Mar 082009

I was on Neil Gaiman’s blog today, reading about the death of his father, when a link caught my eye. It said:

My current crusade is to make sure creative people have wills. Read the blog post about it, and see a sample will.

Well, since my parents have been bugging me about making out a will (since they’d have to deal with all the crap anyway), I checked it out.

There’s some very good advice there, and a lawyer-drawn sample will. Very useful. I thought I should share.

Thanks, Neil, for this great resource. I’m sorry about your father. He must have been a wise man to have raised such a wise son.

Mar 042009

The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar has had today – March 4th (march forth!) – declared National Grammar Day in the United States. SPOGG, as they are affectionately and more briefly called, looks at promoting good grammar and preventing bad grammar in a cheerful and humorous way. I encourage everyone to visit their site. You can buy cool T-shirts and mugs there. Oh, and membership in SPOGG is free.

In honour of National Grammar Day, I want to mention a few grammar peeves of mine. I won’t make it a ‘Top Anything’ list or even a list of ‘my worst nightmares’, because I know that, as soon as I do, I’ll think of something worse.

So, here goes:

1. Then/than

Then is related to time:

  • Then he went to the store.
  • That was then, this is now.

Than is comparative:

  • This house is better than that one.
  • I’d rather go home than sit in a meeting.

2. Inappropriate apostrophes

Apostrophes denote ownership. If the word doesn’t own something, then don’t use an apostrophe:

  • McNally’s Bar
  • Kristen’s house
  • Houses for sale

Apostrophes are also used to replace letters in contractions:

  • That’s hot. (means That is hot.)
  • Let’s go. (means Let us go.)
  • Don’t use bad grammar. (means Do not use bad grammar.)

Just as bad as putting apostrophes where they don’t belong is NOT using them where they do belong. Birmingham, England, has generated great scorn with their view that ‘apostrophes are too difficult to understand, so we’ll just do away with them’.

3. Bad grammar from people who should know better or who should employ proofreaders who know better (public relations folks, communications professionals, newspaper writers – heck, writers of any sort.) But that’s a rant for another day.

4. People who use words they don’t understand in ways they are not meant to be used. If you look up a synonym in a thesaurus, use a dictionary to make sure your usage is correct.

5. The flashlight SHONE, not SHINED!

These are past tense forms of two different words that are homonyms:

To shine: to bring light

  • The sun shines.
  • She shines a flashlight on something.
  • Past tense: The sun shone. She shone a flashlight on something.

To shine: to brighten, to clean something

  • He shines his shoes.
  • Past tense: He shined his shoes.

I may even add to this list or add links to examples or explanations.

And, here are a couple links to some great grammar-related sites:

I’m open to other sites to include today, but I probably won’t be updating this page after the close of National Grammar Day.

Nov 052008

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has published this wonderful article by Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold. It says everything I’ve ever tried to convince writers about writing without stopping to edit, all nicely wrapped up in an article — with a list of ways to silence that nasty internal editor.

Here’s another exercise to unlock your unconscious and stifle that editor, taught to me by a very good friend:

Sit down at your computer or blank sheet of paper and write anything and everything that comes to mind. It’s called ‘free writing’, similar to free association. Just let your mind wander and let your fingers follow it. The result will be nonsense, garbage — but that’s okay. That’s what you’re going for. I think part of mine went something like ‘fall down no wold too far’ or some such garbage. Do that until you are firmly inside your mind — fifteen minutes is probably a good target, if you need one.

Once that is out of your system, get another blank page and start to write. Just write. It can be your current work in progress or something completely different.

Many people who tried this exercise were completely amazed — all that style they were trying so hard to consciously develop just flowed onto the page.

That’s the power of your subconscious. Gag that infernal editor and throw him in the basement, only letting him out for revisions and edits. After all, who’s in charge here — you or him? Don’t let him stifle your creativity. Make him work for *you*.