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An Inconspicuous Guide: How to Write Well


by pugnaciousilliterate

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Inconspicuous here, writing you bookslorgs a helpful guide on how to write well. Being an avid Time reader myself, I have come to the conclusion that there are many, many great articles designed to help you get published. However, not one explains the basic rules of English. As a hopeful writer myself, I have come to the conclusion that the masses of Neopia can, in fact, benefit from a little guide of basic rules. For example, in the following article I will discuss pronoun/antecedent agreement, misplaced modifiers, dangling participial phrases, subject/verb agreement, differences between 'who' and 'whom,' and commonly misspelled words. If you are having troubles on a specific area of writing that I do not cover in this handy little article, feel free to consult my owner; I'm sure she'll pass the message along to me. I would like to make it clear, however, that I too tend to make a lot of errors in this craft, so do not blame me for any mishaps you have in the writing world. I'm just here to help!

Okay, let us start out with my biggest pet peeve:

Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement

This is a nasty little habit that a lot of people commonly have trouble with. In fact, this was one of my biggest obstacles to overcome as a writer. Let me throw out an example on how to avoid this problem.

Example:

The Babaa wandered into the Haunted Woods and they was scared out of their fleece!

Now, note the above passage. If you thought that it was written correctly, pay close attention! If you noticed the glaring mistakes and ground your teeth at the horror of it, you deserve a starfruit.

Solution:

Because you are only talking about one Babaa, you must make sure that your pronoun is singular. Most writers often use "they" instead of "he/she/it" because they often want to dance around the gender issue. So, to fix this problem, you must write the sentence like this:

The Babaa wandered into the Haunted Woods and he was sacred out of his fleece!

Note now that you have a singular pronoun representing your subject. If you are not sure which gender to use, you can use he/she (or even 'it,' as the case may be) instead of using one specific pronoun.

Moving onto a different topic, I will now discuss:

Misplaced Modifiers

This can be a subtle problem. However, misusing a modifier can change the entire meaning of the sentence!

Here is an example:

I, carrying a tray of brittle neggs, dropped and nearly broke all of them!

And another,

I, carrying a tray of brittle neggs, dropped and broke nearly all of them!

Okay, quiz time. How many neggs did I break in the first sentence? How many neggs did I break in the second?

In the first sentence I did not break any of the expensive neggs. I nearly broke them. In the second sentence, I broke nearly all of them.

Make sense? When you are using a modifier (nearly, only, etc) make sure you are describing what you want to describe. If you mix up word order, you're going to be telling the reader something completely different! If you are having trouble with this, break down the sentence. Ask yourself what are you trying to convey in your statement. Highlight the subject, verb, and modifier. If you take the time to really break down your sentences, this will not be a problem for you at all. It just takes a little practice to catch.

Moving on to:

Dangling Participial Phrases.

This is my favorite error to catch and to edit. They can be quite amusing once you really think about it. Okay, back to business. The trouble with a participial phrase is the fact that writers often forget to place to subject immediately following the phrase. This can lead to some pretty dangerous sentences. Let us take a look at a pretty interesting example:

Flying through Faerieland, the walls of the city were a wonderful shade of fuchsia.

This can, for the most part, be considered a "gerund phrase," but for the purposes of this article, I'll stick with explaining the dangling participal problem.

Take a look at the above example. Ask yourself: Who was flying through Faerieland? Now, from my nine-months of being on in Neopia, I never knew walls could fly! The above example is saying that the walls were flying through Faerieland, not a subject.

Let's add a subject and see it develop into a sentence that actually makes some sense, shall we?

Flying through Faerieland, I noticed the walls of the city were a wonderful shade of fuchsia.

Now, doesn't that sound better?

Onto:

Subject Verb Agreement!

This isn't that big of a problem, but I see it often enough as a writer to make note of it. If you have written anything, you obviously know that a singular subject has to have a singular verb, a plural subject has to have a plural verb.

