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Topic Subject:Grammar Guide
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GandalfDaGraay
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 00:00 AM EDT (US)         
This guide will be posted in PDF format when I get a chance for easier reading.

GandalfDaGraay's

Guide to Good Grammar

After Toru Bozu's great guide on basic rules of writing, Kester suggested a guide to grammar and spelling. What you are reading now is my reference for basic grammar rules that any writer should follow. At the end, there is a section devoted to commas, along with a short bit on spelling.


Table of Contents:

Four Things Never To Do
 Run-On Sentences
 Sentence Fragments
 Subject-Verb Disagreement
 Double Negatives
Using Commas
Spelling
Final Comments

Four Things Never To Do

We all do dumb things from time to time. Here are detailed explanations of four dumb writing errors so that you will not commit them.

Rule 1: Run-On Sentences


What Not To Do:
Run-on sentences are the number one thing you can do to look bad you really shouldn't use them.

This error is extremely common and extremely wrong. Run-on sentences combine two individual thoughts or actions without separating them. Do not use run-on sentences. When there are two independent things going on in a sentence, stop and look back for a second. Did you properly separate the two thoughts? There are three ways to do this:

1. Use a semicolon (;) between the two thoughts. Be careful not to overuse semicolons, because they can stilt your writing. Example:

Run-on sentences are the number one thing you can do to look bad; you really shouldn't use them.

2. Use joining words like and or but between the two thoughts. This is proper when there is a relationship between them. Example:

Run-on sentences are the number one thing you can do to look bad, and you really shouldn't use them.

3. Separate the run-on sentence into two sentences. Sometimes semicolons and joining words are not the right solution, and separating the thoughts is the best way to get rid of the run-on sentence. Example:

Run-on sentences are the number one thing you can do to look bad. You really shouldn't use them.

Avoiding run-on sentences is easy and quickly improves your style. If you want to be a writer, you must eliminate all run-on sentences from your writing.

Top
Rule 2: Sentence Fragments


What Not To Do:
Sentence fragments. Are the opposite of run-on sentences.

Instead of running two complete thoughts together, fragments do not even express a complete thought. There is only one solution to this problem: ensure that every sentence clearly expresses who or what is doing the action, and what is being done. Example:

Sentence fragments are the opposite of run-on sentences.

Another example:

Shaking the dust from himself. Got up to his feet.
becomes
Shaking the dust from himself, he got up to his feet.

Sentence fragments and run-on sentences both ruin otherwise good writing. They interrupt the flow of a story, confuse the reader, and act like a large sign labeled “Amateur”.

However, some sentence fragments are acceptable for effect when used properly. Example:

Frustrated, the tracker bent to the ground and carefully examined the dirt. Nothing.

Here, “Nothing” is an acceptable sentence fragment..

Top
Rule 3: Subject-Verb Disagreement


What Not To Do:
In correct writing, the subject and the verb in a sentence oughts to agree.

That's right, no Gollum talk. Unless you're JRR, of course. Every correct sentence has both a subject and a verb. The subject can be either singular or plural: that is, there can be one object or multiple objects performing the action.

When you use a singular subject, you have to use a singular verb. Example:

Timmy was heading over to Tommy's house.


A plural subject requires a plural verb. Example:

Timmy and Bobby were heading over to Tommy's house.


To correct the original sentence:

In correct writing, the subject and the verb in a sentence ought to agree.

Top
Rule 4: Double Negatives


What Not To Do:
The members of the Fellowship pushed and pulled at the doors of Moria, but they couldn't get them to do nothing.

Hopefully this rule goes without saying. Multiple negatives do not emphasize negativeness. They're not cute, they're not cool, and they're not correct. It's okay to use double negatives in dialogue as required by the characters, but you should carefully consider how it will affect your readers' impression of the character. For the narrator, however, double negatives are never allowed.

To fix a double negative, just change one of the negatives into a positive. So:

The members of the Fellowship pushed and pulled at the doors of Moria, but they couldn't get them to do anything.

OR

The members of the Fellowship pushed and pulled at the doors of Moria, but they could get them to do nothing.


Choosing the right replacement is only a matter of which one sounds best.

Top
Using Commas

Commas. (See, there's a good sentence fragment for effect. ) The comma is the most mangled and mistreated part of English I've ever seen. From fan fiction to professional advertisements and publications, you can find the comma misused almost anywhere you look.

So when do you use commas? To sum up, use a comma to:

1. Set off an introductory word or phrase, including direct address:

See, there's a good sentence fragment for effect.
Jeeves, please get the door.” (Direct address)
While we were eating, the phone rang.
Pulling back a curl of hair from her eyes, she began the strenuous healing process.


