View Full Version : Elite Overlord LaSabre's Grammar Advice Thread

Elite Overlord LeSabre™
April 4th, 2008, 11:14 PM
Permission given by Astinus to post this, as well as permission to triple post the first three topics.
EDIT: Well, apparently the board here automatically merged my posts. You'll have to scroll down for homonyms and commas/semicolons, sorry!

Quotations, Punctuation, and Capitalization:

First, let's take the sentence (without any punctuation except for the quotation marks and period/full stop at the very end) :

"It looks like I lost again" she sadly admitted.
Here, "It looks like I lost again" is the quote, and "she sadly admitted" is the speaker tag.
Let's try to fix this:
"It looks like I lost again." she sadly admitted.
"It looks like I lost again." She sadly admitted.
Note that by placing the period/full stop after the quote, the speaker tag is left dangling. In the second example, we see that doing this would produce a sentence fragment.

We need to replace the period/full stop with a comma.
"It looks like I lost again," She sadly admitted.
This is wrong because we are not starting a new sentence and "she" is not a proper noun. Therefore, the correct usage is

"It looks like I lost again," she sadly admitted.
A rule of thumb is to always place punctuation to the left of the quotation mark. I don't say to put it inside the quotation marks for a reason that I'll bring up later.

If the quote ends in a exclamation or a question mark, it will override the comma and so we will have:
"Are you for real, punk?" the annoyed Lauren asked.
"I failed? Oh, snap!" the boy yelled out.
Note that although we are not replacing the punctuation, we still do not capitalize the speaker tag.

"I shall expel you of your flaws." Following that threat, she proceeded to form a sphere of black energy before her.
is correct. Think of the sentence following the quotation as not being a speaker tag, or think of it as a speaker tag that is a complete sentence.

If the speaker tag comes before the quotation, stick a comma after it and before the quote. Note that this follows the convention of placing it to the left of the quotation mark. Example:
Dennis reported, "Sales are up forty percent this year."
Liz shouted, "The answer is seventy-two!"
Note this exception:
Did he just say, "I like good grammar and I cannot lie"?
The question mark is placed after the quotation marks since it is part of the speaker tag and not the quote. In this case, the speaker tag modifier overrides the quotation modifier so there is no punctuation inside the quotation marks.

If you have a speaker tag breaking up two segments of quotes, apply these rules as many times as necessary.
"You do understand," she began, "that you do not stand a chance against my superior intelligence."

If you have a situation where the second quote segment stands as a sentence on its own, you can handle it two ways:
"You nimrod," the boss started, "How could you let those idiots escape?"
Put a comma after the speaker tag, or...
"You nimrod," the boss started. "How could you let those idiots escape?"
Place a period/full stop after the speaker tag. In this case, you are treating the two quotation as separate quotations, with the tag only applying to the first quotation.

I think I covered most of the examples of quotation and punctuation usage. Let me know if I forgot anything and I'll put it in (and credit you, of course!)

I hope you found this helpful.


April 6th, 2008, 12:36 PM

Homophones are words that sound identical but have different meanings and spellings. I see these often confused in fanfics, so here is a short usage guide:

* your/you're: Your is the possessive pronoun for "you." You're is a contraction of "you are."
"You're going to defeat me with your pathetic algebra skills?"

* to/too/two: Too means "also" or "excessive amounts of." Two refers to the number 2. If neither of the above definitions apply, use "to," which has multiple uses.
"She, too, believes that only two of us should go to the store today."

* there/their/they're: They're is a contraction of "they are." Their is a possessive pronoun. There has several meanings, so use it if neither of the others fit.
"Those bikers, they're trying to tell us that their rivals are at the club over there."

* its/it's: It's is the contraction of "it is" or "it has." If neither of them fit, use its.
"This car, it's had its share of problems lately."

* than/then: Than is used when a statement is comparing two or more things. Then usually relates to time, such as ordering a series of events.
Rather than make yourself look like a noob, why don't you read the Rules and Advice for Aspiring Authors, then post your fanfic?

* affect/effect: 95% of the time, affect serves as a verb and effect functions as a noun. If something is affected by something else, you will usually see some effect as a result.
The recent floods will negatively affect property values. The effects will likely include higher taxes and difficulty selling property.
Effect as a verb is a fancy way of saying "execute" or "produce" (We will be effecting new policy for the next fiscal term.)
Affect as a noun relates to psychology and emotion. Chances are you won't be using it in this manner, unless your trainer is taking a college-level course in Pokemon psychology or childhood education.

* principal/principle: Principal is a noun when it refers to the "primary" or "main" part or the head person (the principal portion of a loan as opposed to the interest, or the head of your school, who is supposedly your princiPAL unless you get too many detentions.) When used as an adjective, principal also refers to the most important or main portion of something (the principal benefactors of the estate)
Principle refers to a law or code of conduct, and is always a noun.
Last semester our school principal introduced the principle of block scheduling to our school

* who's/whose: Who's is a contraction of "who is" or "who has." Whose is the possessive pronoun for "who."
Whose truck is this, and who's responsible for that ugly paint job?

