Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Writing Down the Bones: FUMBLERULES

I found this wonderful flyer that I received from my local RWA chapter years ago that talks about grammar and proper sentence structure. It's called Fumblerules a lighthearted guide to grammar and good usage by William Safire.

There are ten of them - now I don't know if I agree with all of them but a lot are things to avoid. Here's the list and my comments.

1. No sentence fragments - the english majors out there will say 'yes, yes. Must stick to that.' But I have learned in fiction you can break this rule - you just have to do it right. I use them from time to time but it always to make a point. I pick my moments carefully.

2. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read - I do agree with this one - when I was in high school I was the queen of run-on sentences but learned to control it. Still every once in a while they creep back into my work. I'm so glad for my editor. She catches all those mistakes.

3. A writer must not shift your point of view - I love this one it is a perfect example of shifting from third person to first which can get totally confusing. If you are in third you need to stay there.

4. Do not put statements in the negative form - I do agree with this - double negatives are the worst. My sister had a boyfriend years ago who said this wonderful statement - 'I used to didn't be' - what? I know what he meant but what a way to say it.

5. Don't use contractions in formal writing - this is one I'm not sure of. When I was prepublished we were lucky enough to have an english teacher as part of our critique group. She said the exact opposite - at least when it came to dialog. Contractions are part of our speech and when you have your characters speaking without them it tends make the story read very formal and can pull your readers out of your story.

6. The adverb always follow the verb - no argument from me on this one.

7. Make an all out effort to hyphenate when necessary but not when un-necessary. This one is fun when you write SF or futuristic romances where sometimes you have to make up your own words. Then I have to remember if I hyphenated them from on book to another. To make my life easier I try not to use any hyphenated words.

8. Don't use Capital letters without good REASON.  Totally agree - I used to have a boss who used caps to show his anger - I saw them all the time in e-mails and hated it. He used them so much after a while they didn't mean anything. It was like watching someone yell through a closed window. Using too many caps can do the same thing.

9. It behooves us to avoid archaisms - What? Who talks like that anymore...which is the point. Don't use old archaic words unless you are writing a historical and even then you should keep your reader in mind when you use some of these words - same thing with cliches. It's like beating a dead horse.

10. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed. I love this one and most of the time author's get it right. Every once in a while I'll catch someone who forgets when to use its and it's, but it's okay.  We all make mistakes.

Hope this helps - I always love going through these handouts.

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