To, Too, or Two?
English is tricky.
I mean, this is the language in which "front yard" is two words and "backyard" is one. I suppose some inconsistencies--OK, a whole heap of them--are understandable given we got it from the country whose basic unit of measurement, the foot, used to be based on the size of the current king's foot. But we won't mention any names--right, Great Britain?
But who wants a language that makes 100 percent sense? That would be like a roller coaster that is 100 percent level. A rainbow that is 100 percent black and white. An ice cream shop with 100 percent vanilla only . . .
Which brings me to three items lodged firmly in that heap of tricky parts:
To, too, and two.
When to use "to"? This delightful little word with just a t and an o indicates going from one to another: from sick to well, from poor to rich, from weak to strong.
How about "two"? This is the number: one, two, three, four . . .
And finally, what's the deal with "too"? This refers to being too much, over the top, off the rails. Too much ice cream, too many words, too hot to handle!
You might say English has not only one or two tricky parts but too many of them!
But only if you want a language that makes too much sense.
Can a word take you to your happy place?
Maybe it's because I've always loved English. Or maybe it's due to not having a life. But saying certain words makes me smile.
What is it about select collections of letters that tickle my tongue and make me giggle, chortle, and/or guffaw? It doesn't have anything to do with the meaning of the word.
In the list of words below, one of them means "a yellow or greenish fluid that is secreted by the liver." Not funny. Another means to lack courage. Can't say that brings a smile. And still another is the name of a power-hungry Roman emperor some sources associate with insanity and sadism. If the meaning of that word makes me laugh, there's something seriously wrong with me.
The reason I simply cannot utter the following words without a toothy grin is simply because of how they sound as they exit my mouth.
Here are today's words that I find just fun to say:
What words tickle your tongue and replace gloom with a guffaw?
What is a flat adverb?
When I heard a co-worker tell another co-worker who had just clocked out to "Drive safe!" I snootily thought to myself, That's not grammatically correct! It should be, "Drive safely!"
Are you thinking what I was--that all adverbs must end in -ly?
Adverbs are words that tell us how something is done: safely, quickly, carefully, etc. And they normally end in -ly.
However, it is actually grammatically correct to tell someone to "Drive safe!" (And it's also just downright nice.) That's because "safe" is a flat adverb. An adverb that doesn't end in -ly is called a flat adverb.
Of course, you could also wish that someone would "Drive safely," but why use a normal adverb when you could use a flat adverb?
From your pen to the reader's hands
As a book editor and publisher, I get this question a lot: "If I were to write a book, what steps would it go through to be published?"
Here is the big picture of how After the Rain Publishing LLC publishes books:
1. You write the manuscript, a fancy dancy term for your book before it is published.
2. We edit your manuscript. We correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors; replace blah words with punchier ones; remove distracting redundancies; make sure everything makes sense; ensure everything flows smoothly; and generally just make your manuscript sparkle, all while maintaining your voice and tone. Whew! That's a lot of work! But it's fun work! Our job is to make you look like the best author in the world, and after 10 years, we're pretty good at it.
3. A professional graphic designer designs a front and back cover for your book, including a spine if your book is thick enough. In the publishing world, a book is indeed judged by its cover, and our contract designers have real-world experience designing covers that will make your book sell.
4. We design the inside of your book. Using industry-standard software, we make sure chapter titles, page numbers, text, and other components line up and stand out, giving your book a professional look that causes your readers to see you as a credible, amazing author.
5. After getting your approval at every step, we upload your manuscript and cover files to the POD (print-on-demand) professional printer. When a customer orders your book, this printer prints it and mails it to the customer. Pretty slick, eh?
If you're thinking of writing a book, that is how it would be published with After the Rain Publishing! Drop us a line and let's get started on your masterpiece today!
When should you use passive sentences in your writing?
Decide when to use passive sentences.
People are talking a lot about passive income these days. Put in the work now and in a few weeks you could be making money in your sleep! What does passive income have to do with passive sentences?
Last time, we talked about the importance of using active sentences in your writing because, like prune juice, they tend to keep things moving. What is an active sentence? Here are some examples:
Patricia wrote a short story on her laptop last night.
Antonio bit into the green apple and immediately grimaced.
The squirrel darted up the startled tourist's pant leg!
Active sentences focus on action: Patricia wrote, Antonio bit, the squirrel darted.
But sometimes you want the reader to focus on a particular person or thing more than on the action. In this case, you want to place the emphasized word toward the beginning of the sentence, which often makes the sentence passive. Here are some examples:
The car in question was driven to the store by the defendant.
That candy bar, in all its decadence, was devoured by the custodian.
A process was begun that has developed into a fiasco.
This means what you're writing will have some passive sentences. No gasping necessary. This is actually a good thing, because a book, short story, or article with nothing but active sentences would be like a squirrel constantly darting up your pant leg.
A bit much.
Using mostly active sentences and sprinkling in some passive ones, will sparklefy your writing!
Want another simple step to improve your writing? On your mark, get set ...
Keep your writing moving.
From the racetrack to the digestive system, movement is good. When you write, you want to keep your writing moving to keep your reader engaged.
One of the best ways to keep your writing moving is to use more active sentences than passive sentences.
What is an active sentence and what is a passive sentence? Examples are better than definitions.
Here is an active sentence:
Antonio gripped the steering wheel as he screeched around the corner.
And here is a passive sentence:
The steering wheel was gripped by Antonio as he screeched around the corner.
