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Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

I sit in my big, big oak desk, glasses perched precariously on my nose.  I lay my fountain pen down atop my gradebook and steeple my hands with something of a patient sigh.

The purpose of this thread is to have a place to talk about smallish issues of language, style, syntax, grammar, word choice, paragraph structure, or whatever.  This is for microlevel issues, not big stuff like "what should I write about?" or "how do I make interesting choices?" or "is that mole bigger than yesterday?"

Bring a piece of your work-in-progress, and let's all discuss it together.

It's worth 40% of your grade, and you may not have an extension.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
~ and &

thanks.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
How unacceptable is it to say something along the lines of, "Those ones are the best," or, "Bring those ones"? My mom throws a fit when she hears it.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Commended by mizal on 9/9/2019 7:19:30 AM

Saying things is obviously completely different situation than writing it.  My theory of writing is that if you can omit a word and retain the precise meaning in formal writing, take out the word.  I know you asked about saying, but first a word about writing and being sparing of words.

"In the spring, the bears come out of their caves."  That's something you could easily say, but I would probably suggest, in formal writing that you take out the "thes" -->  "In spring, bears come of their caves."  So we axe two words and keep the same meaning.

Then you've got little "tags" that people add to their sentences when they speak.  "Those one" is a good example.  Another is the current trend of adding "I mean" to every single sentence.  We can live with that (barely) in speak, but you would naturally omit it in writing.

But--and here's the thing--in fiction, of course you would keep it.  It's very characterful.  But now to the question you actually asked, which is what to do when your mom throws a fit.

As  you can see, "those ones" and "these ones" (even more popular!) is possibly starting to level off after its 1980-2000 boom.  So that should be some comfort to your mom.  People who get annoyed by those sort of thing are generally more accepting of "these" and "those" when they are accompanied by an adjective between the words.   So next time, try "those crunchy ones are the best" or Bring those shiny ones."  Because by separating the pointer word ("these/those") from the word "one" you are adding more meaning to the phrase (it's the crunchy ones you are distinguishing).

Fascinatingly, usage guides don't seem to object to this usage in the singular.  "That one is the best," or something like "you take the green lollipop, and I'll take this one."  I would ask your mom if she objects to those usages.  For some reason, the singular hits people's ears less harshly, even if they object to the usage in the plural.

In short, how unacceptable is it?  It's a bit informal, in the same way that some people say "at about noon."  But it's not that bad, and if your mother waits around a few hundred years, it will almost certainly go away.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Thanks, Gower. That made sense, and I'll be careful not to use it in most writing.
It's interesting to see the usage chart too.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

I assume "those ones" is grating because the speaker is using the word "one" as a plural. One the other hand, "that one" sounds no different than "someone", "no one", or "anyone".

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

I am excited about this thread! I have three micro grammar/structure questions that have been bugging me. I hope I did not miss office hours because here we go!

All questions pertain to this story: Dark Master. It is a work in progress, but feel free to read as much or as little as you want. I will try to make this post all inclusive for the questions I have. There are three (3) in total.

1. This paragraph:

“You can’t, unless you meet me in the old field we use to play magic in as kids after school today!” Emily exclaims playfully with a sparkle in her blue eyes, back to her usual confident self. You aren’t sure if that makes her attractive, or annoying.

I am not sure about the last sentence particularly. I do not want to tell my reader that to think, but I want to create the impression that the main character is unsure about Emily. Part of him wants to trust her, part of him does not. You have to make a choice related to this later on the page.

2. How do you properly introduce a long speech or long segments of dialogue? I have characters that tell their stories in my story. I feel like I am okay at writing normal dialogue, but am I introducing this speech (and using block quotes) right?

Note: Everything below is an excerpt from my story

"They turned their backs on me!" Katrina cries, launching into her story:

I was rising in the ranks, doing everything right, but I asked about some of the rules we weren't following and was told to stop looking into them. When I didn't my apprentice challenged me to a duel. It was meant to be a public punishment in front of the whole school, but I beat her and took her spot as an apprentice. The other apprentices didn't like that I guess, so they attacked me one night in my room.

They bound my hands and feet and dragged me out of bed to the arena, in front of the whole school, for a rematch. I guess you could call it that, but they didn't untie me. I was half dead before Brooke, the master of water, walked in. Do you think she stopped the fight? No! She unbound my hands and said she would sanction the dual as legitimate!

The moment the fighting resumed that apprentice tried to drown me. I was too weak to fight her for control of the water, but I had already known I had some aptitude for dark magic. I discovered it at my aptitude test when the principal of the school was testing my twin brother. He didn't light up any of the four cubes, so they gave him a fifth, which did. Two paladins came and executed him the next day. I had to know why they killed him, and since no one would tell me I stole the cube. Inside there was a black rock that light up whenever I put magical energy into it.

I had already been accepted into the water school at that point, but I practiced dark magic whenever I was alone. It felt so much better than pretending to be a water witch, and when the school of magic turned their back on me I was strong enough to defend myself. I corrupted the water with dark energy, similar to the dark flames you could control Todd, and the apprentice couldn't use any of it. None of them could. I killed that apprentice, and fled.

Brooke was able to dispel my dark energy and take control of the water, but I got away. They covered the whole thing up as a 'training accident' and reported me among the dead. I swore I would never forgive the corrupt schools of magic for what they did to my brother and I. That is why I need to create a safe place for people with dark magic, so no one else has to die for no reason!

Katrina looks down and sobs. If her story is true she is impressive, but she looks more like a scared child than a powerful witch at the moment.

3. The first page of my story is framed as a teacher on a history class reading a story from a history book. This ties the into in well, and explains the back story for my setting. Right now I have the whole thing in quotes (yes the whole page), with just a quotation mark at the beginning and end. Is that the correct way to do it? Or what would be better? The way it reads now seems awkward, because the first page is just the story in quotes, then the second page implies that the teacher had read it.

Thank you in advance Gower, I appreciate all of the grammar help! Let me know if this was too much, you have no obligation to answer it all.

-Shadowdrake27

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Commended by mizal on 9/9/2019 7:24:11 AM

1.  “You can’t, unless you meet me in the old field we use to play magic in as kids after school today!” Emily exclaims playfully with a sparkle in her blue eyes, back to her usual confident self. You aren’t sure if that makes her attractive, or annoying.

  • a.  Change "use" to "used"; remove "in." -- both in sentence one.
  • b.  The "playfully with a sparkle in her blue eyes" hits my ear as very formulaic, or cliche.
  • c.  The timing of :  "we use to play magic in as kids after school today!" is weird.  It goes from the past to what we are going to do today.
  • d.  I agree that you should let Emily's words do the lifting--put what you say in your last sentence in the choice.  (I found her...1) attractive, 2) annoying, 3) both.)
  • e.  So the first sentence probably needs to be reworked with more character.  And there is nothing more characterful than pausing and punctuation for effect with appropriate speech attributions.  Listen to these differences: 
  •     "You can’t, unless you meet me in the old field we used to play magic in as kids after school today!”
  •     “You can’t. Unless...you meet me in the old field.  You know.  Where we used to play magic as kids.  Meet me--after school today," she said, murmuring, barely audible, lips close to my ear.  I could feel her breath.
  •     “You can’t unless you meet me!   In the old field we used to play magic in as kids!  Come on, after school today!” she screamed, slapping my arm with the ruler and snapping her gum.  She smelled like collard greens.

