Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Importance of Grammar

Some people don't think that grammar is important. They are wrong. Grammar is important on a fundamental level. It wasn't established as a way to police how you write or to limit your creativity. It is there to help a reader gain clarity and understand the meaning of your words. This is obviously very important if you are trying to be a writer, but it is also good standard practice to have a good grounding in grammar for any job application or official correspondence you might have to write. I don't always get it right myself, so thought it would be good to do a post exploring common grammatical mistakes.

A few things to remember:

"It's" is used as a contraction of the phrase "it is". The apostrophe represents the missing letter "i". "Its" (no apostrophe) means something belonging to something else. If in doubt, try replacing the word in your sentence with the phrase "it is" instead. Does it still make sense? No? Then don't use an apostrophe.

The semi-colon:
I can't explain it better than how it is here, and this has the added bonus of being humorous to boot.

Basically, "There" is used to denote direction ("over there") or an abstract sense of place ("there once was a boy") (there is more to it than that, but I'll try to keep it simply - for further details see here.)
Use "Their" if you mean "belonging to them"."They're" (it's that apostrophe again!) is a contraction of the phrase "they are".

A little bit of old school grammar here, but generally speaking, "that" is used if what you are referring to is important to the meaning of the sentence ("restrictive clause"), "which" is used if you could leave that clause off completely and it would still make sense ("non-restrictive clause"). There should never be a comma before "that", but always with "which".
I did a google search, and here are a couple of stolen examples from

Example 1: Gems that sparkle often elicit forgiveness
If you remove "that sparkle", it changes the meaning to say that all gems elicit forgiveness (and note there are no commas).

Example 2: Diamonds, which are expensive, often elicit forgiveness.
Diamonds are always assumed expensive, so if you remove the "which", the meaning remains.

For more on grammar, do have a look at, which I found whilst researching this post. I'd also recommend reading The Elements of Style; a very handy guide.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Edinburgh and Back Again

Went to Edinburgh for a few days last week. Was great to be back at the Fringe, saw some really great productions. Obvious plugs for my friends' shows - Paper Tom and The 90s in Half an Hour (both excellent) but I think my favourite had to be The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik, on at the Underbelly. It was truly moving, simple, beautiful. Had me in tears by the end. If you're in or around Edinburgh during the Festival, I very wholeheartedly recommend you go and see it.

Works in progress at the moment are mainly Matti (still the working title, I really hope a better one pops into my head soon) and a revamp of my old Three Sisters idea. This newer version started off as a dialogue between two young teens in a cafe. It is now around 7000 words long, and I'm just seeing where it goes. I'm also about to start work on a new short story. I got the idea on the train back from Edinburgh, as I was sitting in my damp clothing looking out of the window. It is about a ghost and a boy. The challenge will be to keep it under 10,000 words long.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Just A Thought

Why do some people hate JK Rowling so much? I suppose the question can be directed at many famous successful people, but I'm choosing JK Rowling because I've just stumbled across some really vile comments on the internet. I know that there are people in this world whose only happiness seems to be writing mean things on the internet, but I just don't understand where that passion, that hatred, comes from. Her only crime is writing some books that lots of people have enjoyed. She hasn't wronged anyone (as far as I'm aware), doesn't seem to be a mean person, doesn't harm animals or take drugs, etc. Why do people feel the need to be so completely hateful? I know there are differing opinions about the quality of her work, but should that really stir up such a strong reaction? Seriously, take a nice deep breath and go lie down somewhere quiet for a while.

Hatred is such a strong thing. I think the only times I've ever really felt hatred (or something akin to it) has been caused by jealousy. Well, jealousy and hormones. It's strange how people can become obsessed with people they don't even know, and think that just because they're online all rules regarding etiquette and appropriateness don't exist.