Don’t Get Too Possessive!

When should you use an apostrophe?

More people overuse apostrophes than underuse them.

Often, I see apostrophes in words that are meant to be plural, but not possessive.

e.g. The photo’s look great.

It should say: The photos look great.

Sometimes  people use apostrophes with pronouns.

e.g.  her’s, it’s, our’s, their’s, who’s, your’s — these are all WRONG if you’re trying to show ownership. They should be written: hers, its, ours, theirs, whose, yours.

Be aware that apostrophes have two separate uses. One is for showing ownership, as in the cat’s whiskers. The other is to show that one or more letters have been taken out (contractions).

Some of the words can be confusing.

e.g. Let’s means let us, but if you meant to say that someone allows you do do something, it should be, “She lets me go to the movies.”  

Who’s means who is, but if you meant to ask who owns something, you would say, “Whose dog it that?”

And the most troublesome of all … it’s or its.

It’s means it is, but if you are attaching ownership, you would say, “The dog should pay attention to its master.”

There was a time when the general rule was to use apostrophes to show possession for people and animals (the dog’s fur, the lady’s hat), but to use “of” for inanimate things (the hood of the jacket, the eye of the needle), but this is now being disregarded in many cases. It seems to me that it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to “the car’s windshield” or “book’s cover.”

One of the most common errors I see is the use of an apostrophe  with decades.

e.g. The  Beetles were popular in the 1960s. There should be NO apostrophe.

But if you shorten the decades to refer to the ’60s. This apostrophe is correct because it shows that something has been left out — in this case,  the 19. Be sure that the apostrophe is turned to face the same direction as a comma (not as at the beginning of a quotation).

Placement: The apostrophe comes after the word that has the ownership. If it is a singular noun, then you would put the apostrophe after that noun. If it is a plural noun, then put the apostrophe after the end of that word.

e.g. This is the dog’s collar.

These are the dogs’ collars.

The use of apostrophes is more complex than one page  can do justice to, but consider this a beginner’s list of basic helpful hints.

Ever Been at your Wit’s End?

lori-virelli

Lori Virelli says she’s just an ordinary woman, but don’t you believe it. In her writing she makes everyday life extraordinary, filled with dramas of people’s lives in fiction and nonfiction. You will relate to her characters and find inspiration in the outcomes of the stories.

Lori has been blogging for five years and we have “followed” each other for four and a half of those five years. Bloggers come and go, dropping in and out, but Lori and I continue to be buddies.

I’m honoured to host Lori Virelli here today. I’m grateful that fate brought us to each other’s blogs.

Now that she has published her first novel, I feel that I have something to crow about: Lori’s novel Whit’s End.

Lori says she has enjoyed my blog posts and my novels, but today I hope you will click on her amazon links and enjoy her novels. I did that some time ago and have not regretted it. When you read Whit’s End, you’ll find yourself thinking, “Oh, that character sounds just like ‘so-and-so,’” someone you may know in your own life.

Lori finds human behavior fascinating. She says:

“Two people can react differently to the same experience. Two people who grow up in the same household may come away with quite different perceptions of what they have experienced. Perhaps our genes are programmed to respond in our own unique ways, and that’s part of what makes us individuals. This is why I like writing from two perspectives, to show how each person responds to, and handles similar situations in different ways.”

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In Whit’s End, Meg and Ava Whitaker are married to the dysfunctional Whitaker brothers and each handles their marital problems in a different way. Their efforts to cope in their marriages only seem to make matters worse, until, just when the women are at their “Whit’s End,” other men come into the picture. How will each of the women react to the temptation of another man? Where will their actions lead them? Will they “jump ship”? Will that solve their problems? Read Whit’s End to find out.

Lori is the author of short stories published in the magazine Angels on Earth – Dogs and the Women Who Love Them, and in her anthology, Home Avenue, about growing up in 70s in the suburbs of Chicago.

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And psst! If you want a treat, click the link to her book, Whit’s End.

For a peek into Lori’s view of life in Chicago in the 70s, click on her link to Home Avenue.

Home Avenue – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LPJ9YDI

Whit’s End – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N77QY32

Lori’s Lane – http://loreezlane.wordpress.com

Lori is currently working on her second novel. Please leave a comment and say hi.

The Three Dashes

Like the Three Bears, the Three Dashes have a Papa Dash, Mama Dash, and a Baby Dash.

The Papa Dash is the biggest, or let’s say the longest dash. It’s called an emdash.

The Mama Dash is the medium-sized one and is called an endash.

The Baby Dash is the shortest and the one we are most familiar with, the hyphen.

I’d like to begin with the Mama Dash, the endash, because it’s easily dealt with. It’s mainly used to separate numbers like dates, or if you want to say an amount such as from 3 to 7. The endash replaces the word “to.”

e.g. 1970 – 1980 or about 5 – 10

In Word, I made the endash by typing the number, a space, two dashes, a space, the other number, and a space.

The Baby Dash, hyphen, is used for joining some words that would otherwise be compound words. I trust my dictionary to tell me which words are compound words, such as “newspaper” and “desktop,” and which are hyphenated words such as “long-term.” This hyphen, though small, can be very important. Consider the compound word “housekeeper” and the hyphenated word, “house-keeper.” The housekeeper would be a person who does a lot of work to keep the house tidy, while the house-keeper could refer to someone like Zsa-Zsa Gabor, who called herself the best house-keeper ever. She was married several times and when her marriages ended she usually kept the house.