2.  You certainly could do the inset paragraphs.  That really sets the story apart as its own thing.  You can also just paragraph as usual, though, being sure to use quotation marks at the start of each paragraph to clearly indicate that this is quoted speech.  Usually you will only see quotation marks at the *start* of each paragraph when it's the same speaker for paragraph after paragraph.

3.  Oh, sameish answer as above.  Put a quotation mark at the start of each paragraph.  Don't put one at the end.

 

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

Thank you Gower!

This was al helpful as usual, I will get to updating my story with all of this later today.

I may change the block quotes to what you described above, because I want the speech to feel more like a part of the story and less like a separate piece.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

... and let's all discuss it together.

I'll start by adding a random website because I remember multi-paragraph speeches confusing me (not closing quotations!? How barbaric- wait that's how it's done?). owl.purdue.edu/.../quotation_marks_with_fiction.html

If one person's speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.

Here is another one that I love to link (it has a part on multiple paragraphs of dialogue): theeditorsblog.net/.../punctuation-in-dialogue/

Anyhow, Gower already answered you, so I'll leave it at that (but I will add that the WIP is looking pretty good).

Actually... now I have another punctuation question: If a sentence ends with a word like V.I.P., will it have two periods next to each other?

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

I believe you omit the second period, but keep it if it is a comma or other punctuation mark. You can also write out the words if you are having trouble. For example, V.I.P. = very important person.

What is WIP??

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
WIP = Work in Progress.

In this case I was referring to the storygame who's excerpts you used.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

Oh, thank you, I appreciate it!

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Yeah, I had to look up that paragraph thing when I reading PoF. Not something I'd encountered before but Rhode's speech is now correct in a way only an English professor would ever notice.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
I'm waiting for this one to be answered. It bothers me a lot when I try and write with things other than a period in the quotes: Sally screamed, "Help Me!". I really want to put that period at the end because ending with just the quote doesn't feel right, but it really looks bad to me either way (with or without the last period).

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

Yep, no period there.  No need.  The exclamation point (or a question mark) overrides a period at the end.  You'll never see !". or ?".

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/9/2019 7:13:27 PM

Best practice is to avoid the two periods next to each other, so you will not see "I wish I could be a V.I.P.."

However, that doesn't mean weird punctuation that looks mutant and wrong doesn't happen.

For example:

"Did Jonah really say, 'I think I'll go fishing!'?"

You've got the absurd situation of exclamation point, single quotation mark, question mark, double question mark.

It gets even worse looking when both the inside and the outside quotation are questions.

"Did Jonah really ask, 'You know where I could find a great fish around here?'?"

That is all quite right and correct.  But two periods?  Never!

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

I'm shocked this opportunity isn't being utilised by more people. 40% is a huge amount and you will probably fail if you do not seek consultation!

I'm also disappointed in Ford for not linking to tilde and ampersand, as he is definitely capable. It is his loss though, so I guess matters little to me.

Anyway, here are some smallish things:

  • Imagine a random scene. There is an important bridge here, so it will get mentioned multiple times. The first time I'd mention it with an 'a', that is, "there is a bridge". Later on I'd refer to it with 'the', "the bridge is collapsing!" My question is... what is the technical term for doing this? Is mentioning the bridge as 'the bridge' straight away technically incorrect?
  • Using brackets in fiction (to convey further optional information [that is how they are used right? {and what about nesting, is that even a thing!?}]), good or bad or neutral?
  • Use of italics, do they have any specific purpose? Are they a crutch and should be avoided? Should sentences work without them? (Such as having sarcasm, you know?)

As this is supposed to be for smaller things, feel free to tell me to do my own research if anything requires longer responses.

Oh, a bonus one:

  • Ellipses, you put a space after them, yeah? I could've sworn you do...but I've seen it done without too often, albeit I can't say that I'm referring to professional works (at least not in reference to recent memory).

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/9/2019 8:40:22 PM

1.

The typical rule is that "a" (also known as the indefinite article) means "some."

A student  will need a notebook.   -- that means "some student will need a notebook."  Any old student, no particular one.

When I switch to "the" (known as the definite article) it means "that."

The student will need a notebook.  -- means "that particular student will need a notebook" (and possibly not other ones)

So far so good, and  you likely knew that.  There's no *particular* technical term I know of for when you make that change, and in fact, the situation you mention where you start with "A" and then move to "The" may not always be the case.

 

Here's Hemingway:

"In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees."

Hemingway is using "the" the first time he introduces you to the river and the plain and the mountains.  It's actually an interesting stylistic choice to do that.  It has to do with a style of writing called the "Tough" style which I will get into an article at some point, I promise.

2. 

Brackets, or square brackets [ ] -- what are they for?

The way I would suggest thinking about square brackets is that they are used for just one purpose:  to indicate that the original text is being modified.

You wrote, "I'm shocked this opportunity isn't being utilised by more people."

So if I were quoting your post to someone I might write, "I'm shocked this opportunity [to ask Gower language questions] isn't being utilised by more people."

I modified your words, adding in new words to clarify, so I have to indicate that with square brackets.

You often see it in the newspaper modifying words, not adding words.

If someone says "I will not tolerate hurricanes in my country."

If I want to quote that person I could say Martha said that she "will not tolerate hurricanes in [her] country."  I have to put the word "her" in square brackets to show I changed her word.

3.

Italics are interesting.  Technically they are the exact same thing as underlining (underlining is how you used to tell a printer to make something italics) so you must never use italics and underlining in the same document for emphasis.  Italics are wonderful for dialogue in particular, but should be avoided for emphasis otherwise in formal writing unless you have no other way to stress what you want (usually you do).

You also use them for book titles and movie titles, and to indicate foreign words in a text, like if you say,

This is the "poem's modus operandi."

 

4.  Either do this...with no spaces at all, or do this . . . with a space before and after each period.  Different publishers want different one or the other.  Remember to also consider using an em-dash to create a different pause as well — like this.  Both are pretty casual, but they are great for representing dialogue and natural-sounding prose.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Quality information, thank you!

Learning things is good.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
I would use 'the' if it was something the character was already familiar with as the scene opened, as opposed to something they were just discovering.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Is it unacceptable to start a sentence with 'Though'? I did that for the longest time until someone, IAP I think, was confused by it, at which point I realized it was probably wrong and switched to Although.

Though still feels more natural to me in some cases and I'm not sure if it's one of those 'technically allowed but you should feel bad' things (like spelling all right as alright) or if it's just me being dumb.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 9/9/2019 7:13:07 PM

"Though she be but little, she is fierce."  -- Shakespeare.

So at the very least, Shakespeare has your back.  There is nothing wrong with starting a sentence with the word "though."

However, you have to use it right.  Generally, it should be in the same sentence as a *main clause* -- a complete sentence that it is modifying.  So Shakespeare is saying "she is fierce" (that's the main clause) and then we modify it with the "though" clause.  So you have the main thing, though there's this exception.

I strongly prefer vanilla, though I will eat chocolate.

Though I'll eat chocolate, I strongly prefer vanilla.        That's just the same sentence backwards, and they are both fine.

