Posts Tagged ‘ Q&A ’

Past Perfect Tense: Dear Sexy G,

Dear Sexy Grammarian,
I have a grammar question!! Would you say: I thought we finally realized or I thought we had finally realized? Does it matter?

Thank you for your continued dedication to grammar and sexiness,
Christine

Hi Christine! Thanks for writing. You’re talking about the difference between past perfect and past tense here. Depending on your meaning, either of your examples might be okay. You’re telling a story in this sentence that definitely happened in the past: I thought.

Now, whether to make the other verb in your sentence past tense (finally realized) or past perfect (had finally realized) depends on when you thought that final realization took place.

Past perfect describes a past that took place before the past tense. So, did you think you had finally realized at some time before you thought about finally realizing? Probably. In that case, you should write, I thought we had finally realized. But on the off chance that you thought you were realizing something at the same time you were thinking it, you might write, I thought we finally realized.

Yours,

The Sexy Grammarian

Frequently, a client or online fan shares a burning grammar question, and I always post answers here on the blog.  If you have a question, don’t hesitate to write to me. Looking for more attention? Get affordable, project-focused private sessions in person or via Skype or email.

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera: Dear Sexy G,

Dear Sexy Grammarian,

Since etc. closes a lot of sentences, it feels insufficient to just use one period, but using two, one for the abbreviation and one for the sentence, is awkward. What should I do?

Thanks,

Pablo

Dearest Pablo-
Just end the sentence with one period doing both jobs (terminating the sentence and the abbreviation). But I am curious about your choice to close a lot of sentences with the word etcetera in the first place. I think of etcetera as an overused and often poorly used word.

Etcetera can mean “and others” or “and so on.” So it’s useful when you have established the beginning of a list and don’t want to list everything. But we often use it out of laziness. Why don’t you want to give us the whole list? Is it really so long?

I believe in being as specific as possible in writing. When you reach for the abbreviation, etc., ask yourself, “What am I replacing here?” Sometimes you may be able to add just one more item to your list and avoid the abbreviation all together.

Another solution is to save etc. for bullet lists and use “and so forth” or “and so on” when you want to convey the same idea in running prose.

Yours,

The Sexy Grammarian

Frequently, a client or online fan shares a burning grammar question, and I always post answers here on the blog.  If you have a question, don’t hesitate to write to me. Looking for more attention? Get affordable, project-focused private sessions in person or via Skype or email.

Air Quotes: Dear Sexy G

Dear Sexy Grammarian,

I would like to know about quote marks.  Do you have a post about that already?  In particular, I use quotes like air-quotes, you know, to acknowledge that a word is being used out of context or in a circumspect way (like either I intentionally used it incorrectly or I don’t believe the word I’m using so I’m adding some sort of sarcasm).  I guess that’s it!  I use those air-quotes to indicate sarcasm in my writing, just like I would when I speak.

Anyway, punctuation on those is also difficult, especially if they end a sentence or a clause.  The sarcasm really doesn’t extend to the punctuation for me, so I treat those air-quotes differently than I treat actual quotation marks, meaning that I usually put the punctuation on the outside of them (instead of inside, where they belong).  My question: do air quotes deserve the same authority as proper quotation marks?

Sincerely,

Norman

To my beloved Norman,

When we use air quotes in speech or ironic quotation marks in writing we convey sarcasm or irony, just as you explain so well. But as punctuation marks, these ironic quotes carry no less weight than any other use of a quotation mark. So use the same rules of punctuation, whether your quotation marks convey dialogue or irony.

That is, put the comma or period inside quotation marks, though, as E.B. White lovingly wrote on the subject, “logically it often seems not to belong there.”

What she called “erotica” I called porn.

Let’s not have sex. Let’s just be “friends.”

When I told her to “bring the sexy,” I didn’t mean the whole dildo collection.

And yes, at Sexy Grammar, we’ve got several free lessons on punctuation and dialogue and quotation marks. Check out these naughty posts on dialogue tags, direct objects, and predicate nominatives.

Yours,

The Sexy G

Frequently, a client or online fan shares a burning grammar question, and I always post answers here on the blog.  If you have a question, don’t hesitate to write to me. Looking for more attention? Get affordable, project-focused private sessions in person or via Skype or email.

Wordsmith: Dear Sexy G

Dear Sexy Grammarian-

I just learned from dictionary.com that wordsmith is a noun and not a verb.  Is that right?  I always thought it was both, like e-mail.