The hyphen is also used to connect words that describe a noun.

Here are some examples:

Most are hyphenated before, but not after a noun.

(adjective and noun) He had a high-maintenance girlfriend.

But his girlfriend was high maintenance.

(adjective and participle) We drove on a snow-covered highway.

But the highway was snow covered.

Other uses for the hyphen are for numbers and fractions.

e.g. two-thirds, twenty-seven

And now for the Papa Dash, the emdash. This one is easily overused.

The emdash is the long dash that is most often used for interruptions. There should be no space before or after it, and it is made (in Word) by typing the word, two dashes, the next word and then a space. The emdash will automatically form when you hit that last space.

Uses of emdashes are mainly for interruptions, as in dialogue, or as an emphatic aside. Here are examples of each:

“But I want—”

“I don’t care what you want.”

When I got home he had the house cleaned—he’s such a sweetheart—and even had supper ready.

Don’t be tempted to use the emdash for hesitation or pauses, and be stingy with its use. Too many emdashes on a page can make the text look chopped up. You don’t want to interrupt the flow of your writing unnecessarily. If you use it sparingly, it will be that much more effective when you do use it.

Thanks for reading, and now, excuse me please, but I must dash.

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, follow these links:

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Watch for this one

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Filtering is a habit we probably all had to shake at one time or another.

Some expressions have a diluting effect. If you are “filtering” words through the character’s senses—smell, touch, taste, hearing, or sight, you are most likely guilty of “telling” the reader what is happening. There is no need to filter the experiences through the character’s eyes, ears, or other sensory receptors.

Filtered: She saw the car go by. (The action passes through her eyes first.)

Unfiltered: The car whizzed by.

 

Filtered: She felt upset.(The action passes through her emotions.)

Unfiltered: She sobbed.

 

Filtered: She heard the sound of a train. (The action passes through her ears.)

Unfiltered: A train whistle broke the silence.

***

I’m sure you get the idea. Some of the following key words may help us to watch for filtering.

This is only a partial list of filter words. There are many, many more.

  • saw
  • heard
  • felt
  • remembered
  • tasted
  • recalled
  • looked
  • smelled

If you see one of these words in your writing, take a second look and decide whether you are filtering the action through one of the senses. If you are, you could probably get rid of the filter and rewrite the sentence in a stronger, more direct way.

 

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Lose the Weak Writing

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Weak Expressions

Weak expressions such as “seemed to,” “started to,” and “began to” can slow down your writing  and make it lose its punch. These unnecessary words become filler that dilutes your writing and diminishes its effectiveness.

e.g. Jane seemed to be sad/angry/depressed/worried.

This sentence is also an example of another mistake many authors make. For whatever reason, the writer has drawn a conclusion about the character’s feelings and is “telling” the reader, rather than “showing” how the character feels.

Why not “show” Jane’s anger instead of telling about it? You could say, “Jane clenched her teeth,” or “She balled her hands into fists.” The reader now has an image in his mind and can draw his own conclusions, something that pulls him into the story and brings him more satisfaction than being told would do.

e.g. Tom appeared to be enjoying his meal.

Or: Tom smacked his lips and cleaned the last bit of gravy from the bowl with his fingers.

“Seemed,” “appeared,” “started to,” and “began to” are ineffective expressions that tell the reader nothing. Avoid these and similar expressions.

 Using vague or summarizing expressions:

Vague:

Alice started to clean the kitchen.

Stronger, with more detail:

Alice picked up the dirty dishes and took them to the sink.

Vague:

Sandra began to make a fire.

Stronger:

Sandra chopped kindling, crumpled yesterday’s newspaper, and lit the fire.

*****

Check the writing you did today. Did you find any weak, telling, or summarizing expressions?

The bottom line for today:

Lose the vagueness, add the punch, and provide an image for the reader to build on.

*****

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Repetition, Repetition!

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Copy-editing involves much more than finding errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Working with authors on their manuscripts, I recognize errors similar to those I made in my early writing.

One of the more common bad writing habits I’ve noticed in my editing jobs is the overuse of words and phrases.

Repetition

We all have pet phrases that we tend to overuse. Watch for repeated words. If possible, avoid using the same word twice in one sentence and check for repetition within a paragraph. Often they are words we overuse even in our speech—some of mine were “maybe,” “just,” and “so”—but more than being annoying to the reader, what starts out to be only a bad habit can damage your writing in more serious ways.

If you know what your pet repeated words are you could use Find in your Word program and it will take you to each instance of the repeated word, giving you the option of changing it to something more interesting. I would wager that you’ll be shocked at the repetitions you’ll find when you look for some of your pet expressions. For example, have you noticed how many times I’ve used the word “pet” in this post? I rest my case.

Another method that is surprisingly simple but works very well is to read your work out loud. You’ll be amazed at what you find. You’ll make corrections automatically because what you wrote doesn’t “sound right” when read aloud.

Why not give it a try and read a page of your writing out loud?

To find out more about Anneli Purchase, follow these links:

Anneli’s Website

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