Thursday, 30 July 2009

Tautology - keep it out of writing.

Something I saw on a writing website I frequent:

Tautology is the use of words that duplicate the meaning of a word or words already used, as in:

basic principles
hollow tube
mutual cooperation
personal opinion
exactly equal
still continues
past memories
various differences
each individual
true facts
important essentials
future plans
terrible tragedy
end result
final outcome
free gift
past history
unexpected surprise
sudden crisis

An expression that's not redundant as much as it is illogical is "very unique." Since unique means "one of a kind," adding any modifier of degree -- very, so, especially, somewhat, extremely, etc. -- is illogical.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Interesting article by Elmore Leonard about writing...

WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle

Published: Monday, July 16, 2001
These are rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.

1. Never open a book with weather.

If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2. Avoid prologues.

They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.

There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's ''Sweet Thursday,'' but it's O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: ''I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy's thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That's nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don't have to read it. I don't want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.''

3. Never use a verb other than ''said'' to carry dialogue.

The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with ''she asseverated,'' and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb ''said'' . . .

. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances ''full of rape and adverbs.''

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.

You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6. Never use the words ''suddenly'' or ''all hell broke loose.''

This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use ''suddenly'' tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories ''Close Range.''

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.

Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's ''Hills Like White Elephants'' what do the ''American and the girl with him'' look like? ''She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.'' That's the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.

9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.

Unless you're Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you're good at it, you don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

And finally:

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It's my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.)

If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character -- the one whose view best brings the scene to life -- I'm able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what's going on, and I'm nowhere in sight.

What Steinbeck did in ''Sweet Thursday'' was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. ''Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts'' is one, ''Lousy Wednesday'' another. The third chapter is titled ''Hooptedoodle 1'' and the 38th chapter ''Hooptedoodle 2'' as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: ''Here's where you'll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won't get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want.''

''Sweet Thursday'' came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I've never forgotten that prologue.

Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

Writers on Writing

This article is part of a series in which writers explore literary themes. Previous contributions, including essays by John Updike, E. L. Doctorow, Ed McBain, Annie Proulx, Jamaica Kincaid, Saul Bellow and others, can be found with this article at The New York Times on the Web:

Friday, 24 July 2009

How to write a Haiku...

Haiku poetry originated in Japan many centuries ago. Its popularity and form have spread throughout the world. Haiku is fun and easy to learn in its simplest form, and in its most sophisticated form it is an elegant expression of the spirit of a moment in time.


The haiku appears to be a very simple form of poetry. A person who might otherwise never attempt to write poetry can easily learn the simple haiku form in a few minutes and proudly produce several haiku expressions a few minutes later.

The haiku generally contains of 17 syllables written in three lines with minimal punctuation. The first line contains 5 syllables, the second 7 syllables, and the third 5 more syllables. The traditional subject of a haiku is a revealing moment in nature that is conveyed directly to the reader without judgment. One or two words indicate the season of the year to which the haiku relates. The traditional haiku is considered complete in itself and is not titled.

Less traditional haiku can be written about any subject that the author wishes. Free form haiku may have more or less than three lines and contain less than 17 syllables. It may use traditional poetic devices such as rhyme, metaphor, alliteration, simile, and others. The free form haiku may be humorous and cute, teasing and erotic, or it may have a didactic message.


The traditional Japanese haiku is generally shorter than an English haiku because Japanese syllables are shorter and more numerous than English syllables. Some authors consider a three line format of 2-3-2 to be more consistent with the brief style of the Japanese masters.

The haiku of the masters embodies a certain spirit. The author uses the senses to create a meaningful moment, a revealing observation of everyday life that is not moralistic or judgmental. The poet tries to give the reader the means to experience the same feeling or perception that the poet had without actually explaining the feeling.

Present tense is normally used to reveal the haiku moment. The poet tries to make the moment fresh and immediate, as if the moment were occurring right now. The haiku has a strong presence.

