11 Things I’ve Learned about Grammar & Spelling

  1. Everyday is an adjective. (Spell-check wants me to change “everyday” to two words. Don’t trust spell-check.)
  2. Every day is a noun.
  3. Spell-check cannot be trusted when it comes to possessive tense. It thinks every “s” should be preceded by an apostrophe. (Pet peeve alert!)
  4. Anytime is an adverb that means “at any time.” Anytime is sometimes a subordinating conjunction. When used as the latter, it generally means “every time that.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives 1926 as the year the word “anytime” came into general use. It is not found in The Oxford Dictionary.
  5. Any time must be two words when used in an adverbial phrase, such as “at any time” because “at” must be followed by a noun or a noun phrase. (Okay. I admit it. I’m lost!) Bottom line: When in doubt, use “any time.”
  6. When you have placed an apostrophe after a noun that ends in an “s” for more than 50 years, it is difficult to adopt the new practice of adding an apostrophe and an “s” in such cases.
  7. The Chicago Manual of Style is an excellent 1,000-plus-page grammar guide. It will confirm that you know how to write while simultaneously confounding you and teaching you that you haven’t mastered grammar after all.
  8. After being taught that “President” is always capitalized when naming the president of the United States of America, I learned the hard way while editing my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, for Arcadia Publishing in 2014 that The Chicago Manual of Style demands a lower case “p.” I had to swallow my pride and write “president Andrew Jackson” and president Franklin D. Roosevelt” in my postcard book. The new lower case rule will never look correct to me!
  9. The older I get, the less confident I am about spelling.
  10. I’ve learned more about punctuation by studying the craft of writing in my middle age than I learned in school.
  11. As demonstrated by The Chicago Manual of Style, there are way too many grammar and punctuation rules for the English language! I have, no doubt, broken a dozen of those rules in this list of 11 items.

chicago-manual-of-style-005

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. (***Shameless book promotion alert!***  Have you read The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina? Ask for it at your favorite bookstore, or order it from Amazon.) If you are a writer, I wish you productive writing time.

Janet

Twitter:  @janetmorrisonbk

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A Novel’s First Line

Today I’m sharing the first line of a novel. That was already my plan before I read Andrea Lundgren’s “Crafting An Authentic Beginning” that I reblogged here yesterday.

As I have kept a list of the first lines from novels in my writer’s notebook, I have focused on the first line only. In light of Ms. Lundgren’s blog post, going forward I will consider how or if the first line portrays the overall tone of the book.

Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf

The first line of a novel I’m sharing today is from Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf:

“And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.”

Is it acceptable to begin a sentence with a conjuction?

What initially caught my attention was the fact that this sentence began with a conjunction. Somewhere along the line, I was taught that was unacceptable; however, I have discovered that this is a myth that has hounded the English language for centuries. There are, apparently, no official English grammar rules against starting a sentence with a conjunction. I will try to put that myth to rest in my mind. Old habits are hard to break.

More importantly, it’s a great sentence

I turn my attention to the more important aspect of this first sentence. The sentence did what it was designed to do. It pulled me into the book. I immediately wanted to know who Addie Moore and Louis Waters were and why Addie visited Louis. The sentence piqued my interest. I was curious to read the next sentence.

When I look at the first sentence in Our Souls at Night, as compared with the overall tone of the novel, I conclude that the opening sentence is in complete agreement with the novel. It was a perfect way for the author to introduce us to Addie and Louis. I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I will just say that Our Souls at Night is a story of love and comfort found later in life by a widow and a widower.

The opening sentence of Our Souls at Night plunges the reader into the middle of the story. The author could have filled several pages with backstory about Addie and Louis and built up to “the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.” I don’t think that would have necessarily grabbed my attention like the way Mr. Haruf started the book.

A movie in the works?

Our Souls at Night was Kent Haruf’s final novel. I have read that it is being made into a movie with Jane Fonda as Addie and Robert Redford as Louis. Something to look forward to! I hope the movie won’t disappoint.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you are a writer, I hope you have some quality writing time.

Janet