Show & Tell . . . Reiterated

Showing versus telling is a popular topic, though some may call it redundant, given it’s emphasized so often.  Yet this is the aspect [or art] of writing that is so essential to keeping readers interested.  So, let’s reiterate for the record one more time: show and don’t tell.  Engage readers’ senses through physical descriptions and actions.

Many writers are guilty of telling and not showing, particularly when first starting out.  It’s easy, comfortable maybe, to jot down / key in actions as they happen.  Da-da-da-da-da.  Translation: s-t-a-t-i-c.

   A:  John went to the lake to find Jake.  When he got there, he looked around.  The sky was getting cloudy and dark.  He eyed the surroundings again.  There was no sign of life.  He sighed and walked to the small beach but couldn’t see anyone.  Where was Jake?

   B:  Anxious, John hastened to the lake to search for his youngest brother, Jake.  He’d not returned to the cottage after promising to return mid-afternoon.  It wasn’t like him not to call if he’d planned to be late.  Given Jake’s love of the water, however, maybe he’d come here for a long, leisurely swim.  John rushed onto the pier and quickly scanned the rippled water.  There was no swimmer, no boat, nothing.  He surveyed the still surroundings; the park, beach, and pier showed no signs of life, but that was to be expected, given it was early April.  He zipped up his hoodie.  A chilly breeze was blowing in.  The sky was growing increasingly cloudy and gray; it promised rain, perhaps even a storm.  John swore softly, closed his eyes, and drew a long calming breath.  Where was Jake?  Why hadn’t he phoned?

“A” simply tells us what John is doing.  We may understand that he’s anxious, given the sigh.  There’s very little description of the vicinity.  Up and above that, there’s no emotion or action.  “B” demonstrates John’s anxiety through the rushing and scanning, and the attempt to calm down.  We know the time of year and can better visualize the vicinity.

Telling does have its place and merit.  For short passages, a little telling is fine.  Too much of it, on the other hand, can prompt yawn-inducing boredom.  Showing will help paint a [vivid] picture.  When you show, you use physical details and actions and, consequently, yes, engage those senses.  You draw readers into the story . . . enable them to imagine the setting/location . . . and become involved in what’s transpiring.

Showing enables you to [more thoroughly] develop your characters.  Instead of describing your protagonist with a few adjectives, you can detail a scene to render a more complete picture.  John in “A” is looking for his brother but we don’t really know why.  Maybe he cares, maybe he doesn’t, and if he does, maybe it’s because his brother owes him $50 or was supposed to drive him somewhere.  In “B”, we learn it’s not like his brother not to call when something comes up.  John takes a calming breath.  We sense John cares and is worried.

You can reveal character traits through dialogue as well.  Something like this might work . . .

   “Where’re you going?”  Cousin Sarah scanned John’s drawn face.

   “The lake.  Maybe Jake’s gone there,” he responded with a furrowed brow, hastening to the rear door.

   “You worry too much,” she said with a quick smile.

   “He’s my brother,” he said ruefully.  “If I don’t watch out for him, who will?”

   “Hurry back.  It looks like rain’s not far off.”

   John nodded grimly and raced from the modest cottage he was sharing the small getaway with her, Jake, and Uncle Randolph.  They’d arrived two days ago to enjoy a week of fishing, campfires, and relaxation.  Hopefully, all was okay and come six o’clock, the three of them would be seated at the table, eating Sarah’s delicious fish stew with rice.

Dialogue can also flesh out your characters.  The way they speak / respond can tell us something about them.

   ♦  “Yeah, okay, whatever,” Harold said in his usual brusque manner, not caring one way or the other.     ♦  “Ye-es, s-sure, I’d like that,” Barney replied, wishing yet again his stutter wasn’t so pronounced.     ♦  “F that, he’s a loser,” he muttered with a scowl, then proceeded to curse under his breath as he often did when annoyed.     ♦  “Ja, das . . . das is what he . . . reported,” Helmut nodded, struggling to find the right English words.