 

Below is less ok:

Ducks are my favorite waterfowl. Though I do like geese.

What you don't want is the "though" sentence all by itself without the main clause.  That is a much slangier usage.

However, it's really characterful.  It would be an interesting thing to give to a character as a speech pattern--it's informal, a little clipped, a little offhanded.

The correct way to do that would be

Ducks are my favorite waterfowl. However, I do like geese.

There

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Thanks!

"Though I'll eat chocolate, I strongly prefer vanilla." is typically how I'd use it, so good to know I'm not wrong, just a little backwards.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
May I ask you a question, sir?

"I sit in my big, big oak desk, glasses perched precariously on my nose." Shouldn't that in be at?

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

I can see where that would be confusing.  I have a three-sided, U-shaped desk, and I sit in the middle of it, at the Gower Command Center.  So I always think of it as "in."

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
"At" works in all reasonable cases where "in" only works in certain situations including the nonsensical situation of sitting physically inside a desk. "At" works for every desk type from circular lobby desks to a students' desk whereas "in" doesn't work as well particularly for desks without legroom underneath. Even considering that most desks have leg room, you can't realistically stand in a desk but one can stand at their desk. Same thing with tables all the way down to a chess board or gambling square on the ground - people sit, stand, and act /at/ these surfaces but not necessarily in these surfaces. Even the definition for desk includes doing things /at/ the desk not /in/ the desk. I think "at" is the way to go. p.s. im gay

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

I completely agree, and I shall refer to it that way in public from now on.  But in my mind, I'll always be "in."  Also I pretend I'm in the captain's chair on the bridge of the Enterprise.  But that's a different matter that need not concern us here.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
You can sit /in/ a chair /at/ the desk /in/ your office /at/ your place of work. At = active, in = inactive.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

Come at me.  We won't do the other one.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Careful. As you can see, he's gay.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago
Jesus.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

This may be a dumb question, but I figured I would take the chance to ask it before office hours end...

Is it ever acceptable to intentionally use poor grammar to illustrate a point or create an impression? If so is there a way to point that out so the reader knows it is intentional and not a mistake?

I know that using (sic) after a quote is proper if there is a mistake in the document you are quoting. This tells the reader that the mistake is not yours, but they should reference the original document for the mistake that you copied into your quote to accurately quote it. Does this also apply to original text that has an intentional error?

An example might be a drunk character that has awkward pauses in his speech and poor sentence structure. 

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

Good question!  Yes, absolutely.  You could hardly write fiction without using informal grammar, slang, improper comma use, and so forth, because that's very characterful.  The most obvious example is a character who says "ain't" or "nohow" or "leastwise" which Mark Twain cheerfully used to depict nonstandard English.

If it's in fiction, you don't need to point it out, because the narrative will make that clear to the reader.  If you are depicting a drunk, go ahead and do something like, "Well, I...is if the door is open, you can just...mmm, so go on then and..."  The reader will get it, and as an author, there's absolutely no reason to mark it as intentional.

In nonfiction, you are exactly right that [sic] or (sic) may be used.  "Sic" is Latin for "thus," so it means "I found this that way in the source."  But I think everyone knows that it really stands for "sick burn," and it is the most fun thing you can ever do in formal writing.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

Thank you Professor Gower! 

Also I can see using (sic) being fun. I can also see it being an insult worthy of dueling over when the mistake is questionable. Such as: “I sit in my big, big oak desk...” (sic). I am sure many aspiring writers have died over such insulting quotation burns. 

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

"Also I can see using (sic) bring fun."

Nice save.

Gower's Office Hours

10 months ago

Because of the context I had to edit, the response burn would have been something no one could recover from. Although, I am sure my grammar is poor enough for you to find many mistakes in anything I write.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago
Is the following sentence correct?
Although, you reflect, Iverz had always been unconventional--some would say out of touch and idiotic--and it would be just like him to think nothing of the absurdity of such a match, were he to actually return the girl's affections.
I like using the double dashes instead of parenthesis, but I'm not sure where I even picked that habit up or whether it's kosher.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago

I think they are opposites: double dashes draw attention to what ever is in them, while parenthesis imply what is in them is unnecessary. I am not sure if what you wrote is correct, but I remember reading that somewhere.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago
That's what I was taught in school, I think. Parenthesis to mark the information as extra, dashes to draw attention to it, and commas to be the least interruptive.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago

Although, you reflect, Iverz had always been unconventional--some would say out of touch and idiotic--it would be just like him to think nothing of the absurdity of such a match, were he to actually return the girl's affections.

 

This above is what you want, with the "and" removed.  The idea is that you should be able to remove everything between em-dashes and the sentence should still make sense.

There's actually no real punctuation mark as double dashes.  They are just how computers render em-dashes, which look like this — and which are probably the most versatile punctuation mark.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago

In Spanish double dashes are not allowed.  Also, one dash is starting using commonly know due to English influence, and when I studied it a lesson.  My strategy is directed to avoid them like a plague;  probably, because I use them wrong.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago

You don't actually have to use dashes, so it's fine not to use them. They can easily become a crutch to avoid normal punctuation if overdone. I use them sometimes, personally, because they add variety and extra emphasis. I can't think of a time it was essential to use one, however.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago
Thanks for clearing that up.

I try not to overuse them because I don't want my story turning into an Emily Dickinson poem over here, something about them makes a sentence so much more interesting than commas or parentheses. And to me those things just don't create the same effect.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago
I timidly make my way down the copper-colored carpeted hallway. Abstract paintings line the path. Their images are not unlike a Rorschach. Two steps forward, a painting. Another two steps, another painting. I start counting. One, two, a dragon! Three, four, a castle! Five, six…Professor Gower’s Office. The closed door blocking my entrance stares back, daring me to make the first move. I gulp and clear my throat swallowing the possibility of a voice crack. My arm raises to knock. I curl my hand into a white-knuckled fist, and then suddenly freeze. What am I going to say? I better write this down…

My question is comma related. Yes, I read your article. That sentence brings me to my first question. When answering a yes or no question, is it improper to expand upon it in the same sentence? Example:

Q: Did you hear about our bus driver?
A: Yes, I saw his mugshot on the news.

As opposed to…

Yes. I saw his mugshot on the news.

OR

Yes I saw his mugshot on the news.

I think people tend to use the Yes or No as an introductory statement, although maybe that’s wrong too since I don’t believe introductory statements can be considered complete sentences. A simple “yes” or “no” is a complete sentence, right? If it is, then I suppose using a semi-colon wouldn’t be wrong, even if it looks funny.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago

You knock at the polished wood door with the brass fittings.  Since when do professorial doors have door knockers in the shape of gargoyles?  You knock, once, twice, thrice, fwice.

"I'm over here," comes Prof. Gower, from the broom closet down the hall.   He sits at a makeshift desk made of a piece of plywood and cinderblocks.  His chair is a stack of binders.  "They're painting my office," he says helplessly.  "Taupe."   He shakes his head.  "If they damage one of my codices...even one, there Will.  Be.  Hell to pay.   Now, what can..."

Someone begins to play the first eight notes of Für Elise, over and over and over nearby.  "The piano rehearsal room.  Audible through the vents.  What can I do for you, Mr. Pitka, if I may."

