Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not.

Vague thoughts on grammar and punctuation

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After a day spent re-lining a tired tweed jacket with an old silk shirt; sewing the sleeves on to the front and back of a woolly; booking up jewellery fairs and paying bills, I thought I was ready to re-read Chapter 18. When I started this afternoon my immediate thought was, ‘This is awful.’ It’s wordy without saying much. The tone and pace are plodding. In no way would I carry on reading the book if Chapter 18 fell in the place of Chapter 1. After a day of practical activity I can only imagine that my brain is in a different place to where it goes for writing. In an attempt to achieve something constructive, I’ve copied all the chapters into one document and all of Pippa’s emails into another. In doing so my word count has increased again (by 5000). Either that, or my Excel document isn’t keeping pace adding up the individual chapter totals. Whatever, I’ve decided to skip the onscreen read-through and go straight back to editing the hard copy.

Yesterday I transcribed an interview. This morning I learnt I’d done it incorrectly. Lynne Truss’s Eat, Shoots and Leaves informs me that the ellipsis (i.e., …) is used for missing words or a trailing-off ending. I have to go back through my interview and replace the …’s with (Pause). Not having had a formal grammatical education, or at least one I can remember, I have picked up on how to write by reading. I think I do okay. I had worked out for myself that [sic] meant ‘the foregoing mistake was in the original’, but now I know that sicut means ‘just as’. Did I need to know that? Maybe not, but it’s good to have one’s assumptions confirmed. Although, according to Lynne, I think I should be using “ _” instead of ‘_’, and I’m going to have to watch my use of hyphens.

As a kid (around 10 or 11) on holiday in Wales I remember traipsing down to Woolworths to buy a long, thin, green grammar book. I spent my summer holiday (probably a rainy two weeks) in Milford Haven working through the exercises. It was mainly filling in adjectives and nouns in sample sentences, which is a pity as I’m still not sure on tenses. I think I know how to use them in English because they come naturally – my ear is in tune with my native tongue. But when I try writing to French friends, I’m at a loss. The simple tenses (past, present and future) are easy enough to use, but what is the ‘present subjunctive’ or the ‘past anterior’? If I knew what they were in English, I might be able to work out what I wanted to say in French. It’s unfortunate that Truss’s book focuses on punctuation only, as I’m sure she’d be able to sort me out.

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Written by Sarah Ann

May 16, 2012 at 3:37 pm

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