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Grammatical Case in English

Old English had five cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and instrumental.

Modern English has three cases:

  1. Nominative (also called subjective)
    2. Accusative (also called objective)
    3. Genitive (also called possessive)

The objective case subsumes the old dative and instrumental cases.

Case refers to the relation that one word has to another in a sentence, i.e., where one word “falls” in relationship to another. The word comes from a Latin word meaning “falling, fall.” In other modern languages, adjectives have case, but in English, case applies only to nouns and pronouns.

 

Nominative/Subjective Case
When a noun is used as a) the subject of a verb or b) the complement of a being verb, it is said to be in the subjective or nominative case.

The king laughed heartily.
King is a noun in the subjective case because it is the subject of the verb laughed.

The king is the son of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Son is a noun in the subjective case because it is the complement of the being verb is.

 

Accusative/Objective Case (This isn’t accusing anyone of anything)
When a noun is used as the object of a verb or the object of a preposition, it is said to be in the objective or accusative case.

The king subdued his enemies.
Enemies is a noun in the objective case because it receives the action of the transitive verb subdued; it is the direct object of subdued.

The friends went to a movie.
Movie is a noun in the objective case because it is the object of the preposition to.

Sallie wrote Charlie a letter.
Charlie is a noun in the objective case because it is the indirect object of the verb wrote.

A transitive verb always has a direct object; sometimes, it will have a second object called the “indirect object.” In the old terminology, the indirect object was said to be in the “dative case.” Nowadays, the indirect object, like the direct object, is said to be in the accusative or objective case

Note: Some English teachers may still distinguish (as I once did) between the accusative and the dative, but the most recent college English textbook I have, (copyright 2000), does not even list the term “dative” in its index. As nouns and pronouns in the dative case are spelled the same as those in the objective case, there’s no practical reason to retain the former designation.

 

Genitive/Possessive Case

Of the three noun cases, only the possessive case is inflected (changes the way it is spelled).

Nouns in the possessive case are inflected by the addition of an apostrophe–with or without adding an “s.”

The boy’s shoe is untied.
Boy’s is a singular noun in the possessive case.

The boys’ shoes are untied.
Boys’ is a plural noun in the possessive case.

This one inflected noun case is the source of error for a great many native English speakers.

English pronouns are also a frequent source of error because they retain inflected forms to show subjective and objective case:

Pronouns in the subjective case: I, he, she, we, they, who
Pronouns in the objective case: me, him, her, us, them, whom

The pronouns you and it have the same form in both subjective and objective case.

Note: Strictly speaking, both my and mine and the other possessive forms are genitive pronoun forms, but students who have been taught that pronouns stand for nouns are spared unnecessary confusion when the teacher reserves the term “possessive pronoun” for words that actually do stand for nouns, like mine and theirs. Like adjectives, my, its, our, etc. stand in front of nouns, so it makes sense to call them “possessive adjectives.”

The objective form whom is almost gone from modern speech; the subjective form who has taken over in the objective case for many speakers.

 

From: Daily Writing Tips

 

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Abstruse vs. Obtuse

Some writers seem to be confusing obtuse with the word abstruse, as in these incorrect examples on the web:

Believe it or not, the American public wasn’t always in love with Alfred Hitchcock. Because his movies were often too intelligent or obtuse, he had more fans in the film elite than he did in the general public.

Grizz tends to make Shakespeare-esque, outsider-looking-in type observations about the situations at hand, while Dot Com spouts highly intelligent, yet obtuse references that send you (or maybe just me) to Google.

Having finally struggled through Ulysses, and yes it was a struggle, I had no patience at all for FINNEGANS WAKE, which is even more obtuse. Has anyone actually read it? All of it?

I chide Brad DeLong all the time for making excuses for Greenspan’s thick, obtuse, obscurant speech.

In each of these examples, the context calls for a word that means “difficult to understand.” That word is abstruse:

The mistake of using abstruse where obtuse is intended seems to be less common, but it happens:

It is really abstruse to find Avatar not grabbing anything from the Oscars. It was altogether a new theme with a lot of innovations

This movie fan seems to be reaching for obtuse, a word that means “lacking in perception, stupid.”

Bottom line: Barely comprehensible language is abstruse. Stupid people are obtuse.

Note: Obtuse derives from Latin obtusus, “blunted, dull.” An obtuse angle is “blunt,” as opposed to being “sharp.”

From: Daily Writing Tips

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Power Tools for Writers

Elizabeth Sims of Writer’s Digest writes, “It’s not the size of your writer’s toolbox that matters—it’s how you use what’s inside. Become proficient with these two tools and you can fix most any story problem.

