Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Comma Clue: Subordinate Clauses (Preview!)

               Comma Clues!!!                  

Tomorrow's COMMA CLUE is going to be about subordinate clause openers...so I'll leave you with this little jingle to sing to yourself if you have insomnia tonight (instead of counting sheep!):

When you start a sentence with a subordinate clause,
Put the comma in when you hear the pause!

And then my sweet middle school students, knowing my love for the ballroom, all rise up from their seats and shout "CHA CHA" at the end of it...I have the greatest students! :)

Writing Feedback for Students: They are TRIFF!

If you are a writing teacher, use your feedback on students' papers to point out advanced techniques done correctly. Sometimes students write without realizing that they are doing some cool things in their writing.

For example, here are some comments I have just made on a couple of students' papers in order to even use grading time as teaching time:

*Superb compound-complex sentence!
*Another great appositive
*Love this CS; CA, CS
*Thanks for remembering that periods always go inside closing quotation marks in the US
*Great details...I appreciate you putting at least two pieces of information in each sentence!
*Love this informative opening paragraph with its strong link to the body and its MYSTERY!
*Cool vocab in this sentence!
*Perfect personification! :)
*Love this allieration!

Happy teaching, learning, and grammar today, LL friends!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wordy Wednesday: Conscience vs Conscious

I try to use mnemonics, tricks, songs, and jingles to teach parts of speech, homophones, and any other grammar and usage tips that I can. Students (of all ages, including adults!) often remember usage better when a trick or tip is applied.

One of my students' favorite tricks is for the confusing word pair (sometimes considered homophones, though they do have slightly different pronunciations) conscience/conscious:

The student's conscience bothered him because he tried to con the science teacher. 

He wasn't conscious enough to enjoy the delicious treat. 

 In today's assignment, my students had to write sentences using conscience and conscious (one sentence each). My amazingly clever students had fun with this! Three of them used both words in one sentence and included the "trick" in that sentence too!

1. I conned the science teacher while I was conscious, and my conscience bothered me.

2. He wasn't conscious of the fact that he conned the science teacher; once he realized he had, his conscience bothered him.

3. He had a guilty conscience after he consciously conned the science teacher. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Can I Start a Sentence With a Coordinating Conjunction?

We had an interesting conversation in my high school creative writing class this week. One of the students started a sentence with and, and, of course, the more grammarly types thought that he should not.

Being the kind of teacher who does not like to let any potential lesson pass, I delved in. That is what I would like to "teach" here today--but first let's go back to those earlier lessons on compound sentences and comma use--and, of course, what a coordinating conjunction is to begin with.

You might remember a recent post (one of my PUNCTUATION PUZZLES, actually) in which I discussed how to create a compound sentence using a semicolon. (Remember, compound has to do with TWO, just like a compound fracture is a break in two places. Thus, a compound sentence is two sentences joined together as one.)

It can be found here (http://languagelady365.blogspot.com/2013/02/punctuation-puzzle-compound-with.html ). In a nutshell, it tells how a compound sentence may be created by combining two complete sentences (CS) into one sentence with a semicolon between the two.

Of course, the two sentences you are combining must be linked to each other in subject matter in order to do this; each half the compound should be somewhat similar in weightiness as well. This compound-creating helps a writer to link common thoughts and show their link without any additional words.

Then I also had another post about creating a compound sentence with a comma-coordinating conjunction  (http://languagelady365.blogspot.com/2013/01/comma-clues-1-creating-compound.html ). In this post, I described how you can combine two sentences into one with the same guidelines for the semicolon compound sentence--but with the added benefit of meaning via the coordinating conjuction.

I also taught this little trick: FANBOYS. This is a quick method to learn the seven true coordinating conjunctions:

F or
A nd
N or
B ut
O r
Y et
S o

Again, the beauty of the compound sentence with the coordinating conjunction (as opposed to the semicolon, which is good for showing off!) is that each of those seven little words has the potential to bring a meaning, a relationship, a link, a causality, and more. 

So, what if you (or your student) wants to START a sentence with one of those little meaningful, relational, linking, causal words?

Learn how to do it well! Or teach your student how to do it well!

According to R.W. Burchfield in The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, it is completely legal: "There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with And, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues"

Of course, if you are a lover of great literature as some of my kids are, you can find time after time when a noted author began narrative, as well as poetry, with a coordinating conjunction. And, obviously, most of the time he or she did it well!

When and how would one begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction?

