Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday 13--Grammar

I'll admit it--I'm a member of Grammar Correctors Anonymous. Seeing printed material that violates sacred rules of grammar just impels me to pull out my imaginary sharpie (a la James Spader in Secretary) and go to town.

So below, I have thirteen egregious grammatical errors. Now, as writers, we have the artistic license to bend and break certain rules FOR EFFECT--things like fragment sentences. Comma splices (run-on sentences), maybe. But violating the list below isn't artistic--it's an oversight. Thank God for good editors! Even I miss some of these in my final drafts!

1. Your/you're: YOUR is a possessive pronoun (Is that your copy of Sidney Somers' Primal Pleasure? Why yes, that is mine!). You're is a contraction for you are (You're waiting for the September 14th release of Erin Nicholas' Just My Type, too?)
2. Misplaced modifier: When you have an adjective phrase, the nearest noun is the word it's modifying.
Example: Aroused beyond control, her lips captured his in a fiery kiss.
In this sentence, her lips are aroused, not her whole body.
Correction: Aroused beyond control, she captured his lips in a fiery kiss.

3. Their/there/they're: THEIR is a possessive pronoun (At the book signing at RT 2010, I want to get books signed by all the Nine Naughty Novelists. Their blog is awesome!). THERE is a location (I'm going there, too. Luckily, RT is in Los Angeles, which is a super-cool city because Skylar Kade lives there!). THEY'RE is a contraction for they are (I hear it's possible they're going to give a workshop at RT!).
4. Its/It's/itself: ITS shows possession (Have you read Kelly Jamieson's 2 Hot 2 Handle? Its cover is SMOKIN!). IT'S is a contraction for IT IS (You really should pick up PG Forte's Edge of Heaven. It's a super-sexy genre-blending read. ITSELF is a reflexive pronoun and it is ONE WORD (By itself, Meg Benjamin's Be My Baby is a great read, but it's better if you start from Venus in Blue Jeans and read the Konigsburg series in order.)
5. Parallel structure: This is a tricky one because it is so often broken in everyday speech. When you have a series in a sentence (words, phrases, dependent clauses) they must be in the same form.
Example: I like hiking, reading Juniper Bell's books (especially My Three Lords), and long walks on the beach.
Here, we have two gerunds (verbs in -ing form that act as nouns) and then a noun phrase.
Correction: I like hiking, reading Juniper Bell's books (especially My Three Lords), and taking long walks on the beach.

6. Comma splice: A comma splice is better known as a run-on sentence. While these can be judiciously used to mimic panicked or excited speech, they're often the product of an error and not artistic license.
Example: I need to get Kate Davies' The Devil Inside, it has lots of hot, sweaty, down-and-dirty lovin'.
There are two complete sentences (subject, verb, complete thought) joined with a comma. There are a few ways to fix this.
Correction 1: I need to get Kate Davies' The Devil Inside because it has lots of hot, sweaty, down-and-dirty lovin'. (We've subordinated the second independent clause with the word "because")
Correction 2: I need to get Kate Davies' The Devil Inside. It has lots of hot, sweaty, down-and-dirty lovin'. (Two complete sentences separated by a period.)
Correction 3: I need to get Kate Davies' The Devil Inside; it has lots of hot, sweaty, down-and-dirty lovin'. (Complete sentences separated by a semicolon shows the sentence ideas are related)

7. Among and between: Among is used when there are three or more entities involved; between is used for two.
Example: Between you and me, Kinsey Holley's next book after Kiss and Kin is going to be awesome!
Example: Among the Nine Naughty Novelists, we have our own (very strong) opinions about packaging, but we all agree: Wine is good.

8. Coordination of Actions: When two actions are happening at the same time, you can use a participial phrase (-ing acting as an adjective) to modify the main clause (the complete sentence and where the action takes place).
Example: Opening the ring box, the Hero proposed to the Heroine .
These two actions (opening and proposing) are happening at the same time. When you have subsequent actions, they need to be separated with AND
Example: The Hero opened the ring box and proposed to the Heroine.
This is largely a matter of style, but sometimes two actions cannot occur simultaneously (Tearing off her shirt, he flung it to the ground) in which case, coordinate the actions with AND.

