Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quick and Dirty Grammar Tips

As I've struggled to make my book as clean as possible, it has never become clearer to me than now, that I have somehow forgotten my middle/high school English lessons.  As I’ve tried to correct grammatical issues, I’ve rediscovered how complicated the English language can be and found many of the rules I somehow lost along the way.  I’m trying my best to learn them all, but I’m far from perfect. (In fact, I'll probably find errors after this blog is posted) 


Here are a few rules that I have to repeatedly remind myself:
Lay vs. Lie: You wouldn’t think that when to use lay vs. lie would be confusing, but you would be surprised to find how often these two are mixed up. Even with the rule below, I’m sometimes still not sure which one to use.
·  In the present tense, lay always takes a direct object, as in, “I [subject] lay [verb] the pen [direct object] on the table.” A direct object is the recipient on an action, in this case, laying.
·  I lie on my bed. / He lies on my bed/ I am lying on my bed.
Grammar Girl has a good explanation of this issue here: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/lay-versus-lie.aspx
Affect vs. Effect: From Chicago: Affect, almost always a verb, means “to influence, have an effect on” {the adverse publicity affected the election}. Effect, usually a noun, means “outcome, result” {the candidate’s attempted explanations had no effect}.But it may also be a verb meaning “to make happen, produce” {the goal had been to effect a major change in campus politics}.
Comma’s: Who can possibly keep up with all of the rules for commas? Quite frankly, I find when and where to use them can sometimes be downright confusing.  (Notes on comma usage below were given to me by Lindsey Alexander, a free-lance editor, after I pestered her with questions on grammar)
Commas with independent clauses: One of the primary uses for the comma is to separate two independent clauses linked by a conjunction (and, or, but, if, etc.). The Chicago Manual recommends using a comma in most of these cases, except for when the two clauses are short and closely connected. A good rule of thumb is if the subject changes after a conjunction, and that subject is part of an independent clause, a comma is probably in order.
·  Two independent clauses: Dan went to the store,  and Lucy stayed home to do the laundry.
·   One independent/one dependent: We will agree to the proposal if you accept our conditions.
·  Short, closely connected clauses: Rick played the guitar but Sam didn’t.
·  A dependent clause followed by an independent clause is usually followed by a comma: If you don’t know me now, you never will.
Commas and compound predicates: When a single subject performs multiple actions connected by conjunctions (with an exception for series), a comma is typically omitted.
Correct: Stephanie shrieked and whispered when Amy walked by.
Incorrect: Stephanie shrieked, and whispered.

Coordinate adjectives: One of the toughest aspects of comma usage to master is in punctuating adjectives. How is it that we can get away with “big red wooden barn” but “loyal, trusted, faithful friend” has to have commas? There are two handy tests to help you determine is commas should be used between adjectives.

Test #1: Would the meaning still make sense if you joined the adjectives by and?
Test #2: Would the sentence still be correct if you reversed/rearranged the order of the adjectives?
If the answer to both of these questions is yes, you need to include commas between the coordinate adjectives. If the answer is no, and the adjectives are not coordinate, don’t use commas.
Comma between dialogue and verbs of saying: When dialogue is introduced or followed by verbs of saying (said, blurted out, yelled, whispered, etc.), the two phrases are connected by a comma.
 For Example:  “Comma rules stink,” Kim yelled.
          “Not yet, Dave!” shouted Andy.
Whereas if dialogue is preceded or followed by an action phrase that does not contain a verb of saying, the two are usually separated with a period.

For example: Zane stepped into the classroom. “Of course not.”                          

Click Here to Download a Hyphenation Guide
Click Here to Download Comma Splices and Run On Worksheet 1
Click Here to Download Comma Splices and Run On Worksheet 2

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