Self-Help: Grammar-Check, III

Last week, the focus was on Verb-Subject-Agreement, with an announcement of this week’s focal point: Direct Objects and Prepositional Objects. As before, the intent here is to briefly review these grammatical elements of language.

Direct Objects

The first point to note in this context is the fact that not every sentence appears with a direct object in it. What to be aware of, however, when one does . . . Not much. Identify the subject and the verb of a sentence; if the subject performs an action on an object (a person or a thing), then you have found the direct object:

  • My family takes a trip to the same seaside town every summer.
    • My family = Subject; to take = Verb (in its base form in the sample sentence)

On which word does “family” perform the action of ‘taking’? Your answer here takes you to the Direct Object = “a trip”

PLEASE NOTE: The key concept here is that a verb MUST perform an action in order for a sentence to have a Direct Object. If a verb only indicates a “link”, then there cannot be a Direct Object in that sentence, for example, as in, “My family was always pleased with the accommodations.”

Prepositional Objects

The sample sentence immediately above, the one with a ‘linking’ verb, has no direct object (because it does not indicate an action). It has, however, a prepositional object:

  • My family was always pleased with the accommodations.

The noun “accommodations” is the object of the preposition “with”; hence, the full underlined phrase makes up the prepositional object of the sentence.

The first sample sentence, too, has a prepositional object:

  • My family takes a trip to the same seaside town every summer.

The noun “town” is the object of the preposition “to”; hence, “to town” makes up the prepositional object of the sentence. The words “same” (an adverb) and “seaside” (an adjective), different grammatical elements, function here as modifiers of the prepositional object.

Next Post: A sample text-based worksheet for self-editing practices

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Self-Help: Grammar-Check, II

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As promised, continuing from last week, we arrive at the announced stop today: Verb-Subject-Agreement. Without getting into a detailed discussion on the matter of different tenses of a verb, which also poses an obstacle to our writing endeavors, I aim to highlight only the basic aspects of the focal language element.

The most slippery road in this regard appears before us in the shape of the sentence part known as the “noun”. To conjugate a verb that articulates the action of a singular noun as opposed to the conjugation of one performing the same task for a collective noun is the key here. In speaking, we more often than not resort to a blurred application when the harmony between the verb and the subject is concerned. When the same innocent glitch takes place in a *written text, however (*written as opposed to an audio-narrative), we, as writers, lose our learned audience. For our sentence-construct then lacks clarity loud and clear.

  • Let us consider the noun, “family”. We all know that a family is made of more than one person. Hence, the fact that this word is a “collective noun”, which automatically designates for it a verb conjugated in the singular form:
    • My family takes a trip to the same seaside town every summer.
  • Whether we use the same verb in its progressive present or present perfect tense form, the same rule applies:
    • My family is taking a trip to the same seaside town this summer. / My family has taken a trip to the same seaside town this summer.

Note only “has” in the second sentence above, i.e. the helping verb, a.k.a. the “auxiliary verb”, for “taken” is a past participle form, and as such, does not / cannot signify singularity or plurality. Nor do / can the same verb’s simple past, past perfect and future tense forms help us in determining whether or not we have a singular or a collective noun in our hands (My family had taken a trip to the same seaside town when I was ten. / My family will take a trip to the same seaside town this summer.]

  • Then, we have compound subjects, for which we have to conjugate our verbs in their plural forms:
    • My brother’s family and mine go on the same trip every summer. Or:
      My brother’s family and mine get along very well. Or:
      My brother’s wife and mine have the same Yoga instructor.
  • However, as soon as we designate a singular noun to a verb, the verb must also appear in its singular form:
    • Lately, my brother or his wife goes on the same trip with me alone.
      My brother’s wife no longer gets along with mine.
      My brother’s wife now has a different Yoga instructor.
  • What happens to the rule of focus when the subject and verb are divided by a phrase? The same rule applies yet once again:
    • Nowadays, my brother, with his nephew James, goes on the same trip.

Next Post: Direct Objects and Prepositional Objects

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Help: Grammar-Check, I

We rely on language in order to communicate. In its spoken, written and signed forms. I have no experience nor do I possess any expertise in sign-language. As for spoken language, this platform is obviously not appropriate. Written language, however, is a discipline I have worked with, taught extensively and used for personal writings throughout the majority of my adult-life. Based on my prolonged and active involvement with language in its written form, I take the liberty to post related texts on this site.

Phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, syntax, and context are the five elements of language. It is through the joint work of these components, along with grammar, semantics, and pragmatics,  that we create meaningful communication. It is not my intent to turn this post into a classroom subject-matter with a barrage of materials to digest for no practical purpose. I would like to highlight instead some functional information regarding grammar, the most important building-block of the structure we call “language”.

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And today’s sentence d i s s e c t i o n begins . . .

The integral parts of a sentence we sometimes tend to forget and, as a result, neglect, are: Subject ~ Verb (a.k.a. the Predicate) ~ Object (Direct and Indirect Object)

  • In order to identify the subject (italicized in the sample sentences below), we ask the question “who” or “what”:
    • The award-winning writer was invited to a book-reading.
    • A book-reading was planned in honor of the award-winning writer.
  • The verb / predicate is the word that articulates the action of the subject:
    • Respectively, “To invite” and “To plan” in the sample sentences above (in their base, or, infinitive forms)
  • Any sentence can have a direct and an indirect object all at once, or display only one of the object forms. Neither one of the sample sentences used here have an object. Imagine this example:
    • The award-winning author gave away several copies of his debut book. (The italicized sentence part constitutes a direct object.)
    • The award-winning author gave his / her audience several copies of his debut book. (The italicized sentence part constitutes an indirect object.)

Next Post: Verb-Subject Agreement, and more . . .

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Help: Proofreading / Editing

The last post I shared with you here had come with a promise that there will be more steps to consider on the same subject; namely, self-editing. The intent of this writing is the same as the previous one: To help you to form a habit toward “proofreading” and, as an outcome, “copy editing” your draft text – regardless of the genre. The more involved process of “content editing” will be addressed in a different post.

  • A large amount of style guides are available online through respectable sites. Identify one (or more) about which you have a positive (i.e. trusting) feeling. Read it (or them) carefully. You will find that you are able to catch grammatical errors on your text you might otherwise overlook. For you are now familiar with an overview of potential mistakes, which you also have readily available at your fingertips when your selected style guide is concerned.
  • Apply a merciless fact-check on your written work. Then, double check. And, second-guess.
  • Make sure your draft flows by concentrating on the length of your sentence structures. Seek variation. Sentences should not appear as cookie-cutters.
  • Pay attention to the amount of your use of certain words (such as “or”, “perhaps”, “and” and “in fact / in actuality”). This attentive reading will help you to achieve a smoother flow in your text.
  • Keep a dictionary handy. At least a few times as you read, single out a word and spot-check to make sure its spelling is correct. By getting into a habit of doing so, you may catch an error along the way.
  • After you have done all you can with your draft, have someone else to review it in an active reading mode. Not to merely do a scan-reading, but rather to go over it attentively / critically.
  • If at all possible, designate a reading partner who would be willing to exchange editing with you.

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Self-Help: Proofreading / Editing

What I am sharing with you today will appear here in multiple steps (yes, with the hope to have you come back only because it is a vital need for any writer to produce her / his cleanest possible work before sharing it with the reader). Please note: The intent of this post is to initiate a habit in you – if you are not yet addicted to it – toward “copy editing” your written draft of any genre. The focus, in other words, is not “content editing”.
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At the risk of sounding mundane or redundant, I dare to proceed with highlighting the first few steps that are essential in the process of copy editing, each of which is an integral part of the more involved undertaking we over-simplistically call “editing”:
  • Make sure to read your work aloud and to do so at a very slow pace
  • Read the same work vigilantly to catch errors and do so from front to back, and then back to front
  • While you read your work, record your voice (speak as slowly as you have the patience for that out-of-your-norm-pace), and then listen to the small sections of what you have recorded
    • The first time, listen to details that sound out of order (specifically, how you have structured your sentences, your word choice, and phrasing)
    • The second time, read the corresponding text aloud
    • Then, record your voice once again with the new round of reading out of your text
  • Write down what your selected work is about (a synopsis, if you so choose to label it as)
  • Then create questions about the content of your work as a whole but write them at the beginning of each section
  • Compare / Contrast against the fact if your text answers your own questions
  • Make sure all your questions are answered

Summary

Self-editing, even if it is only to copy edit or proofread, is a process that will take more time and effort on your part than working through the same steps for someone else’s work will. Remember always to take your time and to question your own writing. You are, after all, saving yourself the expense of hiring a professional. It is still critical to have someone else – a friend, a co-worker, a family member with acute reading skills – look over your draft work when you conclude that it is finished. The logic behind this undertaking is your thorough familiarity with your own writing: If completely on your own, that intimate author-text-acquaintance presents the risk of you not being able to read what is in actuality in your text. As an outcome, you will not be in a position to catch all surface errors and / or discrepancies in that written draft.