Haiku masters generally create two or three concrete images which are juxtaposed and compared in the short lines. These images create an atmosphere that reveals the meaning in the haiku.

A spirit of lightness is created in haiku by using ordinary, straightforward words that are specific yet brief. Poetic devices such as rhyme, meter, metaphor, and others are not used by the haiku masters.

Minimal punctuation is common in good haiku. A comma used to effect as a pause may occur during or after the first or second line. Good haiku is not just a poetic thought cut up into three lines of a 5-7-5 syllable pattern but the haiku’s images naturally and organically flow into the desired form.


Writing haiku poetry is a fun and enlightening activity. Writing haiku is simple enough to encourage one to get started and the results are satisfying enough to encourage one to keep going. The further one goes in learning the simple subtleties of the form the closer one gets to becoming a master of the haiku.

A Quick Guide to Poetic Form

The haiku is much more complex than it seems; just because you have written something that follows a syllable pattern of 5,7,5 doesn't necessarily mean you've just written the next earth-shattering haiku. There are a few little know tidbits about the haiku that will help you differentiate is from it's often mislabeled cousin, senryu.

The rules are the same for both haiku and senryu. There are seventeen kana (or the equivalent of syllables in the English language) separated into three lines that are classically seen as 5 kana, 7 kana, 5 kana; however, here is a bit you might not have known: haiku and senryu are written in seventeen kana or less.

With this in mind, both the haiku and senryu should follow a short, long, short pattern in its line structure. As stated in Shadow Poetry's guide to haiku, once you become familiar with the rules of haiku and senryu, you will know when it is appropriate to bend the rules a little and when it isn't. First, you must get used to the rule as we have laid out previously.

Haiku and senryu are typically (keep in mind that I say typically) written as two separate parts. A haiku or senryu is not a run on sentence that starts with the first kana and ends with the last.


summer glow—
mirages mingle
in the breeze
©Katherine Arcand

Notice that the first five kana sent a scene and the remaining kana present a subject and an action for the subject that is preformed in the setting. This doesn't always have to be, but as a beginning haiku/senryu writer, this is an easy exercise. You may also reverse the order that the poem is presented in, if you feel it makes your point stronger.


mirages mingle
in the breeze—
summer glow
©Katherine Arcand

Source: Here and here

How to write a great book:


That's it. Plain and simple.
Many complain that they can't get the first chapter perfect. Then, they finally get to chapter two and can't get it perfect either. So, instead of going on to chapter three, they decide to re-edit chapter one and wonder why they can't get it right.


Because you're not writing. You only get good at writing by... that's right, writing!
Not by editing.


Finish the first draft already.

That's my two cents...take it or leave it.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


You can be clever

And not flaunt and exhibit

Results speaks volumes

Thursday, 16 July 2009

I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.

Jane Austen

Grammar: Gerunds

Gerunds (-ing)

When a verb ends in -ing, it may be a gerund or a present participle. It is important to understand that they are not the same.

When we use a verb in -ing form more like a noun, it is usually a gerund:

  • Fishing is fun.

When we use a verb in -ing form more like a verb or an adjective, it is usually a present participle:

  • Anthony is fishing.
  • I have a boring teacher.

Gerunds as Subject, Object or Complement

Try to think of gerunds as verbs in noun form.

Like nouns, gerunds can be the subject, object or complement of a sentence:

  • Smoking costs a lot of money.
  • I don't like writing.
  • My favourite occupation is reading.

But, like a verb, a gerund can also have an object itself. In this case, the whole expression [gerund + object] can be the subject, object or complement of the sentence.

  • Smoking cigarettes costs a lot of money.
  • I don't like writing letters.
  • My favourite occupation is reading detective stories.

Like nouns, we can use gerunds with adjectives (including articles and other determiners):

  • pointless questioning
  • a settling of debts
  • the making of Titanic
  • his drinking of alcohol

But when we use a gerund with an article, it does not usually take a direct object:

  • a settling of debts (not a settling debts)
  • Making "Titanic" was expensive.
  • The making of "Titanic" was expensive.

