Thursday, December 9, 2010

Remembering the Past, Tense

Sometimes I wish I could remember why I remember certain things. A couple days ago my very brilliant, yet grammatically challenged friend, sent me her most recent school paper and asked if I would take a look at, and edit it. I asked, in a manner of speaking, if she was ready for the onslaught to come in asking for this favor and she responded, in a manner of speaking, to bring it on.

So bring it on I did.

Structure of a sentence, grammar, punctuation, it all just flowed out of me in editing her document so effortlessly that I almost gave myself a high five in my own honor when I was done. But I decided to wait and see what her grade was before giving myself too many props, and I just smiled then sent it off with a note apologizing for the hemorrhaging pages she would be opening within.

Later, when I was sitting and reading this month’s Book Club selection I received a text from her: “How do you know when to use these versus this?” Without hesitation I typed away two responses and sent them back -- these is for multiples (these books), this is for singular (this sunset), and, these precedes ‘are’ (these are the best books), this precedes ‘is’ (this is the best sunset).

Ever since I responded to her I’ve been going over and over in my head just what type of word ‘this’ and ‘these’ signify and for the life of me I can not come up with it. For example, I know that glorious is an adjective, cat is a noun, and is a conjunction, but what is ‘these’?

While editing her paper I started to have visions of how I could make money in my sorely lacking spare time by charging students ten bucks a page to edit their papers. I’d be a 100-aire in no time! But as quickly as the thought presented itself it was gone with a puff of what’s ‘this’ smoke.

I was always a good English student in school; I could pluck emotion right off a page of a book and write a review so eloquent my teacher would never be the wiser that I hadn’t really bothered to read the text in question. And I just got it. It came naturally and easily to me. Kind of the way I know all of those teachers who taught me so well would cringe that I just used ‘and’ to start a sentence. But this is my blog and I do what I want. Like start other sentences with the word but. Or end the very next one with the exact same word.

Which is where the problem lies nowadays, as a blogger I have a pretty well defined voice and write it how I feel it. That’s all well and good but then when I go and write something like, say, a novel, other brilliant friends edit it and notate themselves blue in the face saying things to me like ‘don’t end in a preposition’ and I panic then look up what the definition of a preposition even is.

It makes me want to get that college degree that I never did get. It makes me want to go back to school and be the one to write the paper instead of being the one who edits someone else’s like a big fat faker. And not just a faker. An Editor with no idea why I’m even suggesting that she make certain changes, other than I know it’s the way it should read. I know I’m good at it and that’s why she asked if I’d do it but I really don’t know why I’m good at it and that’s more than a little disheartening. Call me crazy but it’s the researcher in me that is dying to uncover just what the deal is with all those dangling participles.

Someone remind me again, what’s a dangling participle?

I of course looked it up to remind myself and here’s what I found:
“The example: Plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge, we saw Yosemite Falls would, by such guidelines, be recast as We saw Yosemite Falls plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge.”

Um, okay that seems easy enough but I sat there staring at what I knew to be bad form (the first Yosemite sentence) for like five minutes and couldn’t figure out how to write anything that resembled it. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a dangler after all? Perhaps I keep my feet and arms inside the carpet as the Genie suggested. If that’s true then I wish I could figure out the reason why the ever present nagging of the two word question ‘but why?’ keeps buzzing in my head.

It might be time to take a few grammar workbooks out of the library and give myself the old refresher course. Maybe then I can finally put to rest the desire to find the reasons behind ‘this’ and ‘these’.

9 comments:

#1Nana said...

I don't think you need a college degree to get the grammar skills you're looking for. You could take one college level grammar class and learn the labels for what you already know. There are also some online grammar sites that might be useful.

When you are using the skill for your own writing it is enough to just know what is right. When you're selling that skill to someone else, I think you have to be able to explain why it's right.

You're lucky to have such great editing skills.

draagonfly said...

I could have written this post myself! Please think your own thoughts! LOL

When I'm proofing for Pearson, there are a TON of things I have to Google for the same reason... I know it *should* be this way but I can't explain why in half the cases. Or I know what's correct from 20 years ago, but what about in today's world where LOLSpeak rulz and da rulz dey iz changin allz de tym! :)

You're not alone my friend. :)

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

You know Jann you're absolutely right! Next week I'm taking time off from writing/querying to focus on creating Christmas presents, maybe that would be the perfect time to do a little online grammar research (and I still might do the library thing too, I need all the help I can get lol). Thanks for the tip!

OK you have no idea how long it took me to actually read that sentence T lol! I wish the Oxford dictionary would adopt some of those words, it would really open up my ability to score mad fat points in Scrabble haha! (Oh & I'm the texter who spells out everything, capitalizes & punctuates correctly regardless of how many characters it means are used :-) And you shouldn't be surprised by now...sisters...lol

And big thanx (good Scrabble points right there, see?) to Julie for reminding me that 'this' and 'these' are pronouns (with all the times I've watched Chasing Amy you'd think THAT lesson would have stuck...ugh!) ♥

Judi FitzPatrick said...

"hookin' up words and phrases and clauses."

Although I understand this dangling participle example, I'd be hard pressed to recognize it if you hadn't pointed it out. Although, it did seem at first that the speaker was plunging, not the falls; guess that would be the clue?

Keep up the writing, you do instinctively know what's proper.

Peace and Hugs, Mum

ginger said...

Sometimes oyou have to break the rules of the English language. I like to think of it as being stylized, but it's true that a person can only do this so much before they're just being lazy.

Thanks for th link love! It's a good book too. :)

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

I wondered who'd complete the song, thanks Mum :-) Proper, slang, its all a big blur these days!

Oh I'm a rule breaker to the nth degree Ginger, of course that fact should not surprise you at all lol. I'm loving the book too, she's really an engaging writer!

spottedwolf said...

sally forth, JFS, allowing by public opinion, never by Oxford consensus, whereby expression becomes Shakespearian tragedy, oft misrepresented by malaligned poetic theorists, delegating consensual authoritative regulation bent on dissolving any but that which meets approval by the arrogance of intellectual-isms.....

remember my sweet..this bit of witticism, "the angle of dangle plus the mass of ass keeps the heat of the meet...constant"

Write on Jenni !!!!!

Suldog said...

If nobody broke the rules of grammar, everybody would sound the same. Grammar is important, as is spelling, but going off of the beaten path adds flavor.

So long as you make yourself understood, and convey the message you desire, how you do so is entirely up to you.

By the way, "this" "these" and "those" can be pronouns, adjectives or adverbs.

Almost Precious said...

English has its rules and I've often wondered just who (or is that whom?) put them to paper. Lately I've read so many mangled examples of English that I'm beginning to think people no longer really care, especially when I see the words "there" and "Their" used interchangeably. Hey I'm no English major but even I know they are NOT the same.