Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Grammar Girl to the Rescue!

Today (blissful sigh) is a writing day. The kids stayed with their nonna last night, and all is quiet and serene here in the Maison du Blanc. And crazy as it seems, if I don't dive right in, I'll waste hours online, LOL. So. Rather than taking the time for an original post, I'm sharing something that's going up at Go Teen Writers today. Stephanie Morrill asked me to write some guest posts on grammar, and the three-part series begins today, aimed at young novelists. I don't know if I'll post the other parts here (they'll go up Friday and Monday), but to since everyone can use a refresher in grammar now and then . . .


Faster with a red pen than an errant three-year-old . . .
More apt to spout rules than your high school English teacher . . .
Able to correct commas with a single glance . . .
She’s [insert bugle blare here] Grammar Girl!

Are you imagining me soaring through the clouds with cape billowing behind me and GG emblazoned across my oh-so-cute costume? Excellent. Now let’s begin. =)

Grammar is important. (Stop groaning, now!) Grammar is what helps us fine tune what we say so that it comes out clearly and has the best possible impact. If your words are a sword, then grammar is the sharpness of the blade—an integral part of the words themselves, and that which gives them their shape and power.

I was one of those nuts who was always in the highest percentile in the Mechanics section of the standardized tests in English. I was editing my sister’s college English papers for her when I was 14. My college professors bandied about phrases like “your stylistic prowess.” (Oh yeah, I wrote that one down, LOL.) Am I the best writer in the world? Ahem. NO. But I know my grammar, which means I turn in polished, clean manuscripts.

That counts.

Stephanie asked me if I’d be willing to do some grammar posts, and I enthusiastically said, “YES!! I’d love to! How many? What about? When do I start??” (I told you—I’m a nut.) So over the next ### I’m going to give a crash course in a few rules you should keep handy while you’re writing and check over before you send your work out into the world.

First, if we’re dealing with a manuscript, let’s talk basic formatting. You should always set up your page with 1” margins all around, double spaced, first line of a paragraph indented to .5” through your Format/Paragraph option. Don’t put extra spaces between paragraphs, not in a book. Don’t use hard returns to get to the next page—use a page break (Ctrl + Enter). Keep your alignment Left (not justified) except for chapter headings and section breaks, which are centered.

Okay. Now that your page is set up, you begin writing. Once you’ve written your first sentence, you hit the space bar, right? Be sure you only hit it once. Back in the day when I was in high school, we were taught to put two spaces between sentences, but no longer. So I had to retrain myself, and I still mess that up occasionally. So at the end of a document, I’ll do a Find search for two spaces and Replace All with one.

A few more “always” rules.

Always, a comma comes directly after a word—no space before it, but one after it. Same goes for a period, question mark, exclamation point, quotation mark, and any other form of punctuation. (Now, no rolling your eyes. I’ve seen this mistake often enough to make me cringe, LOL.)

Always, commas and period go within quotation marks, whether the sentence ends with the quotation end or not. (i.e. He barged into the room and said, “Hello,” then left again. NEVER: He barged into the room and said, “Hello”, then left again.) For question marks and exclamation points, they go within the quote only when part of the quote. (i.e. Have you ever heard the saying “eat, drink, and be merry”? BUT: Did she just ask, “Can I join you?”)

Always, each new speaker in dialogue gets his or her own paragraph. (Always, always, always!!)

See, not so bad, is it? I won’t start the real torture until next time. ;-) Check back in for the finer points of commas, quotes, and caps!

And if you have any questions, be they general or particular, bring ’em on! Grammar Girl to the rescue!


  1. Yes, grammar is important if you want to be understood!

    Why the left alignment?
    Thank you for fighting against the planking!
    I prefer "logical" over "traditional punctuation", even in my English writing. But then, I don't have an American editor to please, and I'm more a logical guy than a traditional one ;-)

    "Grammar Girl" is a striking choice of name. It's so striking, there's already someone with that name, I'm afraid: (I've subscribed her feed, it's definitely worth it. And you can see there that you won't be done after just three posts.)
    To prevent a War of the Grammar Girls, I propose to adopt another name. How about Grammar Woman, Grammar Beauty, Grammar Fighter, Grammar Guard...?

  2. LOL, Sascha. I found the other Grammar Girl not long ago too, though it's my friend Stephanie who gave the name to me. We usually shorten it to GG. =) That way it can also stand for "Grammar Guru."

  3. I've always been confused about punctuation and how it fits inside or outside quote marks. :) However, your lesson has made it clear! Thanks. :)

    Ugh, your blog won't allow me to sign into my account to comment. :P So from now on, when you see a Charity U, it's me. :)