Do provide details/descriptions, and action, when you show but remember: moderation in everything.  And to keep it interesting [readable] combine long and short sentences and utilize those details as appropriate.

   A:  Seema walked along the veined marble floor, through the long and cold corridor, to reach the chandelier-heavy salon, where the guests congregated, seated on fancy upholstered armchairs and sofas, which were strategically placed along the painting-dense room.

   B:  Seema strolled along the lengthy marble-rich floor of the chilly corridor.  Stepping into a bright, chandelier-heavy salon, she surveyed the guests seated on handsome upholstered armchairs and sofas.  Lovely landscapes lined the high ivory walls and glossy sculptures stood in corners.  She liked that the room whispered of great wealth and didn’t scream it.

Besides “A” being a run-on sentence (if anyone still cares), it has description overkill.  Too much is crammed into one long sentence.  “B” is a little easier on the eyes and, hence, to read.

Think of stories that had you excited, anxious, happy—ones that drove you down the road of adventure at full speed, or prompted a tear of happiness or sorrow.  That’s the goal: to involve readers, to make them never want to put your book down.  Sure, showing and not telling takes time to master.  But, as often said, practice makes perfect.  If there were no challenges, how s-t-a-t-i-c life would be . . . rather like a story that tells, but doesn’t show.  😊

Baring the Ol’ Soul

Emotions are a very real, raw thing, and can be difficult to capture in fiction if not presented correctly or well.  Making them public in nonfiction may prove equally difficult, not only because of how they are described, but because they come from the soul, the heart . . . from experiences that are taxing, trying, empowering, lifting, or bittersweet.  Imaginary or real (dramatized or recounted), they often prove poignant. 

Editing nonfiction accounts of challenging times in people’s lives—memoirs, personal accounts—is tricky at times.  Do you edit with the fiction hat on . . .  and propose the following, without applying the “editing pen”?  Do you offer the same advice you would to a fiction writer?

    • Show, don’t tell.
    • Avoid using the same words too frequently.
    • Be mindful of dialogue and dialogue tags; don’t restate or offer the obvious.
    • Steer clear of repeating an event, action, or conversation.
    • Dodge overused/reiterated devices and approaches that lend themselves to flatness.

The nonfiction hat, particularly when dealing with emotional/heartbreaking topics, wants to be softer, less analytical.  As such, you may be tempted to:

    • keep the simplicity/intensity, even the repetitiveness, that’s being revealed (because, again, it comes from the soul, the heart)
    • preserve—as is—something that is being shared and bared.

Then, the juggling hat appears.  Maybe you determine that the best editing tactic is to allow the narrative to unfold exactly as the writer—soul-barer—intended.  If someone has disclosed some highly subjective if not private moments, is it fair to alter what is visceral, intense, and so very personal?  No, probably not . . . but it wouldn’t hurt to tighten here and there, staying true to the writer’s intention(s) and mode of expression. 

It’s a tough call sometimes.  And editing instinct has to play a part, too.  Get a feel . . . for what feels right.

For someone planning to pen a personal tale, before beginning, give some thought to the following:

    • write [reveal] vital, relevant events
    • don’t communicate every detail
    • share with all senses—allow readers to feel, smell, see, hear, touch (like fiction, pull them in; let them understand the situation from a “sensory” POV)
    • ensure readers get to know you or the person you’re writing about (the quest, struggle/situation, outcome)
    • be honest
    • use dialogue here and there and make it compelling, not of the “he said, she said” variety.

1abckindpngsatSharing a personal tale can prove purging, which is great (I have some of that to do), but it can also be enlightening, instructional, supportive/helpful, encouraging, for readers who have undergone similar situations . . . or those that want to learn about, and from, them.

Consider the goal for sharing [publishing] the intimate account—aim for it—and write [honestly and honorably] from the soul and heart.

