August 14th Is the Day!

Starting August 14th, I begin distributing bi-weekly my first-ever newsletter related to this blog. The purpose of today’s post is to remind you to sign up, if you haven’t already, using the link in the image below or in the right-hand sidebar.

This post also includes a small peek into what you can expect with each issue of my newsletter.

First, I’ll be providing tips and advice learned in the past seven years of drafting my own essays and memoir as well as writing advice provided by others well versed in the craft of writing.

Additionally, trending news tips related to the business of publishing and marketing your book may also be found.

teacher-clip-art-2 Miz Grammar
teacher-clip-art-2 Miz Grammar

And finally, allow me to introduce you to my newsletter partner, Miz Grammar. She will be assisting with making sure each issue includes a grammar tip or rule or two or three. I want to warn you Miz Grammar is strict with respect to using proper grammar so you want to stay on her good side.

In the near future, I will be offering to all my subscribers, free of charge, an e-book on the healing benefits of writing. So, don’t miss an issue if you want to know when that is available.

Miz Grammar and I look forward to seeing you on August 14th for our inaugural issue!

Confused by Nonplussed?

Sometimes the “non” in the word “nonplussed” creates some fuzziness in the writer or reader’s mind.  Like traveling through a maze, understanding “nonplussed” can leave you feeling a bit lost.

 Today’s post attempts to clarify the real meaning of “nonplussed” and how it can be effective in character development.

nonplus |  transitive verb

nonplussed also nonplused nonplus·sing also nonplus·ing

Definition of NONPLUS : to cause to be at a loss as to what to say, think, or do :perplex

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Although the word “nonplussed” is a transitive verb, its use is very effective in reflecting the impact one character’s words or actions have on another character.  For example:

Walter’s comments left Julianna nonplussed.

What does this simple sentence convey?  Simply that whatever the two discussed — world affairs, the children’s schedules, a grocery list, finances — Julianna came away feeling confused, bewildered, perplexed.

However, quite often the “non” part of the word causes not only the reader but also the writer to believe the word “nonplussed” has the opposite meaning — that the character who is “nonplussed” is calm, in control, not confused.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!

As writers, it is our responsibility to make sure that we understand the words we are using and their correct usage.  Otherwise, our readers are left confused!

So, beginning now, let’s make it a habit to check the meaning and usage of a word that is unclear.  It will make for happier readers!

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Passive Voice | Always an Error?

When I hear or see the grammatical term “passive voice,” I recall my freshman high school English teacher.  Not once did Miss Tatum ever concede that passive voice was not an error! Use of passive voice in her classroom was strictly prohibited.

However, there are times when passive voice becomes the better choice.  An article in the Purdue OWL provides interesting examples.  Perhaps these arguments would have changed Miss Tatum’s mind.  Then again, maybe not.

According to the referenced article, and many other reference books and sites, quite often passive voice is the better choice over active voice depending on certain characteristics of the agent performing the action: obviousness, importance, whenthe writer wishes to postpone identifying the agent or mentioning the agent at all, or when perhaps the agent is unknown.

Below is an interesting diagram provided by the Purdue OWL which brings clarity to this defense of the use of passive voice.

Active

The dispatcher is notifying police that three prisoners have escaped.

Surgeons successfully performed a new experimental liver-transplant operation yesterday.

“Authorities make rules to be broken,” he said defiantly.

Passive

Police are being notified that three prisoners have escaped.

A new experimental liver-transplant operation was performed successfully yesterday.

“Rules are made to be broken,” he said defiantly.

DISCLAIMER:  Despite this interesting item in the Purdue OWL, a good writer will always make the best choice for his or her own work. In most instances, choosing active voice is the better form.  However, here we can see incidences where passive voice works better.

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What are your thoughts on the use of passive voice?  Is it always a grammatical error, or sometimes the better choice?

Grammar Lesson #1

Let’s face it — we all hate it!  Grammar that is.  We hated it when we had to take the subject in school.  We hated it when it cost us a good grade on a paper.  We still hate it now as we write novels, memoirs, essays, articles and blog posts.

BUT grammar is an essential part of our language and how our writing comes across to our reader.  

And correct grammar is essential to good writing unless a character or plot benefits from the opposite.

Starting today, my plan is to include one post per month here on some aspect of writing and writing well.  These posts will hopefully appear on the first Thursday of the month.

To start this monthly series, let’s talk about grammar vs. usage. 

Grammar is defined simply as the study of words, their inflections, functions and uses in a sentence as well as a study of what is preferred and avoided in their inflection and syntax.  In other words, when we reference “grammar,” we’re speaking about the rules of the game.

Usage is the outgrowth of how language has habitually evolved among the native speaker of a particular language, i.e. English, French, Spanish, German, and so on.  Basically, usage is the customary way in which a language is spoken or written.

Good written and spoken language then requires both the incorporation of appropriate grammar, together with the customary usage of words and phrases in the language being used.

Do you have thoughts or comments regarding grammar vs. usage?  Please add to the conversation by sharing them below.