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Old 01-23-2013, 12:53 AM   #1
Shirokirie
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I could use some help identifying my grammatical problems.

Title says it all.

In response to feedback that I'm not very... grammatically passable or satisfying as a writer, I'd just like to ask if someone would be so kind as to help me identify problems in my SYW submissions. Mostly so that I can go and do some online search-learning in hopes of improvement.

Frankly I have no idea what the issues are because I have no idea what everyone is talking about since I'm not very G-savvy. Obviously. <_<

Them: You have grammatical issues in your writing!
Me: Okay! *attempts to fix* Is this better?
Them: No, you're still confusing your adverbs with your adjectives and your nouns with your pronouns.
Me: ... What's a pronoun?


So yeah, thanks.

You don't have to explain anything, like I said, self-learning and all. I just need to know where to start.

Okay so. Longer Sample is this post (No you do not have to read it all) and Shorter Samples are in this post.

Final note:
This isn't a critique thing. I'm not asking for feedback on the writing. I'm asking where should I direct my learning capabilities as regards grammar. And stuff.

Thanks again!
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Myka: ... you've seen my prologue thus far.
Myka: I have one hell of an imagination.
Voltengessen: Mm.
Voltengessen: Good point.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:37 AM   #2
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I think that if people are pointing out grammatical problems in general, repeatedly, rather than already identifying a specific issue, you probably want to do an overview of grammar. Going over stuff you already know will be fast and easy and encouraging, and you're much less likely to miss important stuff that just didn't come up in those particular samples, that way.

There are lots of good basic books on English grammar for writers; I'll let someone else do the recommending, as there aren't any specific ones that I've worked with recently enough to feel comfortable naming them as a good resource.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:40 AM   #3
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Ok, looking at the shorter excerpt, the first thing I noticed was the comma deficit. They're free, dude. It's as if you were attacked by one as a small child and now fear them, they're so lacking.

You're way overusing, and in places misusing, em dashes, I think because you don't know where commas go and you're trying to make up for the lack of them.

There's massive ellipsis abuse all over the place. There should be close to none of them in fiction; they're ubiquitous as weeds in your piece.

In addition, you've got a pronoun problem. You have unclear antecedents a few places and just random pronouns tossed in before any subject to connect them to, which is decidedly odd. Like here -

Quote:
My vision roves about for any identifiable thing—anything—but the only sense I can make of my surroundings is that I am not where I belong. They operate on a warp grid, each chamber sealed with no doors.
There's no identification provided for who or what 'they' refers to. You need a subject. It vaguely seems to refer to 'surroundings' but that doesn't make any sense.

In that first excerpt you also have some plural/singular issues, like here -

Quote:
Soft plaps against glass and small sniffs agitates the stagnant air.
and fragments posing as sentences.

Honestly, the punctuation is the most glaring issue. The ellipsis, em dash and comma soup makes it hard/irritating to read.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:54 AM   #4
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Thank you, fadeaccompli. I have been checking out a couple of grammar oriented sites and the table of contents alone makes my brain overload. Unless I know what specifically to look at, I sit down to do it, then get up and go make a cheese burger. Mission accomplished.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cornflake View Post
Ok, looking at the shorter excerpt, the first thing I noticed was the comma deficit. They're free, dude. It's as if you were attacked by one as a small child and now fear them, they're so lacking.

You're way overusing, and in places misusing, em dashes, I think because you don't know where commas go and you're trying to make up for the lack of them.

There's massive ellipsis abuse all over the place. There should be close to none of them in fiction; they're ubiquitous as weeds in your piece.

In addition, you've got a pronoun problem. You have unclear antecedents a few places and just random pronouns tossed in before any subject to connect them to, which is decidedly odd. Like here -

There's no identification provided for who or what 'they' refers to. You need a subject. It vaguely seems to refer to 'surroundings' but that doesn't make any sense.

In that first excerpt you also have some plural/singular issues, like here -

and fragments posing as sentences.

Honestly, the punctuation is the most glaring issue. The ellipsis, em dash and comma soup makes it hard/irritating to read.
Thank you, cornflake.

I take it I have no idea what syntax is, too?
And you can just use commas? Like, okay the last person I talked to over something about grammar said that, at most, there should only be three commas in any given sentence. You know, the "Oxford Comma" rule-thing. So I've been meh about using them.