SuspenseFULL

There’s nothing better than a riveting suspense novel, one that is full of excitement, thrills, tension, edginess . . . one that keeps the reader glued to the pages, wanting to find out what transpires . . . yet not really wanting the story to end . . . because it’s that good.  (I’m reading one now; hence the compulsion to post about it.)

So, you’d like to write one and are wondering what helps make a suspense story good?  Don’t reveal all.  You want to grab a reader’s interest/curiosity from the get-go and that is done not just with the story or plot, but through the characters.  There’s a problem or challenge, maybe a few, a mission or quest, maybe a few, that the protagonist (and/or main characters) has to pursue, and solve or resolve.

The protagonist, like the main characters, should have issues and/or a complicated past.  Something drives him or her.  Or maybe something makes him or her want to avoid the world.  What incidents/events have molded the protagonist?

Teasing the reader here and there can add to the suspense.  Perhaps Jim’s private-eye partner, Ralph, has been severely beaten.  Jim is supposed to meet him at ten, and is waiting, eager to hear what information Ralph has received that will help them solve a puzzler of a case.  The reader is aware of what has happened to Ralph; Jim is not.  Tension builds . . . particularly if the thugs who’d done the dastardly deed have discussed meeting Jim at the rendezvous spot with the intention of “taking care” of him, too.

Perhaps certain characters are bleak or somber, mysterious or treacherous, deranged or self-centered; this makes them dangerous, intriguingly so.  Revealing snippets of what makes them tick—or doesn’t—will keep the reader wanting to learn more.  Will the somber and deranged Mr. Darke succeed in his desire to bring down a former ally?  Can Ms. Perile convince her employer that a coworker is the saboteur and, subsequently, the reason the company lost a major account?

The reader should know more than the protagonist.  Not everything, but more.  Anxiety and hope want us to continue reading—and spur the protagonist.  At the same time, the reader wants to be solving the mystery/dilemma with him or her.  And there’s certain dread when the reader, like the protagonist, comes face to face with evil or terror, be it in the form of a serial killer, a maleficent boss, wicked wife, or pugnacious partner . . . or ghastly past.

Throw in surprises/shocks.  Have something happen that comes from left field—something no one, character(s) and reader(s) alike, ever expected.  Maybe someone unpredictably dies or proves to be a completely different person (be it via a personality change, revelation re background, or switch in intentions).  As with mysteries, suspense novels should throw out a red herring or two, offer clues and/or foreshadowing, elements that create excitement, anticipation, and tension.  The reader is dying to know what’s what.

Create suspense early and sustain it throughout the story.  In each chapter, you want to have a question or two that remains unanswered; this will prompt the reader to continue to search for the answer(s).  Perhaps reveal something startling or unforeseen in the last paragraph.  Determine what works best, given the plot and characters, and have at it.

Additional storylines can be added—lesser ones.  Perhaps you’d like to share action/dialogue between two villains or secondary characters; make certain it’s tight, of value-add, and interesting.  Flashbacks can also help but keep them manageable and to a minimum.

Finally, before “the end” arrives, ensure all loose ends are tied up, because you truly want to avoid reader head-scratching.

Now,  a great [suspenseFULL] read is beckoning my return.

Blah Blog . . . Pretty Post

Looking at the previous post, I realized I’d forgotten to “pretty” it up a bit (add some zip, as it were).  The ideas were there . . . and that’s where they remained.  There.  Alas, memory being what it is these days (leaning toward n-i-l), I’d neglected to add a couple of things I’d fully intended to.  <sigh>

That seemed worth posting about: having a blah blog due to a lack of pretty posts (bad memory issues later).  And just what makes a blog blah, as in b-o-r-i-n-g?  Lack of good/interesting content for one.  Sure, most topics have likely been written about (countless times), but that doesn’t mean it has to be dull.  Consider who it’s being for.  Then, speak to that audience.

Make sure headings/titles are to-the-point and “captivating”; pull in (attract) readers.