9. Anyway and Anyways (Toward and Towards): While many dictionaries won't catch this, Anyways and Towards are not actually words.
Example: Anyway, even if you bribed us, we wouldn't reveal the Super Sekrit Project. Toward the end of September, you'll know what we've been planning.

10. Farther and further: Farther deals with DISTANCE, further deals with EXTENT.
Example: Skylar is farther away from Canada than PG is.
Example: We are further along in the Super Sekrit Project than we'd anticipated.

11. Fewer and less: Fewer is applied to countable objects. Less is used for ambiguous amounts.
Example: There are fewer than 20 stages of the Super Sekrit Project. There is less than a month before it will be revealed!

12. To, too, two: TO is a preposition (shows relationship between two objects). TOO means also or in addition to. TWO is the number.
Example: I want to go to and buy two new books. Too bad, so sad, I need to wait for my new Kindle 3 to arrive to read them. Are you waiting for yours, too, or did you buy a Nook?

13. Plural vs. possessive: This is the one error most commonly made, so far as I've seen. An APOSTROPHE IS ONLY USED FOR POSSESSION. They are not attached to the "s" you stick onto the end of a plural noun.
Example: The Nine Naughty Novelist's are an amazing group of writer's that you should follow! Their Super Sekrit Project is going to entertain their blog reader's for week's!
Correction: The Nine Naughty Novelists are an amazing group of writers that you should follow! Their Super Sekrit Project is going to entertain their blog readers for weeks!
You get a cookie for reading all the way to the end! Well, not really, but you CAN leave a comment--what is your grammar pet peeve?


PG Forte said...

Best. Grammar lesson. Ever.

Meg Benjamin said...

And the ex-English teacher says yeah, sister! One quibble: "towards" is actually British usage so it's okay in places that use British spelling (cf. Webster's Dictionary of English Usage).

host said...

Great post! And Meg thanks for that "towards" explanation. I've always used towards and now I know it's because I studied British English :)

Darla M Sands said...

I love this! I just finished reading a book that had me cringing every dozen pages or so. Sometimes, I think I should have been an editor. One mistake that sometimes slips through in my writing is "to" versus "too" and I think it's because I type too fast. :)

Shelley Munro said...

This is a great reminder for us all. Excellent list.

Jennifer Leeland said...

Huh. When it comes to grammer, I'm tone deaf. *sigh*. This is great.

Kelly Jamieson said...

That's the best grammar lesson ever! I too am grammar picky though I confess to quite a few "danglers" that my editors catch, bless their editorial hearts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lesson! I usually do okay when I'm reading. I can catch most of this type of error. But when I'm writing I often get so excited I make stupid mistakes.

Skylar Kade said...

Meg, thanks for the clarification! Afterwards is the same... ok in British English. And Kelly, yes, what would we do without our editors! I'm glad everyone enjoyed our lesson... and the clues to the NNN Super Sekrit Project!

Juniper Bell said...

Great grammar reminders! Okay, here's my pet peeve: improper use of subjunctive/conditional. Example: "If I wouldn't have started Skylar Kade's Maison Domine, I wouldn't have stayed up all night." Correction: "If I hadn't started Skylar Kade's Maison Domine, I wouldn't have stayed up all night."

Kinsey Holley said...


My pet peeve is misplaced apostrophes. I can't believe how many business signs contain something like "Diet coke sale two day's only!" Lots of people seem not to know the difference between plural (s no apostrophe) and possessive ('s). One British town recently voted to eliminate all apostrophes in town signage because no one understood proper usages.

Skylar Kade said...

Juniper, that's one I should have included! I may have to do a post later about verb tenses--complicated buggers that they are. And Kinsey, that is one of the errors that really pisses me off. It's just so... silly. Too many people just stick the 's whether its possessive or plural.

Erin Nicholas said...

This is simply awesome.

And the reason(s) that I love my editor.


Elise Logan said...

FABULOUS list. I'm bookmarking it.

I'm married to a Grammar Nazi, so I've had most of these beaten out of me.

Adelle Laudan said...

Great post! I have printed out this one as I am in the middle of editing my latest book before submitting.
Happy T13!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Although UK English also makes less of a distinction between 'further' and 'farther': my Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the latter only in terms of it being an alternate form of the former. 'Farther' also sounds completely wrong with my accent.