Friday, January 22, 2016

A GRAMMATICAL RESPONSE FOR MY FAVORITE PICKLEOPE

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

It's Friday, so it's time to respond to a grammatical question. This week our conundrum comes from the beloved Pickleope of Strictly Naked (and he is: I've seen photos):

Pickleope states: Okay, oh Vicar of Vocabulary, where do you stand on ending a sentence with a preposition? I often do it, much like I'll start a sentence with "and" or "but" and I'd like to know if I should be doing the gymnastics to avoid those situations? Also, I've heard both, "you shouldn't use 'he/she said' after quote," and "you should only use 'he/she said' and not some nonsense like 'he/she exclaimed.'" As an editor, which of those statements is right?


I'll do my best here, Pickleope: 


  1.  Prepositions--if you're writing something informal or writing your blog, which I hope is for fun, then I don't care if you end a sentence with a preposition. I do it sometimes, but not often because it scares me (The Grammar Goddess might slap me down, and she outranks The Queen of Grammar). If you have to write something for professional reasons, then I recommend doing the cartwheel on the balance beam to avoid the preposition at the end. It's not difficult for me because I do it all the time. I also think this is one of the rules that we're losing.
  2. Beginning a sentence with "and" or "but"--This rule is also changing. Some style books will tell you not to do it, but I learned in college that starting a sentence with one of these short conjunctions (that is, using the word as a transition) is okay, especially if you want to call attention to the beginning of the sentence. If you use it professionally and it pisses off someone, then use more accepted transitions, such as "however," "moreover," or "additionally."
  3. He said/she said--I don't like he said/she said. I rarely use it. I don't know why it would be used after a quotation. Can you give me an example? Here's some information from The Essential Handbook for Writers to help you avoid he said/she said in sentences: The construction he/she . . . is awkard and objectionable to many readers. The better choice is to use he or she, to recast the sentence in plural, or to rephrase. For instance:  
After the infant learns to creep, he or she progresses to crawling. 

After infants learn to creep, they progress to crawling.

After learning to creep, the infant progresses to crawling.


My thoughts: The first sentence is okay. The second sentence is much better.  The third sentence is okay, but it's passive voice. 

My favorite solution is to make the number plural and then use they or them or whatever. My second favorite solution is to alternate between he and she. Example: When the chemist finishes the experiment, she must clean the equipment. A few sentences later--To clean the equipment, he must make sure it's no longer hot.

I hope you find the answers you need in this post. 

If you would like help with a grammatical question or concern, would like to point out something odd you've noticed, or would like to share a grammar tip with us, then please email me at dumpedfirstwife@gmail.com.



Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug


Provided by none other than fishducky.
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35 comments:

  1. Hi Janie - I admire everyone who wants to improve their English - and it's great you're giving us your thoughts here. I don't understand the language - yet seem to be able to write in it ... as long as it's my voice coming through. I note now if I write formal letters - it becomes a strain!

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. You write very well. When I write a formal letter, it's similar to writing a newspaper article. I start with my topic, provide details, and tie it up with a bow.

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  2. With "he/she said" I meant "he said, or she said" but didn't want to write it out. What I've heard and read is contradictory regarding "said" versus a more descriptive verb, like "exclaimed" or "sobbed." Some people say that the quote should do the work of the descriptor and adding the descriptive verb is pointless while others say that using simply "said" doesn't do enough to describe the dialogue and is thus overused. So it's my confusion over whether "said" is overused, or is "exclaimed" and other verbs excessive like how some people see the use of an exclamation point? Sorry to confuse with "he/she."
    BUT, thank you for your reasonable response. Now, where's this Grammar Goddess? And is there a Grammar Pope who channels the Grammar Goddess? Thank you again for your answers.

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    1. Only I can see the Grammar Goddess. Scroll on down to find Madilyn, who understands what you meant by the he said she said and then they took off their clothes question.

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    2. Scroll down to A Beer for the Shower, please. Great answer.

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  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Janie...I've seen s/he used, and thought that was kind of original.

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    1. I've seen it, too. I don't like it, but to each her own.

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  4. These posts are wonderful and extremely useful. Thanks.

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    1. Thank you. I've been so concerned about C.J.

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  5. Not sure, but I think the third question wasn't actually about using "he/she." I think it was about using the "he said" or the "she said" tag at the end of dialogue, and about using tags other than "said." (Could be wrong though... it's happened a time or two...)

