Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Writer's Wednesday: Grammar Nut

Here's a random fact that you may or may not have wanted to know about me: I'm a bit of a grammar nut. It probably resulted from conversations like this one between my mom and my three-year-old self:
Me: I seen it.
Mom: What did you say?
Me: I seen it.
Mom: What did you say? (She's trying to communicate to a 3 year-old here that I've messed up my grammar.)
Me: (Undaunted, with hand on hip) Mom, read my lips. I seen it.
Thankfully, I've progressed a little since those days. Although I do confess that my own wee-ones are rubbing off on me and I occasionally have the urge to say something along the lines of: what it is? before reminding myself that I'M supposed to be teaching THEM.

So anyway, with all my mom's grammar instruction behind me - and a deep-seated hatred for seeing the words their or there when the author means they're (come on folks, this one's easy!) - I figured I would be the last one to make a grammatical misstep in my manuscript.

Wrong!

I've been blessed to have a former classics professor and TRUE grammar nut review Destined as a Beta reader.  She found mistakes I didn't even know existed.  At the risk of embarrassing myself, I'll share what I learned (or re-learned) from the gifted Callira in the hopes that it will benefit some of you too.

1.  Lie versus lay.  I wrote my epilogue in present tense.  Which means I should have said: As I lie sleeping... not as I lay sleeping.  I know the lie/lay thing can be confusing (obviously, right?) And it turns out, it's a whole lot more complicated than I remembered.  Lie and lay can both be present tense, but lay is also the past tense of lie.  Confused yet?  Check out these tips from Grammar Girl.  She even has a chart to help you conjugate the verbs.

2.  Taut versus taught.  This is more of a spelling issue, but it's another problem that slipped right under my radar.  Apparently Cupid has rather well-educated (taught) pectoral muscles, as opposed ones that positively ripple when he moves (taut).  A word to the wise, ladies.  :)

3.  Misplaced modifier.  Here's the sentence: "Unable to hold on, the box skidded out of my hand and bounced away."  As Callira pointed out, the phrase "unable to hold on" automatically attaches to the nearest noun - the box.  Obviously, I didn't mean that the box was unable to hold on to my hand.  Duh!  I needed to have said something like, "At the shock of the impact, my hand opened and the box skidded away from my fingertips."
These few tips are only the "tip" of the iceberg when it comes to common grammar mistakes.  When in doubt, I recommend a google search.  It's amazing how many grammar pointers are waiting to be unearthed at the click of a mouse.


NOTE:  There's still time to enter the Oasis for YA GIVES BACK contest or the contest to win Maryrose Wood's awesome new book, THE POISON DIARIES.

6 comments:

  1. Wow! Callira sounds like a terrific beta reader. You're truly lucky to have her on your side:) Great post, and thanks for sharing these tips w/ us.

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  2. Misplaced...dangling...those modifiers can be devious!

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  3. The lay/lie thing gets me EVERY time. I still don't understand it. Heading over to the grammar girl explanation...

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  4. I did a post about common grammar mistakes a month ago. A LOT of people get the lie/lay thing mixed up. :)

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