Gerunds after Prepositions

This is a good rule. It has no exceptions!

If we want to use a verb after a preposition, it must be a gerund. It is impossible to use an infinitive after a preposition. So for example, we say:

  • I will call you after arriving at the office.
  • Please have a drink before leaving.
  • I am looking forward to meeting you.
  • Do you object to working late?
  • Tara always dreams about going on holiday.

Notice that you could replace all the above gerunds with "real" nouns:

  • I will call you after my arrival at the office.
  • Please have a drink before your departure.
  • I am looking forward to our lunch.
  • Do you object to this job?
  • Tara always dreams about holidays.

Gerunds after Certain Verbs

We sometimes use one verb after another verb. Often the second verb is in the infinitive form, for example:

  • I want to eat.

But sometimes the second verb must be in gerund form, for example:

  • I dislike eating.

This depends on the first verb. Here is a list of verbs that are usually followed by a verb in gerund form:

  • admit, appreciate, avoid, carry on, consider, defer, delay, deny, detest, dislike, endure, enjoy, escape, excuse, face, feel like, finish, forgive, give up, can't help, imagine, involve, leave off, mention, mind, miss, postpone, practise, put off, report, resent, risk, can't stand, suggest, understand

Look at these examples:

  • She is considering having a holiday.
  • Do you feel like going out?
  • I can't help falling in love with you.
  • I can't stand not seeing you.
Sources: Here and here

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Grammar: Lay and Lie

Lay and Lie is one of the most common mistakes in the English language.

Lie is a STILL verb.

Lay is an ACTIVE verb.

Why do we make the mistake in these two verbs? Often it is because of the way they sound to our ears. (Lay down on the floor!) Also, it's that TO LIE is an oddly irregular verb that uses the word lay in its conjugation.

Today I LIE on the sofa.
Yesterday I LAY on the sofa.
Many times I have LAIN on the sofa.

Sometimes, they go hand-in-hand.

I LAY my beach towel on the sand, then I LIE down on it.
Mom LAYS the groceries on the kitchen counter, but then those lazy groceries just LIE there until she does something with them.


LIE (to lie down on a bed): lie, lay, lain, lying

Today I LIE in bed.
Yesterday I LAY in bed.
Many times I have LAIN in bed.
Yesterday I was LYING in bed all day.
LYING in bed all day is boring.

LAY (to place something, to set something down): lay, laid, laid, laying

Today I LAY the book on the counter.
Yesterday I LAID the book on the counter.
Many times I have LAID the book on the counter.
Yesterday I was LAYING the book on the counter when mom came home.
LAYING books on the kitchen counter is against the rules in my house.

LIE (to tell a fib): lie, lied, lied, lying

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Passive vs Active Voice

I could write article after article as to my views on this topic. But, I will give a few different opinions and suggestions instead.

Active Voice

In sentences written in active voice, the subject performs the action expressed in the verb; the subject acts.

~I broke the window.

~The boys ate all of the pie.

~With the money from her mother's life insurance Diane

bought a new car and took a trip to Europe.

In each example above, the subject of the sentence performs the action expressed in the verb.

Passive Voice

In sentences written in passive voice, the subject receives the action expressed in the verb; the subject is acted upon. The agent performing the action may appear in a "by the . . ." phrase or may be omitted.

~The window was broken.
~The window was broken by me.
~All of the pie was eaten.
~All of the pie was eaten by the boys.
~With the money from her mother's life insurance a new car was bought and a trip to Europe was taken.
~With the money from her mother's life insurance a new car was bought
and a trip to Europe was taken by Diane.