* for/four/fore: "Fore" refers to "the front of" something, though its modern usage is mostly limited to the warning called out by golfers, and, to a lesser extent the phrase, "fore and aft." "Four" is only used as the number, 4. "For" has several definitions but is always used as a preposition, and should be used when the other two don't fit.
For tomorrow, you are to read the first four chapters and turn in a brief summary for me.

* by/buy/bye: "Bye" is shorthand for "good-bye." A less common usage, but one that might come up in tournaments is that "bye" can also refer to a participant in a tournament who is able to move on to the next round without participating in a match.
As the defending champion, she has an automatic bye to round two.
"Buy" almost always refers to a purchase of some sort, and can either be a noun or verb. "By" is most commonly used as a preposition, but has other meanings as well. Use "by" if neither of the others fits.
"Bye, Mom, I'm dropping by Target to buy some DVDs. I hear that this week they also have a good buy on shoes."

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, just the ones that I see most often confused in fics. If you feel I should add something, or if there is another grammar error that you want me to look at, please let me know.

Thanks for reading!

(Moderator given permission to split into separate posts.)

April 6th, 2008, 12:49 PM
Commas and Semicolons: A Brief User's Guide

Before we begin, we need a basic understanding of independent and dependent clauses:

Independent Clause: An independent clause is a phrase or part of a sentence that could stand on its own as its own separate sentence.
She'll battle you
The desk clerk tripped
Mr. McLean's cell phone rang

Dependent Clause: A dependent clause is a phrase or part of a sentence that CANNOT stand on its own as a separate sentence (it DEPENDS on additional words/clauses to form a complete sentence.) Note that if we attempt to stick a period/full stop after a dependent clause, we get a sentence fragment.
After visiting the Pokemon Center
Upon cleaning the motel room
As he drove to Walterboro

Rule: If the dependent clause comes before the independent clause, use a comma to separate them. If the independent clause comes before the dependent clause, do not include the comma.

After visiting the Pokemon Center, she'll battle you.
Upon cleaning the motel room, the desk clerk tripped.
As he drove to Walterboro, Mr. McLean's cell phone rang.
She'll battle you after visiting the Pokemon Center.
The desk clerk tripped upon cleaning the motel room.
Mr. McLean's cell phone rang as he drove to Walterboro.

Rule: Use a comma when using the FANBOYS to join independent clauses. The comma comes before the FANBOYS.
No, that's not a mistype. FANBOYS is an acronym for the coordinating conjunctions:

When using them, the comma comes after the first independent clause, and before the FANBOYS word you are using (which itself precedes the second independent clause.)
The cat is quite angry, for her master took away her favorite toy.
He will weaken you, but I shall destroy you!
I cannot let you proceed, yet I can let you in on this key clue.

Rule: Use commas when separating the elements in a list, when you have three or more elements in that list.
There is an exception; see "Semicolons" below.
My new calculator handles matrices, derivatives, integrals, and probability distributions.
In her bag she placed her laptop, extra dresses, and her credit cards.

Rule: When addressing someone or something, use a comma to separate that subject from the remainder of the sentence.
Agent Epsilon, stop that intruder!
I'm sorry, Diane, but you didn't get accepted to Tech.
You're going down, clown!

Rule: Commas can be used to separate words in a sentence that are not needed to understand the meaning of a sentence.
Examples include parenthetical expressions and phrases that may be used to clarify information (example: nonrestrictive clauses.)
Oh snap, my assignment is due today!
Dr. Jackson, a former chiropractor, was convicted of insurance fraud last month.

Comma splices occur when one attempts to use a comma where a period or semicolon is needed. This results in run-on sentences. Most often they occur when trying to link independent clauses that don't use the FANBOYS.

Semicolons:Semicolons are used when linking independent clauses that are not separated by coordinating conjunctions (the FANBOYS.)
There is no way for you to pass; your first two test grades are too low.
Kate's car is quite old; it once belonged to her rich grandfather, Lewis.
In general, semicolons are used in places where a period/full stop could also be substituted.

Exceptions: Commas are usually used with independent clauses when using one of the FANBOYS. However, you may use the semicolon with the coordinating conjunctions if the independent clauses themselves are lengthy and/or contain a number of commas.

In a similar fashion, when listing items, if one or more items in the list contain commas themselves, use a semicolon to separate them.
Three people were indicted on robbery charges: Lester, the leader of the operation; Shirley, Lester's wife and the getaway driver; and Adam, the expert safe-hacker.
We will be making stops in Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Winchester, Virginia; Lake Norman, North Carolina; and Blythewood, South Carolina.

Again, this is far from comprehensive, and there is some area for flexibility when using these pieces of punctuation. These are just some basic guidelines that hold in most cases.

(Moderator given permission to separate into different posts.)