The Ebony Quill

Thoughts, reflections, and whimsies as I experience life

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Grammar Rant

All right guys, get ready for a rant:  I’ve noticed for a while now the prolific disregard for grammar that abounds on social networking sites, particularly on Facebook.  Whenever I see a sentence or phrase that is grammatically incorrect, my eyes burn painfully or I grit my teeth angrily.  Now, you may call me what you wish—Grammar Nazi, crazy nerd-girl, whatever—and argue that the way one writes on social networking sites does not reflect the way one writes in real life, etc.  Sure, you may be right and I may be overreacting, but I have my reasons.  Consider the number of times you frequent Facebook or Twitter throughout the day and amount of time that you spend there.  If you repeatedly use, for example, “their” where you should have written “there,” don’t you think that this mistake will eventually affect your everyday writing?  And, sure, when you type using Microsoft Word, it can catch most grammatical mistakes, but what about when you have to write an e-mail?  What if *gasp* you have to hand-write a letter?  Imagine receiving a thank-you note after attending a birthday party that says “thank you for you’re present.”  Gosh, I think I would faint.

So, to spare me some tears every time I go on Facebook, I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 most irritating grammatical errors I see on Facebook and other social media sites as well as in text messages (yes, I am that person who texts in complete sentences).  I have also provided examples of the proper uses of the words.

5. Their, there, and they’re:

  • “Their” shows possession.  For example, “this is their dog.”
  • “There” refers to an abstract or real location: “the car is over there.
  • “They’re” is a contraction which really stands for “they are.”  For instance, “they’re coming over for dinner tomorrow.”

4. Your and you’re:

  • “Your” shows possession.  For instance, “Where are your keys?”
  • “You’re” is a contraction for “you are.”  You’re the best blogger ever!

3. Supposed to, used to, and a lot: I really get upset when I see “suppose to” or “use to.”

  • Supposed to: I was supposed to do my homework yesterday, but I forgot.
  • Used to: We used to own a Ferrari, but then a tree fell on it.
  • A lot:  There are a lot of ways to improve your vocabulary, such as by reading.  A lot.

2. I vs. me: This one is actually kind of funny.  I believe that people think that “and me” does not sound educated or sophisticated, so they just substitute “and I” instead.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but “and I” is not always correct.  Observe:

  • My friends and I enjoy watching horror films.  Right, but…
  • This car belongs to Mary Lou and me, not “Mary Lou and I.”

The trick?  Remove “and XYZ”/”XYZ and” from the sentence and see if it still makes sense.  For example, “Susie and me went to the bakery” becomes “Me went to the bakery,” whereas “Susie and I went to the bakery” becomes “I went to the bakery.”  The latter still makes sense.

1. And my number one pet peeve: all right vs. alright, all ready vs. already

  • Okay, “alright” isn’t even standardized.  The proper words are “all right,” the definition of which is “satisfactory, in good condition.”  For example, “I’m doing all right,” or “this meal is all right.”
  • All ready:  The horses are all ready to race.
  • Already:  He is already done with dinner.

We can bring it all together and say “I am already all ready; is that all right?” Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? 

End Rant.

Please forgive me for any mistakes or ambiguities; I am not a grammatician by any stretch of the word.

Now, who’s ready to join hands with me for a revolution for grammatically correct Facebook messages?  Anyone?  What are your top spelling/grammar-related pet peeves?

Reading On Writing by Stephen King

So, I decided that as an aspiring writer, it would do me good to read some words of advice from successful published authors.  Thus, I read Stephen King’s semi-autobiographical non-fiction book on the craft of writing.  King presented some thoughtful tips, some inspirational advice, and a lot of surprising ideas that I had never considered.  All in all, the book was the equivalent of a welcoming committee for a newcomer on Planet Writer and it made me feel much more comfortable about just starting out.  Here are some of my favorite quotes from On Writing:

  • “Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.”
  • “[Constant reading] offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite, and what is fresh, what works and what just lies dying (or dead) on the page.”
  • “Begin by writing what you love to read.”
  • “What could be more encouraging to the struggling writer than to realize his/her work is unquestionably better than that of someone who actually got paid for his/her stuff?  One learns most clearly what not to do by reading bad prose….”
  • “Good writing, on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, plot development, the creation of believable characters, and truth-telling…. Being swept away by a combination of a great story and great writing–of being flattened, in fact–is part of every writer’s necessary formation.  You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
  • “Book-buyers aren’t attracted, by and large, by the literary merits of a novel; book-buyers want a good story to take with them on the airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep them turning the pages.  This happens, I think, when readers recognize the people in a book, their behaviors, their surroundings, and their talk.” (*Sigh* It’s so true.)
  • “Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life….” (It made me wonder, well, what do I know about life….?)
  • “I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” (I was rendered speechless (if that really even makes sense when one is reading) after I read this.  What?  No plotting?!)
  • “…my basic belief about making stories is that they pretty much make themselves.” (He makes it sound so easy!)
  • “I want to put a group of characters in some sort of predicament and then watch them work themselves free.”

Do you have any favorite quotes from On Writing or other novels on the craft?  Any recommendations on other books on writing that I should read?

Reading Jane Eyre

Sorry for the delayed post; I’ve been under a spell for the last few days, fervently reading Jane Eyre.  I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and feel very connected to the protagonist, Jane.  Charlotte Brontë painted her characters beautifully, each with his or her own faults, history, hopes, and ambitions, and she shows the importance of taking control of one’s life and making one’s own decisions.  Jane’s respect for herself and strong adherence her principles defines her character and motivates her actions.  With several exciting surprises and plot twists, Brontë kept me constantly gasping, laughing, and sighing.

A movie adaptation of Jane Eyre was released earlier this year.  I am currently in the process of watching it, and thus far I am afraid that the movie version does not do Jane justice, or give her character the depth that I imagined she would have.  Mia Wasikowska may be a good actress in her own right, but I believe that the novelty of Jane was the fact that a young women of eighteen experienced emotions and events and made decisions likening her to a much more mature woman, and it takes a truly talented and experienced actress to be able to channel that mix of innocence and maturity of thought and action.  That being said, I have a more than a few complaints about the movie itself, and here’s where the Rant Begins:

I feel that the movie leaves out a great portion of Jane’s relationship with Mrs. Reed, her relationship with Helen Burns, and her eight crucial years at Lowood School.  Oh yes, I know that they can’t fit everything into a 2 hour movie, but the film practically flew over them in 20 minutes and skipped straight to Jane’s new situation as governess at Thornfield; no explanation, no narration, nothing.  And then there’s the whole love story deal.  Okay, I understand that audiences would rather watch the love story aspect of Jane Eyre than the serious, feminist facets of the tale, but Jane Eyre is not just a love story.  If it was, then Jane would have run away with Edward Rochester, traveled the world as his mistress, and would have been showered with all the things that she never wanted: jewelry, pretty clothing, luxury, etc.  And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, if it wasn’t at all about love, then Jane would have gone to India with St. John, a domineering man she could never love, regardless of how awe-inspiring he may have been.  No, Jane Eyre is about a young woman who adheres to her principles, her morals, and stays true to herself on the road to self-acceptance and self-respect.  A girl who waits for someone to accept her as she is: “a plain, Quakerish governess.”  Ultimately, that someone ends up being a newly humbled and wifeless Mr. Rochester.   Jane Eyre is a wonderful manifestation of the idea that if someone loves you, they’ll accept you just the way you are.  No changes necessary.  And that, at least, is my interpretation of it.  End Rant (sorry, I’m kinda passionate about these types of things).

Now to move on to another of the 15 books piled in a high, precarious tower on my bookshelf awaiting my attention.

***Oh, and more updates on the novel-writing process coming soon!  I’ve been terribly lazy lately–typical college student on break.  But I will let you know more about the trials and tribulations of an aspiring author (in-between my fantastic rants, of course)!

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