Sometimes the use of passive voice can create awkward sentences, as in the last example above. Also, overuse of passive voice throughout an essay can cause your prose to seem flat and uninteresting. In scientific writing, however, passive voice is more readily accepted since using it allows one to write without using personal pronouns or the names of particular researchers as the subjects of sentences. This practice helps to create the appearance of an objective, fact-based discourse because writers can present research and conclusions without attributing them to particular agents. Instead, the writing appears to convey information that is not limited or biased by individual perspectives or personal interests.

You can recognize passive-voice expressions because the verb phrase will always include a form of be, such as am, is, was, were, are, or been. The presence of a be-verb, however, does not necessarily mean that the sentence is in passive voice. Another way to recognize passive-voice sentences is that they may include a "by the..." phrase after the verb; the agent performing the action, if named, is the object of the preposition in this phrase.

Choosing Active Voice

In most nonscientific writing situations, active voice is preferable to passive for the majority of your sentences. Even in scientific writing, overuse of passive voice or use of passive voice in long and complicated sentences can cause readers to lose interest or to become confused. Sentences in active voice are generally--though not always-- clearer and more direct than those in passive voice.

Sentences in active voice are also more concise than those in passive voice because fewer words are required to express action in active voice than in passive.

Changing Passive to Active

To change passive voice to active, identify the performer of the action. If the performer is in a "by the" phrase, move the performer to the subject position, just before the verb. If the writer did not name a performer, choose a subject that fits the context. "The test results will be announced next week" easily becomes "We will announce the test results next week" or "The researchers will announce the test results next week."

Avoid mixing active and passive voice in the same sentence. The first half of this sentence is active, but the second half is passive: "We found the lost contract, and the client was notified immediately." Instead, use active voice throughout: "We found the lost contract and notified the client immediately."

Choosing Passive Voice

While active voice helps to create clear and direct sentences, sometimes writers find that using an indirect expression is rhetorically effective in a given situation, so they choose passive voice. Also, as mentioned above, writers in the sciences conventionally use passive voice more often than writers in other discourses. Passive voice makes sense when the agent performing the action is obvious, unimportant, or unknown or when a writer wishes to postpone mentioning the agent until the last part of the sentence or to avoid mentioning the agent at all. The passive voice is effective in such circumstances because it highlights the action and what is acted upon rather than the agent performing the action.

active passive
The dispatcher is notifying police that three prisoners have escaped. Police are being notified that three prisoners have escaped.
Surgeons successfully performed a new experimental liver-transplant operation yesterday. A new experimental liver-transplant operation was performed successfully yesterday.

"Authorities make rules to be broken," he said defiantly.

"Rules are made to be broken," he said defiantly.

In each of these examples, the passive voice makes sense because the agent is relatively unimportant compared to the action itself and what is acted upon.

Changing active to passive

If you want to change an active-voice sentence to passive voice, consider carefully who or what is performing the action expressed in the verb, and then make that agent the object of a "by the..." phrase. Make what is acted upon the subject of the sentence, and change the verb to a form of be + past participle. Including an explicit "by the..." phrase is optional.

Some suggestions

Avoid starting a sentence in active voice and then shifting to passive.

Unnecessary shift in voice Revised
Many customers in the restaurant found the coffee too bitter to drink, but it was still ordered frequently. Many customers in the restaurant found the coffee too bitter to drink, but they still ordered it frequently.
He tried to act cool when he slipped in the puddle, but he was still laughed at by the other students. He tried to act cool when he slipped in the puddle, but the other students still laughed at him.

Don't trust the grammar-checking programs in word-processing software. Many grammar checkers flag all passive constructions, but you may want to keep some that are flagged. Trust your judgement, or ask another human being for their opinion about which sentence sounds best.

Sources: here and here

Monday, 13 July 2009

Grammar: Split Infinitives

What is a split infinitive, and why should I avoid using one?

This is a split infinitive:
    To boldly go where no man has gone before!

The infinitive is to go, and it has been 'split' by the adverb boldly. Split infinitives have been the cause of much controversy among teachers and grammarians, but the notion that they are ungrammatical is simply a myth: in his famous book Modern English Usage, Henry Fowler listed them among 'superstitions'!

