St Croix River Road Ramblings

Welcome to River Road Ramblings.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Write Right Right Now!

This appeared in the Inter-County Newspaper at Frederic WI several years ago. 
(Note to Editor:   It would be best to leave the article below unedited, as there are 43.4 intentional errors or problems that are necessary to make the article work.)
River Road Ramblings:  To Grammatically Write Rite by Russ Hanson

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
From Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

    Having a weekly column for the past five years, we have had some criticism of our writing style, punctuation, word usage, spelling and grammar.  It is time to respond to the criticisms and review grammar rules so we all can learn and improve in the future.

    Doc Squirt (Roy Hennings), a Cushing native who wrote for many newspapers from 1900 to his death in 1943 was often taken to task by his editors for his lack of punctuation.  He solved it by sending the editors a typewritten page filled with commas, periods, colons, semicolons, question marks and exclamation marks with the instructions to “feel free to sprinkle them throughout his columns."  I am more like Mr. Dumpty in that I have never, ever, ever, been intimidated, by grammar, and know who is the master!  So without farther adieu, here are some lessons.

    Utilize ostentatious language:  Never use a simple word when you can think of a big one.  Thusly, utilize replaces use; canine for dog; automobile for car, etc.  I especially like the signs on Hwy 87 designating Evergreen Avenue, the route to horsie camp as the “Equestrian” area.      

    Create interest with verb conjugations:   You have numerous alternatives.  I shall be giving examples in the first person (I), but remember you have the “I/me/my” “he/she/thee/thy/thine”, “we/they/them”, and of course the “ye,you,thou” singular/plural and objective, subjective and possessive too.  If you want to be a good writer, you should practice each variation that follows in a sentence.  Sometimes you can change the mood of a story by switching from the past/present/future indicative, subjunctive or conjunctive mood to another, especially in your dependent clauses. 

    Use the right conjugations:   The infinitive verb “to write” conjugates thusly: 
the present basic                     I write
the present progressive          I am writing
the present perfect                  I have written
the present progressive          I have been writing
the past basic                          I wrote
the past progressive                I was writing
the past perfect                       I had written
the past perfect progressive   I shall/will have written
the future basic                       I shall/will write
the future progressive                        I shall/will be writing
the future perfect                    I shall/will have written
the future perfect progressive I shall/will have been writing
the intensive present              I do write
the intensive past                    I did write
the habitual past                     I used to write
the "shall future"                    I shall write
the "going-to future"              I am going to write
the "future in the past"           I was going to write
the conditional                        I would write
the perfect conditional           I would have written
the subjunctive,                      if I be writing, if I were writing.
Non-standard usage:  I be writing, I done rote, I have wrotten, I writed it, I writ it, and Dudley do write.  

    I use Microsoft Word to write my columns.  Word has a basic grammar checking tool built in that along with spell check fixes half of my problems and creates 25% new ones by sowing doubt.    

    Punctuation marks:   The seasoning in your writing.  They try to tell the reader how the writer felt and more importantly, the pauses to take a breath if you are moving your lips while you read.  Punctuation used by most of us include; the period, the comma, the apostrophe and the exclamation mark.  Adventurous authors sprinkle semicolons: very brave authors will try a colon on special occasions:  Her colon was cleansed before the x-ray. 
    Emoticons:  Punctuation marks are rapidly changing with the introduction of emoticons.  Exclamation can be represented by the “!” mark, but how do you indicate sadness without a sad faced emoticon :-( or a smile :-).  Sadly, when I emoticonize my writing, the Leader, in translating from the PC to MAC computers, loses them and what you see are ? marks in the printed text. 

    Quotation marks.  “Put commas, exclamation marks and periods inside the quotation marks!”  Question marks rarely go outside.  “You too, Brutus?”  Did Caesar say “You too, Brutus”?  The second example has a quotation within a question. If you always punctuate inside quotes you will be 90% correct, and the rest of the time, no one will notice anyway.

    Who’s on First:  the correct use of “who,” “whom,”  “who’s,” “hoo,” “hoose,”
“Hoose”  is only used in “hoose gow” a euphemism for the slammer.
“Who is” can be shortened to who’s.  “Who’s going to town.”
Whose:  “Whose shoes are those?”
Whom:  you should be able to get through life without using this word.  “To whom do I owe my knowledge of grammar?” is better replaced by, “Who taught me grammar?”  If the answer is him, the question uses whom; if the answer is he, then the question is who.
Who loves you baby?  He does!  Whom do you love?  Him!    “Whom” is popular amongst and betwixt those whose sign is Antiquarius.

    An owl says “hoo hoo” when commenting on the world in general. An owl who says “who? who?” is likely a philosopher.  The owl in my back yard says “Who? Who? Who? Hoo, hoooooooer” asking and answering herself as do most females.  Generally most people don’t give a hoot about this.   

    Contractions:  Shortening words by replacing letters with an apostrophe; gov’t, can’t, they’re, she’ll, o’clock, it’s and the creative I’d’ve .  Gov’r Palin speaks in contractions as in “I’m runnin’ for pres’dent to be savin’ us from death panels.”

    Possessive Apostrophes:  Darla’s womb’s muscle’s fiber’s cell’s nucleus’ DNA strands were punctuated by contractions.  Ownership is shown by the addition of the “apostrophe s” except in some cases where we already have enough s’s and just add the apostrophe at the end—Russ’ books. 

    To Boldly Split Infinitives:  An infinitive is a verb preceded by the word “to.”  To run, to walk, to go, to write, to talk or to split.  Grammar rules say don’t break them up.  It's best never to unintentionally split infinitives (unless you want to really emphasize something).  I am willing to strongly predict writers will obsolete this rule at the World Grammar Society meeting in Helsinki in 2012. 

    Passive voice:  Using was, were as part of your verb with the intention of putting your readers to sleep.  Examples include:  “Mistakes were made” instead of “I made mistakes.” “Margo was talking in a passive voice after having botox injected into her vocal cords last week” instead of “Margo speaks impassively after the botox shot.” 

    Adjectives and Adverbs:  Words that add color to your sentence.  I shot a deer.   Shot is a verb, if you color it, you use adverbs.  Rapidly, boldly and colorfully, I shot carefully and accurately at the huge brown hungry deer.  The “ly” adverbs describe the verb “shot” with “huge, brown, and hungry” adjectives describing the noun deer.  Adjectives and adverbs are necessary to make things interesting and are especially useful if you are paid for writing by the word.     

    Homophones To, Too, Two:   Use two for 2, too if you mean also or too much and the rest of the time use to.  The two boys were too used to having cake and ice cream too, to be satisfied with less.  With society becoming more tolerant, homophonobia has pretty much disappeared. 

    Euphemism: replacing a strong word with a weaker one.  I shot a deer becomes I harvested a deer.  The deer died becomes the deer went to heaven.  People who criticize my grammar are anal retentatives becomes people who criticize my grammar need a hobby. 

     If you want more grammar lessons in this column, please send a note and we will be glad to take on “their, there, they’re”, “lie, lye, lay, lied, laid”, “buy, by, bye”, “sit sat, set, sated, and besotted” and protractions, retractions, subtractions, abstractions, refractions, extractions, attractions, and transactions.    

    “Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: You find the present tense and the past perfect”  said Robert Orben.