I saw a billboard the other day advertising the House on the Rock. If you’ve been there, you know what it’s like. If you haven’t, perhaps you’ll make plans to go. Fans of American Gods know about it, thanks to Neil Gaiman’s interest in it. And yet …
The billboard exclaimed “AMAZING YET INDESCRIBABLE”.
Why use “yet” there? Isn’t it logical, sensible even, that something amazing could also be indescribable? Used as a conjunction, “yet” means “but” or “though.” “Amazing BUT indescribable”? “Amazing THOUGH indescribable”?
WHY? I must have pondered this for a good ten minutes or so after seeing the sign.
I still don’t have a good answer.
Remember in elementary school, maybe even high school, when your teacher gave the “don’t switch tenses” talk about writing?
Have you thought, in the years since then, how utterly ridiculous that statement is? Continue reading “A tense situation”
First, know that it caused me psychological pain to type that title. It’s a run-on sentence, you see. There are two complete thoughts (“Let’s talk about run-on sentences” and “how do you know one when you see one?”), but they run together without any visual cue, without proper mechanics. The grammar is just fine. It’s the mechanics that are missing–except for that question mark at the end, and the apostrophe for the contraction of “let us.” (You knew that’s what “let’s” means, right? Good.)
Second, here’s why I want to talk about them: people don’t understand what they are. Oh, when they’re short, like the one in this title, they get it right. But when a sentence goes on for what the average reader considers “paragraph length,” that reader assumes it HAS to be a run-on. And many times, that reader is wrong. Continue reading “Let’s talk about run-on sentences how do you know one when you see one?”
Earlier this morning I had reason to look for this post from December, 2016, in which I talked about dialogue and reactions. In it, I said I’d be writing another one “soon(ish)” about when dialogue needs to start on a new line.
It’s soon(ish) now. (Hey, it hasn’t been a year yet. That has to count for something, right?)
I’m still seeing the thing that caused me to say this post was needed. No surprise there; the way teachers address dialogue in standard English classes (from, let’s say, middle school on through college) is sorely lacking in nuance and clarity, from my experience. They drill this information into students’ heads: “Always begin dialogue on a new line.” The missing part is “from a new speaker.” The way dialogue appears on the page is a cue to the readers about who’s talking. Every new line indicates a change of speaker.
At least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Continue reading “Formatting dialogue: when do you need a new line?”
I’ll bet I scared someone already with the last word in that title.
Let’s start at the beginning. This post came about because of a conversation on Twitter, begun by this tweet from Andy Bechtel (@andybechtel):
I’m not agreeing with that decision, either. Nor are many folks. But there are a few who don’t understand why it’s wrong. This post is for them. (Maybe it’s for you. I don’t know.) Continue reading “Back to basics: commas and appositives”
Of course I’m talking about writing.
One of the main problems I see with new writers is a tendency to overwrite. Sometimes it’s like reading a play replete with stage directions. Every move is explained in excruciating detail. “He lifted the glass with his left hand, while his right hand idly stroked his thigh, which was covered by fine wool trousers in a shade of gray not unlike brushed steel. The ice cubes, square, not round, clinked against the glass as he sipped the single malt Scotch. His tongue darted out to catch an errant droplet, and then he wiped his lips with the back of his right hand before letting it come to rest on the hand-crocheted cotton armrest cover protecting the upholstered arm of the Chippendale chair.” Continue reading “Time to tighten up”
This post has been banging around in my head for a few days. I’m going to try again to get it out of my gray matter and into pixel form so I can stop thinking about it.
Perhaps I’m a bad editor, but I refuse to read the local papers’ columns by “grammar experts.” (When I say “local,” I mean local to anywhere; the tiny burg I live in has little more than a broadsheet filled with want ads, for-sale/giveaway ads, and minutes of the local school board and PTO meetings. However, the power of the internet lets me access papers from all around the country. But I digress.) Why don’t I read them? Continue reading “On peeververein and the burnishing of credentials”