~ The Write Way ~
Friday 22 October 1999
Last week's issue was about organising your ideas into logical paragraphs; that prompted Paul to send this tip to help you organise your ideas when writing:
" Whenever I write anything long or complex enough to require
Since some programmer, somewhere, has gone to all the trouble of writing this facility into our programs - the least we can do is utilise it!
Last week, we went back to basic paragraphs; this week, let's go back even further and look at sentences. After all, the sentence is the foundation of your writing - if it's wobbly and weak, your whole structure can collapse around you and you'll be left standing there, looking very silly, while people scratch their heads, puzzling over what on earth you were trying to say.
One of the really, REALLY basic rules is that the verb must (MUST - no 'ifs' or 'buts' about it) agree with the subject in number and person. Your entire meaning will be changed if you don't follow this simple rule. If it's been some time since you sat in an English class, surreptitiously looking at your watch every five minutes, waiting for the bell to ring, here's a quick refresher course:
To find the subject of a verb, you ask 'who' or 'what' BEFORE the verb (the 'verb' is the word that expresses action, emotion or states of being in the sentence e.g. 'to run, to love, to hunger').
(Note: all these examples are based on the wonderful wit of Fran Lebowitz. The first look at the pros of having children and the latter at the cons. I've deliberately made the errors in some to illustrate the importance of agreement.)
Children sleep either alone or with small toy animals. The wisdom of such behaviour is unquestionable, as it frees them from the immeasurable tedium of being privy to the whispered confessions of others. I have yet to run across a teddy bear who was harbouring the secret desire to wear a maid's uniform.
The verb in the first sentence is 'sleep' - ask 'who' or 'what' before the verb. Who sleep? Children. So this is the subject of the sentence. 'Children' is a plural noun, so it MUST have a plural verb. You couldn't write "children sleeps ...", because 'sleeps' is the singular form of the verb.
Not a single member of the under-age set have yet to propose the word 'chairchild.' (Incorrect)
In this example, the verb is 'have', who have? Not A SINGLE MEMBER. The subject is clearly singular, so the verb must be changed to fit the subject (NOT the other way around.)
Not a single member of the under-age set has yet to propose the word 'chairchild.' (Correct)
Notoriously insensitive to subtle shifts in mood, children will persist in discussing the colour of a recently sighted cement-mixer long after one's own interest in the topic have/has waned. (Has - singular - subject is 'one's own interest')
Children are rarely in the position to lend one a truly interesting sum of money. There are/ is, however, exceptions, and such children are an excellent addition to any party. (Are - plural subject, 'children' requires a plural verb.)
Do not, on a rainy day, ask your child what he feel/feels like doing, because I assure you what he feels like doing you won't feel like watching. (Feels - singular subject, 'he' requires singular verb.)
These are all pretty obvious, it can get difficult in these examples:
There's the children now!
'There's' is a contraction of 'there' and 'is'; 'is' is singular, but the subject is 'children'. In examples like this, you need to rearrange the sentence to find the subject: 'The children are there now.' So the sentence should read: 'There are the children now!' It's a bit clumsy to write a contraction of 'there are' ...'there're ... nup, that just doesn't work for me!
This crowd of supporters give/gives the officials a tough job.
Even though there are plenty of supporters, they only make up one crowd, so the verb has to be singular - 'gives.'
Last week's quiz
This week's quiz
Note whether the following are TRUE or FALSE:
1. A TENACIOUS argument is convincing.
2. Poison has a DELETERIOUS effect.
3. Europe has a HOMOGENEOUS population.
4. A SYCOPHANT is a sincere person.
5. A DILETTANTE is a hard worker.
6. A scoffer at tradition is a MARTINET.
7. A VIRAGO is a loud-mouthed woman.
8. A VERBATIM report makes a general summary.
9. VERBOSITY is a sign of a good vocabulary.
10.An AMBULATORY patient is bed-ridden.
Last week I mentioned Kim and Michael's newsletters that bring you a selection of quotes - here's a Quote newsletter with a difference. Kevin doesn't just send you Powerquotes, he also sends you questions designed to help you focus on how you can use these quotes to improve your attitudes, your business and your relationships.
Take a peek at these and spend a couple of moments thinking about how you'd respond to the questions - honestly (no-one else will know what your answers are ...):
"Our intention creates our reality."
- Wayne Dyer
Questions to Ponder
What are my current intentions?
Are they most productive and consistent with my aspirations?
If not, what can I do to begin to examine and modify my intentions?
"Worry is like a rocking chair - it gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere."
Questions to Ponder
What am I worrying about today?
Is it going to get me anywhere?
What can I do to reduce or alleviate my worries today?
If you would like to subscribe, you can do so on site at:http://discian.com/powerquote.htm - you can also browse the archives here.
I came across these delightful puns this week - they're from an old BBC radio program called 'My Word':
THE LEASE SAID SAUNA'S MENDED ("The least said, soonest mended" Charles Dickens - 'Pickwick Papers')
AND IS THEIR ANNIE STILL FORTY? ("And is there honey still for tea?" Rupert Brooke - 'The Old Vicarage, Grantchester')
GOOD PIE, MISSED THE CHIPS ("Goodbye, Mr Chips" James Hilton - novel title)
After my all-out offensive issue last week, it was pointed out to me that there was, in fact, one group I had failed to offend - lest it be said I'm showing favouritism ...
This was sent to me by one of my past students who recently graduated from Law and is now working for an eminent judge (she swears that no-one she knows is anything like this!):
Laws Relating to the Hunting of Attorneys
Isn't that a hoot?
And to remind you just why you bother wading through my ramblings each week, I offer this classic (it's been around for sometime - but is worth revisiting):
The importance of good grammar...
I had only just arrived at the club when I bumped into Roger. After we had exchanged a few pleasantries, he lowered his voice and asked, "What do you think of Martha and I as a potential twosome?"
"That," I replied, "would be a mistake. Martha and me is more like it."
"You're interested in Martha?"
"I'm interested in clear communication."
"Fair enough," he agreed. "May the best man win." Then he sighed. "Here I thought we had a clear path to becoming a very unique couple."
"You couldn't be a very unique couple, Roger."
"Oh? And why is that?"
"Martha couldn't be a little pregnant, could she?"
"Say what? You think that Martha and me...."
"Martha and I."
"Oh." Roger blushed and set down his drink. "Gee, I didn't know."
"Of course you didn't," I assured him. "Most people don't."
"I feel very badly about this."
"You shouldn't say that: I feel bad...."
"Please, don't," Roger said. "If anyone's at fault here, it's me!"
OXYMORON OF THE WEEK: Microsoft works
Darryl reminded me of this gem - but who's the one who is laughing all the way to the bank???
This Latin phrase sounds like one of my Latin translations when I was at school:
Euge! murus sum! (Hooray! I am a wall!)
Remember, if you've missed past issues, or if you're looking for help with some of the finer points of grammar (OK - or with the grosser points) you can find all the Writing Tips at:http://www.write101.com/archives/index.htm
Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com