But, I'll go sit down with that again, too.

Thanks!
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The Friendly British:
Myka: I am never clicking a link from you again
Myka: ever.
Voltengessen: I did say 'ghosty'
Myka: If it's hentai, porn, or anything sexual. Not. A. Single. Link
Voltengessen: well how will you know until you click it
Myka: ... you've seen my prologue thus far.
Myka: I have one hell of an imagination.
Voltengessen: Mm.
Voltengessen: Good point.
Myka:
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:12 AM   #5
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You probably should try to forget any casual suggestions that you'r gotten, like that comma maximum, and sit down with a complete grammar book or website and read the whole thing. Try to find one that has some explanations of the logic involved in a sentence, rather than something that just lists rules.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:15 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
Thank you, fadeaccompli. I have been checking out a couple of grammar oriented sites and the table of contents alone makes my brain overload. Unless I know what specifically to look at, I sit down to do it, then get up and go make a cheese burger. Mission accomplished.


Thank you, cornflake.

I take it I have no idea what syntax is, too?
And you can just use commas? Like, okay the last person I talked to over something about grammar said that, at most, there should only be three commas in any given sentence. You know, the "Oxford Comma" rule-thing. So I've been meh about using them.

But, I'll go sit down with that again, too.

Thanks!
Whoa, wait. The Oxford comma is the comma used before 'and' in a list of three or more items. It used to not be used in American writing, but was in British, hence 'Oxford comma.' Then Americans adopted it, tagged it the 'Harvard comma,' and are now on the way to abandoning it again.

Bob went to the store and bought a book, a pencil, a kitty, <--an Oxford comma, in the wild and a bag of oranges.

As to there being some prohibition on using more than three commas in a sentence, that's rubbish. If properly punctuated, a sentence can be nearly any length, and commas are part of proper punctuation. Heck, a sentence with a list of more than three items has more than three commas.

Also, not for nothing, but you consistantly start sentences with conjunctions. This is not strictly against a grammar rule, but it's lazy writing and the more it crops up in someone's writing, the more noticible it tends to be.

Oh, and you're missing hyphens that belong in compound modifiers, heh. Not to pile on, truly, but if you're going to read up on this stuff, might as well address it all.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by King Neptune View Post
You probably should try to forget any casual suggestions that you'r gotten, like that comma maximum, and sit down with a complete grammar book or website and read the whole thing. Try to find one that has some explanations of the logic involved in a sentence, rather than something that just lists rules.
I agree just reading something that's a list of rules won't be particularly helpful. However, in general, I know what the OP means, I think.

I've known more than one person who wasn't really taught proper grammar and maybe wasn't a big reader growing up or what have you, and thus just didn't 'get' the rules, either as rules or by instinct. It's hard, for many of those people, to know where to begin. Sitting down with what seems like a good book becomes just confusing.

It's like 'who' vs. 'whom.' If you get it, or sort of get it, it's not so hard. If you don't, and read in a book or are told that it's a subject/object difference, well, ok, but what's that mean?

I've heard ridiculous theoretical explanations of when to use 'who' vs. 'whom' from people, and those who don't understand subject/object in a sentence (nevermind indirect or predicate objects) aren't going to get it reading that either.

Hence it's best to either find a book that resonates (Eats, Shoots, and Leaves is good, imo.), or ask for specific things to try to improve. As long as someone wants to improve and isn't all 'fix this for me; I don't get it,' I'm usually on board. YMMV.
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Old 01-23-2013, 03:16 AM   #8
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Thanks again, cornflake.

Just a random side note:
I wish most of these grammar sites were written in laymen terms. Often times I feel like:

"THIS IS COMPOSED OF MARTIAN, GIBBERISH, AND I'LL BE DAMNED IF YOU KNOW THIS ONE! And that's how you make a sentence. Now if you want to do something a little more complex, you'll need to GATHER SIX PUPPY DOG TAILS AND A COD AND TIE THEM TO THE BACK OF A CAT AND HOPE TO YOUR LOCAL DEITY YOU PUT YOUR SHOES ON RIGHT."

I guess that falls into the conversation about getting a book that one can easily understand, otherwise it's like sorcery or some... such.

