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Tag Archives: Grammar

I’ve noticed a lot of questions coming into my blog for various grammar and writing questions. To help with your writing and grammar questions I’d love to answer questions.

So ask away, anything from “Help! I have a paper due in 2 days, what should I do?”, “How do I get my son to read anything?”, “What’s the best way to research this topic?”, “How do I choose a topic?” and more.

I’ll answer them all for you every Thursday and via email.

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Check out 10 questions to help you write better headlines | Poynter., for some interesting tips about how to write better headlines for your blog and other articles.

Headlines are important and I have tons of headaches about headlines. When I was in university, I used to turn in all my papers with titles like the following:

Paper 1

Rhetoric Essay

Final Paper on Gang English

Yes, I have no idea how to write titles for essays or anything else for that matter. Thankfully, I came across this. Enjoy.

Quicklist of 10 questions to ask while writing a headline:

  1. Is the headline accurate?
  2. Does it work out of context?
  3. How compelling a promise does it make?
  4. How easy is it to parse?
  5. Could it benefit from a number?
  6. Are all the words necessary?
  7. Does it obey the Proper Noun Rule?
  8. Would it work better as an explanatory headline?
  9. Does it focus on events or implications?
  10. Could it benefit from one of these 10 words? Top, Why, How, Will, New, Secret, Future, Your, Best, Worst.

Last week we discussed Nouns of all varieties proper, common, abstract, concrete, count, and non-count. This week Write, Read, Watch will discuss pronouns.

I am not certain, and if you made me put money on it on Million Dollar Money Drop I would refrain, but I reckon most people originally thought that pronouns were proper nouns. At least, I did, but I was also a very imaginative and nice child (read stupid and easily fooled). Unfortunately, for me, and other children like me, pronouns are not a football team that plays in the Pro-Bowl nor are they nouns for professionals.

Pronouns are nouns that are substitutes for nouns. The more technical term is the word Pro-form.

Defined by the Oxford English Dictionary

A morpheme, word, lexical unit, or other clause constituent which concisely refers to and is used in place of a more specific expression occurring or implied elsewhere in the discourse.

The simpler version of that from Wikipedia:

A morpheme, word, lexical unit, or other clause constituent which concisely refers to and is used in place of a more specific expression occurring or implied elsewhere in the discourse.        

 

What we are trying to say here is that pronouns are words that stand in for nouns and noun phrases to both give a sense of variety and avoid a dry and repetitive tone to your writing or to stand in for other words when necessary.

Now imagine the following situation (which is fictional and in no way ever happened).

On the planet Alternate Earth 2.7, a woman named Oprah Winfrey met the homeless man with the golden announcer voice, Ted Williams and began a tawdry love affair. After many months of the tawdry love affair, the woman named Oprah Winfrey and the homeless man with the golden announcer voice, Ted Williams decided to go out to eat at WackArnold’s. At WackArnold’s, the woman named Oprah Winfrey and the homeless man with the golden announcer voice, Ted Williams decided to eat a Triple Pterodactyl Burger with extra cheese, mayo, barbeque sauce, and secret sauce on a sesame seed bun. The woman named Oprah Winfrey and the homeless man with the golden announcer voice, Ted Williams were happy with their decision to continue the tawdry love affair and to eat the Triple Pterodactyl Burger with extra cheese, mayo, barbeque sauce, and secret sauce on a sesame seed bun.

 

Now that long and silly sentence discusses a number of different noun phrases repetitively. Those noun phrases being, “woman named Oprah Winfrey”, “homeless man with the golden announcer voice, Ted Williams”, “a tawdry love affair”, “Triple Pterodactyl Burger with extra cheese, mayo, barbeque sauce, and secret sauce on a sesame seed bun.” A long list of noun phrases but with Pronouns, we can shorten the above paragraph significantly.

Noun Phrase Becomes Pronoun
woman named Oprah Winfrey



Not the Oprah we are looking for

Not this one an alternate one.

