seriously. Keep reading. Continue reading