1. When the material following the coordinating conjunction is LINKED to the previous sentence (much like creating the compound sentence)

2. When the meaning of the coordinating conjunction is valuable to the sentence:

a. And--linking, additionally, and even sometimes because of: She was going to be late. AND she didn't care.

b. Or--linking, contrasting, giving another option: You can have the cake. OR you can have the ice cream.

c. But--constrasting, showing causality or exception: You may have cake or ice cream. BUT you may not have them both.

3. When the coordinating conjunctions and, but, or, & yet are used.

a. These are the four that work the best at the beginning of a sentence.
b. For is usually a preposition when it is at the beginning of a sentence. (More on that later.)
c. Sometimes so will work, but it might be a little stilted.
d. Nor doesn't work at all.

4. When you want a stop after the first sentence--a beat, if you will. Then you want the second sentence to have more power than the first--and the contrast or causality to be greater.

I'm a teacher through and through. I go to sleep thinking about teaching and writing--and I get up thinking about teaching and writing. So.....I woke up this morning with a mnemonic to use with my students for this sentence structure. (I am mnemonic, rhyme, and jingle crazy in my textbooks!)

"When you start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction,
Be sure it's strong--be sure it has a function!"

I was thrilled that my creative writing students are thinking so deeply about sentences. Creative writing, story writing, poetry, narratives--all of these are writing areas in which thinking deeply about sentence structure really pays off. And beginning a sentence with a coordinating conjunction is a way to really add punch and emphasis to a creative writing piece. Smile... 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Happy Presidents Day or Happy Presidents' Day!

Happy Presidents' Day. Or is that Presidents Day? Or Presidents' Day?

Well....it depends on which expert you ask! Here is the run down:

1. It is NOT President's Day
      a. President's denotes one President...and this holiday honors Washington and Lincoln both...as well as all presidents
     b. President's Day says that it is the day that belongs to one President (singular)
     c. It follows the rule of writing the noun first (President) then if the word does NOT end in s, put apostrophe s (President's Day)

2. Some say it is Presidents' Day
     a. The Gregg Reference Manual (my favorite handbook) cites it as such
     b. This denotes many presidents all owning one day (or at least Lincoln and Washington)
     c. It follows the rule of writing the noun first (Presidents) then if the word ends in s, put an apostrophe on the outside of the s
     d. This is the correct way to show possession of one thing to more than one "owner"---or any noun that ends in an s (glass' smudges).

3. Some say it is Presidents Day
     a. The Associated Press Stylebook cites is as such
     b. This method does not denote possession, but rather uses the word President as an adjective (actually a "proper adjective" in that it is an adjective made from a proper noun--some of the time--we will not even get into whether it is (President) or isn't (president) in this post!)
   c. This is like saying that, that is a Grisham book (as opposed to a book that Grisham owns--Grisham's book), and it is certainly  not incorrect

P.S. Capitalize president when referring to a certain president or the holiday in question!

So there you have it! More subjectivity in our English language. Happy Presidents' Day! And Happy Presidents Day!

Friday, February 15, 2013

COMMA CLUES #3: Greeting and Closing of Letter

Today's Comma Clues post was actually supposed to be up yesterday--in case you were writing a love letter in honor of Valentine's Day!! If you are still in the middle of penning a love note for that special someone, be sure to follow these two comma rules--with a freebie capitalization rule thrown in as a, well, Valentine's Day gift!

This information could be more valuable to you than you might think: I just read that a new survey shows that following "teeth," grammar is the next benchmark that would-be daters use in evaluating potential mates on dating sites. So study this thoroughly before you write that letter! Smile...

Comma Clues #3: A comma should follow the greeting (salutation) and closing of a letter.

Dear Ray Baby, 

All my love,

I have to leave you with a few tips:

1. This rule applies to the "friendly" letter--which I assume your love letter will be.

2. Never use a colon following a greeting in a friendly letter. The colon should only follow a greeting in a business letter.

3. Always capitalize all major words in a greeting of a letter. In this way, think of it as a title and capitalize accordingly. 

a. Dear Friend and Colleague (no cap for and)
b. Dear First True Love

4. Only capitalize the first word in the closing of a letter (except for proper nouns in it, of course).

a. Sincerely yours,
b. All my love,

So...go write that love letter with confidence. And be sure to flash those pearly whites when you actually meet!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

More Who Vs Whom Practice

Do you remember the two steps for determining whether to use who or whom from the other day? Here they are again followed by more practice sentences!

