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Project Punctuate

Interactive Grammar

April 14th, 2004

(no subject) @ 05:26 pm

misused words and phrases

I've set up a web site of commonly misused words--especially those that turn up all the time in fanfiction. Like, oh... "Harry wasn't phased by the Bludger flying by his head." Or "Jim was adverse to taking his medicine." Feel free to bookmark it and use it to check words you're not sure about--or just go there and browse; you'll probably learn something. (I sure did, doing the research.)

Feel free to link to the site wherever you want. I'd love to bring it to the attention of as many fanfic writers as possible--especially the writers who make these kinds of mistakes, who probably aren't reading this community. The site has a definite fandom bent, but it's rated PG at most, so it should be safe to reference just about anywhere.

Let me know if you have any comments or questions.

March 18th, 2004

Something up with which I shall not put. (cross-posted to a handful of grammar communities) @ 12:44 am

Hasty notes (not a full-fledged transcription) of a lecture tape entitled "Language: Never End Your Sentence with a Preposition?" by Dr. John McWhorter, Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of California at Berkley.

The two major players in this issue are Robert Loth and Lindley Murray, who wrote books on English grammar in 1762 and 1794, respectively.

Loth was a bishop who fancied himself a grammarian. His book had a greater influence than perhaps it ought to have because there were fewer books at that time. Loth's and Murray's books were subsequently used to teach English. Murray's book was used in the United States well into the 1800s, with a rather disproportionate impact.

Both authors were operating under the popular misconception of the time that Latin was a superior language. Latin was the international lingua franca of the educated, whereas English was used in a more limited area. Additionally, the overwhelming majority of the time, Latin was used to communicate ideas of a certain import.

Thus, with a linguistic inferiority complex, they believed that English had to emulate Latin to be a better, more "real" language. This is like saying cats should bark because dogs bark. English meows, Latin barks, although Loth and Murray didn't see it that way.

Loth single-handedly invented the rule regarding not ending sentences with prepositions solely on the basis that Latin does not end sentences with prepositions. Because English does indeed allow this construct, Loth himself wrote many sentences in that book, in that section, wherein he ended sentences with prepositions. This construct is so native to English syntax that Loth didn't even notice it when he did it.

(He also addresses "me and Billy," "whom," and other quirks of English.)

On a personal note, I'm a bit surprised. I could have sworn he also addressed the "never split infinitives" rule. It's my conviction that this is also a false rule. First, there's the issue of clarity. My favorite true story that serves me so well in discussions such as this:

Someone once put on her website, "The important thing is not to stop questioning." My immediate first thought was, "If it's not 'to stop questioning,' then what is it?" Again, just because Latin doesn't split the infinitive, why should that mean English can't? Semantically, the 'not' goes with the base of the verb. Otherwise, it negates the whole phrase rather than the more important core of it.

The infinitive is just a conjugation. We split apart other conjugations. We can take "I had been working" and negate it by saying "I had not been working." Why is that okay but "to not stop" isn't?

March 9th, 2004

The Rules of Possession @ 04:45 pm

Okay, so I know the rules of applying the possessive "s" in most cases—including that you should use it when a singular proper name just happens to end in "s", rather than just using an apostrophe, as in:

Correct: Mr. Jones's car
Incorrect: Mr. Jones' car

Now, the exceptions to this rule are limited to names like Moses and Jesus, correct? So:

Correct: Jesus' words
Incorrect: Jesus's words

So, here's my question. Are names like "Lucius" and "Severus" exceptions like the above? Would "Lucius' gaze" be correct? Should it be "Lucius's gaze"?

Opinions? Advice?

March 3rd, 2004

(no subject) @ 09:27 pm

Which one is correct?

"a hallucination"


"an hallucination"

When I say it out loud, I use the "an", but I'm not sure if that's correct. :/

February 12th, 2004

Common Errors in English @ 03:51 am

I don't know if this site has been linked to before, but since I can't remember it, I'll post the URL anyway.. :)

Common Errors in English

Paul Brians, the guy who compiled this list, is a professor at a public university.. This compilation of errors is just one of his hobby projects, though.. Oh, and it focuses on American English!

Well, I couldn't find an entry for punctuation, so I decided to post the following two instead.. ;)

One of the comments English teachers dread to see on their evaluations is "The professor really helped me improve my writting." When "-ing" is added to a word which ends in a short vowel followed only by a single consonant, that consonant is normally doubled, but "write" has a silent E on the end to ensure the long I sound in the word. Doubling the T in this case would make the word rhyme with "flitting."

It's amazing how many people write to thank me for helping them with their "grammer." It's "grammar." The word is often incorrectly used to label patterns of spelling and usage that have nothing to do with the structure of language, the proper subject of grammar in the most conservative sense. Not all bad writing is due to bad grammar.

January 19th, 2004

Nevertheless/nonetheless @ 11:17 am

Current Music: David Bowie, "Little Bombardier"

What is the difference between "nevertheless" and "nonetheless"? When do you use them, and how do you know which one to go with?

Dictionary.com lists them as synonyms, but there has to be more to it than that.

Harry wasn't afraid; nevertheless, he grabbed Draco's hand.

Draco's hand was sticky, but he let Harry hold it nonetheless.

I'd say these sentences are all right. Wouldn't swear to it, though, because I can't think of a specific reason.

January 4th, 2004

What's wrong with this sentence? @ 10:48 pm

Current Mood: aggravated aggravated
Current Music: Cirque du Soleil - Egypte

Naked and spread, your skin glowing with sweat and humiliation, your eyes frantically shift to locate the source of your torment.

It might be correct, but it reads wrong every time I go over it.

Thanks in advance!

January 3rd, 2004

Neither/either/none @ 10:56 pm

Could you advise me on this example sentence please?