Give the post a distinctive spin.  Add humor.  Insert commentaries/opinions.  Provide pep.  And, perhaps most importantly, make it sound like you.  Unique!

heart-shockedPics/images make for happy eyes; they can prompt people to peruse the post.  If it’s a short post, there likely won’t be a need to add more than a pic—it depends on the subject—but if it’s long, break it up here and there.  GIFs are great, if not fun, but don’t throw them in for the sake of it.

Some color never hurts.  Spice it up a little.  Maybe those colors are ones that will help define/identify your blog and, subsequently, you.

Again, depending on the subject, add statistics, quotes, examples, or back-up data.  Don’t simply “plop” them in, though.  Make sure they are relevant and that the information/post flows well.

<LOL>  Think I went in a slightly different direction than intended, but it’s all good.  Some food-for-thought . . . and (hopefully) not enough to make any eyes glaze over.

Happy posting.

A Review re Writing a Review

Hey, it’s Rey.  Today, I got post patrol (as Lindy-Loo calls it).  Seeing as our Boss has written a few reviews in past, I thought I’d post about how to write a review.  Seemed like a worthwhile endeavor (another Lindy-Loo word contribution).

So, let’s start with the obvious.  Read the book from cover to cover, and not a CliffNotes version, he-he (something I might do).

Begin with an introduction.

Jot down / type two or three sentences that describe the book to get yourself started.  Let people know what the genre and basic storyline are.  Add something about the main characters.  If it’s part of a series, include that bit of info.  Then, build on these.

Summarize / expand next.

Offer an overview.  Share what you liked about the book—what hooked you?  The way it was written/narrated?  The plot?  The characters?  Was the genre or topic well presented and/or researched?  If it’s a historical story, were facts and setting properly relayed?

If you didn’t like something, feel free to share that, too.  Be honest.  Constructive criticism is a good thing.  The word, folks, is “constructive”.  Like Elvis sang it, “don’t be cruel”.

Highlight key aspects.

Pick components of the book that really stand out.  Share the main conflict.  Like, maybe the hero, a western-day sheriff, has to choose between love and riding into the sunset to accept a new job in a dusty far-away town?  Maybe the heroine has to decide whether to solve a murder or accept a million-dollar pay-off by not solving it?

Maybe there’s a chapter or scene that you’d like to refer to, one that really shone for you?  If you’re reminded of another book, you may want to mention this or do a comparison.

And you know you can provide quotes or excerpts, right?  Have at it if you feel it will support your opinion(s).

Evaluate / rate.

Most reviewers tend to provide ratings, usually based on a five-star system.  Feel free to give one.  If it’s a five-star book, stating, “I just loved this story so much, I’m giving it five stars” is not really going to cut it.  Detail why.

You may want to give background on the author, you may not.  It’s up to you and how long or comprehensive (another Lindy-Loo word—yeah, she’s sitting here, looking over my shoulder) you want the review to be.  I took a look-see and found that reviews, as an FYI do-with-it-what-you-want fact, are between 600 – 2000 words.

And, lastly, one thing you don’t want to do?  That’s right!  Spoil the ending for readers.  Let them be surprised.

There, friends and followers and potential reviewers, you have it—Reynalda Fonne-Werde’s hopefully-helpful Saturday post.

Putting the Mystery . . . in a Mystery

Now and again, I receive the privilege of editing the odd mystery, my favorite genre (just ask the private eyes from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency).  Having touched upon the various types several months back, I thought I’d post about what makes a good mystery . . . a good mystery.

Like other genres, it contains a few necessary [vital] components:

♠  characters/protagonist(s)  ♠  setting/locale  ♠  plot/storyline  ♠  conflict(s)/friction/tension/problem(s)  ♠  solution/ending.

In terms of mysteries …you want a main character (detective, amateur sleuth, cop, grandmother, biker, you pick it) who is strong and/or likeable and is up to the task of solving the crime.  It should be a person that readers can identify or sympathize with.  Someone who is wishy-washy, weak, whiney, probably won’t cut it.  But never say never.