This sentence's subject is Antonio. The active sentence encourages the reader to focus on the subject, Antonio, while the passive sentence diverts focus to the steering wheel.
In the active sentence, Antonio is doing something, which keeps the story moving. This will be more apparent with several active sentences in a row.
While passive sentences are sometimes necessary, using a lot of them can make your writing sluggish and cause your reader to lose interest.
So, when should passive sentences be used? (Did you notice that this question is a passive sentence?) Stay tuned for our next blog!
Keep the focus on the subject and keep your writing moving with active sentences!
Here's another simple step to improve as a writer--to sparklefy your writing ...
Block your bickering brains.
When you write, you have two "brains" available: your creative brain and your technical brain.
All your creative brain wants to do is come up with good stuff to say. And all your technical brain wants to do is tell your creative brain how to say it.
Your creative brain might come up with something like this:
"She sits the on kouch. She is snozing. She is 54 years old."
Your creative brain may have given you the makings of a great story here.
But your technical brain says, "Wait a minute. I can see several ways you can tell this story in a much more engaging way. First, since I'm your other brain, I know you're talking about your cat. You will want to communicate that in some way to your reader. Second, you misspelled two words that will distract the reader from the story. Third, you need to swap the words "the" and "on." Fourth, you should vary your sentence structure so your story will flow better. And fifth, you should check your facts; cats don't live until age 54."
Both brains are important!
You could listen to both brains while you write, coming up with the building blocks of the story and arranging them as you go. I used to write this way, and what I found was that I listened to my technical brain so much that I lost track of what I wanted to say! I also slowed way down, sometimes not even finishing, because I got so bogged down with the technical aspects.
As an editor, I use my technical brain almost constantly, letting my creative brain snooze on the couch most of the day. But as I have been writing my own book of late, I find using one brain at a time to be much more effective. I write the first draft quickly, not worrying about spelling, syntax (word arrangement), and verifying facts. I just write, write, write, getting all that creative wonder down. Then I do all the technical stuff on the second draft.
Block your brains from bickering, actually finish your manuscript, and enjoy the writing process more by listening to one brain at a time!
Pursuing my passion of editing books for over ten years now, I've helped authors take simple steps to drastically improve their writing. In this series, I will share some of these steps that you can use today ...
Think of your pen (or keyboard) as a paintbrush.
When writing a story, think of your pen (or keyboard) as a paintbrush. You're not writing a newspaper article; you are painting a picture.
I've seen even the best authors slip into the rut of newspaper reporting:
"The approaching footsteps in the dark made Sarah feel scared."
The author could improve this sentence:
"The approaching footsteps in the dark terrified Sarah."
Although "terrified" is a more descriptive word than "scared," the author could still improve this sentence:
"In the darkness, Sarah's neck tightened at the sound of shuffling footsteps. Her thumping heart seemed to shake her entire body."
The word "scared" or even "terrified" are not used, but the reader gets a much more powerful sense of what is happening. Although this sentence is just an example I pulled out of the air, it just drew me into the story! I really want to know what happened to poor Sarah!
One way to paint a scene is to put yourself in the action. If you were Sarah sitting in the dark and hearing footsteps, what would be happening to your body? Would your skin feel cold? Would your eyes be wide? Would you shiver? Asking myself these questions helped me come up with the above sentence.
In your story, don't tell your reader what's happening. Show your reader what's happening by painting every scene. Draw your reader into your story by using your pen or keyboard as a paintbrush.
No one had ever been cured from the dreaded disease. Those whose bodies were gashed by the merciless, unstoppable talons of leprosy watched as parts of their fingers and toes began to fall off. Their pastor told them they were going to hell. Their doctor told them they would never be well. Every day they reluctantly danced a dismal dance of defeat.
"There was one, however, in whose heart faith began to spring up" (The Desire of Ages, 262.4).
How did pride spring up in the heart of Lucifer flying at the height of perfection? And how did faith spring up in the heart of this man drowning in the depths of hopelessness?
Focus. Lucifer began focusing on himself. This man began focusing on Jesus.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In fact, a word is worth a thousand pictures.
Think of the power that one word carries. The jurors return to their seats after hours of deliberation. Every face in the courtroom turns expectantly toward the head juror as she relays the verdict: Guilty. The boyfriend whose heart has stopped beating, whose eyes have stopped blinking, and whose world has stopped turning, awaits her response to his proposal. Angels seem to carry the word to his ears: Yes. One word can also carry the power of frustration. Remember when you were a student? You poured your blood, sweat, and tears into that all-important paper, speech, or project. In your mind, your GPA, your graduation, your future job, spouse, kids, dog, neighbors--your entire life--rested on your professor's evaluation. You swallow hard as you stare at him, a drop of drool forming on the lower lip of your gaping mouth. You don't care. You can clean it up later. After what seemed like a millennium, he finally spoke. "Interesting." The drool drops as your lips curl into a horrified internal What??? What does that even mean?
Which brings me to my point. I must admit that whenever I hear someone say, "It's just semantics," a drop of drool is flung from my lips that have curled into the hideous shape of nauseous indignation. Just semantics? Does society even know what semantics is? I fume inwardly. Semantics is a fancy word for meaning. The importance of semantics is proclaimed from the rooftops by your frustration with your professor's response of "Interesting." Likely no single word carries such a multitude of conflicting meanings as the word "interesting," which is conclusive evidence that semantics is far from inconsequential minutiae.
Is a picture worth a thousand words or a word worth a thousand pictures? A drop of drool is forming as I await your opinion ...