Split infinitives are frequently poor style, but they are not strictly bad grammar. In the example above, to avoid the split infinitive would result either in weakness (to go boldly) or over-formality (boldly to go): either would ruin the rhythmic force and rhetorical pattern of the original. It is probably good practice to avoid split infinitives in formal writing, but clumsy attempts to avoid them simply by shuffling adverbs about can create far worse sentences.

And so, in my opinion, it's up to the writer and his or her style.

Source: Here

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Grammar: Verb Tenses Beware!

Verb Tense Consistency

As writers, it is very important to keep the same tense in the sentences and paragraphs.
There are three main verb forms for showing time or tense:

Simple Tense

  • does not use auxiliary verbs

  • refers to specific time period during which

    something happens
    something happened and is over
    something will happen

Simple present (action goes on now): I sit

Simple past: (action happened and is over): I sat

Simple future (action will happen): I will sit

Perfect Tense

  • uses have, has, or had as auxiliary verb
  • allows action to continue over time

Present perfect (action happened and may still be going on): I have sat

Past perfect (action happened before something happened in the past): I had sat

Future perfect (action will be considered in the future, by which time it will have already happened): I will have sat

Progressive Tense

  • uses is, are, was, or were as auxiliary verb with -ing ending on main verb
  • focuses on “progress” of action

Present progressive (action is in progress right now): I am sitting

Past: progressive (action was in progress in the past): I was sitting

Future progressive (action will be in progress in the future): I will be sitting

Each of the above tenses denotes a specific time for an action or event to take place. Writers should be careful to use the exact tense needed to describe, narrate, or explain.

In general . . .

  • Do not switch from one tense to another unless the timing of an action demands that you do.

  • Keep verb tense consistent in sentences, paragraphs, and essays.

Verb tense consistency on the sentence level

  • Keep tenses consistent within sentences.

  • Do not change tenses when there is no time change for the action.



Since there is no indication that the actions happened apart from one another., there is no reason to shift the tense of the second verb.

Note another example.



The above sentence means that Mary walks into a room at times. The action is habitual present. The second action happens when the first one does. Therefore, the second verb should be present as well.

Change tense only when there is a need to do so.
Usually, the timing of actions within a sentence will dictate when the tense must change.


The first action will take place in the future; therefore, the second one will as well.


The second action took place in the past; the first action occurred before the past action. Therefore, the first action requires the past perfect tense (had + verb).

Verb tense consistency on the paragraph level

  • Generally, establish a primary tense and keep tenses consistent from sentence to sentence.

  • Do not shift tenses between sentences unless there is a time change that must be shown.


All actions in the above paragraph happen in the present except for the future possibility dependent upon a
present action taking place: " If a cat sees the bird, the cat will kill it."


All of the actions in the above paragraph happen in the past except for the possibility dependent upon
one action taking place: "If a cat saw the bird, the cat would kill it."

In the following paragraph, some of the sentences contain errors in verb tense. Write out the correct form of any verb that is used incorrectly, and then compare your answers with those at the bottom of the page.

Hard Luck

A bank teller in Italy was jilted by his girlfriend and decide the only thing left to do was kill himself. He stolen a car with the idea of crashing it, but the car broken down. He steal another one, but it was too slow, and he barely dent a fender when he crashed the car into a tree. The police arrive and charge the man with auto theft. While being questioned, he stab himself in the chest with a dagger. Quick action by the police officers saved the man's life. On the way to his cell, he jumped out through a third-story window. A snowdrift broken his fall. A judge suspends the man's sentence, saying, "I'm sure fate still has something in store for you."