 

The Story Arc

            What is it?

            How to Use it?

 

The Elements of a Story Arc

While story arcs vary based on the storytelling medium (novel, short story, television show, etc.), I will summarize a basic story arc in five parts. These parts include:

1. The author creates a status quo. This is the framework in which the story occurs. What is normal life like for the characters before the story begins? This gives the reader background and helps the author develop the character.

2. There is a “trigger.” An event that is external to the main character’s existence gives him or her a reason to break the status quo. For example, in the classic fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel,” the birds eating the children’s breadcrumbs and causing them to be lost in the woods is the trigger for their adventure.

3. The trigger causes the main characters to embark on an adventure or a journey. This adventure forms the main part of the story. The adventure may be metaphorical, as it may consist of the protagonist exploring a part of himself or herself or coming to terms with a past injury. During the adventure, one or several plot twists or surprise events will help to give the story substance. They should surprise the reader while remaining plausible.

4. The protagonist makes a decision that steers the course of the story. The kind of decision that the protagonist makes will determine his or her character and how the audience perceives this character. The consequences of this choice result in the climax, which is the point in the story where the tension reaches its peak. This is the turning point and the most exciting part.

5. The tension is resolved. This is done by examining the full consequences of the protagonist’s choice and the fallout of the climax. The author explores the new roles of the characters and how the climax has changed the status quo.

Why use story arcs in fiction?

Using a story arc in your writing can help you organize your story and keep the action moving. It can help condense a disorganized collection of small plot twists into a narrative that flows seamlessly and keeps the reader engaged within a broader tale. This is especially useful in long works, like novels, films, and episodic stories like tv episodes and comics. While the downside of the story arc is that it is difficult for readers or viewers who start in the middle of the work to become engaged and understand what is going on, using a story arc can help you develop a loyal following of readers or viewers who want to know what happens next.

Making story arcs work for you

If you are considering using a story arc in your writing, you can either use it as a framework to build your plot or you can use it as a checklist to edit your work. Both ways are useful and which way you choose depends on personal preference and the way you write. You may find it useful to use the components of the story arc as an outline before you begin writing, as it can form a skeleton that you can flesh out with details and prose. Conversely, you can write your story, then fit it into the story arc guidelines and add and remove parts as needed. For instance, you may have an excellent climax but need to develop your status quo and trigger more.

Whether or not it was the initial intention of the author to do so, most stories do follow the story arc guideline. Use this pattern to help you get started, to edit a story in process, or simply to provide forward momentum in your work. The uses of this literary tool are limited only by your imagination.

 

The Character Arc

What is it?

            How to Use it?

 

The standard definition of a character arc is how your main character changes over the course of your story. It’s important to note that there’s more out there than just the good guy or gal who’s transformed by the end of the story. Not all characters undergo some major transformation. In some cases, your main character will grow, but not transform.

In fact, most character arcs can be simplified to fit into three different, but sometimes overlapping, categories:

  1. The Change Arc (aka the Hero’s Journey)

Probably the most common, or at least the most recognizable. By the end of the tale, the main character has conquered and becomes a usually unlikely hero. Some examples include:

  • Katniss Everdeen’s rise from poor hunter to revolutionary hero by the end of The Hunger Games.
  • Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring begins as an eccentric little hobbit with an ordinary life in the Shire. No one would have expected him to overcome so many obstacles and throw the ring into Mount Doom.
  • And remember, a hero is not necessarily a good guy. Look at Michael Corleone in The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Just home from Vietnam, Michael wants nothing to do with the family business, but an assassination attempt on his father forces him to take action and sends him down the path toward becoming the ruthless leader of New York’s most powerful mafia.
  1. The Growth Arc

The standard definition of a character arc is how your main character changes over the course of your story.

The most common form of character arc is the Hero’s Journey. An ordinary person receives a call to adventure and, at first, he or she refuses that call. There’s usually a mentor who helps the hero accept or learn how to attempt the adventure. Think of Yoda in Star Wars.

There’s More to the Character Arc

It’s important to note that there’s more out there than just the good guy or gal who’s transformed by the end of the story. Not all characters undergo some major transformation. In some cases, your main character will grow, but not transform.