Notice that in each of these sentences, the underlined portion is unnecessary. The sentence is grammatically correct if it's removed. The underlined portion, however, cannot stand alone. This part of the sentence is called a subordinate clause. If you have a subordinate clause, you will almost always use a comma.

2. Set off any other subordinate clause:

Gandalf knew that, to be honest, collapsing the Tavern was wrong.
Faramir and Éowyn sat by the bay, watching the sun set.

3. Separate items in a series:

Elrond fumed as he considered the love triangle between Aragorn, Arwen, and Éowyn.


Some people omit the second comma in a series, but for clarity's sake it's best to use it.

When a series contains one or more series inside it, use semicolons for the main series and commas for the sub series:

The restaurant's menu included spinach, liver, and tripe; pork roast; and chicken cordon bleu.

4. Separate two independent thoughts linked by and or but:

I cast a glance back into the gloom, but the forms of my pursuers were hidden by the intense wall of darkness behind me.

When you link the sentences with however, use a semicolon instead of a comma. Separate however from the sentence with a comma:

I threw my full weight against the gate; however, the sealing spell was too well cast to defeat with brute force.

5. Separate two consecutive adjectives modifying the same thing:

The beautiful, priceless vase toppled to the floor.


This list isn't exhaustive, but it covers the most important places to employ commas. Used properly, commas add professionalism and clarity to your writing.

Top
Spelling

Spelling is one of the hardest things for many writers. The English language finds several ways to form most sounds, so spelling a word correctly may involve more than simply sounding it out. The best way to improve your spelling is to read. You will absorb crucial spelling, vocabulary, and writing technique by reading quality books.

Still, there are a few similar words that anyone can easily confuse. If you're unsure about a word, look it up in here. I'll use pairs of these similar words in sentences so you can get a solid picture of their differences.

WordUseExample
 
itsPossessiveIts feathers glistened in the light.
it'sContraction: it isIt's not easy being green.
 
ourPossessiveOur pains were rewarded with success.
hourNounI'll see you in an hour.
 
theirPossessiveTheir faces reflected hope and promise for the future.
they'reContraction: they areThey're heading for the park.
thereOtherThere is the city of Minas Tirith.
 
threwPast VerbHe threw the broken remote across the room.
throughPrepositionLook through the telescope.
 
toPrepositionTake me to your leader.
tooOtherMy mom was furious, and my aunt was, too.
twoNumber (Adjective)I piled two helpings of lasagna on my plate.
 
wouldHelping verbWould you like to be a hero?
woodNounThe carpenter built a shed out of wood.
 
writeVerbI will write an essay.
rightAdjectiveYou are wrong, and I am right.
 
yourPossessiveYour message was intercepted.
you'reContraction: you areYou're not listening to me.

This list is by no means complete. If you want to submit a group, or even individual difficult words that you think should be included, you can e-mail them to me at snipefighter@yahoo.com.

Top
Final Comments

Hopefully, this guide is helpful to your writing. Still, I stress that the only complete solution for improving your grammar and spelling is to read quality books. If you haven't read the Lord of the Rings, then that should definitely be on your reading list. You should also pick up at least a few older classics (i.e. Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, etc.). It has been said that reading is the key to writing, and I agree wholeheartedly. This guide is only that – a guide. As in painting and composing music, the best way to learn is to study the masters.

Good luck with your writing!

GandalfDaGraay


Heck to the darkness
"That's fairly similar to what I thought you sounded like. Deep, gravelly, and wise sounding. Though the gravelly bit could've been mic quality?" -Atzy
"HeavenGames forbid!" -Smeagolfan24

[This message has been edited by GandalfDaGraay (edited 01-13-2007 @ 11:13 PM).]

AuthorReplies:
Cirruis
Banned
posted 01-08-07 00:03 AM EDT (US)     1 / 60       
You have a lot of spare time on your hands, my friend.

I will read it now.

EDIT: And you know I will look for as many grammatical and spelling mistakes as I can. >:-)

[This message has been edited by Cirrow (edited 01-08-2007 @ 00:06 AM).]

Scotty the Fallen
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 00:07 AM EDT (US)     2 / 60       
Well! Excellent guide! This will be perfect for newbies with bad Grammar!

Stickied!


Scotty the Fallen | One-time Angel Reincarnate, and Former BFME2H and TWH Downloads administrator, and BFME2 Strategy Administrator.
"And I shall go softly into the night, taking my dreams, as will you." - EoJ
"Scotty's probably the only forumer here who can make every post a defiant claim of his own superiority." - Atzy
LEGOLAIM
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 00:08 AM EDT (US)     3 / 60       
Well done

Legolaim
Brigader General
GandalfDaGraay
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 00:09 AM EDT (US)     4 / 60       
Thanks, Cirrow.