-----------------

This is an interesting one.  The usual rule is that you keep it in the same sentence with a comma if the content is an extension of the yes.

Q:  Did you read Ogre's story?

A:  Yes, I sure did.

There, "I sure did" is an extension of the "Yes."

Q:  Did you read Ogre's story?

A:  Yes.  I couldn't find the end!

 

So for your example, "I saw his mugshot on the news" is part of saying "yes"--did you hear about it?--yes, I even saw the news!  So a comma is fine.

Yes, I saw his mugshot on the news.

Yes. I saw his mugshot on the news.

Yes; I saw his mugshot on the news.

But honestly, on a less technical and more real-life note, I would be fine with any of these. "Yes" can serve as a whole sentence, so the latter two are fine in any case.

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago
Again, I travel the hallway down to Prof. Gower’s office or rather, the broom closet. This time I walk with poise and, dare I say, elegance. “Professor, I have another—” My words are cut short by the lifeless skeleton standing before me. I drop to my knees sobbing. “Professor Gower. You deserved better.” I gingerly lift the skeleton in my arms, promising myself to give the Professor a proper funeral. But where? The school’s garden: Gower always enjoyed the garden, especially after banning the Skateboarding Club due to the appearance of several marijuana plants. I find an empty flower bed and begin digging. “Is that you, Mr. Pitka?” I turn to see a dirt-covered, and very much alive, Professor Gower. He wipes a bead of sweat from his brow and adjusts his glasses, leaving a brown smudge in the corner. In my surprise, I drop the skeleton. “How did…” He sighs. “Human Anatomy is sharing the space while the department head is under investigation for conducting ‘hands on’ experiments. I think the investigators will find more than a few skeletons in the closet.” Prof. Gower chuckles to himself. “I wrote down an Office Hours question as a way of honoring your memory,” I say handing Prof. Gower a crumpled note. “Seems you may be able to help me after all.” --- My topic is on participles and their usage in dialogue. I was reading this article, which helped a bit, but it didn't specifically address dialogue. Take, for example: "Learn to drive!" I shout raising my middle finger out the window. vs "Learn to drive!" I shout, raising my middle finger out the window. From my reading, the comma (or lack of comma) changes the subject of the participle phrase. Is that correct? I'm a little unsure how that relates to dialogue as you're already attributing the words to a subject. What's the difference between using a comma or not and are both technically correct?

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

Let me see, let me see.  All right, crumpled note, mm, hm.  Well, this is a very simple question.  Hardly a conundrum at all.

This is a situation make to seem more ambiguous than it really is because English doesn't double up on punctuation at the end of quotations. 

"Learn to drive," I whisper to my chambermaid.

"Learn to drive."  I whisper to my chambermaid.

That is plain as day.  In the first case, you are whispering "learn to drive" to your chambermaid.  The comma connects the words spoken to the attribution.

In the second case, the words are spoken, and then, as a wholly new sentence, you whisper to your chambermaid, probably something pretty saucy. 

"Learn to drive!" I shout raising my middle finger out the window.

"Learn to drive!" I shout, raising my middle finger out the window.

Here, in the second case, that is *attribution* (learn to drive, I shout).  If English doubled up on punctuation, it would be "Learn to drive!," I shout.

In the first case, it is a quotation, followed by some information, that you shout raising your middle finger.  But you didn't shout the words "Learn to drive!"

The answer, then, to your elementary enigma is that both are quite correct.  But they mean rather different things.  Now I am going to march down to the gymnasatorium, as I believe it is called, and use the showering-off facilities.  No, no, do not consider that plot that I just finished laying down sod on too carefully, Mr. Pitka.  I bury many things here.  Library books that I deem inadvisable to return to the archives for my own reasons; student scrawlings that must return to dust; and other, more damning evidence.

 

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago

So for something where you're ending a sentence with a phrase in quotes, would you do a sentence such as this:

He encouraged many others to search for "The Seven Rings." (where the period is inside the quotes)

Or

He encouraged many others to search for "The Seven Rings". (where the period is outside)

I'm starting to think it's the second one, but do normal dialogue laws apply, such as:

"You can't think that." He shook his head. "That's so stupid." 

Where the period is inside the quotation marks, and it ends the sentence, but there's still a continuation afterwards.

This has confused me quite a lot, so honestly I've just thrown all laws into the air and completely ignored everything. This is probably a really trivial problem that I should have learned in 1st grade or something, but ya' know, I might as well put this here.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago

He encouraged many others to search for "The Seven Rings."   <--- This is correct in U.S. English.

Behold!  I have already created an excellent resource just for my fellow CYS writers:

Dialogue Punctuation

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago

Also--I have a new article out, if you wish to level up your sentence mojo.

Relative Clauses in Sentences

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago
This is timely. I was reading about restrictive clauses earlier this week. How tempting was it to use "Gower-antee" in the second paragraph? Probably not very. Great article.

Gower's Office Hours

9 months ago

That was enlightening. Thank you for taking the time to write this up! I consider my grammar decent for most purposes, and I've even worked as a technical editor for coding books with ESL authors, but when it comes to the specific rules I cannot always say why a sentence works one way and not another. I didn't know that about that vs. which or the difference between restrictive and non restrictive clauses.

Gower's Office Hours

8 months ago
I have a grammar question whenever you have a moment, Gower. I use grammarly because it tends to catch 50% of my dyslexic mistakes. But I've noticed it tends to want to correct a lot of things by connecting words, that I used to think should be separate, with hyphens. Some example sentences: 1)He set the to go box on the table. (Grammarly wants this to be changed to to-go box) 2)"I'd guess they were trying to achieve something sensory related." (Grammarly wants "sensory related" to be sensory-related.) 3)"He's a big ticket customer and his bill is going to cost more than a years rent on my apartment." (Grammarly wants to change big ticket in this sentence to big-ticket) Is this how these words should actually be used? And if so why and how do you tell when words/phrases like this should be connected with a hypen or left separate? And on that subject what about numbers? I've always seen them written as "twenty four", but grammarly wants it to be "twenty-four". Is it a matter of taste or is the hyphenated version the only correct one?

Gower's Office Hours

8 months ago

So here's the deal with compound adjectives.  You connect multiple words with a hyphen to show that the two words are a *single* idea.

Imagine:

wraith-slaying warriors

a wraith slaying warriors.

 

In the first case, the warriors are "wraith-slaying" -- the terms describes what kind of warriors they are.  In the second case, "wraith" is the subject.  The wraith slays warriors.

 

So the compound adjective helps avoid that kind of ambiguity.

 

But you should know that there is a certain old-fashioned quality to some compound adjectives.  For example, technically, you should say your storygame was a "last-minute storygame."  But often you'll see people leave that hyphen out.

The technical rule is this.  If you can use the word "and" between the adjectives, leave the hyphen out.

I slew a big green dragon -> I slew a big and green dragon   (sounds good, no hyphen)

That's a world famous movie star -> That's a world and famous movie star (sounds wrong, so should be world-famous.)

So it does have to be big-ticket customer (you cannot be a big and ticket customer); and it does have to be a to-go box (a box can't be to and go).

Sensory-related is a weirder one.  The "-related" bit is just too weak to stand on its own as a word there.