  1. Hard Luck

    A bank teller in Italy was jilted by his girlfriend and decided the only thing left to do was kill himself. He stole a car with the idea of crashing it, but the car broke down. He stole another one, but it was too slow, and he barely dented a fender when he crashed the car into a tree. The police arrived and charged the man with auto theft. While being questioned, he stabbed himself in the chest with a dagger. Quick action by the police officers saved the man's life. On the way to his cell, he jumped out through a third-story window. A snowdrift broke his fall. A judge suspended the man's sentence, saying, "I'm sure fate still has something in store for you."

Sources: here

Thursday, 9 July 2009

What about the hero of The House on the Strand? What did it mean when he dropped the telephone at the end of the book? I don't really know, but I rather think he was going to be paralysed for life. Don't you?
Daphne du Maurier

JUNE 2009


Grammar: Pronouns & Antecedents

Pronouns are a handy way to keep from repeating nouns too much. Consider the following:

* When Big Dog snuck under the fence, Big Dog ran to the dumpster.
* When Big Dog snuck under the fence, he ran to the dumpster.

Clearly the second sentence sounds better.

A pronoun renames (takes the place of) a noun that comes before it.

An antecedent is what we call the noun that comes before the pronoun.
Two examples should be enough:

1. I get worried when the neighbors let their dog out.
2. The dog goes wild, and he always messes up my front yard.

In number 1, neighbors is the antecedent; their is the pronoun. They agree because both are plural. In number 2, dog is the antecedent, and he is the pronoun. They agree since both are singular. If you are having problems with pronoun-antecedent agreement, underline all your pronouns; then, locate the antecedent for each. Make sure that both are the same in number. That's all you have to do.

A common stylistic problem in writing, often leading to ambiguity, is the use of a pronoun for which the antecedent is not clear, as in the following example:

* I met John at Mike's party. He told me about his new friend.

Did John tell the speaker about his own new friend? Did John tell the speaker about Mike's new friend? Did Mike tell the speaker about his own new friend? Or did Mike tell the speaker about John's new friend? Generally most competent speakers would agree that "he" refers to "John."

Another issue is the use of a pronoun and anaphor which differ in number, for example "Everyone had their own sleeping bag." The words everyone and everybody are singular, meaning every "one" and every "body". Thus neither of those words should be used with the plural anaphor "their." "Each student" is singular, but requires the use of the gender-inclusive "his or her" which is often seen as awkward. The sentence "Each camper had his or her own sleeping bag" is thus correct but inelegant. This is a question of writing style rather than grammar when analyzed to this point. The sentence "All the campers had their sleeping bags" is clearer.

You can find my sources here and here and here

Taken from the book Painless Grammar (Painless Series)
by Rebecca Elliott

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Grammar: Possessive Nouns

Some Rules:

If two people own one thing, use an apostrophe for the second person only.

Ex. Ann and Rick's car (they own one car)

If two people don't own one thing, use an apostrophe for both.

Ex. Ann's and Rick's toes (they each have their own toes)

*Now, if a plural ends in s (boys) just add an apostrophe. Ex. The boys' jackets

*If the plural does not end in s (women, children) add an apostrophe and an s. Ex. The children's toys

Here's a cheatsheet:

The girl's coat= one girl, one coat
The girls' coat= two (or more) girls sharing the same coat
The girls' coats = two (or more) girls with different coats

Taken from the book Painless Grammar (Painless Series)
by Rebecca Elliott

Monday, 6 July 2009

Grammar: Nouns and When to Capitalize Them

I have started a series of grammar blogs. It will discuss the basics. I need the basics.

First Lesson: Nouns and When to Capitalize Them



1) Names of specific people: Ann, the Altman family, Roger
2) Days of the week, months, and holidays
3) Ranks and titles used with particular person's name: Doctor Handslip, Auntie Social, General Lee
4) Geographic Areas: Mexico, Ohio River, Pacific Ocean
5) Regions: North, Midwest
6) Historical Periods: World War II, Civil War
7) Religions, Nationalities, Races, Languages: Christians, Asians, English, German measles
8) School courses: Algebra 101, History of Rome
9) Names of schools, businesses, organizations, brand names, clubs and their members
10) Planets
11) Letters that stand alone: T-shirt or X-ray
12) Titles of movies, books, articles

When do you not capitalize?