Given there will be a villain—the perpetrator(s) of the crime(s)—make sure you detail him/her thoroughly.  You likely won’t want to let readers know who the perp is until the end, so watch how much you reveal.  Readers can encounter the villain early in the story . . . amid a number of other potential suspects.  You’re providing a puzzle for readers to piece together, so make it both complex and entertaining.

If, however, you do wish to reveal the perp early on, you may want to let us know what makes him/her tick: why did/does he/she do what he/she did?  <LOL>  An FYI: I won’t continue reading a book if I know who the culprit is by page 50, but others may.  Personally, I want the challenge of determining who did it!

Exotic settings, like a velvety white-sand beach in the south of France, are always lovely and appealing, but a small town in Midwest USA can hold equal appeal.  Small towns are often picturesque and . . . rather soothing . . . until a murder occurs, of course.  You can even set your mystery in a fictional city or village.  Or, if you’re aiming for a mystery taking place in the future, make it another planet or galaxy.  Just ensure you provide enough details to make the setting/locale come alive (let readers envision it, smell it, hear it, feel it).

Consider where the crime took place and where [other/potential] suspicious actions occur.  Big cities have long, dim and dank alleys.  But a nightclub, with strobe lighting, can make for an equally daunting place, depending on how you “paint” it.  Weave from one place to the next; variety is the spice of life.  Small towns and rural settings have dark, deserted barns, winding dirt roads lined by tall leafy trees.  But they may also have a diner run by a neurotic cook and weird waitress.  The sky is the limit.  Paint, paint, weave, weave.

Your plot can be complicated—twists and turns work well in a mystery—but do ensure events and actions make sense and that any loose ends are tied up at the end.  And who says a mystery has to revolve around a murder or two?  They do make for more “fun”, but your story can just as easily incorporate a robbery or kidnapping that the main character has to figure out.  Whodunit!?

A lot of mystery lovers enjoy being yanked right into the crime/action.  I’m one of those.  But, you know, I’ve found mysteries that open with casual discussions in comfy salons with a blazing fire can work quite well, too.  It’s a matter of how you present the discussion (dialogue) and characters.  Tweak our interest.  Being yanked in is fun, but a nudge or prod can work well, too.

On the way to the solution/ending, add a red herring or two.  Mystery readers love to determine who the culprit is, so provide some misleading clues; don’t make it too easy.  And, when you’re ready to provide that solution, make certain that it makes sense.

You know, your main character may miss a clue, and that’s perfectly okay; why not allow readers to hone in on it while your protagonist does some head-scratching?  Know the ins and outs of the crime.  Before you write the mystery, determine the who, what, where, when, why and how.  And, lastly, the evidence: does it make sense?  Descriptions/details should be relatively comprehensive and plausible.

Some food for thought (a favorite expression of mine of late, maybe because food is a favorite of mine of late).  <LOL>

Happy trails . . . of breadcrumbs . . . and clues.

They Did What?!

I [truly] applaud new writers’ enthusiasm for their newfound craft—it’s wonderful.  What I’d love to see approached with the same passion?   Editing.  Not just in terms of checking spelling and facts, and getting true/historical places and events correct, but re logistics and layouts … and “ability/capability”.

If Reggie just climbed into his Benz, how come he’s suddenly talking to the passenger from the outside?  If Lina stepped into the hallway, how did she end up [back in] the auditorium?  If Flavio grabbed Margie’s hand, why is he reaching for in the next paragraph?

think:  crisp and clean

How is Karen able to curve her mouth in response to Ned’s merry greeting?  How does someone wrinkle his/her eyes in reply to a flippant comment?  I’d love to know how Barry spun his head to view his girlfriend’s approach (sounds painful to me).  And Val’s eyes bouncing across the room—ouch, poor Val! 