In fact, most character arcs can be simplified to fit into three different, but sometimes overlapping, categories:

1. The Change Arc (aka the Hero’s Journey)

Probably the most common, or at least the most recognizable. By the end of the tale, the main character has conquered and becomes a usually unlikely hero. Some examples include:

  • Katniss Everdeen’s rise from poor hunter to revolutionary hero by the end of The Hunger Games.
  • Frodo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring begins as an eccentric little hobbit with an ordinary life in the Shire. No one would have expected him to overcome so many obstacles and throw the ring into Mount Doom.
  • And remember, a hero is not necessarily a good guy. Look at Michael Corleone in The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Just home from Vietnam, Michael wants nothing to do with the family business, but an assassination attempt on his father forces him to take action and sends him down the path toward becoming the ruthless leader of New York’s most powerful mafia.

2. The Growth Arc

This is where your main character becomes a better version of who he or she really is. Another version of the Growth Arc is a Shift Arc where the main character shifts his opinion or perspective about a certain situation or a group of people. Some examples of a growth arc include:

  • Skeeter Phelan and her contingent of African-American maids in The Help by Kathryn Stockett. They begin the story timid and oppressed, and through the course of the story, they transform into strong women who take a stand and fight for change.
  • Richard Chapman in The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian. In this book, a decent, moral family man throws a bachelor party for his younger brother that gets out of control. The ending is shocking (no spoiler alerts), but it serves to reinforce the main character as an accountable, responsible man.
  • Briony Tallis in Atonement by Ian McEwan. Briony is a good girl who thinks she’s protecting her sister and makes an accusation that haunts her the rest of her life. Her life becomes, in effect, atonement for that one moment.

3. The Negative or Fall Arc (aka the Tragedy)

Our main character fails, he or she is doomed, or death occurs. Shakespeare was excellent at writing compelling tragedies.

  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger gives us Henry who can time-travel and change what has or will happen in his life. His wife Clare is left behind to wonder and worry every time he travels. No spoilers, but this is definitely a negative character arc.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding shows us the ugly side of humanity by marooning a group of British school boys on a deserted island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results.
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is the tragic ending of Willy Loman, a salesman surrounded by mixed and unaddressed emotions of his family and himself about what life should be.

There you have the three major character arcs. People may—and do—argue that there are more than just these three character arcs and perhaps they’re right. It can also be argued that there are no original story lines, just variant degrees of the same plot. Think about it.

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Mood vs. Tense

By: Maeve Maddox

From: Daily Writing Tips

Many people are not quite clear as to the difference between the grammatical terms mood and tense. For example, I’ve seen such expressions as “subjunctive tense” and “progressive mood.”

Because both tense and mood have to do with verbs, the confused terminology is understandable. Tense, however, refers to time, whereas mood refers to manner of expression.

Tense
The three possible divisions of time are past, present, and future. For each, there is a corresponding verb tense:

Present: He walks now.
Past: Yesterday he walked.
Future: Tomorrow he will walk.

Each of these tenses has a corresponding complete tense: perfect, past perfect (pluperfect), and future perfect:

Perfect: He has walked every morning since Monday.
Past Perfect: He had walked a mile by the time we joined him.
Future Perfect: By tomorrow, he will have walked twenty miles.

Each of these tenses has a continuous or progressive form:

Present Continuous: I am still walking.
Past Continuous: I was still walking when you phoned.
Future Continuous: I shall/will be walking when you reach town.
Perfect Continuous: I have been walking since early morning.
Past Perfect Continuous: I had been walking for an hour when you phoned.
Future Perfect Continuous: When you see me, I shall have been walking for six hours.

Mood
Mood is the form of the verb that shows the mode or manner in which a thought is expressed. Mood distinguishes between an assertion, a wish, or a command. The corresponding moods are: Indicative (assertion), Subjunctive (wish), and Imperative (command).

Note: Unlike some languages, English does not have an “Interrogative Mood”; questions are formed by changing word order and not by altering the verb.

The word indicative derives from Latin indicare, “to declare or state.” Indicative Mood expresses an assertion, denial, or question about something:

Assertion: I liked him very much before he did that.
Denial: He is not going to remain on my list of friends.
Question: Will you continue to see him?

The word imperative derives from Latin imperare, “to command.” Imperative Mood expresses command, prohibition, entreaty, or advice:

Command: Go thou and do likewise.
Prohibition: Stay out of Mr. MacGregor’s garden!
Entreaty: Remember us in your prayers.
Advice: Beware of the dog.

The “true subjunctive” equivalent to the Latin Optative Mood (opare, “to wish”) is rare in modern English. Examples of the “true” subjunctive: “If I were king,” “God save the Queen!”

In most contexts dealing with unreal situations, speakers used a mixed subjunctive. The use of the auxiliaries may, might, should, and would creates a mixed subjunctive in which one verb is in subjunctive and another in indicative mood:

If I should see him, I will tell him.
He came that they might have life.