1) You capitalize "Dad" and "Mom" when you call them but not when you say, "my dad"
2) You don't capitalize the seasons
3) You capitalize North when you are referring to a region but not when you are giving directions.
4) Do not capitalize the sun or moon. Do not capitalize the word earth unless you are referring to it as a planet.
5) In title names, do not capitalize "a, an, the, and, but, in, of, with, etc." unless they are
a) the beginning word or
b) they are part of the verb: Hold Up

Taken from the book Painless Grammar (Painless Series)
by Rebecca Elliott

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Poem: Three Hours

If I had three hours to live
I would make sure I was good
with two:
my son and God.

If I had three weeks to live
I'd record a video message for my family and friends,
I'd forget house-cleaning, laundry and debt,
I'd hug my son a lot and stop to smell the roses,
And I would make sure I was good
with two:
my son and God.

If I had three months to live
I'd quit my day job and finish that book,
I'd travel to England and cry a lot,
I'd eat what I wanted and die obese,
And I would make sure I was good
with two:
my son and God.

If I had three years to live
I'd work part-time
and do something meaningful with my remaining years,
I'd let the dirt build up in the corners,
I'd take out credit to travel the world,
But before I die I would make sure I was good
with two:
my son and God.

If I had forever
I'd sleep the first year.
What else?
Let me get back to you later,
how does a thousand years sound?

If I just didn't know how long I had,
I'd probably continue to work at my job
even though I hate it.
I'd tirelessly clean my house
and fret over what people thought
even though they drove me nuts.
Why write today what you can write tomorrow?
I wouldn't stop and smell the roses or water them.
They'd die and I'd buy another pot.
I'd never get to England.
And I'd probably forget to tell my son that I loved him
and felt so proud of him.
I'd forget to make sure I was good
with two:
my son and God.

Poem by Ann Elle Altman

Poem: The Theory of Monet

I love art

That comes in all forms.

I could draw a decent stick man

Since the time I was born... five... twenty. (Hell, I still can't draw one.)


Because of my expertise

I really must say...

What the hell were people thinking...

Praising Monet?

I have seen his self portrait,

His cap and large ties,

But, I think something was missing

In front of his eyes...

I can see how it went

A day long, long ago...

Claude decided to paint

At the river that flowed...

He sat down on the bank

laid out things he had brought,

I forgot them again,

is what ran through his thoughts.

Back at home his father

Watches as time passes,

Why would Claude go paint

without taking his glasses?

He leaves the house

in such a hurry.

No wonder he comes home

with his paintings so blurry.

Claude, no one will buy it,

What will you do now?

I have been thinking father,

And I think I know how.

Marketing dad,

it will be a great hit!

An impressionist work

is what I'll call it!

Poem: I Can See Clearly Now, The Grain is Gone


to High Definition?

Are you kidding me?

Get the latest edition?

What does it matter

that I can see clearly?

When they cancel Stargate

and My Own Worst Enemy?

In grainy black & white motion

we watched men walk on the moon,

Sullivan had on the Beatles

and we sang their tunes.

Did we need clear

to watch these defining scenes?

First man-on-man kiss

or Degrassi's first pregnant teen?

What about the Murphy Brown Riot,

a single woman's adoption?

And we all followed the Jeep

in the OJ Simpson escape run.

Variety Shows like "Idol"

made a comeback in grain,

Now we watch reality show seasons

again and again.

World changing events

like 9/11 and Obama,

We watched in Low-Def

and still called our mamas.

So what is this ploy

they are trying to get out?

It's really nothing special

to write home about.

The TV execs

throw their hands up and reason,

it must be picture quality

why viewers are leaving this season.

Really execs? You must be right,

it couldn't be the crappy shows that I see...

I guess I'll stick to watching

on the internet - commercial free!