But, there is some commonly missed subject and verbs. For example:

Anyone who eats glowing jellies are completely insane!

Because anyone is singular, it needs a singular subject. This can sometimes be confusing if there is a plural noun in front of the verb. Again, this is simple to catch if you pick out your subject and ask yourself if it's singular or plural.

Anyone who eats glowing jellies is completely insane!

Everyone, anyone, and groups (as in "the family" "the flock" "the herd") needs to have a singular verb. This is often missed. But once you start you learn those special cases, it isn't a problem that crops up too often.

The Differences Between:

'Who' and 'Whom'

This is probably the biggest question I get asked as a writer. "Inconspicuous, how do I know where to use 'who' and where to use 'whom?' It is so confusing!" Well, now I get to share with you my little tip to figuring out this little problem.

Let us start out with a few examples:

"Who did you call this afternoon to help you eat some startfruits?"

"Who stepped in the pile of dung?"

"When you went to Maraqua yesterday, who did you go with?"

Out of those three examples, only one of them correctly uses "who." Let's take a look at each individual sentence so I can break down the basics for you.

"Who did you call this afternoon to help you eat some starfruits?"

In this case, it would be correct to use 'whom.' You use 'whom' if, and only if, it isn't the subject. Because 'whom' is acting as the direct object, (You called what? You called whom!) you need to use whom. If 'whom' was the subject, you need to use 'who' instead.

"Who stepped in the pile of dung?"

In this case, 'who' is correct because it is the subject. If you are still having trouble with this, don't put the subject in there. Set up the sentence like this: "[blank] stepped in the pile of dung." Now that you have created a statement, it is easier to see that you can fill the blank with a pet or a person. "Who stepped in the pile of dung?" "The Space Faerie stepped in the pile of dung!" (Ewww….)

"When you went to Maraqua yesterday, who did you go with?"

Again, this should be 'whom' instead of who. Who isn't the subject, you are.

And last but certainly not least:

Commonly Misspelled Words

In the era of spell check, I understand how you humans don't have a problem with spelling words correctly. However, we pets don't have access to your "word processor." Ergo, my whole section devoted to those annoying words that pop up and are, more often-than-not, misspelled.

Definitely. Agh! I don't know how many times I'm reading something and I see that misspelled. I understand that it isn't phonetic, and as an audile leaner, I can sympathize. However, definitely is NOT spelled de-fin-ately. There is no 'a!'

Weird. For the longest time I spelled it 'W-I-E-R-D,' but after constantly getting yelled at by my pugnacious owner, I finally spell it correctly. The "I before e except after c" rule is absolute dung!

Congratulations. It is not spelled with a d. End of point.

Misspelled. It's spelled with two 's'(es?), not one.

Faerie. I don't know the reasoning behind this one. Personally, I think there are too many vowels in this word.

Tomorrow. Again, for all you phonetic spellers out there, it isn't spelled "t-o-m-m-a-r-r-o-w" There is no 'a' in tomorrow!

I also consulted the Help Chat and came up with a few others from Neopians themselves:

Suspicious

Pound (often spelled pond)

Intelligent

Seriously

A lot (often spelled without the space)

Plagiarism

Silhouette

Applaud

Mutilated

Recognition

Hypocrite

Sarcasm

Provocative

Grammar

Government

Embarrassed

Principle/principal

Kernel/colonel

Their/they're/there

Its/it's

Ridiculous

So in conclusion, there are many rules that a writer has to be aware of every time he/she sits down to write the next great masterpiece. I hope that this helped those of you who have some doubts about the English language and all the rules attached. Like I said, drop me a neomail if you have comments, complaints, and suggestions or just want to say 'hi.'

Also, if this goes well and is, in fact, published *crosses wings * then I'll write a sequel on how to use comma and semi-colons correctly. That and maybe parallelism and passive voice. We shall see!

Thank you Neopia! Keep on writing and I'll keep on reading!

 
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