According to the Penguin Dictionary of English Grammar,

the distinctive subjunctive forms are now confined to the verb be and to the third-singular forms of other verbs; they are still common in American English, while in British English they are confined to very formal styles.

In American English, the subjunctive often occurs with the following verbs:

suggest: I suggest that she refuse his offer.
demand: They are demanding that he go to London for an interview.
propose: The father proposed that his son be locked up to teach him a lesson.
insist: We all insisted that he accept treatment.

British usage tends to use should in such constructions: I suggest that she should refuse his offer.

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Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctions are words that link words, phrases, and clauses and provide a smooth transition between ideas.

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Some adverbs can also join or show connections between ideas. When they do this, they are called conjunctive adverbs.

Conjunctive adverbs show comparison, contrast, sequence, cause-effect, or other relationships between ideas.

The most common conjunctive adverbs are:

accordingly
also
besides
consequently
conversely
finally
furthermore
hence
however
indeed
instead
likewise
meanwhile
moreover
nevertheless
next
nonetheless
otherwise
similarly
still
subsequently
then
therefore
thus

Conjunctive adverbs function in three ways.

1. They indicate a connection between two independent clauses in one sentence:

The primary meaning of the term ḥeḥ was “million” or “millions”; subsequently, a personification of Ḥeḥ was adopted as the Egyptian god of infinity.

In this explanation of why a particular word was personified the way it was, subsequently joins the ideas and conveys sequence at the same time. The word heh means millions; it follows that the personification derived from heh would be a god of infinity.

2. They link ideas in two or more sentences.

Democracy has empowered thousands upon thousands of the “selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish,” who come from a mix of different nationalities. All hope is not lost, however, since there are “hundreds who are wise.”

 

In this quotation from a speech by Woodrow Wilson, the however connects and contrasts “thousands of foolish citizens” in the first sentence with “hundreds who are wise” in the second sentence.

3. They show relationships between ideas within an independent clause.

We are determined to do whatever must be done in the interest of this country and, indeed, in the interest of all to protect the dollar as a convertible currency at its current fixed rate.

In this quotation from a speech by John F. Kennedy, indeed connects ideas within the sentence: the idea of doing something on a national level and on an international level as well.

Punctuation note: A conjunctive adverb within a sentence is set off by commas. A conjunctive adverb that begins or ends a sentence is set off by one comma:

Therefore, let us reconsider this legislation that marginalizes a large proportion of employees.

You were late for the fifth time today; you are dismissed, therefore.

From: Daily Writing Tips

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Uses of the Comma

A comma is a versatile punctuation mark, serving ten basic functions. Here’s an enumeration, with examples.

  1. Separate the elements in a series: “Groucho, Harpo, and Chico developed the philosophy called Marxism.”

Many periodicals and websites, and most colloquially written books, omit the serial, or        final, comma, but it is all but mandatory in formal writing and is recommended in all     usage. As language maven Bryan Garner observes, “Omitting the serial comma may   cause ambiguities, whereas including it never will.”

  1. Separate coordinated independent clauses: “I like the Marx Brothers, but she thinks they’re too silly.” (An independent clause is one that can stand on its own as a sentence but is linked with another by a conjunction and/or a punctuation mark.)

Exceptions include sentences with closely linked clauses (“Go to the window and see          who’s there”) and those with a compound predicate (“The Marx Brothers are known for   their puns and their sight gags”).

  1. Separate an introductory word (“Naturally, I agree with you”), phrase (“Last summer, I went on a long vacation”), or subordinate clause (“If you’re too busy now, wait until later”) from the remainder of the sentence.
  2. Separate an optional parenthetical element from the remainder of the sentence. “We have, in a manner of speaking, won despite our loss.” (The phrase “in a manner of speaking” could also be set off by em dashes or parentheses, depending on whether the writer wishes to emphasize the interruption of the statement “We have won despite our loss” or wants to diminish it as an aside.)
  3. Separate coordinate adjectives from each other: “I could really use a tall, cool drink right now.” (Do not separate non-coordinate adjectives with a comma; https://www.dailywritingtips.com/coordinate-and-noncoordinate-adjectives/ explains the difference between these two types of adjectives.)
  4. Separate an attribution from a direct quotation: “She said, ‘Neither choice is very appealing’”; “‘That’s not my problem,’ he replied.” (A colon may be precede a formal pronouncement or an attribution that forms a complete thought, as in, “He had this to say: ‘Her point is irrelevant.” Omit punctuation when the attribution is implied, as in “Your response ‘Her point is irrelevant’ is evasive.”)
  5. Separate a participial phrase or one lacking a verb from the remainder of the sentence: “Having said that, I still have my doubts”; “The deed done, we retreated to our hideout.”
  6. Separate a salutation from a letter (“Dear friends,”) or a complimentary close from a signature in a letter (“Sincerely,”). A colon should be used in place of a comma in a formal salutation.
  7. Separate elements when setting off a term for a larger geopolitical entity from that for a smaller one located within it (“Santa Barbara, California, is located on the coast”) and for elements of street addresses (“1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC”) (and dates (“January 1, 2013”).
  8. Separate groups of three digits in numbers: (Let me tell you how to make your first 100,000,000 dollars.” (Because large numbers are difficult to scan, it’s usually better to use one of the following forms: “100 million dollars,” “one hundred million dollars.”)