I challenge you to find a single mistake.


Heck to the darkness
"That's fairly similar to what I thought you sounded like. Deep, gravelly, and wise sounding. Though the gravelly bit could've been mic quality?" -Atzy
"HeavenGames forbid!" -Smeagolfan24
Cirruis
Banned
posted 01-08-07 00:13 AM EDT (US)     5 / 60       
All the "Top"s don't match.
yakcamkir
Seraph Emeritus
posted 01-08-07 04:44 AM EDT (US)     6 / 60       

Quote:

GandalfDaGraay's
Guide for Decent Grammar


Wouldn't "Guide to Good Grammar" be a better choice of words for example?

While good grammar is important, using perfect grammar to tell a dreadful story for example is even more grating in my eyes than the occasional grammatical error.


Rome: Total War Heaven | Medieval II: Total War Heaven | Empire: Total War Heaven
"Do not stand behind Satan in the Post Office queue because the devil takes many forms."
"Your front-page picture of Kate Winslet with a plunging neckline being up for two golden globes was most appropriate."

Unpublished letters to the Daily Telegraph
GandalfDaGraay
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 07:10 AM EDT (US)     7 / 60       

Quote:

All the "Top"s don't match.


Which one doesn't?

Quote:

Wouldn't "Guide to Good Grammar" be a better choice of words for example?


Maybe.. I chose Decent so the guide would have the same initials as GandalfDaGraay. But I should probably change it.

Heck to the darkness
"That's fairly similar to what I thought you sounded like. Deep, gravelly, and wise sounding. Though the gravelly bit could've been mic quality?" -Atzy
"HeavenGames forbid!" -Smeagolfan24
GandalfDaGraay
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 07:22 AM EDT (US)     8 / 60       
Changed.

Thanks for the sticky, SS!


Heck to the darkness
"That's fairly similar to what I thought you sounded like. Deep, gravelly, and wise sounding. Though the gravelly bit could've been mic quality?" -Atzy
"HeavenGames forbid!" -Smeagolfan24
Smeagolfan24
WICH Fanfic Moderator
posted 01-08-07 07:35 AM EDT (US)     9 / 60       
Very nice, Gandalf. That means no spamming with stupid IM phrases!

.:|Smeagol|:.
World in Conflict Heaven Cherub
Battle For Middle-earth II Heaven Replay Reviewer and Ledgend

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend somewhere along in the bitterness.
Oh, I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life...
Aeneas2
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 08:08 AM EDT (US)     10 / 60       
You really have too much time on your hands, Gandalf.

Wonderful guide though. You might also want to include "to, too, and two" on your spelling guide; I've seen them misused a lot on the forums.


Aeneas l BFME2 Heaven l WiC Heaven
"The most important thing is to remember to have fun! After all, what else could be the point of nuking your friends?" - Cheesewiz
GandalfDaGraay
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 10:22 AM EDT (US)     11 / 60       
Done. Thanks, Aeneas2.

Heck to the darkness
"That's fairly similar to what I thought you sounded like. Deep, gravelly, and wise sounding. Though the gravelly bit could've been mic quality?" -Atzy
"HeavenGames forbid!" -Smeagolfan24
EnemyofJupitor
HG Alumnus Superbus
posted 01-08-07 10:42 AM EDT (US)     12 / 60       
What about apostrophies?

"James's forum account was over 7600 posts."
"James' forum account was over 7900 posts"


And I shall go Softly into the Night Taking my Dreams As will You
GandalfDaGraay
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 11:01 AM EDT (US)     13 / 60       
That's coming next.

UPDATE: Added "have, half, of" to Spelling.


Heck to the darkness
"That's fairly similar to what I thought you sounded like. Deep, gravelly, and wise sounding. Though the gravelly bit could've been mic quality?" -Atzy
"HeavenGames forbid!" -Smeagolfan24

[This message has been edited by GandalfDaGraay (edited 01-08-2007 @ 11:55 AM).]

Kester
Seraph Emeritus
posted 01-08-07 01:19 PM EDT (US)     14 / 60       
Wonderful!

I especially like the spelling section


.-•°•-.-• Kester •-.-•°•-.
•-.-•°•-.-• deviations .-•°•-. flickr .-•°•-. gamertag •-.-•°•-.-•
.-•°•-.-• if (Kester.says("Zen! Get online")) { zen.status("online") } •-.-•°•-.
Eragon
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 01:31 PM EDT (US)     15 / 60       
Wow, its like English all over again.

Anyway good guide, grammer is important, for everyone (no-one in particular, just generalisation).

GandalfDaGraay
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 02:42 PM EDT (US)     16 / 60       
Thanks!