    Judging by your comment about making the number plural and then using "they" or "their" tells me you didn't read something that I read recently. I have a feeling it'll make you as crazy as it made me. Supposedly, it is now considered acceptable for "they" and "their" to be used as a singular pronoun. ARRRRGH! People have been doing it for a long time, and it has always made me grind my teeth, but now... it's gonna be... okay to do so? (sigh)

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    1. For quite a while, some people have said the thing about they being okay as a singular pronoun. I detest it, and refuse to give in to it.

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  6. Oh...I am so guilty of writing he /she said or stated...bad me

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    1. Yes, bad bad Birgit, who must be scolded. Do you feel scolded? I certainly hope so. However, these posts are merely guidelines. You should do whatever the hell works for you.

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  7. I don't bother with no grammar rules!!

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    1. Ain't no grammar crap gonna scare me. I hate book larnin'.

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  8. The ever-perceptive Pickleope has discerned your true being! We should now address you as Reverend Janie, the Vicar of Vocabulary. Amen.

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    1. But I'm already HRH, The Queen of Grammar. I don't think I can handle more titles.

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  9. I found that very helpful. It confirmed a lot of my beliefs and added a couple of new ones.

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    1. Don't take it too seriously, young and cute.

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  10. Solid advice. I'd been wondering about prepositions myself as I tend to do it a lot in my fiction writing. Whenever I catch it though, I automatically try and reword the sentence to get rid of it. Glad to know my err on the side of caution is legitimate.
    On the starting sentences with 'and' or 'but,' I've done this since forever despite so many teachers and books telling me otherwise. I take it as... creative liberties. Ha. I guess I'll just have to wait and see if editors tear it apart.

    As for the he/she said... I instead transition into some sort of action.

    "It's raining." She opened an umbrella.

    He pulled up his hood. "So it is."

    It feels clear to me who's saying what, but again I guess we'll see!

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    1. Thank you! You understood what I didn't and explained it beautifully.

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  11. We're both big believers in using but or and to start a sentence if it adds emphasis. As for the he said/she said, we like a bit of variety. Yes, we'll use he said, but we might also use something more colorful like he screamed or he seethed if the character is really losing his shit. Saying "I'm going to kill you and everyone you've ever loved!" he said... just loses all its punch.

    And we also do what Madilyn does, which is a great way of conveying dialogue while keeping the flow of the action going.

    So we don't really care about what's right/wrong in that regard, we just like variety so it doesn't grow stale using the same phrases over and over.

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  12. I'm with you on all of them, but I happily break the rules when I'm writing fiction. :-D

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    1. That's why it's creative writing. Ain't no rules when you create.

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  13. I feel like I'm getting smarter, though there hasn't been much to work with.

    [Though I have little to work with, I feel like I am getter smarter. Yep. It's gonna happen.]

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    1. You're already super smart. If your brain gets any bigger, then you won't be able to hold up your head.

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  14. Hey Janie,

    And speaking of prepositions, I rather hate the overusing of the conjunction word, "and" and I especially hate it because it can lead to a run-on sentence and that just weakens the sentence and I do like using the occasional "and" at the beginning of a sentence to enhance what the heck I'm trying to say, even in my own rather incoherent, rambling way.

    A very informative angle to grammar. As for me, I'm a grammar anarchist!

    Gary

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    1. I want to be an anarchist, but my OCD can't handle chaos. Oi! I have never read Ulysses, though I intend to do so before I die. I understand that the entire book is one very, very long sentence. James Joyce? Definitely an anarchist.

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  15. Thank you, Janie for being ready to point out where we go wrong. I have and am still learning so much from you. You are amazing.

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  16. Ooooh! I like the semi-colon dinos!!!!

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    1. We must thank fishducky. She provides me with an excellent selection of grammar cartoons.

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  17. I'm going to write about this later, but "they" is now accepted as a singular plural pronoun. I know how sucky it sounds...but it was officially changed by the Wall Street Journal and many other publications to accommodate those who do not conform to either gender. Apparently using he or she as the "we don't know what sex so we'll cover all" is not acceptable anymore because it includes gender binary or gender nonconforming or whatever the politically correct term is. I was yelled down about it in a writer's group because I asked the question and apparently you're a discriminatory meanie for mentioning it there because you were SUPPOSED to know somehow! You can see it's still a bit of a sore subject for me...

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    1. I absolutely cannot bear they as a singular pronoun. I don't care what the Wall Street Journal says. I am The Queen of Grammar. Queen beats Wall Street. If the subject ever comes up again and those meanies pick on you, please feel free to invoke my name.

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