From

Daily Writing Tips

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Watch out for the following deadly usages.

from Daily Writing Tips:

Tried-and-true words and phrases are convenient, but they are also truly trying — as with clichés, when a writer relies too heavily on stock usage, the resulting prose is tired and uninspired. Watch out for the following deadly usages.

  1. After having: “After looking around, I chose a seat” is fine, and so is “Having looked around, I chose a seat,” but “After having looked around, I chose a seat” is redundant. “Having” means that the action has already been performed, so the context is clear that the writer is writing after the fact.
  2. Aged: Identifying the age or age range of a person or a group with this word puts the subject(s) in a category with cheese or wine. Write “50 years old,” for example, instead of “aged 50 years,” or “ages 21–34” rather than “aged 21–34.”
  3. Aggravate: To aggravate is to make something worse, not to bother, annoy, or irritate.
  4. And also: And and also are redundant; use one or the other.
  5. Anticipate: To anticipate is to foresee (and perhaps act on that foresight), not to expect.
  6. Anxious: To be anxious is to feel distressed or worried, not eager.
  7. Approximately: How about using about instead? Save three syllables. For scientific or technical references, approximately is fine, but it’s a bit much in most other contexts.
  8. As to whether: “As to” is extraneous; use whether only.
  9. At this point in time: Omit this meaningless filler.
  10. Basically, essentially, totally: Basically, these words are essentially nonessential, and you can totally dispense with them.
  11. Being as/being that: Replace these phrases with because.
  12. Considered to be: “To be” is extraneous; write considered only, or consider deleting it as well.
  13. Could care less: No, you couldn’t. You want to convey that it’s not possible for you to care
    less, so you couldn’t care less.
  14. Due to the fact that: Replace this phrase with because.
  15. Each and every: Write “Each item is unique,” or “Every item is unique,” but not “Each and every item is unique.”
  16. Equally as: As is superfluous; write equally only.
  17. Was a factor, is a factor, will be a factor: If your writing includes one of these phrases, its presence is a sign that you’re not done revising yet; rewrite “The vehicle’s condition is a factor in performance,” for example, to “The vehicle’s condition affects its performance.”
  18. Had ought: Had is redundant; use ought only.
  19. Have got: Got is suitable for informal writing only; if you’re referring to necessity, consider must rather than “have got,” and if the reference is to simple possession, delete got from the phrase “have got.”
  20. In many cases/it has often been the case: Reduce the word count in statements containing these verbose phrases by replacing “in many cases” with often, for example.
  21. In the process of: This extraneous phrasing is acceptable in extemporaneous speaking but unnecessarily verbose in prepared oration and in writing.
  22. Is a . . . which/who: If you find yourself writing a phrase like this, step back and determine how to write it more succinctly; “Smith is a man who knows how to haggle,” for example, can be abbreviated to “Smith knows how to haggle.”
  23. Kind of/sort of: In formal writing, if you must qualify a statement, use a more stately qualifier such as rather, slightly, or somewhat.
  24. Lots/lots of: In formal writing, employ many or much in place of one of these colloquialisms.
  25. Of a . . . character: If you use character as a synonym for quality, make the reference concise. “The wine has a musty character” is better rendered “The wine tasted musty, and “He was a man with a refined character” can be revised to the more concise statement “The man was refined,” but better yet, describe how the man is refined.
  26. Of a . . . nature: Just as with character, when you use nature as a synonym for quality, pare the phrasing down: Reduce “She had a philosophical nature,” for example, to “She was philosophical.”
  27. Oftentimes: An outdated, unnecessary complication of often.
  28. On account of: Replace this awkward phrase with because.
  29. Renown: Renown is the noun (as well as a rarely used verb); renowned is the adjective. Avoid the like of “the renown statesman.”
  30. Thankfully: In formal usage, this word is not considered a synonym for fortunately.

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