Yep, English all over again. English is fun - now that I don't have to take English classes anymore. Funnily (yes, it is a word) enough, I'm not an English major type. I can write guides and arguments enough to fill volumes, but my attempts at fiction end on page 5.


Heck to the darkness
"That's fairly similar to what I thought you sounded like. Deep, gravelly, and wise sounding. Though the gravelly bit could've been mic quality?" -Atzy
"HeavenGames forbid!" -Smeagolfan24

[This message has been edited by GandalfDaGraay (edited 01-08-2007 @ 02:46 PM).]

MR ANCALAGON
Dúnadan
(id: Ancalagon_4554)
posted 01-08-07 04:07 PM EDT (US)     17 / 60       
Refer every nooby forumer here!

Great job!

MightyFireball
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 04:13 PM EDT (US)     18 / 60       
Nice! I don't personally write fan fiction, but this would be very useful for those who do.

Smoke Rings Award Winner
Chill with me.
Aeneas2
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 04:34 PM EDT (US)     19 / 60       

Quote:

"James's forum account was over 7600 posts."
"James' forum account was over 7900 posts"

Any singular noun is made possessive by adding an 's. Only in plural nouns ending in s is just an apostrophe used. (e.g. the Rings' ability to extend life is well-known.)


Aeneas l BFME2 Heaven l WiC Heaven
"The most important thing is to remember to have fun! After all, what else could be the point of nuking your friends?" - Cheesewiz
MR ANCALAGON
Dúnadan
(id: Ancalagon_4554)
posted 01-08-07 04:40 PM EDT (US)     20 / 60       
No, there is an exception for words ending in s, I've heard.

The general rule is to keep it consistent.

GandalfDaGraay
Dúnadan
posted 01-08-07 05:20 PM EDT (US)     21 / 60       
I've heard both, and even read both in different grammar books. I'm looking for a definitive answer in order to write that section.

Heck to the darkness
"That's fairly similar to what I thought you sounded like. Deep, gravelly, and wise sounding. Though the gravelly bit could've been mic quality?" -Atzy
"HeavenGames forbid!" -Smeagolfan24
StonewallJ
Seraph Emeritus
(id: Conquistador34)
posted 01-08-07 09:02 PM EDT (US)     22 / 60       
tl;dr

Interesting guide, reminds me of last year's English class


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[][][][][][][][][][] Stonewall J [][][][][][][][][][][]
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Kester
Seraph Emeritus
posted 01-08-07 09:29 PM EDT (US)     23 / 60       
When I was in high school I all but memorized The Elements of Style.

Here's what it has to say regarding 's:

Quote:

Form the possessive singular of nouns with 's.
Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles's friend
Burns's poems
the witch's malice


This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press.

Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus', and such forms as for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake. But such forms as Achilles' heel, Moses' laws, Isis' temple are commonly replaced by

the heel of Achilles
the laws of Moses
the temple of Isis


The pronominal possessives hers, its, theirs, yours, and oneself have no apostrophe.


.-•°•-.-• Kester •-.-•°•-.
•-.-•°•-.-• deviations .-•°•-. flickr .-•°•-. gamertag •-.-•°•-.-•
.-•°•-.-• if (Kester.says("Zen! Get online")) { zen.status("online") } •-.-•°•-.
elder_king
Guest
posted 01-13-07 08:20 PM EDT (US)     24 / 60       

Quoted from Gandalf:

I challenge you to find a single mistake.

I also appreciate your work, but I cannot dismiss your challenge.


Quote:

but you should carefully consider how it will affect your readers' impression of the character.

Quote:

What you are reading now is my reference for basic grammar rules any writer should follow.

Quote:

To sum up, use a comma to:

Quote:

Notice that in each of these sentences, the underlined portion is unnecessary.

You probably know what the errors are. Perhaps your use of colons without preceding independent clauses is not important, but it does appear in many places throughout your guide.

I am just having fun and responding to your "challenge". If you hadn't asked for it, I certainly would not have written this post.


"None has ever caught him yet, for Tom he is the master"
GandalfDaGraay
Dúnadan
posted 01-13-07 11:12 PM EDT (US)     25 / 60       
Don't sweat elder_king, I'm not offended. I was actually hoping somebody would find something wrong. Hmmm...

Not sure what's wrong with #1 or #4.
#2 fixed- that one was pretty bad.
#3, er... yeah, you're right. Actually had to look that one up. Well, there are now 5 uses of the colon instead of 4.

@Kester:
Thanks, that makes things a lot easier.


Heck to the darkness
"That's fairly similar to what I thought you sounded like. Deep, gravelly, and wise sounding. Though the gravelly bit could've been mic quality?" -Atzy
"HeavenGames forbid!" -Smeagolfan24
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