Craft Monday: Beware the “ing”s!

When I first started writing fiction, I happened upon a writing tutorial that admonished to never, never, never start a sentence with an “ing” word. That bugged me, since one of my big rules is to mix up sentence structure. So I started to pay attention to what “the greats” did, and I found that Read more about Craft Monday: Beware the “ing”s![…]

Keep Your Modifiers in Place and Don’t Let Them Dangle

  Writing this blog post, my phone rang.  A man selling cemetery plots with a husky voice was calling. Okay, neither of those happened. But I thought they would serve as good examples. The first sentence is a dangling modifier; it insinuates my phone was writing this blog post (and it might do a better Read more about Keep Your Modifiers in Place and Don’t Let Them Dangle[…]

When your characters don’t talk too good…How to write better dialogue

Dialogue can be pretty tricky, but it’s one of the most important pieces of your story. Readers prefer a lot of ‘blank space’ in books, which means you don’t want paragraphs and paragraphs of narrative. You want to liberally sprinkle your story with dialogue. Dialogue can serve many purposes; it can help you show instead Read more about When your characters don’t talk too good…How to write better dialogue[…]

The Transitive Eric Clapton, or Lie vs. Lay

English is my mother tongue, and now that I’m using it professionally, I make it my business to understand the way it works. At the same time, I wonder how anyone manages to learn English successfully as a second language. English is filled with things that don’t make any sense. Consider these four letters: “ough.” Read more about The Transitive Eric Clapton, or Lie vs. Lay[…]

My Eyes Are Wuthering: Trying to Read Impenetrable Dialect

Looking at the photos from my alma mater’s Final Exercises (and trying to forget that my 20-year reunion is next year), I am reminded of something my high school English teacher once told me. After I’d read Jane Eyre – still one of my favorite books – I tried to take up Wuthering Heights. Before Read more about My Eyes Are Wuthering: Trying to Read Impenetrable Dialect[…]

No Sleep in Brooklyn for the Vigilante Copy Editor

Yesterday’s New York Times features a piece about a vigilante copy editor who roams the sculpture park at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Check out the story here. The vigilante’s mission is to repair the many grammatical and punctuation issues that afflict the placards in front of the artwork. No one knows whether this is the work Read more about No Sleep in Brooklyn for the Vigilante Copy Editor[…]

The written form of English is . . . weird

I spent the bulk of the past weekend proofreading, a task that made me not only question every grammar rule I’ve ever learned, but my own sanity. Maybe the cause was my backwards reading, from back to front, so I could pick up errors (and not get caught up in the story). In my fervor Read more about The written form of English is . . . weird[…]

About What Is All This Commotion? The Rule Against Terminal Prepositions

I remember a very old, very played-out joke about today’s subject. The campuses change from region to region, but essentially, it goes like this. A student visiting a college campus stops one of the students to ask for directions. “Excuse me,” says the visitor. “Where’s the library at?” The host student replies, “Here at [insert Read more about About What Is All This Commotion? The Rule Against Terminal Prepositions[…]

The Nation Speaks … in a Manner of Speaking

I worry sometimes that I wrote myself into a corner when I told you about robo-editing. Most of the problems I will discuss here twice monthly are caused by the robotic enforcement of rules that demand human judgment.   One of the hallmarks of robo-editing is the inability to read language figuratively. Robo-editors cannot appreciate Read more about The Nation Speaks … in a Manner of Speaking[…]