Writer's Wednesday: How well do you know your grammar?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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OK folks. Welcome to another thrilling addition of Writer’s Wednesday! Today I will go over some basic writing fundamentals. I know some of you probably already have this on lock down, or do you? How many of these did you know? If you are like me, then you need to bust the rust on some of this stuff. Let’s get started then.


Passive and Active voice in writing

Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb.


Passive:  1) The Hot dog was eaten

Active:   1) Barry ate the hot dog.


Use the active voice whenever possible. Unless the person is not known. The it would be a good idea to use a passive voice: The watch was stolen.


Concrete Language should always be used.  This is very similar to Active voice.

Avoid using sentences that tend to raise more questions then answers.


VAGUE: The south experienced erratic weather patterns.


This raises far too many frustrating questions: Where was the weather in the South?  When did it actually happened? What does “erratic weather” actually mean?


CONCRETE: Louisiana experienced several tornadoes last week.




Avoid overusing there is, there are, it is, it was, etc.


Example: There is a case of meningitis that was reported in the newspaper.


Revision: A case of meningitis was reported in the newspaper.


Even better: The newspaper reported a case of meningitis. (Active voice)


Example: It is important to signal before making a left turn.


Signaling before making a left turn is important.
Signaling before a left turn is important.
You should signal before making a left turn.


Example: There are some revisions that must be made.


Revision: Some revisions must be made. (Passive voice)


Even better: Please make some revisions. (Active voice)



Avoid Danglers

Word arrangement can ruin a sentence. If you start a sentence with an incomplete phrase or clause, it must be followed closely by the thing or object it describes. Not doing this results in having a dangler of a sentence.


Dangler: Forgotten by history, his autograph was worthless.


Uh Oh: His autograph should not follow history. He was forgotten, not his autograph.


Correct: He was forgotten by history, and his autograph was worthless.



More you say? Sure thing, Bucko!



Dangler: Born in Detroit, my first book was about cars.


Uh oh: The sentence wants to say I was born in Detroit. To a careful reader, it says that my book was born there.


Correct: I was born in Detroit, and my first book was about cars.


Oh, dear reader, but there is yet more to this rule of word arrangement. Adding -ing to a verb (as in crossing in the example that follows) results in a versatile word called a participle, which can be a noun, adjective, or adverb. Rule 6 applies to all sentences with a participle in the beginning. Participles require placing the actor immediately after the opening phrase or clause.


Dangler: While crossing the street, the bus hit him.


Uh Oh: The bus was not crossing the street.


Correct: While crossing the street, he was hit by a bus.


         He was hit by a bus while crossing the street.





Place descriptive words and phrases as close as you can to the words they modify.


Poor: I have a chicken Beth baked in my lunch bag.


Uh Oh: Chicken is too far from lunch bag.


Correct: In my lunch bag is a chicken that Beth baked.


These are just a few of a hundred million rules and grammar laws that you should observe in your writings. I won’t even get into spelling, except to say that I am a huge fan of spell check. Thanks for reading and please forgive me as I get back to my writing, where I am sure to break every one of these rules. I guess that is what re-writes are for.  Much LOVE!!   

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