"The simple truth which none of you wants to hear is ..."

I was taught that "none" is an abbreviation for "not one", hence the verb following it should be conjugated as if its subject were singular: "none of you wants to hear ...". We were taught that the same applied to "neither" and "either".

It sounds clunky, though. And I see a *lot* of people following none/either/neither with plural verbs. Is this an old rule that has fallen into disuse, or had my year 7 English teacher lost the plot entirely (as I have long suspected)?

Can I write "The simple truth which none of you want to hear is ..."?

December 29th, 2003

Participial phrases and commas @ 06:14 am

Current Mood: curious curious

I need comma help with participial phrases.


When the laughing started Harry jumped from his seat, gathering up the remainder of his lunch.

Does there need to be comma between seat and gathering?

My grammar and punctuation books don't cover this. Perhaps it is completely inappropriate.

December 24th, 2003

Query @ 08:34 pm

Current Mood: anxious anxious
Current Music: The Jam - Going Underground


The biggest, most consistant mistake I make in my writing is mistaking 'which' for 'that' and 'that' for 'which'. If not for Word's grammar checker, I really wouldn't know if I was right or wrong.

Does anyone know of a rule that I can follow for this?

Thanks, and apologies if this issue has been raised before *g*

December 12th, 2003

Content/contently @ 10:15 pm

I just stumbled over a word in a story and it has been bugging me the whole afternoon: "contently"

I thought that with the word content, there was no need to add a "ly" in the end.

I searched in Merriam Webster online and the word doesn't exist, yet dictionary.com says it does.

My question is...do you native English speakers use the word contently at all? Is it okay to say "the cat was purring contently"?

Thanks for your time and advice :)


December 6th, 2003

Possessives @ 12:16 pm

Apologies if this has been addressed before, but this is something that's been bugging me. If I want to make a name that ends in "s" possessive, do I add ' or 's? For example, which is correct:

Lucius' cane -or- Lucius's cane

Hogwarts' walls -or- Hogwarts's walls

I know that usually you add an apostrophe only if the word is plural (like "the dogs' collars"), but these words are singular.

I admit to being very confused. :/

December 3rd, 2003

(no subject) @ 10:30 pm

What's the difference between 'burnt' and 'burned', 'dreamt' and 'dreamed'?

I believe that both forms are accepted as the past tense, but is there any difference between them?
I was taught that the -ed form is the 'old' way, and the -t form is the 'new' way. Could someone shed some light on this?

December 1st, 2003

PSA: averse v. adverse @ 05:11 pm

Current Mood: annoyed annoyed

I've seen these two words mixed up way too often lately. From m-w.com:

Pronunciation: &-'v&rs
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin aversus, past participle of avertere
Date: 1597
: having an active feeling of repugnance or distaste
synonym see DISINCLINED

Pronunciation: ad-'v&rs, 'ad-"
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French advers, from Latin adversus, past participle of advertere
Date: 14th century
1 : acting against or in a contrary direction : HOSTILE
2 a : opposed to one's interests ; especially : UNFAVORABLE b : causing harm : HARMFUL
3 archaic : opposite in position

So, Snape would be averse to bathing, not adverse. Harry might face adverse circumstances, not averse.

Next week: faze v. phase.

November 21st, 2003

A question about 'between' @ 12:44 am

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

I'm not a native speaker of English, so I can't rely on intuition. And I seem to be unable to find any reference which would help me to solve my problem. I was taught that this kind of sentence is correct:

This has to remain between you and me.

Recently, however, I've been stumbling upon such a version of this kind of sentence:

This has to remain between you and I.

So, I've been left a bit befuddled. I'm not sure which pronouns I'm supposed to use. I'd opt for the first sentence to be correct, but I can't be sure. I'll be grateful for help.

November 19th, 2003

Punctuation Question @ 11:58 pm

Current Mood: busy busy

All right, this one sentence is really bothering me, and I'd figure that I'd give this community a try.

Could someone please help me figure out a better way to re-punctuate this sentence?

Without a job, since he wasn't scheduled to take his N.E.W.T.s for another month and he had yet to find one otherwise, not that he was trying very hard, he only had two real choices: he could live on it for a very limited period of time, or he could move in with someone.

(The it at the end refers to his inheritance, if that matters.


dialogue question @ 07:25 pm

November 16th, 2003

The Possessive Apostrophe @ 03:27 pm

Current Mood: cheerful cheerful

gwyn_r has a great essay here about the use of the possessive apostrophe. This includes a large section on how to indicate possessiveness when dealing with those pesky names ending with an s, as in Giles' or Giles's. She has some great background on why Americans started using the Giles' format, when apparently the rest of the English-speaking world uses Giles's. (I still think Giles's looks weird as all get out, but if it's correct, it's correct.)

So get on out of here and go read it! Shoo!

October 17th, 2003

Greetings ... @ 07:15 pm

Current Mood: curious curious
Current Music: Computer noises, the radio, people chatting in Chinese.

I have been living and working in Tainan, Taiwan (as an English teacher) for just over four years, and was wondering if it would be ok if I post some questions about punctuation and grammar here from time to time, despite the fact that I am not a fanfic writer.

I would also be interested in finding out if there are any other punctuation based LJ communities. I wasn't able to find any, by searching for communities which list
'Punctuation' as an interest.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Regards, Taniwha

September 28th, 2003

Comes in, sits down, starts grumbling* @ 09:38 pm

Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Current Music: Metallica - Hero of the Day

Pardon me folks but I just need somewhere to air a complaint about a common mispelling I see in fanfic.

Quite & Quiet.

Grr! What do people learn in school these days? Don't they teach the difference? You can even hear that the e is before the t in quiet!