I hope you are one who uses who and whom correctly and not one whom others talk about concerning your grammar!
(Who uses who and whom correctly? HE does. /Who do others talk about? Others talk about HIM!)

To tell whether you need to use who or whom, you have to do two steps, and the second step is rather laborious:

1. Remember the little trick from earlier:


2. Then reword the sentence so that you can answer the question with he or him--and use the who or whom that goes with your answer (he/who and him/whom).

1.   They didn’t say who/whom was going to lead the group.
a. Who did they not say was going to lead the group?
b. They did not say HE was going to lead the group.
c. They didn’t say WHO was going to lead the group. (He/Who)

2. I hope that whomever/whoever wins will be good for the job.
a. Who do you hope will be good for the job?
b. You hope that HE will be good for the job?
c. I hope that WHOever wins will be good for the job. (He/Who)

3. I think that we should ask whoever/whomever arrives first.
a. Who will arrive first?
b. HE will arrive first.
c. I think that we should ask WHOever arrives first. (He/Who)

4. Give honor to whom/who honor is due.
a. Who should we give honor to?
b. We should give honor to HIM.
c. Give honor to WHOM honor is due. (Him/Whom)

5. I didn’t think he was one whom/who could carry out the job.
a. Who could carry out the job?
c. HE could carry out the job.
c. I didn’t think he was one who could carry out the job. (He/Who)

6. I didn’t pass it to the one who/whom they said I should.
a. Who did you not pass it to?
b. I did not pass it to HIM.
c. I didn’t pass it to the one WHOM they said I should. (Him/Whom)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day! Some tips for punctuation and capitalization of this loving holiday:

1. In a greeting (such as a card), cap all three words: Happy Valentine's Day.

2. Show possession to the singular proper noun Valentine--the day belongs to him: Valentine's Day.

3. Cap Day in the holiday because it is part of the holiday's name (as opposed to day in Christmas day in which Christmas is the name of the holiday, not day): Valentine's Day.

4. You can just call it Valentine when appropriate, but remember that Valentine is a singular proper noun, so in other contexts, do not plural it before showing possession:

a. I'm making Valentine's cupcakes.
b. I got a Valentine card.

5. If you are calling cards Valentines, keep the following in mind:

a. Still cap it--any time a proper noun element is used, it retains its capitalization: I got a Valentine this morning. (In this case, it is sometimes called a proper adjective--an adjective that is a proper noun in its non-descriptive states.)

b. Just plural it with an s (not an apostrophe s): I got some Valentines at school today.


Most of all, enjoy your Valentine's Day! :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Three Writing Strategies: SSS5X3, Redundancy on Purpose, and Repeating Sentence Structures

We teach three writing strategies in our books that I just heard used wonderfully together in Michael Connelly's new novel (The Black Box). (I listen to fiction sometimes while I clean, drive, edit, etc., since time is short here!)

"The store owners shot looters. The National Guardsmen shot looters. And looters shot looters."

Three elements to try to incorporate in your writing this week:

1. SSS5 x 3---Super Short Sentence of Five Words or Fewer Three Times in a Row

2. Redundancy on Purpose! Way cool when redundancy (repeating the same words) is done on purpose!)

3. Repeating sentence structure--Subject-Verb-Object Pattern

Try one--or all three--this week!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

He/Who; Him/Whom

The who/whom question is a tricky one. Part of it sounds easy--use who in the subjective position--when you are talking about the subject. Or use who any time you could use he--he/who.

Use whom in the objective position--when you are talking about any object (object of the preposition, direct object, indirect object, etc.). Or use whom any time you could use him--him/whom.

But the problem is a little bigger than that because you can't just take who out and substitute he and hear the correctness:

Is Ray the one who is coming to dinner?

Is Ray the one he is coming to dinner?

Actually, to tell whether you need to use who or whom, you have to do two steps, and the second step is rather laborious:

1. Remember the little trick from above:


2. Then reword the sentence so that you can answer the question with he or him--and use the who or whom that goes with your answer (he/who and him/whom).

