Writing Tips: Authors Beware!

You’ve written a book and managed to get it published. Now you want people to read it, so you plaster yourself all over the internet to get the word out. Your communication is full of typos, bad grammar and clueless punctuation. It’s no big deal. After all, you’re in a relaxed environment with friends, right? Wrong.

Your a published auther. Every ward you right is gonna be screwtinized and applied to your writing in jeneral.

You think that was funny? It’s not so funny when you run out of friends to give your book glowing reviews, and the only thing that might motivate other people to buy your book is what you say on a social media site. Maybe I’m an anal snob, but just so you know, I’ve been known to delete Facebook posts and re-post them for a misplaced comma. So it stands to reason that, except in rare instances (when I know in advance that the author is a brilliant storyteller and that her book has been edited by an equally brilliant editor), if you can’t write a simple paragraph on Facebook, there’s no way in hell that I’m going to buy your book.

Even if you aren’t rabidly seeking book sales, you should still be concerned about your social media presence. Published authors should hold themselves to a higher standard and be role models for aspiring writers. Sloppy blog posts with dangling participles, subject-verb disagreement, and the ignorant habit of assigning a subject to a prepositional clause degrade the English language. It is your job as a published author to remind readers, by example, what it means to use language properly.

If the above paragraph left you hopelessly confused, my greatest wish for you is to have an editor who was educated by a wayward nun, who tired of her catechism and  secretly read her grammar book from cover to cover for fun. For the rest of you, examples follow.

Dangling Participles – After sitting in the freezer overnight, my father served the ice cream. (Hm, one would think dad would want a cup of hot tea after sitting in the freezer overnight.) Sitting is the participle. It will attach itself to the nearest sentence element that it could grammatically modify, even if it turns your sentence into nonsense. Correct application: After sitting in the freezer overnight, the ice cream was served by my father. If you want to avoid using passive voice, an even better way to say it is: My dad served the ice cream after it had been sitting in the freezer overnight.

Subject-Verb Agreement – Our most illiterate president – come on, you know the one – misspoke this one. “Then you wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling.” Correct application: The illiteracy level IS appalling. Apparently, children, the plural object of the prepositional clause, confused him.

Prepositions ALWAYS take the objective case. The following are all prepositions: above, about, across, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, inside, into, like, near, of, off, on, since, to, toward, through, under, until, up, upon, with and within.

I can’t begin to tell you how disturbing it is to hear or read phrases like between you and I, for her and I, with she and I, etc. All of them are wrong. Yes, wrong, wrong, wrong. If you don’t know the difference between a subject and an object, rush right over to a reputable grammar site like http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/ and educate yourself. In the meantime, here’s an aural test you can use to ensure that you never use subjective case after a preposition:

Say the sentence: It’s between you and I. Now, remove one of the objects to see if it sounds right. It’s between you? Yes, that sounds right. It’s between I? No, no no! Correct application: It’s between you and me. Here’s another one: They came with she and I. Now test it. They came with she? No! They came with I? No again! Correct application: They came with her and me. Really, I’m not kidding you. They came with her. They came with me. See?

Okay, over and out for now. If you liked this article, leave a reply and/or subscribe to my blog.

Posted in On Writing.

4 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed your post. Now I am self conscious. I am not a writer but I like for my posts to read properly. I rewrite them so many times, trying to find what will sound better. You have given me something useful here. Thank you so much.

  2. Great blog, Denise!
    Your post reminded me that I always need to work on my professional image as a new published author. Admittedly, I am guilty of making sloppy status updates–especially on Facebook.
    Thanks for the grammar tips.

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