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48 Hours at Least

Following a teaching career of over forty years, I have recently retired from academia. I loved teaching, utterly enjoying advanced composition classes in particular. One advice of my dramatic emphasis was “proofreading”. Each of my countless students heard me say that there must be at least two days of what I called  a cooling time: Between the day they thought their writing assignment was complete and the actual submission deadline of their work. The rationale behind my emphatic stress on this “sleep on it”-period was obvious to me, and I always wanted to make sure that my students also came to terms with it: Far fewer surface errors.

When we are in the heat of the moment of writing creatively, we tend to see punctuation, spelling, capitalization and grammar through rose colored glasses. Once we allow ourselves to re-visit what we have written -after we slept on it (preferably, for one week at least), those glasses will begin to display a different shade. We then will be cool-headed enough to see our work more realistically. And: We will adjust / modify / correct the mistakes that seemed non-existent at the initial onset of our writing endeavor. One step at a time . . . toward a streamlined / polished version of that first crucial draft.

The Various Types of Editing

The following question may seem to be redundant to some readers: Do you know that the editing process is multi-fold?

Over the extensive period of time I have spent in the field, the writers’ point of curiosity has been (largely) the same: “What is your editing fee?” My answer always comes in the form of a question: “What type of editing do you seek?”

Copyediting, also called Surface Editing, is exactly what an editor applies to a manuscript (once the corresponding contract is signed by the involved parties, of course): Reviewing a draft work for surface errors; e.g. Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (basic rules). This type of editing does not include any content adjustments and / or modifications on the designated manuscript. Content Editing, also called Substantive Editing, however, is a process in which the editor incorporates adjustments and / or modifications to the core of the draft work. Depending on the literary genre with which the manuscript is to be  associated, each editing type then undergoes other steps of adjustments / modifications.

Hence, a writer’s question to an editor, “What is your editing fee?” leaves much room for clarification when both parties are concerned.

Should you be interested in approaching an editor for your draft work of any literary genre, please always bear in mind that you, the author, must be succinct in expressing the specifics as to how you envision the final version of your book manuscript’s (or poem’s, or short story’s).

Retiring from Academia, Editing Full-Time

My Dear Friends -Readers, Commentators and Silent Followers Alike:

I now stand before another thrilling door of opportunities as I am retiring from academia, having had the amazing fortune to teach my beloved college students for over forty years. The date of my formal retirement from my faculty position at The Pennsylvania State University is June 30th, 2018. My 15+ years of association with this nationally and internationally noted university has been a most memorable and rewarding experience throughout my career’s journey. I shall miss the students whom I have encountered and come to love in my teaching-learning dynamics semester after semester over my teaching tenure. While this fact will remain in my heart and mind for the remaining of my days (assuming that Alzheimer’s will not knock on the door to keep me as a companion), I am in my highest eagerness looking forward to my new path where I will assume on a full-time basis the role of a writer, translator, languages- and literature-consultant, an editor and a lecturer on a global platform.

I will soon be back with my regular blog posts on this platform; that is, to share my experiences on my extensive editing path, for which my hunger and thirst have already grown beyond my 24-hours-boundary for quite a while. In the meantime, my best wishes are on their way to each of you and yours.

hülya
Director of Editing Services, Inner Child Press International
(814) 769-0801

A Vital Message from My Publisher

Writers . . . in these days of judgment, the science of language and grammar often impedes or obscures the message, revelations, insights and flavor of what you have to say, and your offering is readily dismissed by the reader . . . ergo, the importance of a good editor. ~ *wsp

*The name abbreviation stands for William S. Peters Sr. who is a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Literature nominee, the Poet Laureate of the International Poetry Festival in Kosovo and the Recipient of The Golden Grape Award of 2015. The poems of William S. Peters Sr. have been published in excess of 150 literary anthologies, magazines, newspapers and articles. The writer has authored close to 75 books of poetry and is working on 5 new publications at the present.

[The brainchild behind the International Poetry Festival in Kosovo is the highly accomplished scholar and writer, Fahredin Shehu.]