The funny thing about compound adjectives is that sometimes the hyphen can "hang."  For example, I am a specialist in "sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British literature" and yes, that's how you write it, with that weird hanging hyphen after "sixteenth."

As for numbers, numbers up to ninety-nine get hyphens, according to some usage guides.  It's totally arbitrary, and I have seen other usage guides say different numbers.  So you would say eighty-four, but one thousand.

Gower's Office Hours

8 months ago
Thanks so much Gower! It all makes sense to me now! Now to go back and fix all those hyphenated word corrections I was stubbornly ignoring.

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago
When writing a formula that takes up multiple lines, should a plus or minus sign start off the new line, or should it not? It makes sense that it should start off the new line, but maybe it's like hyphens, which I was taught should not start off a new line.

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

This is a style question rather than a grammar question, so I imagine different style guides answer this question differently.  Looking at the various style guides I have, I find that there's no particular preference indicated, and it strikes me that there are two different situations you'd encounter this.

First is a + or - indicating a positive or negative number.  I don't think you'd want the "-" and the "3" on different lines if you want to write "-3"--so common sense suggests you have to boot that minus sign to after the line break.

But in x^3 - 5x^2 + 2x + 8 I would be pretty unhappy with

                                                                          x^3

- 5x^2 + 2x +8

 

So I hereby declare that for formulae the operation sign stays on the first line.

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago
All right. Thank you, sir. This alwaus bugs me an unreasonable amount when I am writing stuff

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago
How would you go about describing an optical illusion to a blind person? For example, explaining the bendy pencil trick to Mayana.

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

I would say "Mayana, my pencil has suddenly transformed into a bendy and flexible material.  Also, I have just transformed it into several doves, each of which are holding a spring of holly in their beaks.  I have sawed them in half, and then, voila, I have put them back together using this magic wand.  I have now pulled seventeen silk scarfs from my breast pocket, followed by a brace of billiard balls and a rabbit.  No, you can't touch the rabbit.  Or any of it."

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

Do you have any tips for keeping a character consistent and believable, specifically for a character who changes drastically throughout the story?

My specific instance is in my current project Halo, or Hell, no!. On the topic of that, I'd just like to thank you again for the title. Anyway, the demon swordsman path has the major supporting character Aunrae, a Drow swordfighter well known throughout Hell because of her father. Her first interaction with the player characterizes her as abrasive, but only due to her misfortune. Here's an excerpt.

 

"Oh, hey there." she lifts her head from rest on her palm, looking at you gloomily. As if she were issuing an automatic voice line, she says with mocking cheerfulness, "Looking for a masterfully crafted weapon? Then you've come to the right place!"

You give her a look, confused at her behavior. Letting out a long sigh, she hangs her head again. 

"Sorry, I didn't mean to be rude at all, it's just... business has been super slow ever since that guy moved in." she points to another -- considerably more populated and eye-catching -- stand with a lazy finger. "His stuff's not even that great but he's just super charismatic and it makes me sick."

Truth be told, you only went to this stand because it was the first one you saw. Had you seen the other first, you likely would have gone to it instead, but it would be rude to leave at this point.

"Anyway, I've just been losing money because I work my ass of to make these weapons and no one buys them anymore except for a few people that know me personally." she sighs again, slumping down on the table. "I don't know why I'm even talking about this to you... Ugh, whatever." straightening her posture, she looks back up to you. "Do you want to buy anything, or are you just gonna stand there?"

 

I wasn't sure if the last paragraph of dialogue was too different from her other speech, or if it did well to show how stressed she is. 

Immediately after that excerpt comes this one:

 

Mostly out of pity but also curiosity, you agree to buy a sword from her. She perks up at your mention and seems surprised.

"Oh, uh, right then hold on." she disappears into a small building for a few moments and returns shortly after holding a bundle of forged blades. "You seem like a shortsword type of person, so I brought a few of my best shortswords for you to choose from."

She almost seems to bubble with excitement, and you can tell that she enjoys her craft a lot. Assuming you might see her later, you take note of her features. She has lighter skin than most of the demons, an almost light purple. Her hair is a bright white, though somewhat dinged by sweat and debris. Her ears are pointed at the tips.

As if she read your mind wondering why she looks so different, she says, "I'm half Drow. My mother came here from the Underdark after she'd had to flee her home due to a spreading civil war. The surface dwellers wouldn't take her, so she came here instead."

You find it interesting that someone would willingly choose to be sent to Hell, then you remember that you made that decision as well. You choose a sword with a medium length and weight, assuming that it would be a good one to learn with. As you swing it for practice, she looks at you with amusement.

"You don't seem to have a lot of technique." 

Slightly embarrassed, you lower the sword and hold it at your side. She chuckles softly.

"It's ok. I could probably teach you a few things. Seeing as business is... absolutely booming, I could probably fit a little time in my oh-so-busy schedule. Oh, and just so I can find you, where are you staying?"

You give her the name of the inn that the fruit seller had recommended to you, The Drunken Basilisk, and bid her farewell. 

"The name's Aunrae in case you were wondering," she says from behind you.

 

The intention was to show that she's very passionate about swordplay and passing it on, but she's had no one to practice with or to teach, so her seeing someone excited about a sword that she made gets her hopeful for the future. Again, I'm not sure if this is too big of a change in attitude in such a short time.

In this next excerpt, the player just fought off a robber with the sword purchased from Aunrae. Word spread fast through the town, and the next morning Aunrae heard about it and rushed to the inn where the player is sleeping. I'm pretty sure they/them isn't technically correct in this instance when Aunrae is referring to the player, but I didn't want to use "he or she" there because, you know, it wouldn't really sound like a normal interaction. 

 

 

You pull the door of your room open after gathering your things, then head downstairs for a bite to eat. As you reach the bottom floor and look to the bar, you see a familiar figure at one of the stools. Aunrae looks over to you, waving.

You take a seat next to her and ask the innkeeper for some food. He quickly returns with a plate of two eggs, or what you assume are eggs, with a green yolk.

"Aunrae here seemed pretty worried about you this morning. Seems she heard about last night and rushed over to make sure you were alright," he says, setting the plate down in front of you. 

Aunrae jumps in, her face showing slight embarrassment. "I only wanted to see if they'd used my sword. I wasn't worried about them."

"Sure."

"Tch." she shakes her head slowly, turning to you. "Anyway, how'd the sword do? I heard you really did a number on him!"

Only slightly confused, you explain the events, describing, at her request, in great detail the wounds inflicted.

"Must have been a pretty good blade to do all that with no form, huh?" she says, beaming. 

You confirm her assertion, complimenting her craftsmanship. While she's a bit abrasive, you do have to admit that the sword was easy to use and still effective, which would take a good amount of skill. She finishes her drink and rises from her stool.

She turns toward the door. "Oh, and about what we talked about yesterday, if you wanted, we could do some training today. I figured it was probably ok for me to skip a day at the shop since... you know how that's going."

You nod and agree to a lesson, and she smiles brightly

"Great! I have to grab a few things before, but I'll meet you just outside in about ten minutes." She waves and almost sprints out of the door in excitement.

 

Again, I'm unsure if the bubbly attitude she has here is appropriate given the previous day, but perhaps she's just still excited to teach the player. 

