Frank's Writing Tips and Bachelor Cookbook: On Good Grammar by MLR

Frank's Writing Tips and Bachelor Cookbook: On Good Grammar

MLR

27 January 2014 at 21:53:38 MST

The first 'article' article in my 'how to write good' series. This one is perhaps a little ranty, but it's directed more at budding writers than at the more established ones, and specifically a certain kind of budding writer who wants to be lazy about certain things.

So I suppose what I ask here is, if you feel like I'm yelling directly at you while you read this, primarily you should feel bad, and secondarily you should consider leaving a comment here explaining your own position on some of these ideas. I will probably argue, but recall, that's what I hope the point of these things becomes. You know... vitriolic argument.

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  • Link

    Your use of the vocabulary mentioned in the introduction was amusing. As for checking ones own work for proper grammar, as an experienced writer, how do you avoid mentally 'filling in the blanks' as it were? There are times I'll go over what I have written more than once and not notice the most basic mistakes, only to have them pointed out to me later. Do you have any exercises to train your eyes from skipping over such mistakes?

    P.S. I'm surprised you don't stab the squash a few times to allow the butter to better permeate through the fruit. Is that just an unnecessary step I've always done?

    • Link

      Ohhhh... you know, that's a great question, actually. The most surefire way is actually to have someone else double-check it, to be honest (I don't mean to say that there's something wrong with having a proofreader, of course; the problems come when you admit that you don't have the know-how to proofread at least once yourself), but I do find that it helps me locate errors if I view the document in a few different formats. Like with this one, for example: I read it once in the text editor, and then I read it again as a PDF and noticed that I spelled 'also' with two l's for some reason. Sometimes printing a hardcopy helps, or viewing it on a computer versus a phone, or whatever. Seeing it differently tricks your brain into thinking it's different, I guess. Otherwise, after you finish writing it, try leaving it alone for a week or two and then coming back to it; by then you've hopefully lost the right level of familiarity so that little things will stick out to you better.

      Stabbing it? You know, I've never tried that, but that sounds like a good idea. Maybe next time I make this or something similar I'll try stabbing it. Thanks!

      • Link

        Yeah, I just use a fork. Perhaps I'll experiment sometime this week to see if there is a noticeable difference.

  • Link

    Alas, commas continue to be my mortal enemy not because I do not understand their function but because I sometimes overlook how many of the little bugs have burrowed into the sentence. I recognize that this has more to do with how my thought processes work, but all the same any tips for avoiding the overuse of commas?

    Here's another thing I'd love to see someone elaborate on; The much under appreciated semi-colon.

    • Link

      Hmmm... well, if you're using them correctly but still feel like you're overusing them, I would say that probably has more to do with how you construct your sentences. If you write a lot of short sentences, you will, by necessity, not use as many commas, whereas if you write long, complicated sentences (like this one: 5 commas and counting), you use a lot of commas because their function is to help separate some of the unique parts of a single sentence for clarity. It might also be that you're doing it to avoid repeating the same word at the beginning of each sentence, so you start with a comma-separated clause a lot (e.g. "Smiling, he walked outside."), and in that case, just don't do that as much. Find another way to say what you're saying (maybe: "A smile rode on his face as he walked outside.")
      I recall when reading some of your stuff, though, that I didn't find comma overuse to be much of an issue. Maybe I'll start noticing it more now that you've pointed it out.

      Semi-colons are cute, and they're honestly one of the things I find myself using too often. In your sentence, you've actually misused it, because you need to have a complete sentence following it (you should have used a regular colon). The purpose of a semi-colon, from what I understand, is to more closely link two separate sentences together. Every time you use a semi-colon, you should be able to replace it with a period without damaging the grammar in any way. So maybe you would have written it like so: "There's another thing I'd love to see someone elaborate on; I've never quite understood the function of the much under-appreciated semi-colon." The second sentence is an explanation of the first, hence they might be linked with a semi-colon. But you could stick a period in there and it would still be correct; there would just be a subtle change in how you read it (the period makes them feel more separate from each other). That's basically it.

      • Link

        I think it might not be as evident in my current writing since I became acutely aware of it at one point during my forum posting, as funny as that sounds, and started making an active effort to eliminate it. I really need to write something more involved to see if I have made any progress, you know I'd love to bother you for a critique when that comes around if you had the time to spare.

        I see your point and admit it! How many points from my House will that be? But in all seriousness, thanks for the lesson there. It helps to have a good refresher on these kinds of things; I look forward to the next installment.

  • Link

    Can't argue with you. You have a great wit when it comes to writing articles.

    • Link

      You can SO argue with me.