Yours truly,

Esther

My Darling Esther,

I too think of wordsmith as a noun, a words expert. But sure, it’s acceptable (if modern) to turn it into a verb:

I’ve written a love letter, but I want to wordsmith it to make it sexier.

You could even make it an adjective by adding -like:

He wanted to seduce the librarian, so he used his most wordsmith-like vocabulary.

Yours,

The Sexy Grammarian

Frequently, a client or online fan shares a burning grammar question, and I always post answers here on the blog.  If you have a question, don’t hesitate to write to me. Looking for more attention? Get affordable, project-focused private lessons in person or via Skype or email.

Write it out or use numerals? Rules for Writers

Dear Miss Sexy Grammarian:

A writing question for you: is there an accepted convention (or a convention that you use) for writing out numbers versus using numerals? In my own writing, I think I tend to spell out numbers up to nineteen and use numerals for 20 and higher, but when I think about it, I don’t know if that is correct.

Thanks!

Elsie

Dear Elsie,

What a pleasure to hear from you! This is a great question, and your solution is a fine one. Each style guide has its own “cut-off” for when to stop spelling out a number and start using numerals, so choosing a personal cut-off and using it consistently is really the best thing to do.

Consistency is always key with rules like this. Since we’re all likely to publish in many venues, we must learn the rules of the house where we’re aiming to publish. For instance, the APA Manual, which governs a lot of academic and scientific writing, only spells out numbers one through ten and uses numerals after that.

On your blog, I encourage you to develop and keep track of your own style guide. Some bloggers want to make sure they always post an image. Some bloggers want to be brief. Others value more romantic and flowery prose. These are all style considerations. As for numbers, if writing for Twitter, you might never spell out a number for space-saving purposes, but for the traditional publishing industry, you probably want to follow Chicago Manual style.

I do like Chicago Manual (CMS) as a default style guide. Here are their rules for numbers, which I generally use:

Spell out numbers one through one-hundred.

Hyphenate numbers such as twenty-one and ninety-nine.

Also spell out the above numbers when followed by hundred, thousand, million, etc, as in three million people.

If a number can be expressed in terms of hundreds instead of numerals, do so, as in, Write me fifteen hundred words about style guides.

If spelled-out numbers must cluster together in a sentence, make an exception, as in, I liked six of the dancers: numbers 4, 12, 18, and 36.

Use the same rules for ordinal numbers, as in, She is first place; he is 132nd place.

Fondly,

Kristy

The Sexy G

Frequently, a client or online fan sends me a grammar question, and I always post answers here on the blog.  If you have a question, don’t hesitate to write to me. Looking for more attention? Get affordable, project-focused coaching in person or via Skype or email.

Eradicating Passive Voice

Dear Sexy Grammarian,

Three men robbed the biggest jewelry store.

The biggest jewelry store was robbed by three men.

I had a great question from one of my students when we were talking about passive and active voice today. She asked, if the biggest jewelery store was robbed by three people and I wanted to put the emphasis on the jewelry store because it’s so big, how do I put the jewelry store first without it being passive? I didn’t know what to say.  Just wanted to pick your brain whenever you get a chance.  Thanks so much 🙂

Michelle

Dear Michelle,

Wanting to emphasize the object of an action is the very best reason to use passive voice. So this is a good example of acceptable use of passive voice. Still, there’s a way to get rid of the passive and keep the emphasis on the jewelry store if that’s what you want.

What you need is a new verb. The jewelry store was robbed, yes, but that’s its passive action. What is its active action? It lost, forfeited, and sacrificed, didn’t it? So, I would add something like this to your set of examples:

Three men robbed the biggest jewelry store.

The biggest jewelry store was robbed by three men.

The biggest jewelry store lost its inventory to three robbers.

Fondly,

Kristy

The Sexy G

Frequently, a client or online fan sends me a grammar question, and I always post answers here on the blog.  If you have a question, don’t hesitate to write to me. Looking for more attention? Get affordable, project-focused coaching in person or via Skype or email.

Good Grammar in Takedown Scenes

Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.

Dear Sexy Grammarian:

I know I’d offered to write a guest column on this topic, but I’m
noticing you recently entertained a reader question and thought I’d
submit this instead.  Hope it’s not too racy for your blog. Continue reading