This next section is a passage I'm pretty unsure about, so judge it as you will, but know that I don't think it's my best work. Anyway, the player has already had a day of training with Aunrae in the physical aspects of swordplay. This day, to give the player's muscles a break, she's decided to take the player to a place strong in magic. My interpretation of magic in this story is similar to the Force of Star Wars. Some people are born strong with it, some are not. It exists as a mysterious "entity" almost. Aunrae has a pretty good understanding of magic due to her father's very strong connection to it. The plan is for her be unsure of her potential with magic and later do something along the lines of unlocking her true potential. Very cliche concept, but I can do it in a unique way.

 

"Good morning. I'm sure you're sore from yesterday so I've got something different in mind for today."

You notice she doesn't have her bundle or sword with her and wonder what she's planning. She reveals nothing as she begins in the direction of the arena. 

The path looks familiar, however, after a few blocks she takes a different turn. You follow diligently, curious to where she's leading you. Eventually the city fades behind you and you reach a meadow of grey grass and the occasional faded purple flower. A few paces ahead of you, she stops. You crest the hill she stands on and are taken aback for a moment.

Before you are thousands of flowers, blowing in the breeze that shouldn't exist due to the location. 

"Very little grows down here, at least normally." Her voice is sweet and calm, almost serene as you look out to the waving mass of color. "Many times this field has been trampled in times of war. Destroyed. Burned. But the funny thing about magic is that it never really goes away. The plants regrow where they should never have been planted in the first place. The beauty still exists where we're told none should."

You're lost for words as the peacefulness of the meadow waves to you, seeming to pull you closer.

"The lasting effect of the magic of the druids is still here, which is why I brought you here. All magic is one magic. It's strange to think that one can harness the power of such a peaceful place to use to kill."

You wonder where these past two days of Aunrae came from. Not only was she hiding sword skill but also magical talent? You suppose that people shouldn't be judged for their first impressions.

"Anyway, even we warriors can use magic. It's not restricted to just wizards and warlocks. We can use simple and complex spells to do things that no human could."

You notice a difference as she focuses. Her eyes shift color. While before they'd been the typical drow violet, now they are a golden yellow, like that of the sun. Some energy unknown to you seems to radiate from her irises.

She makes a jab, imitating the motion of her fighting. The movements seem normal except for one thing: she's moving impossibly fast. Throwing a flurry of punches, you can hardly see her arms in the blur of motion.

Her eyes return to normal, the energy dissipating. You're left with a dropped jaw and wide eyes.

"That's just one way magic affects fighters like us. Magic manifests in people many different ways. Sometimes you get lucky and you're especially strong with it, and sometimes you're just not." She shrugs, turning back to you. "But we all have something within us, and discovering what you have will sharpen your skills greatly, though I don't know if you're quite ready for it yet."

 

I'm just afraid that her dialogue is too different from her normal character and that what she says is too cliche/corny. 

I know this is a really long comment with a lot of requests, but I'd really appreciate if you'd take at least a skimmed look. Thanks!

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

"Eh?   What?"  I look up from my desk, and from the stacks of blue books neatly organized in three piles marked "Acceptable," "Unacceptable" and "Terminate."

I examine your lengthy document, remove my glasses, polish them on a cloth, look at your document again and hand it back to you.  "You want the creative writing department.  This is literature and, unfortunately, basic grammar.  Go out to the main quad, and go to the three-story building with the battlements.  The creative writing professors abide in the sub-basement.  Follow the smell of mildew, my girl."

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

So how does one tell the diffrence between a stressed syllable and a unstressed syllable. I just can't seem to figure it out

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

Me neither:(

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

A lot of people have trouble with this.  With polysyllabic words, it's easier--you know (if you have a good handle on fluent English) that it's baNAna, and not BAnana or banaNA, because if you said it the other two ways everyone would think you were nuts.

Consider this little kid book by Bruce Degen.  The book is called Jamberry.

Imagine you are reading this story aloud, with feeling, to a little kid, like a three year old, and showing them the pictures, and emphasizing the words and syllables so they get it.  I guarantee you will hear the beat, which goes

STRESS unstress unstress STRESS unstress unstress STRESS unstress unstress STRESS unstress unstress

"One berry, two berry, pick me a Blueberry !"
"Hatberry, Shoeberry in my Canoeberry;"
"Under the bridge and over the dam,"
"Looking for Berries - Berries for Jam !"

"Three berry, four berry, Hayberry, Strawberry -"
"Finger and Pawberry, My Berry, Your Berry;"
'Strawberry Ponies and Strawberry Lambs,"
'Dancing in meadows of Strawberry Jam !"

"Quickberry ! Quackberry ! Pick me a Blackberry !"
"Trainberry, Trackberry, Clickety-Clackberry;"
"Rumble and Ramble in Blackberry Bramble,"
"Billions of Berries for Blackberry Jamble !"

"Raspberry, Jazzberry, Razza-matazz-berry !"
"Berryband, Merryband, Jamming in Berryland..."
"Raspberry Rabbits and Brassberry Band,"
"Elephants skating on Raspberry Jam !"

"Moonberry, Starberry, Cloudberry Sky - "
"Boomberry, Zoomberry, Rockets shoot by !'
"Mountains and Fountains rain down on me,"
"Buried in Berries, what a Jam Jamboree !"

 

That is, in lingo, called dactylic tetrameter, but ignore that.  Most lines have that steady beat.  Not all, but most.

Now, Micropen, here is a quiz.  Still imagining you are reading aloud, (and actually do this, really, out loud) what is the stress pattern of the *final* line above, do you think?

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

Thanks.

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

And here, for anyone else to opine on, is a classic pair of lines from Richard II.  How would you scan these lines (to "scan" means to analyze for stress pattern)?

      Once more, the more to aggravate the note,
      With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat

 

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago
ONCE more, the MORE to Aggravate the NOTE, with a FOUL TRAItor's name stuff I thy throat
Is how I read that. Probably way off.

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

I'll let others opine on this before I give my reading.

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

      Once more, the more to aggravate the note,
      With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat

The first line is classic iambic pentameter. The second line… maybe the meter made more sense in the original pronunciation?

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

No, nothing funky going on pronouncing wise.

But Shakespeare messes with the meter all the time.  Bad poets metronomically cleave to regular meter.  But good poets create interesting metrical variation, and that second line is one of my favorites.

You've scanned it the way I would, although I've seen people also give that "I" a half-stress*.

Think how much worse this line would be if it were

         With a foul traitor's name I stuff thy throat

It would be more metrically regular but it would be dead.  The irregular jaggedness gets at the fury of the speaker.

 

* Depending on how into the weeds you want to get, people who study these things professionally also talk about half-stressed syllables (so "aggravate" might be analyzed as STRESS HALF-STRESS unstress).

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

If by last line you mean "Most lines have that steady beat.  Not all, but most." Then I would say, MOST lines have that STEADy beat NOT all but MOST

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

I meant the last line of the story:

"Buried in Berries, what a Jam Jamboree !"

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

BURied in BERies what a jam jamBORree

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

The first half is spot on, and you're right to notice that this line breaks the pattern of much of the rest of the poem.

Hints:

So the word "jam" is really important. 

