This is the first of my two part series on hyphens, em dashes, and en dashes. If you’re on my site, you know what’s going on. If not, you can catch up below. Let’s just get straight to the meat of the matter.
HYPHENS, EM DASHES, AND EN DASHES
I’m not going to cover hyphens used in place of compound words because I covered that elsewhere on Robynn Gabel’s site http://dupler.org/ The very short version, when it comes to whether or not to use hyphens or one word that smashes together two words, is to use the dictionary. Also, for noun phrases, such as stick-in-the-mud or side by side, or double doors, use the dictionary. This post is all about phrasal adjectives.
Let’s break it into baby pieces: phrasal and adjective.
Phrase: Two or more words that make sense but do not form a complete sentence.
Adjective: A word or phrase that describes or qualifies a noun or pronoun. They often answer the questions: What? Which one? How many?
So we have an incomplete sentence that describes or qualifies a noun or pronoun, e.g.:
credit-card machine. Credit card together describes machine. Examples:
We used the credit-card machine versus We used our credit card.
We looked at the blue-sky ocean versus We looked at the blue sky.
Easy peasy, right?
Thank you for reading, and be sure to join me tomorrow on http://www.girl-who-reads.com/. I’ll be continuing my series on hyphens, em dashes, and en dashes. Em dashes aren’t used all that often by authors, particularly when they should be, and they’re the next up.
Don't forget to enter the giveaway (look at my conjunctions post below for details).
For those of you who are just now joining me on my quest to improve writers’ grammar and usage, welcome. For those who have continued to follow the path, welcome back and congratulations. It can be a tough road. I know.
This is going to be somewhat of a mini-memoir on my own struggle with grammar and usage, so it’s light reading at my own expense. If you got through the rest, you deserve it.
Only a couple of my clients know this: writing wasn’t always easy for me. I’ve always had an amazing vocabulary due to a favorite past time: reading the dictionary.
I started writing very young, but the nuts and bolts .... Let’s just say I was “behind.” I had a tutor in elementary school that I saw a couple times a week; in addition to the tutor, there were a couple of boys struggling along with me, mostly giggling and not paying attention.
But for me, it was a battle. I was such a great speller that I always won first or second place in my schools' spelling bees (at all grade levels), but I didn’t understand the mechanics of writing. In first grade, I was held back.
I once received a social-studies assignment back; the teacher said I had done it wrong. There weren’t any paragraphs. I ran the whole thing together. “Why do I need paragraphs?” I asked. The teacher looked at me like I was stupid and said nothing. Of course, that was incredibly helpful.
In junior high, we were made to diagram sentences in ways that looked interesting but made no sense to me. We had to take a lot of notes, so everyone stayed dutifully in his or her seat and copied what was on the board. That’s a nice idea, but I don’t learn by writing things down. So I did what I always do: I taught myself. Once I read a high-school grammar book on my own and understood the words topic sentence, a light bulb went on over my head. We break things down in order to build and construct them in logical order. Topic sentence, sentence, paragraph, scene, chapter, book. Small things create big things (duh me).
In my freshman year of high school, I was in advanced English, and it nearly bored the pants off me. I still can’t understand the value of memorizing and retelling a Shakespearean soliloquy. I could have stayed in the gifted class, but it didn’t challenge my actual knowledge base ... and besides, I was too busy writing stories.
Eventually, my short stories got published and won contests, as did my poetry.
A few years ago, I gained a serious reputation for knowing the mechanics (and citing my sources) of writing. My critique partner suggested that I could charge for my ability; simultaneously, I had two authors come to me and say they wanted to hire me. Not long before this, I stopped critiquing more than two writers at a time. A really good edit will take time, so with every new draft I critiqued, it would take me a few days. Because I wasn't receiving the same in return, it was a poor investment of my time. I have incredibly talented authors as clients, but I average between 300 to 500 comments, excluding actual suggested changes.
The whole point of this editorial is that anyone can do it. No matter how dumb or ignorant you think you are about this stuff, I was way worse. I did it.
IMPROVE YOUR GRAMMAR & USAGE
Giveaway and Blog Stops
BLOG STOPS FOR LINGUISTIC LOVE TOUR
Chryse Wymer - Conjunctions
AB Shepherd - Commas: part one
John Abramowitz - Commas: part two
Robynn Gabel - Commas: part three
Dionne Lister - Semicolons: part one
Coral Russell - Semicolons: part two
Kriss Morton - Colons: part one
Alicia Dean - Colons: part two
Alison DeLuca - Colons: part three
Chryse Wymer - The Trouble with Grammar and Usage
Robynn Gabel - Top 5 Errors
Angela Benson Donner - Relative Clauses: which, who, whose, and that.
Chryse Wymer - Dashes: part one
Donna Huber - Dashes: part two
I'm going to kick off day one with something very light: conjunctions. I'm sad for those of you who didn't get introduced to the Schoolhouse Rock, but it's better late than never.