Proseomancy, there we go. One of its sub-schools is Grammarkinesis.
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The Friendly British:
Myka: I am never clicking a link from you again
Myka: ever.
Voltengessen: I did say 'ghosty'
Myka: If it's hentai, porn, or anything sexual. Not. A. Single. Link
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Myka: ... you've seen my prologue thus far.
Myka: I have one hell of an imagination.
Voltengessen: Mm.
Voltengessen: Good point.
Myka:

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Old 01-23-2013, 03:36 AM   #9
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**ETA: It occurs to me that I may have quoted too much of an SYW piece here. I'll move specific comments using quotes to the thread in SYW.**

I read through the shorter sample and touched on a few things in the thread in SYW (or I will in a minute). My overall impression was that your issues are not so much with grammar, per se--although there are some mistakes--but with the construction of awkward or unclear sentences, and perhaps an overuse of dashes and ellipses. You do need to watch subject-verb agreement sometimes, and I think sometimes you use inappropriate words, but I don't know that I can point to any general issues that you consistently demonstrate aside from a broad awkwardness or issues with clarity.

*Now I'm off to SYW to get a little more specific*

PS. I've heard good things about a book called Woe is I...but have not actually read it, so that's not a real recommendation Could be worth looking into, as far as resources go?

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Old 01-23-2013, 04:04 AM   #10
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I think it's best to begin at the beginning with a seventh grade English book. The problem with learning grammar is that if you don't know the terms, don't know the basics, all the explanations and help will go over your head. You'll be more confused than ever.

A seventh grade English book is simple, easy to use, is broken up into digestible lessons, and has all the grammar knowledge most writers will likely ever need.
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Old 01-23-2013, 04:44 AM   #11
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I agree with Mr Ritchie; a junior high grammar book probably would do the job.
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:54 AM   #12
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I have to agree with the others in that if you do not understand the terms and how they apply to sentence construction, then all the HOW TO BOOKS in the world are only going to confuse you.

Normally, I would recommend a very small book called, The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. But you still have to have some idea of the terms used and how they fit into sentence construction and style usages. But you still need to understand the terms and how they relate to grammar.

The only thing I can add is that there is no short cuts, but the fact that you want to learn is a very big step in the right direction for a writer to take...
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Old 01-23-2013, 06:22 AM   #13
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As has been said, part of the problem with learning conventional grammar is that we, who speak some form of English as a first language, have an intuitive sense of syntax and grammar without an actual knowledge of how it all fits together. I'm a high school English teacher, and I have a devil of a time teaching many of my students the finer points of the language because they don't see the value in learning to dissect a sentence. They already have the all communication skills they think they will ever need. It can be a real bear for those who aren't language geeks.

I agree that a jr. high grammar book is a good place to start. You need the terms first. After you get that, you should have a better idea where to expand your investigations.

There are several teachers on this site. One of us may be able to help if you need assistance with specific concepts or passages.

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Old 01-23-2013, 10:59 AM   #14
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... Well I am proud of the fact that I understand what subject and predicate is. Not the specific order that they're supposed to go in, per se, or when which one is supposed to appear and where at what time. But, I know what a predicate is!

Most epic achievement ever.

Do you think any one of the teachers lurking around would be willing to tutor me on this? I know I said I'd be doing self-search-learning stuff, but so far this has gotten a bit overwhelming for my brain. I mean I'm able to grasp concepts pretty easily, I just need someone to explain some of the basics of sentence construction... and I think I can take it from there. ><;

Like I said, I know subject and 'filler'. I don't necessarily know how to apply these things. I mean I tend to be 'filler' and then subject and then more filler and then might-be-another-subject -- you get the idea.

So yeah.

Halp?
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Myka: I am never clicking a link from you again
Myka: ever.
Voltengessen: I did say 'ghosty'
Myka: If it's hentai, porn, or anything sexual. Not. A. Single. Link
Voltengessen: well how will you know until you click it
Myka: ... you've seen my prologue thus far.
Myka: I have one hell of an imagination.
Voltengessen: Mm.
Voltengessen: Good point.
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Old 01-23-2013, 01:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
And you can just use commas? Like, okay the last person I talked to over something about grammar said that, at most, there should only be three commas in any given sentence. You know, the "Oxford Comma" rule-thing. So I've been meh about using them.
As explained up-thread, the Oxford (aka Harvard aka serial) comma is the comma before "and" in a list of three or more things: "apples, grapes{,} and pears". Use it or not, whichever you like, just be consistent. Either way, a few purists will claim you're wrong, but opinion is actually quite divided.