And it would be weird to have four syllables in a row unstressed.

What syllable do you naturally stress when you say the word "jamboree"?

 

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

BURied in BERies what a JAM jamborREE

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

That's good!  And the fact that you knew that the "ies what a" bit was was unstressed shows me that you *do* understand stress deep down.  You've got this.  It's just practice.

Gower's Office Hours

7 months ago

I don't know if the office is still open, or if I have procrastinated too long as usual. However your punctuation guidelines have been a huge help. So here I am.

It's a question about the use of commas within quoted (spoken) sentences concerning names or honorifics. Some examples from my contest entry:

"It's..It's sir Myre, my Lord."
"Elaria won't help you, snake."
"At once Milord."

I tried to use them by feel, whenever the character would say the sentence with a small pause. Still, are there proper rules for them in these cases?

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

As I frequently tell my students, I apologize for missing my office hours, but I was dead drunk on sloe gin and slumped in the back hallway in a janitor's closet that is lovely for sleeping off benders.  I shall attempt to answer some of these questions as I shave in the restroom, but quickly, as I have class in five minutes.  Oh, it's just freshman writing.  I can be late to that.

Regarding honorifics.

"It's..It's sir Myre, my Lord."
"Elaria won't help you, snake."
"At once Milord."

If you are using a word in the vocative, that is, directly addressing someone or something, you typically comma to set it off in dialogue.

"At once, Milord."  (Milord is being addressed)

"It's...it's Sir Myre, my Lord."    (my Lord is being addressed)--however, please use three dots for an ellipsis, and capitalize "Sir" when used with a name.  I assume "Myre" is the first name of the character being addressed?  "Sir" goes with first name, when used with one name, not last name.

"Elaria won't help you, snake."  (You are addressing "snake")

 

So if you call to someone:  "Hey, Cricket!" or "Yo, Sent!" or "'Sup, Chris!" or "How it hangin', Ninja?"

Note, however, that it is traditional, if you are writing in the vocative and addressing someone poetically with "O" as in, "O Endmaster, hear my plea for mercy" to omit the comma after "O."

Also, don't bother with that particular entreaty.

 

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

Related - would giving your name have quotes around the relevant parts if one is not simply offering your name, but correcting the other person? Or would it have single quotes? Or be the same?

Something like:

"It's not "Sir Mare," my Lord, it's "Sir Myre."
"Oh, no, it isn't "Lord" Myre, it's just "Sir" Myre."

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

Yes, the rule is that whenever you are talking about a word as a word it is put in quotation marks.

Remember also that in US English you make quotation marks within quotation marks single quotation marks, so:

"It's not "Sir Mare," my Lord, it's "Sir Myre."
"Oh, no, it isn't "Lord" Myre, it's just "Sir" Myre."

would be

"It's not 'Sir Mare,' my Lord, "it's 'Sir Myre.'"

"Oh, no, it isn't 'Lord' Myre, it's just 'Sir' Myre."

 

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago
Can afterword and afterward be used interchangeably? I know the former is supposed to be more book related, but I'm not sure it actually matters in practice. I've seen it both ways, but then again I can't rule out 50% of those people just being wrong.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

"Afterword" is a bit of text after the main text in a book.

"Afterward" (and "afterwards") means "after that thing."

They have two totally different meanings.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

Is there a difference in the usage of farther and further? From what I've gathered, they're interchangeable and mean the exact same thing, but I wanted to see if you had different insight.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

They actually do mean different things, but it's subtle.

Farther:  physical distance  (I can throw a ball farther than you.)

Further:  other kinds of distance  (Do you have anything further to add?)

 

This only bothers people who are bothered by supermarket signs that say "12 Items Or Less," but for the people it bothers, it really bothers them.

 

Zeppo Marx:  Is there anything further, father?

Groucho Marx:  Anything further, father?  That can't be right. Isn't it “anything father, further”?

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago
Who gets bothered by 12 items or less signs, unless you're literally just there to get milk and eggs to bake your wife a birthday cake before she gets home from work and some blimp from outer space is there with an entire shopping cart? And a credit card that's maxed out - but she insists on trying to make it work.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

> Who gets bothered by 12 items or less signs

Those among the initiated.  If it doesn't bother you on a word level, be pleased and go on with your pleasant life.  You have been spared having to seethe in the grocery line.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago
Oh, the singular mass and countable folk. No, no. I'm far too busy being irritated by the people in the store to give too much thought to that.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago
All I know is more is better.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago
Smh, Bucky. That went so far over your head that it hit the moon.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago
You’ve never grocery shopped in a town where people are generally less intelligent than golden retrievers. Once you’ve done that, you’re attention and disgust will be directed accordingly.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago
I'm fortunate to be surrounded by the intellectually superior, yes

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

Thanks. I'll try to use them properly for the few that care.

Gower's Office Hours

6 months ago

From what I gathered the last time I looked this one up, 'farther' is more narrow in scope and is only used in relation to physical distance. E.g. you could say, "This is farther away than that," but not "This will farther the cause." Further is used to mean 'a greater degree' - but it sometimes can represent a degree of distance, hence the crossover. So "This will further the cause" and "Further up and further in!" are both accurate. But "Farther up and farther in" would work as well.

Short rule (I think): physical distance = farther, and figurative distance or greater degree = further.

Gower's Office Hours

5 months ago

My question is about commas and prepositional phrases. I know that when prepositional phrases come at the end of a sentence, they are not supposed to be separated with commas. So I have the following short excerpt from my story: "Had they ______________, to try and get you going?" I'm not sure if 'to' is a preposition, given that it isn't indicating place? If it is, should I remove the comma? (Note that the blank indicates an omission of 5 words.) Thanks for the help!

Gower's Office Hours

5 months ago

This is an interesting one that I would expound on more if I were at my computer at the moment, but in short, you are right—that is  an infinitive "to" rather than a preposition.  

 

What you have there is a "purposive" infinitive phrase (aka, you can imagine it going "in order to..."). And those indeed do not get the comma.

 

"Had they injected your heart with cocaine to try to get you going?"

 

This is as opposed to a "result" phrase that indicates the result, which does get the comma.

 

"They injected her heart with cocaine only to learn that she was already dead."

Gower's Office Hours

5 months ago

Thanks Gower, I really appreciate the help. Is there supposed to be a comma before 'only' in your second example? 

I appreciate the explanation as well, since it will help me with similar instances. 

Gower's Office Hours

5 months ago

"Only to" there probably could have the comma, looking at it again, although I wouldn't insist on it, and obviously my first inclination wasn't to use it.  There is no grammatical requirement for it in that position.

it would be useful, though, to prevent someone thinking that "only" there meant "for the sole purpose of."

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago

Professor Gower, is "like most of my clients, instead of saying any of the expected "how's the weather over there"'s and "rather hot, thank you"'s, your curiosity gets the better of you and you decide to interrogate me" a grammatically correct sentence? I am sorry for being eight months late to office hours, but I need to get my grade above a 60%, so I hope you will alter your no extensions rule for me. Thanks for your time!

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago

OK, first let me take my glasses and tilt them slightly down my nose.  Then let me look at you over the top of them and steeple my hands.  This is not RPing on the forum.  This is real.  And this is serious.

