It’s like squares and rectangles.

You know: all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.

(That’s about the extent of what I remember from higher mathematics classes.)

Similarly, all dangling participles (danglers) are misplaced modifiers, but not all misplaced modifiers are danglers. I’ll provide some examples and links. As I’ve said before, I’m very bad at creating poor writing on purpose; when it goes from my brain to my fingers through the keyboard onto the screen, it’s grammatically correct but not necessarily the cleanest copy on the planet. I have a very difficult time purposely making mistakes like these. (Perhaps I should work on that …) Lucky for me (and you), they’ve been corralled elsewhere. I’ll write a couple of my own, and link to more. Continue reading “It’s like squares and rectangles.”

Hang onto or hang on to? Well …

I’ve been asked this a few times by writers and editors alike, so I’ll see if I can answer it here. Keep in mind, this is my opinion. While it’s grounded in my research, it’s still mine. Yours might differ. That guy over there might have another idea entirely. This is how I handle the situation. Continue reading “Hang onto or hang on to? Well …”

Referencing Referents

Or: How to Point Your Pronoun to the Right Word

I’ve been quiet (too quiet) in the last month because I’ve been working.

Shaddup, you. I do too work. A lot. And my work involves correcting grammar, among many other things. A big part of correcting grammar concerns pronouns and referents.

I see you out there, frowning a little, scratching the tip of your nose, rubbing your temple. Your elementary school English (or did they call it language arts?) teacher used to drone on about pronouns and referents, and you learned it just long enough to get past the pop quiz and the unit test, and then POOF gone.

That was me in every math class I ever took. But we’re not talking about me, or about math. We’re talking about pronouns and referents. Continue reading “Referencing Referents”

REVIEW: The Perfect English Grammar Workbook, McLendon

Any grammar text that makes me literally laugh aloud is a winner on at least one level. Making grammar fun is one of my personal goals, so I always enjoy seeing others succeed at doing so. I laughed a lot during my read-through of Lisa McLendon’s workbook. This is a very good thing.

Not only does she know her grammar (she’s the one who teaches the Deep Grammar classes at various editing conferences), she explains it in plain language. No small feat, that. Lisa won me over right off the bat with her statement that she’s not a “grammar cop,” but rather a “grammar cheerleader.” I don’t know as I’m bubbly enough to be one of those, but I appreciate the imagery, that’s for sure. Continue reading “REVIEW: The Perfect English Grammar Workbook, McLendon”

When the right word is still the wrong word

This came up earlier today over on the Twitterthing, and it’s worth a short blog post.

There’s “erstwhile” and there’s “ersatz,” and neither one means “so-called.”

I’ve seen it happen enough times that I made a note for myself. A writer wants to use a fancier word instead of “so-called,” and they grab “erstwhile.” Trouble is, that means “formerly” or (currently, more often) “former.” What they think they want is “ersatz,” which means “substitute, replacement, fake, faux” and suchlike that there. It doesn’t mean “so-called.”

The erstwhile mayor showed up at the commemoration wearing an ersatz fur with alarmingly realistic holes as if actual moths had eaten at it.

If you want to say “so-called,” say it. Just like that. It’s legal. I swear.

All right, you, break it up: Dialogue and reactions

I haven’t found anything in any of my usage or grammar texts about this particular topic. I suspect it’s because the issue is one more of craft or art than of science (inasmuch as one can compare grammar to a science; one sure as hell can’t do that with usage, I know that for a fact).

Here’s the thing: I’ve seen paragraphs containing dialogue and reactions, and while that’s not illegal, the way it was written was less than clear. Person A says something, person B reacts to it in the same graf, and then A says something again. Why? Is it because the writer was taught that grafs have to be N sentences long? (N is often 10, for some reason entirely unknown to me. I had a professor, a Kipling scholar, who insisted that if we couldn’t write 10 sentences about a topic sentence, we needed a different topic sentence.) Not that any of these grafs came close to that, but it’s about all I can think of to explain the phenomenon. Continue reading “All right, you, break it up: Dialogue and reactions”