 

She or Her
homeless man with the golden announcer voice, Ted Williams



Ted the Homeless man with the golden voice Williams

This might be the ted williams we are looking for

 

He or Him
a tawdry love affair It
Triple Pterodactyl Burger with extra cheese, mayo, barbeque sauce, and secret sauce on a sesame seed bun

It's the chicken of the prehistoric world.

It

 

Now let us try that paragraph again

On the planet Alternate Earth 2.7, she met him and began it. After many months of it, she and he decided to go out to eat at WackArnold’s. At WackArnold’s, she and he decided to eat it. She and he were happy with their decision to continue it and to eat it.

See the difference between the two! Now of course, there exists a problem in the second version if the reader has no clue what you are talking about but there is a discernable difference. The first version is 147 words long while the second version is only 52 words long. That is a reduction by almost 2/3rd.

There are different types of pronouns. The different types are possessive, personal, relative, interrogative, demonstrative, indefinite, and reflexive.

You probably already know the Personal pronouns. Personal pronouns are: I, my, mine, me, we, our, ours, us, you, your, yours, he, his, him, she, her, hers, it, its, they, their, theirs, them. I, my, mine, and me are all first person singular personal pronouns. We, our, ours, and us are all first person plural pronouns. They are typically used to avoid Dole-isms. You never hear anyone say, “Jennifer the Writer wants some cake.” Nor do you read, “Oprah Winfrey is having a tawdry love affair,” said Oprah Winfrey. And if you do hear or read a sentence like that, you would think there was something wrong with the person saying it. At the least, it makes the person seem extremely self-absorbed. Therefore, to avoid self-absorbed language it would be more natural to say, “I want some cake,” or to write, “I am having a tawdry love affair,” said Oprah Winfrey.

Last week, we talked about a pool party with Glenn Beck and Barack Obama. Let us assume that at the pool party Barack Obama and Glenn Beck are having a Conversation.

Glenn Beck (GB): Hi, Barack Obama, are the hot dogs ready?

Barack Obama (BO): No, The hot dogs aren’t ready yet; when they are ready, I will call Glenn Beck.

Doesn’t that seem a little weird for Barack Obama to talk to Glenn Beck like that? It would be more natural for Barack Obama to answer, “No, the hot dogs aren’t ready yet, when they are ready I will call you.”

This is a more natural usage. Let us also assume that Oprah Winfrey and Ted Williams are at the pool party.

GB: Barack, Oprah wanted to know if Oprah could have two hot dogs. Oprah also wanted to know where the soda is. In addition, Oprah wanted to know where to find the sunscreen.

That sounds very annoying and weird. Even if it is correct, it comes off as repetitive and robotic. A better way for this would be to use Pronouns. First, you have to announce the proper name of the noun that you will replace in the first sentence.

GB: Barack, Oprah wanted to know if she could have two hot dogs. She also wanted to know where the soda is. In addition, she wanted to know where to find the sunscreen.

This second sentence sounds more natural using she sounds much better and unless the person you are talking to has some kind of short-term memory problem, they will know that you mean Oprah when you say she.

Now, I think I have really exceeded the length that I have intended so, I will continue with Pronouns next week. Who would have thought nouns that stand in for other nouns would have taken up so much time!

References: Oxford English Dictionary, Wikipedia, Morenberg’s Doing Grammar. And i lifted that Brontosaurus Burger Picture from the QuarryLaneFarms Blog

 


Tomorrow I will post the article for Grammar Thursday about Pronouns. I should have posted it on Thursday but I became very busy. Please enjoy this teaser video from Grammar Rock.


I found a video about nouns on youtube from Schoolhouse Rock.
Unfortunately they leave a lot of stuff out but it’s a good place to start.


There are a number of different parts of speech, according to multiple sources like Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition, Wikipedia, And Morenberg’s Doing Grammar, there are eight. In the following weeks, I plan to talk about all eight of them but today I wanted to start with Nouns.

Nouns are words that stand for people, places and things, as your kindergarten teacher must have explained. However, nouns are much more than that; nouns also refer to ideas and concepts.