The only remotely possible justification for a "three-comma rule" would be as a matter of style, not grammar. It isn't unusual for a grammatically correct sentence to have poor style. If you need more than three commas in a sentence, it's worth taking a second look to see if the sentence is unnecessarily complicated. Would it read better broken into two or more simpler sentences? But that has nothing to do with grammar. *

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post

Them: No, you're still confusing your adverbs with your adjectives and your nouns with your pronouns.
Me: ... What's a pronoun?
I'm not sure whether you actually mean this, or you're exaggerating for effect. If you really don't know the parts of speech, you may need to start with a fourth grade grammar book before you try seventh grade.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
Thank you, fadeaccompli. I have been checking out a couple of grammar oriented sites and the table of contents alone makes my brain overload. Unless I know what specifically to look at, I sit down to do it, then get up and go make a cheese burger. Mission accomplished.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
Just a random side note:
I wish most of these grammar sites were written in laymen terms. Often times I feel like:

"THIS IS COMPOSED OF MARTIAN, JEW-GIBBERISH*, AND I'LL BE DAMNED IF YOU KNOW THIS ONE! And that's how you make a sentence. Now if you want to do something a little more complex, you'll need to GATHER SIX PUPPY DOG TAILS AND A COD AND TIE THEM TO THE BACK OF A CAT AND HOPE TO YOUR LOCAL DEITY YOU PUT YOUR SHOES ON RIGHT."
Some sites are grammar references and some are grammar lessons. The reference sites are for people who know enough of the basics to know what they need to look up. Look for sites that are set up as a series of lessons.

*ETA: This, like many other "rules", isn't a rule at all. It's merely advice to take a second look at something that may or may not signal a problem.
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Old 01-23-2013, 02:30 PM   #16
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I had a brief peek at the samples and didn't see too much for you to worry about. There's occasional stuff that is grammatically off but then some of it is style. The dashes in the first short bit I don't mind too much (there's one bit - "-I'm in a room-" that leapt out as being wrong.) I saw a couple of subject-verb agreement errors, but I didn't get the impression that you have a serious problem with that. I've published authors with a weaker grasp of this stuff.

(The Oxford comma is something that reasonable people can disagree about. It's just whether you put a comma before the 'and' that introduces the last item in a list. "I ordered eggs, bacon, mushrooms and toast" or "I ordered eggs, bacon, mushrooms, and toast." I like the latter style, but my house style is the former.)

What I'd pick out to work on wouldn't be the grammar, but that it often feels a touch overwritten - everything's qualified with an adjective or adverb, and sometimes the imagery is overdone.
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Old 01-23-2013, 06:43 PM   #17
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Yeah that was over exaggeration. I know what a pronoun is. I am a pronoun. He is another kind of pronoun. We are all pronouns.

Of course there are all sorts of pronouns.

All that aside, Torgo, you think I should try to write it less. As in not so punctuation heavy?
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The Friendly British:
Myka: I am never clicking a link from you again
Myka: ever.
Voltengessen: I did say 'ghosty'
Myka: If it's hentai, porn, or anything sexual. Not. A. Single. Link
Voltengessen: well how will you know until you click it
Myka: ... you've seen my prologue thus far.
Myka: I have one hell of an imagination.
Voltengessen: Mm.
Voltengessen: Good point.
Myka:
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Old 01-23-2013, 06:49 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Shirokirie View Post
All that aside, Torgo, you think I should try to write it less. As in not so punctuation heavy?
Punctuation isn't a huge problem, it's all the qualifiers.

"Soft plaps against glass and small sniffs agitate the stagnant air. A little feral girl, her hair a bright copper color, sobs and wails. No one can hear her, and her voice is tiny inside the gargantuan containment room. She takes deep breaths, smothering her fanatic tears, and creeps—at first—towards the pad."

There's a lot going on there, and when it's all like that it feels overwritten to me. It just sometimes feels like you're trying too hard. Other times, it's fine.
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Old 01-23-2013, 06:53 PM   #19
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For punctuation, I strongly recommend EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES by Lynne Truss. For grammar and usage, I like THE IDIOTS GUIDE TO GRAMMAR AND USAGE by Laurie Rozakis. Both are not only solid on the fundamentals, they're fun to read.
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:20 PM   #20
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Thank you all for your recommendations, input and advice. I'm steady doing my best to work this out as I go along, and I greatly appreciate all this.