think:  reasonableness and plausibility

Does it really matter that Zoey reached for the doorknob, turned it slowly, opened the door, stepped in, turned on the light, and peered around the empty room?  Do we need to know that Edwin was still looking apprehensive, so Anna extended a hand and touched his face, and he leaned his face into her palm, laying his own hand over it? 

think:  brevity is often better/best

Does everyone wear cotton?  How about mocha-brown suits?  Blue ties?  Do they all drink red wine?  Characters, like real-life people, should have diverse interests and beliefs, and be different.  They don’t all smile or grab hands.  Not everyone likes to play kissy-face.  And some folks are simply not nice.

think:  repetition = tedium

As writers, we want to pull in our readers as soon as possible and we want to keep them interested, so that they read [eagerly] to the end.  Providing unnecessary or repetitive details wears thin very quickly.  Mentioning certain facts/factors and then, later, not referring to them again—as in loose ends not being tied up—is also a faux pas.  Don’t get readers excited about a [potential] storyline or plot twist, then leave them dangling!

think:  short and sweet

Yes, it’s extra work, but having an outline is a very good thing.  Point-form is fine.  List plot surprises, incidents and events, and outstanding occurrences that should be returned to (tied up).  Refer to the outline, and often.

Remember, the final product is a reflection of you, the author.  Make it the best it can be! 

Historical, Hysterical

When writing a historical novel—fiction, romance, biography—ensure your names, events, and facts are accurate when you referring to real-life people and occurrences.  Otherwise, for those in the know, you may evoke some [hysterical] laughter.

Determine the period and consider the POV you’re going to use.  What’s your starting point? Will the main characters be fictional ones or real people?  Perhaps a combination?  What about the plot?  Will it revolve around real events or be fictitious ones (with real ones, possibly, as the backdrop)?

Make certain towns and cities, and the like, are spelled correctly.  Dates, if used in conjunction with actual events, should be accurate.  Ensure you depict details precisely in and around the storyline and characters. 

Become familiar with the various components of the time:

** incidents (wars, inventions, discoveries, explorations) ** fashion/clothing (for the rich and poor) ** customs/etiquette (for the rich and poor) ** social norms ** technology/art/culture ** expressions and vocabulary (in the 17th century, people would not say things like “that’s so cool” or “butt out” or “text me”) ** beliefs and principles.

You may not necessarily use all the information, but be familiar with it; it will help you paint a more vivid picture. And the more vibrant, the more exciting . . . because that’s what you want . . . to excite your readers and have them return for more.

Happy penning!

The Grand Opening . . .

. . . of a book should reel the reader right in!   You/we don’t want the “it was a dark and stormy night” start, so it’s been often stated.  And correctly so.

That said, though, dark and stormy nights do have the ability to provide a few frissons, if depicted with the right details . . .

It was a darkly ominous night, filled with strident thunderclaps and blinding lightning, as Edoardo rode along the overflowing stream.  His quest was simple: kill the escaped convicts who’d burned down his farmstead and slew Olivia.

The example above gives the reader a pretty good indication of what the plot’s about and what will [likely] transpire.  The mood is menacing: a potentially dangerous storm, purposely (spitefully) destroyed farm, murdered woman (wife/lover), evil fugitives, and vengeful man.  Perhaps he’s the protagonist—hero—perhaps not.  The reader has to continue to discover who he is.

A powerful plot requires a powerful opening, and winning storyline.  Make sure that happens from the get-go.

Details and descriptions should be . . . detailed and descriptive.   Consider the examples below, A versus B.

A   The gang rode quickly across the corn field, toward the hills.

B   The dogged gang, anxious to lose the persistent posse, drove their weary horses across the withered corn field, toward the tree-lined hills.

Characters should be distinct; they have habits, traits, favorite expressions, accents perhaps.  They don’t all sport blond hair or blue eyes.  Characters are different sizes and shapes . . . have varying purposes/pursuits . . . come from diverse backgrounds.  Just like in real life.