Here are some examples:

Person: Glen Beck

Place: Manhattan

Thing: car

Idea: liberty

Concept: hate (but it depends on how it is used in a sentence.)

Nouns take a number of different places within sentences. They are often the Subject of the sentence, for example, Glen Beck talks. In the sentence, Glen Beck is the Noun that performs the action of talking. Sometimes they are the direct object of the verb like in this sentence “President Obama talks to Glen Beck.” In the sentence President Obama is the Subject Noun, talking is the action verb, and Glen Beck is the Direct Object of that action.

Obama and Beck: are they really friends?

Furthermore, the noun can take the form of an Indirect Object of the verb. Try this sentence. Let us pretend like Glen Beck and President Obama are hanging out at a pool party and Glen Beck wants a hot dog.

Glen Beck asks President Obama for a Hot Dog.

Obama knows how to make one hell of a hot dog!

In the above sentence, “Glen Beck” is the noun subject of the sentence. “President Obama” is the direct object of the verb “asks”. Hot dog would be the indirect object of the verb “asks” and the object of the prepositional phrase “for a hot dog”. There is a little more to this whole indirect and direct object thing. You are going to have to wait until after I teach you about verbs because it is confusing unless you learn about the different type of verbs.

Therefore, as you see a noun can be the subject, the direct object, the indirect object and even a modifier of another noun. If you notice the sentence “President Obama talks to Glen Beck” President Obama is the subject but it is more like that Obama is the subject whereas the noun president modifies the word Obama.

Furthermore, there are different classifications for nouns. You have proper and common nouns. In the above sentences, the nouns Manhattan, “Glen Beck,” and “President Obama” are all proper nouns. These nouns are distinguished by their status as being the specific name for a place, and people.

Proper Nouns:

Ford Focus

Glen Beck

Staten Island

“No Country for Old Men”

Common Nouns:

car

man

borough or place

movie

As you see not only are proper nouns characterized by using capitalization but also as the very specific nature of their reference. If a person wanted a car from a lot and said “I’ve come for a car” the person could be referring to any car on the lot, but if the person said “I’ve come for a Ford Focus” they have given the salesman a very specific request. The same goes with the difference between man and Glen Beck, place and Staten Island, movie and “No Country for Old Men.”

There are also Countable and uncountable nouns or count and mass nouns. A count noun is a noun that has the ability of being pluralized or combined with numeral or quantifiers. An example is gun, rock, or bottle.

One gun (number + noun) = gun

Two guns (number + noun) = guns = more than one gun

The most bottles = more bottles than x

Several rocks = a number of rocks (a pet peeve of mine is that several equals more than two as a couple refers to two and several would be three or more.)

In contrast to these countable nouns would be the mass or non-count nouns. Examples of mass nouns would be water, beer, furniture. As it is impossible (even if you hear moronic people in Manhattan or L.A. say so) to have “three waters”, you can only have water so when your waiter says “Three waters” respond by saying “No, three bottles of water.” Make sure to leave immediately afterwards as you might be subject to some tomfoolery for correcting the person.

Additionally, collective nouns are nouns that refer to groups of more than one, like committee, gaggle and more.

Moreover, there are concrete and abstract nouns. Concrete nouns are words that refer to tangible entities like cars, guns, and bottles of Jack Daniels. Abstract nouns are words that refer to intangible objects, like ideas and concepts like the original examples above like liberty and hate, although hate isn’t always a noun.” One way to identify an abstract noun is if you see the suffix –ness, -ity, or –tion, attached to a verb or adjective you have an abstract noun see words like happiness, indignation, and serenity.

References: Doing Grammar; Warriner’s Guide to English Grammar, Wikipedia, Lingual Links.

I hope this study into the different types of nouns helps you to become a better writer. In the coming weeks I will try to enhance your knowledge of Pronouns, Adjectives, Verbs, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions, and Interjections. In addition, even further into the year I will expand on the different punctuation marks and even phrases within sentences. I look forward to talking about grammar with you.