I may still be off as regards the... accuracy(?) of applying what's been said here to my work.

I did get Eats, Shoots and Leaves. I'll also be looking up The Idiots Guide to Grammar and Usage.

Also, I did get something up in SYW. My focus was trying to correct the confusing parts as well as making sentences that were clearer than the ones I usually make. So i hope I hit the mark on that. I'd appreciate a quick check to see if I'm making progress or not.

Of course you don't have to read the whole thing or add critique or something like that. I just want a quick check for improvement(s) or areas that may need attention.

Post can be found here.

Thanks again, everyone!
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Old 01-24-2013, 12:16 AM   #21
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I remember as a child trying to code in BASIC and being continually confounded by the message "syntax error". I had no idea what it meant.

What it meant was the right things in the right order. So "It was what right things meant right order in the" would be a syntax error.

Syntax is something you likely understand without being conscious of it. A lot of grammar is like that - if you read widely, you will know what's right or not and what works or not. I don't think you need to be able to recite rules or even pick out the participle in a phrase if you can write a coherent sentence, but a rudimentary knowledge of grammar will help you resolve any problems that you do encounter. Otherwise you're stuck back trying to work out what "syntax error" means.

Good luck...
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Old 01-24-2013, 12:47 AM   #22
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I'd agree with the people who suggest a good style manual. This site is also excellent for basic grammar questions. If you feel like you are really lacking in this area and need more than a simple brush up on some basic rules, then you should probably read a couple of books on the issue on their entirety, or maybe even consider taking a class at a local college or adult education center. No writer is going to produce a manuscript completely clean of mistakes, but self editing is obviously a lot tougher if you don't know a lot of the basic things that are mistakes.

If you want critiques of an initial draft to focus on line edits for grammar issues with suggestions on specific fixes, you can always say that you welcome, even desire, such feedback on your submission. Reading a chapter or short story with that editorial filter on is a very different process than reading with larger scale issues in mind, like characterization, dialog, description, flow of sentences etc. If you want help with this specific issue, I'd suggest you post relatively short segments and be aware that you probably won't be getting as much feedback about other issues the story may have at this time.

I will say kudos for you for wanting to learn and improve your skills in this area. I run across a lot of people who simply throw up their hands and say, "I'm just no good at this and I never will be."
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Old 01-24-2013, 01:42 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onesecondglance View Post

Syntax is something you likely understand without being conscious of it. A lot of grammar is like that - if you read widely, you will know what's right or not and what works or not. I don't think you need to be able to recite rules or even pick out the participle in a phrase if you can write a coherent sentence, but a rudimentary knowledge of grammar will help you resolve any problems that you do encounter. Otherwise you're stuck back trying to work out what "syntax error" means.

Good luck...
I've read a lot of slush that says otherwise, and I know many of these writers read prolifically. They think they get it right through reading, but it just ain't so.
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Old 01-24-2013, 02:59 AM   #24
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Yeah. I managed to snag "English Grammar for Dummies"' in .pdf format. I think I'm going to stick to that one kos it works real well for me. So far.

Thank you. though.
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Old 01-24-2013, 03:03 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onesecondglance View Post
What it meant was the right things in the right order. So "It was what right things meant right order in the" would be a syntax error.

Syntax is something you likely understand without being conscious of it. A lot of grammar is like that - if you read widely, you will know what's right or not and what works or not. I don't think you need to be able to recite rules or even pick out the participle in a phrase if you can write a coherent sentence, but a rudimentary knowledge of grammar will help you resolve any problems that you do encounter. Otherwise you're stuck back trying to work out what "syntax error" means.

Good luck...
Thank you.

I just wanted to take into consideration:
What if, instead of assimilating the silent-but-logical rules of syntax, a newbie writer ends up taking on a stylistic technique of an experienced author who very clearly knows what they are doing in 'butchering' or intentionally misusing syntax for a specific effect?

Wouldn't that be detrimental to the student's desire to write acceptably?
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Myka: I am never clicking a link from you again
Myka: ever.
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Myka: If it's hentai, porn, or anything sexual. Not. A. Single. Link
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Myka: ... you've seen my prologue thus far.
Myka: I have one hell of an imagination.
Voltengessen: Mm.
Voltengessen: Good point.
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