John’s blue eyes looked into her gray ones.  “How’s it goin’?”

“It’s goin’ great,” she said, looking into his eyes.

Uh . . . yawn.  Not everyone speaks the same.  How about:

John’s sapphire-blue eyes peered searchingly into her ash-gray ones.  “How are you doing today, my pet?”

“I’m doin’ pretty good,” she replied, not quite meeting his gaze.

But I digress . . . a little.  These suggestions are something to bear in mind when penning that opening.  You don’t want it to be flat, but stirring.  Remember: reel . . . in . . . the . . . reader . . . right . . . away.

That first sentence/paragraph should not only introduce the plot and character(s), and establish a mood, but also present you—the writer, and your style.  Determine your voice and maintain it.  Readers will often read the first page to determine if they will purchase the book; ensure they do by offering the best [most dynamic] writing you can.

How often can I stress the importance of that opening sentence/paragraph?  Not enough.   And one last thing I’m also going to stress—make certain that dynamic opening carries throughout the book.

Pique the reader’s interest and keep it.

Times Change

And so do grammar rules.  As does the English language.  Just consider the new words/expressions we hear every year—thanks greatly to social media and technology.  In point of fact: dictionaries incorporate hundreds of new words every year.

Someone recently commented on that re a post I’d written—how grammar evolves/changes over time.  That got me to thinking, why not touch upon some things that have?

Things like . . .

♣  “Because” and “since”.

When I was growing up (way too long ago to want to admit when), you were not to use “since” to mean “because”.  It was a time reference only.

Shawn had been gone since lunch.

There had to be a comma before “because”.

John leaped to the left, because the golf cart was racing straight for him.

♣  “Each other” versus “one another”.

“Each other” was meant to be used for two people and “one another” for more than two.  I like this rule myself (and will adhere to it as an editor), but it truly doesn’t hold much water today.  It’s been said that good writers have used the phrases interchangeably since [at least] the 16th century.  Interesting.

♣  Sentence fragments.

These were a definite no-no.  But we often speak in fragments, as would our characters, so why shouldn’t we use them?  It’s all good; go for those fragments (save for dissertations, essays, and the like).

♣  Never ending a sentence with a preposition (and this “rule” dates back to the days of Latin, from which English stems).

Go for it.

♣  Never beginning a sentence with a conjunction, which, apparently, is based on 19-century teachers not caring to have students overuse conjunctions to start their sentences (how’s that for a run-on sentence?).

Feel free to begin a sentence with “because”, or “if”, or “when”, and so forth.  The same holds true for coordinating conjunctions like “but” and “or” (I recall those days when you would get a frown and a bad mark if you did, but I love that you [now] can).

♣  Never splitting infinitives (apparently, another “rule” from the days when Latin “ruled”, he-he).

Infinitives, by the by, are two-word elements that communicate one thought.  To split them might prove confusing; as a writer, you’re the best one to gauge whether to split or not to split (that is the question . . .  or something like that).

♣  Whom.

Who, er, whom, er . . . it’s a tough one.  A lot of folks don’t know how/when to use it.  The best thing to do?  Don’t use it; rewrite the sentence or check the rule and see if it applies to what you’ve written.

♣  They / their.

It’s quite popular to use “they” or “their” instead of writing out “he/she” or “he or she” (“she or he”).  It’s a plural noun, but a lot of people use it as singular.  I don’t like using “they” myself, unless I’m specifically referring to several people, but to each their own, er, his or her own.

♣  Two spaces after a period.

This dates back to the typewriter, when two spaces were preferred (something to do with typesetting).  I use two spaces (personal preference, and all that), but one space is now the norm.

Rules were made to be broken, as the saying goes, and a number re grammar certainly have been.  That said, they do have [some] merit, and it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with them.  Apply rules as you deem fit.

And, if nothing else, think consistency: ensure your writing is uniform and, above all, clear.

On that note, friends, fare thee well.

Judy Hogan Writes

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