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2.0 Quick Grammar Review

1.0 Curing Wordiness2.1 Parallel Logic

2.2 Modifier Placement

2.3 Sentence Fragments

2.4 Split Infinitives

2.5 Pronoun Reference

2.6 A Generic Solution

3.0 Dissolving Writer's Block
4.0 Punctuation Guide
5.0 Troubleshooting Sentences
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2.1 Parallel Logic


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2.2 Modifier Placement

Put your modifiers as close to their referents as possible.

Change this:to this:
[x] They could see the eagles swooping and diving with binoculars.With their binoculars, they could see the eagles swooping and diving.
[x] Rising over the trees, the campers saw a bright red sun.The campers saw a bright red sun rising over the trees.
[x] Towels are required to work out.To work out, you must have a towel.


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2.3 Sentence Fragments

Change this:to this:
[x] She reached for her espresso. As her truck went rolling down the hill.As her truck went rolling down the hill, she reached for her espresso.
[x] I want three burritos. Because my childhood was devoid of tortillas.I want three burritos because my childhood was devoid of tortillas.


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2.4 Split Infinitives

If possible, keep your infinitives intact--but not at the expense of meaning or fluency.

Change this:to this:
[x] We aim to boldly go where no one has gone before.We aim to go boldly where no one has gone before.
Exceptions usually involve extent (just, even, at least, really, totally, etc.):
'I don't even want to eat fajitas' doesn't mean the same thing as "I don't want to even eat fajitas' or "I don't want to eat even fajitas', so to preserve your meaning (and to observe the conventions of modifier placement), you'll need to split infinitives here and there.


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2.5 Pronoun Reference


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2.6 A Generic Solution

Most of us make grammatical mistakes not because we're slow learners, but because our syntax gets too complicated too quickly. Here's a panacea: if you strip your sentence down to the bare bones, you can spot and prevent problems easily. Reading it aloud also helps.

Problem SentenceCore of the ProblemSolution
[x] It really pleases my friend Laura and I.[x] It pleases I.
Solution: It really pleases my friend Laura and me.
[x] I'm not so quick a thinker that when students ask me questions that I instantly find the right answer.[x] I'm not so quick a thinker that that I find the right answer.I'm not so quick a thinker that when students ask me questions I instantly find the right answer.
[x] DAT decks come in two types: the professional models, which don't observe SCMS coding (copy-protection). The consumer kind is cheaper, but it uses SCMS.[x] DAT decks come in two types: the professional kind.DAT decks come in two types: the professional kind, which ignores SCMS (copy protection) coding, and the consumer kind, which prohibits serial copying.
[x] The department requires twelve units which only nine must be completed by M.A. students. [x] The department requires twelve units which only nine....The department requires twelve units, only nine of which must be completed by M.A. students.
[x] Cats, relatives of desert-dwelling lions, aren't used to water and it becomes disturbing to them, a strange element to which they're not acclimated to. [x] Cats aren't used to water and it becomes a strange element to which they're not acclimated to.Cats, relatives of desert-dwelling lions, aren't used to water and it becomes disturbing to them, a strange element to which they're not acclimated.

If one of your sentences doesn't feel quite right, strip it down and rebuild it from a core agent and action.


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