Saturday, March 05, 2011

Grammar pt. 2

I didn’t intend to continue the grammar lesson, but my daughter reminded me last night of something else that drives me crazy: 

Double Superlatives and Double Negatives. No, you don’t have the most prettiest flowers in the garden. You have the most pretty flowers or the prettiest flowers (and prettiest is preferred to most pretty). Most prettiest is a double superlative. On the same token, if you say you don’t want no flowers in your yard (and I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t), you’re actually saying you do want flowers in your yard. The double negative (don’t & no) cancel each other out the way –3 x –3 = +9. Don’t ask me to explain that one; I had to learn math rules whether or not I understood them. And I realize English is the same for many.

By the way, “I could care less” means you really can care less than you do already. If you can’t, say, “I couldn’t care less.”

While I’m here: I saw, NOT I seen. I have seen this done so often it’s becoming common usage. Yikes! Please don’t.

A lot are two words, not one.

Literally means it actually did. For instance, if your head literally exploded, you wouldn’t still be around to tell us it did. (Well, maybe in a sci fi book you could be.)
Figuratively means it felt like it did, and then you could tell us about it.

A favorite of politicians and newscasters these days: No, you did not up the bar. You raised the bar.

I have to point this one out, and my crit partner for Off The Moon will laugh if she reads it: Ryan felt nauseated. He should not have felt nauseous. I left it as nauseous on purpose and she probably cringed when she read the final copy. But, I write closely from the POV character’s thoughts, and Ryan, as smart as he is, would have thought “nauseous” instead. Why? It’s common use. If I’d changed it to “nauseated” it would have made him sound more uppity than he is (and yes, I have been thought of as uppity simply because I tend to use proper English – Ha! You should have seen me struggle through science classes!). If I wrote as a narrator instead of AS the character, I would have used nauseated instead. Was that a bad idea? Maybe, except your dialogue must reflect your character, and since my narratives are all inner dialogue, I felt it was the right choice. I’m sure someone will slam me for it. *shrug* I also use fragments on purpose, for effect. We novelists can break rules, as long as we know the rules first and break them for a particular purpose. I wouldn’t use them in formal writing.

There is a difference between writing fiction and non-fiction, just as there is a difference in formatting a bibliography for MLA style or APA style. If you’re writing non-fiction, stick with the rules.

Can I also mention that soldiers do not drive Hummers on duty? They may drive them off-duty if they can afford to buy them, but the Army uses Humvees, not Hummers. Yes, there is a difference. [Official name: HMMWV for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle]

Okay, so I also have to highlight a news story a fellow author shared this morning. Have to love the ingenuity, but with an excerpt like this, I’d have to pass on the book to come:

"A woman walks from the bathroom, whom I still have no memory of, in this bedroom that I have no memory of, and out to some other room that I have no memory of... 'Headache. Terrible headache,' I say through my teeth. 'Killing me. I think something's wrong...'"

What’s wrong with this? Oh, so many things. First, “whom” is modifying the bathroom, so if she means she has no memory of the bathroom, she should say which instead. If she means the woman, she needs to move the whom phrase behind the woman so it modifies her: “A woman, whom I still have no memory of…” Also, it should be who, not whom. And it should be “into this bedroom” not in. On top of that, it's repetitive without saying much, and it’s vague, and it sounds like distant third person POV with “a woman walks” and yet it’s using first person POV.

Posting sections of your still-to-come novel on posts around NYC might get attention (although it also might be littering), and it might be creative, but before you get creative and get attention … please, learn your craft.


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Andra M. said...

That excerpt I definitely consider littering. Yikes.

LK Hunsaker said...


Anonymous said...

Ok Ms. Loraine, see if you can correct my grammar on this one:

The other day I had to get the cat out from up under the back porch.

And please, remember I'm from the south.