I'm going to walk through several of these to help you because it takes a while to do this automatically and correctly:

1. She is the one who doesn't care.
      a. Who is the one who doesn't care?
      b. He is the one who doesn't care (not Him is the one...).
      c. So use WHO (He/Who)

2. It was that girl who stole the candy.
    a. Who stole the candy?
    b. He  stole the candy (not Him is the one...)
    c. So use WHO.(He/Who)

3. I have never seen anyone who could type that fast.
   a. Who could type that fast?
   b. He could type that fast (not Him could type that fast..)
   c. So use WHO (He/Who)

4. I just want whomever is the very best to win.
   a. Who do you want to win?
   b. I want him to win (not I want HE to win..)
  c. So use WHOM (Him/Whom)

5. We will be there at the door to greet whomever.

   a. Who will you greet at the door?
   b. You will greet him at the door (not greet HE at the door...)
   c. So use whomever (Him/Whom)

6. She should just tell whomever.
   a. Who should she tell?
   b. She should tell him.(not tell HE..)
   c. So use whomever (Him/Whom)

More tomorrow! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Punctuation Puzzle: Compound With Semicolon (GWC)

Are you ready for another Punctuation Puzzle?

George Washington Carver had a driving force for knowledge that would reside within him for the rest of his life because of this he became successful in everything he did.

1. There are two complete sentences (CS) here:
            a. George Washington Carver had a driving force for knowledge that would reside within him for the rest of his life.
            b. Because of this he became successful in everything he did.

2. Because there are two complete sentences (CS) there, I would place a semicolon between the two (though you could put a period and capitalize the second half and have two separate sentences, if desired).

         George Washington Carver had a driving force for knowledge that would reside within him for the rest of his life; because of this he became successful in everything he did.

3. When you have a compound sentence, you have to treat each sentence separately in terms of its punctuation. Thus, you need to examine the first half of the sentence (the first "real" sentence of the compound sentence) to see if it needs any other punctuation. Then you must do the same with the second half.
              a. George Washington Carver had a driving force for knowledge that would reside within him for the rest of his life. (NO punctuation needed within first half)
              b. Because of this,  he became successful in everything he did.(I WOULD place a comma following the short prepositional phrase [PP] opener "Because of this" simply because I hear a pause following it. {The rules for commas following short PP openers are subjective and usually based on voice inflection or clarity achieved by the use of a comma. We teach liberal comma use following sentence openers in our programs.})

4. Thus, my final verdict on punctuating this compound and slightly complex sentence is as follows:

 George Washington Carver had a driving force for knowledge that would reside within him for the rest of his life; because of this, he became successful in everything he did.

Punctuation really is a puzzle, isn't it? Smile...

Little addendum to yesterday's PUNCTUATION PUZZLE:

George Washington Carver had a driving force for knowledge that would reside within him for the rest of his life; because of this, he became successful in everything he did.

1. One of the only uses for semicolons is to create a compound sentence (without having to use a coordinating conjunction For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So--FANBOYS--since these words may give additional meaning).

2. Benchmark for creating compound---are the two halves of the sentence extremely linked? In the case above, they are so intertwined that they actually form a cause and effect of sorts. Closely linked sentences are good candidates for creating compound sentences.

Have a prolific day, Language Lady friends!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wordy Wednesday--FACADE


You know what one of my least favorite words is? FACADE.

First of all, I work week in and week out to try to teach that an A, O, U, or most consonants make the C say "kuh." That would make this word fuh-kade, right? (Or even fay-kade.) Unfortunately, that is wrong.

It is pronounced fuh-sodd. (That A really doesn't make the C say "kuh.")

That clearly makes this word a FAKE, which is one of its only redeeming qualities--it means what it looks like! Smile...

That bring us to the second aspect of the word--its meaning. It is a noun that means "a face of a building or a superficial appearance."

In that regard, it is as it is pronounced--even though it isn't pronounced like it is spelled (which is true of many words that came from somewhere else).

So it is easy to learn the meaning of---it has to do with what it sounds like--FACE (albeit, a fake face). But it is not spelled as one would think.

So, don't put on a facade today! Don't try to put on a superficial front or fake face. Be yourself!

Friday, February 1, 2013

"Catch Phrase"--Site for Wordsmiths and Writers (re-print)

I love a new site I just discovered--and thought any wordy people (or anyone writing practically anything--letters, thank-you notes, stories, essays, etc.) would enjoy hearing about it.

It is called Phrase Up--and I give it a hearty thumbs up! This amazing "search engine" allows you to type part of a phrase (colloquialisms, analogies, metaphors, or just common phrases) and put an * in the parts that you are missing. Then voila! It brings up a list of possible phrases that you might be looking for. (Watch out! It's addicting for wordsmiths!)

Again, this may be a great help to get just the right phrase or tone in a cover letter or thank-you note. To get the perfect metaphor for a story. And so much more. I think you'll like it!