The coordinating conjunctions are FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. I only really want to discuss one aspect of the conjunction--when to use a comma with them. The primary reason why we use a comma between conjunctions is to avoid confusion when two independent clauses are linked with a conjunction, e.g.: Everyone loved him, and she had always loved him. While, primarily, the rule is to use a comma between independent clauses that are joined by a conjunction, it's especially important in an instance like the example. When you have words like him and she together, a reader can pick up on that as two people about to do something together. The only time when this rule doesn't hold water is when you have two clauses that are so closely related that breaking them up would cause confusion or make the sentence make no sense. E.g.: “Well, it was all going fine and everything was working, when all of a sudden, it went soft.” -Eloise March, Close Call: A Doris & Jemma Vadgeventure While a comma could be used between the clauses, it reads differently one way versus another and gives it both a slightly different meaning and a slightly different rhythm. I always let clarity be my guide. In this case, it's clearer without the comma.
Anyway, that's my easy peasy spiel for the day.
Details for the giveaway are in the previous post below. Thanks for reading.
Join me tomorrow at http://www.abshepherd.net/ to learn a little something about commas.
LINGUISTIC LOVE BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY
The giveaway is here!
This month, I’ll be hopping along from blog to blog to share my knowledge on the nuts and bolts of great writing. I am a copy editor, proofreader, and author--published both traditionally and independently--who just wants the world to be a more grammatically-correct place. I’m also raffling off Amazon gift cards to get folks started on their editing bookshelves. The giveaway starts December 1st, 2013 and ends January 1, 2014.
I'm sick of indies receiving horribly low-quality editing from authors who think they understand the rules. Just because someone is an independently-published author, that doesn’t mean they know a darn thing about editing. Beta reading, sure, but editing? Not a chance . . . although some do.
First, if possible, ask for referrals from writers you trust and whose work you consider high quality. Second, ask what style manual or manuals your potential editor works from and what they do if the information is difficult to interpret. (If US, it should be Chicago Manual of Style, 16th. UK is normally Fowler’s, 2nd). Third, ask them what dictionary they use. Compound words, in U.S. fiction, and the way noun phrases are hyphenated or not is decided by dictionary use (Merriam-Webster’s). Fourth, ask for a sample of their work. When he or she suggests changes, *ask why.* Authors often assume a person knows what he or she is doing, and when it comes to grammatical and style issues, they often don’t ask them to back up what they say with outside information. I work from Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition as well as Garner’s, 3rd, and my clients will all tell you that at some point, I quote from these books with reference and/or page numbers . . . well, except for the one I have who knows that I know what I’m doing and just wants me to tell her what to do. Ask if they belong to any editorial associations or groups, online or off. Finally, ask them to explain compound predicates, noun phrases, and restrictive clauses. Ask if mass nouns (a.k.a. noncount nouns) take a singular or plural verb. LOL to self: just ask what a conjunction is. Ask the difference between further and farther, already and all ready, its and it's. Some of these are simple things that some writers know. However, non-editors won’t be able to answer the more complex questions because they have never bothered to ask and answer them for their clients. Any complex grammatical or usage question will throw a non-editor. (If they give what seem to be bogus answers, feel free to e-mail me.) If they don’t know this stuff, run!!! He or she is a pretender. Expect that a true copy editor will charge more,–it takes longer to do it when you know how to do it right–ask more questions of you, and make you work your a$$ off. Some copy editors will also offer proofreading services, and what that includes can vary. If you want a beta reader, don’t pretend you’re working with an editor, but if you’re receiving high-quality advice, I see nothing wrong with paying for a beta reader. But I would only pay about $25 for it, at most. Copy editing is substantial work, and proofing is a bit more intensive as well. Reading and giving an opinion isn’t.
Hi. My name is Chryse Wymer, and I’m a word nerd. You’ll recognize my kind easily. We twitch while passing a work-crew sign that reads “No Vehicals May Enter” in spray paint, or when a note reads “Speak to Contarctors.” English is a loose language in some ways, but these folks treat it like it’s a floozy. I understand. People like me are a special sub-species of human, it seems. We manage to see what others miss. You’ll see me twitching, if you pay close attention, but I rarely comment unless asked. It just doesn’t seem polite.
However, I am an editor, so people tend to ask . . . even when they’re not paying me. That’s okay. My main concern is that written English is used correctly. Spoken English is too versatile, subjective to each listener and speaker, and transitory to worry about, in my opinion.
I am going to begin to speak about common grammar and usage errors, and anyone with a question can feel free to ask :-) I'll start easy:
Its versus it's
Our elementary-school grammar teachers probably helped this one to be so often misused. After all, it was drilled into our heads that whenever you see an apostrophe, that word is possessive (has ownership). Well, not always. In the case of its versus it’s, it’s never the case.
"It's" is a contraction, which stands for "it is" or "it has." Examples:
· It's a beautiful day out. (It is a beautiful day out.)
· It's been raining for three days straight. (It has been raining for three days straight.)
· It's a very small boogar. (It is a very small boogar.)
When you don't know whether to use it's or its, give it the "it is/it has" test. Say the sentence to yourself and if you can't replace "it's" with "it is" or "it has," then it's possessive (has ownership). No apostrophe.
Its is possessive, which I know sounds weird, but just pretend like it works. Examples:
· Our family tree has its roots in Scotland.
· The camera has its pictures stored digitally.
· The alarm clock has its own way of telling time.
In each of these instances, again try the "it is/it has" test--it won't work. This is a very common error, so I'm hoping this helps some non-grammar nerds.