We need to talk about quotations within quotations.  In US English, when you quote within a quotation, the internal quotation marks transform into single quotation marks.  This is crucial for clarity.

So,

"like most of my clients, instead of saying any of the expected "how's the weather over there"'s and "rather hot, thank you"'s, your curiosity gets the better of you and you decide to interrogate me"

becomes

"like most of my clients, instead of saying any of the expected 'how's the weather over there's and 'rather hot, thank you's, your curiosity gets the better of you and you decide to interrogate me."

However, that is practically unreadable, because the single quotation marks look like possessive apostrophes--it looks like you are using the word "there's" and, weirdly, "you's" (which I believe is an acceptable personal pronoun in Chicago.)

Therefore, I would recommend omitting the plural entirely and saying

"Like most of my clients, instead of saying the expected 'how's the weather over there' and 'rather hot, thank you,' your curiosity gets the better of you and you decide to interrogate me."

 

Finally, if we wish to be sticklers for this sort of thing (we do) we will put a comma after "better of you" because the "and" is connecting two complete sentences.  This is called an additive sentence, in which two independent clauses (two complete sentences, essentially) are connected with a conjunction like "and."  Those sentences like to have commas before the "and."

Incidentally, wholly out of context, I find this a weird sentence, because "how's the weather" and "rather hot" sound like two parts of a conversation, a query and a response.  But it sounds like both of those are meant to be in the mouth/mind of "you."  Perhaps in context this is less odd.

I am afraid, however, that I cannot offer an extension at this time.  I will allow you to take an Incomplete.  You may complete the course over the summer with one of the *sniff* junior professors.

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago

Thank you, Professor Gower! If I remove the "'s" after "how's the weather" and "rather hot, thank you", then add "phrases" after the word "you", would that be acceptable? Also, does an Incomplete still give me partial credit? My grade will no longer be an F if it does, which means I won't have to attend summer school, right?

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago

Yes, adding "phrases" would be perfectly grammatical.  As far as the specifics of your Incomplete, I would direct you to the registrar, or your advisor, or one of the TAs, or the bursar, or the vice provost, or... (vague hand wave)

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago

Thank you again, Professor Gower!

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago
Is the phrase "in close proximity" dumb? Because it seems really redundant, but maybe the redundancy adds to the point of how CLOSE it is.

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago
I've heard it enough times. Unlike ketchup and sausage, the words are just expected to go together, don't question it too hard.

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago

I am going to judge this dumb.  Even the Latin, proximitas, implies closeness, so you can't even argue that maybe at one point it meant just distance.  No, it's totally redundant.  And it's a cliche, so it's double dumb.

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago
Thank you.
It was in a textbook, and I got upset, but decided I needed expert opinion to justify my upsetness.

Gower's Office Hours

one month ago
I am going to disasgree with Gower here. Yes, I know he's the professor and there's no point in me disagreeing. And yes, my grade will probably suffer. But still... I would argue that "close proximity" and "proximity" can actually be construed to be different ranges of space. If I am in a room that is ten feet by ten feet square, I could consider myself in the proximity of the button to launch the nuclear weapons. However, that button could still be across the room from me where I might have to walk over to it in order to be able to press it. If I was on the phone and someone asked me if I was in proximity of the button, I could answer that I was. But at the same time, if they asked me to press the button, I could not. Instead, I would have to be in close proximity of the button in order to be able to actually reach it. If you think about it, if I'm standing across the room, I would actually have to get in closer proximity of the button in order to be able to press the button. While in theory, it can be argued (as Gower as done so well here) that it is redundant, I would suggest that there are certainly some cases in which the adjective is needed to describe exactly how close the object is when using the word proximity. Of course, in my writing I shall avoid all such instances by simply using the word "near" in any case when I need to describe how close something is to something else.

Gower's Office Hours

11 days ago

Professor, professor! Yes, I know that it's summer break, but your feet are visible in the crack under the door! Please, I have another question that can't wait until the next semester! I'll slide it under the door, so you just have to answer.

Would it be better to have more short paragraphs or fewer longer paragraphs? I get that each paragraph is one idea, but if I am talking about something at length, what would provide a better flow to my story? Typically, there is a natural place to break my prose into two paragraphs 1-2 sentences in; otherwise, the next natural break leaves me with a relatively long paragraph.

Oh, I have an example! Come on professor, I know you love examples!

This is what I have now:

Resting in your chambers, you can kick your feet up and take a breath. Today had been tiring. On top of your first day on a new job, you also got launched into space. Adequate training is hardly ever provided to new employees, but expecting this role to be different seemed logical twelve hours ago. After all, who just straps someone into a space shuttle with only a five-minute training video titled Welcome to NASA? Still, it could be worse.

Tomorrow would be worse. As the captain of the Endeavor mining shuttle, you will be making life or death choices for your three-person crew. Your application was a joke, but it got you here anyway. 

This is what I had before combining two paragraphs:

Resting in your chambers, you can kick your feet up and take a breath. Today had been tiring. On top of your first day on a new job, you also got launched into space.

Adequate training is hardly ever provided to new employees, but expecting this role to be different seemed logical twelve hours ago. After all, who just straps someone into a space shuttle with only a five-minute training video titled Welcome to NASA? Still, it could be worse.

Tomorrow would be worse. As the captain of the Endeavor mining shuttle, you will be making life or death choices for your three-person crew. Your application was a joke, but it got you here anyway. 

Lastly, I am considering this:

Resting in your chambers, you can kick your feet up and take a breath. Today had been tiring. On top of your first day on a new job, you also got launched into space. Adequate training is hardly ever provided to new employees, but expecting this role to be different seemed logical twelve hours ago. After all, who just straps someone into a space shuttle with only a five-minute training video titled Welcome to NASA? Still, it could be worse. Tomorrow would be worse. As the captain of the Endeavor mining shuttle, you will be making life or death choices for your three-person crew. Your application was a joke, but it got you here anyway. 

Additionally, are there any rules or further reading I can do on pacing and how my paragraph breaks could affect it? My understanding is that shorter paragraphs quicken the pace and longer ones slow it. That might not even be correct. Please, my supplementary summer courses are dependent on your answer!

 

Gower's Office Hours

11 days ago

Those are of course my decoy shoes that I leave in there.  I have not been in my office for months now, having retreated to an undisclosed tropical island-based hammock where I now hold office hours remotely, the whilst I quaff a pin (pineapple juice and gin) from a halved and hollowed coconut.

Paragraphing, happily, has nothing to do with grammar and everything to do with style.  Long, thoughtful paragraphs are wonderful in stylishly-written prose.  I find, though, on a screen, I need to break them up in order to rest my weary eyes.  So while I tell my student to take their time and develop their paragraphs when they turn in their work on actual paper, on a screen, I would probably recommend leaning slightly in the other direction.

I like your option 2 above.  Beginnings and ends of paragraphs are prime real estate for punchy, exciting transitions, and so a bit of extra paragraphing gives you more opportunities for those locations.

I trust my homing parrot gets this to you in a timely fashion.

Gower's Office Hours

11 days ago

Professor Gower,

While I greatly appreciate your help, please train your homing parrot not to enter my private bathroom.

I won't bother you again, probably.

Thanks,

Shadowdrake27