122 Rules by Deek Rhew

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Erin Albert - Part 2 on Grammar

Erin Albert Author
Through exceptional sleuthing and superior deductive reasoning I've come to the startling conclusion that Erin Albert is none other than the super hero, The Passive Voice Hunter! That's right, I broke the story to the world right here on my humble blog!

<sigh> Okay, I admit this isn't a big scoop. Erin's "secret" identity has been known by pretty much everyone for a while and, by all accounts, it's a well-earned title. I've had the great fortune to have gotten to know Erin and her ninja flair on Twitter. She is a grammar geek--a topic the kid in me would be appalled to know I've come to love--and totally fun. 

Since I've been working on my novel rewrite, my blog has become a bit dusty. Erin to the rescue! She's graciously agreed to swoop in and save it from the super villain, Atrophy. So without further ado, take it away, Erin!

Thank you, Jay, for hosting me on your blog today! I am thrilled to have the chance to “talk” to your readers/blog followers! 

Today, I’d like to do a “Part 2” on one of my favorite topics—grammar.  (If you missed “Part 1,” you can check it out Grammar by Erin Part 1).  Before you run off screaming, thinking you’re being attacked by some crazy word monster, let me confess right now, I cannot spell…at all.  My critique partners also point out my issues with formal speech (probably because I’m trying to follow all the grammar rules) and hyphenation (which for the record, I just misspelled.  Thank goodness for spell check).  Apparently, I also overuse parentheses in casual writing, though not in my novels (I bet you never would have guessed I have a parenthetical “problem”). 

As a random aside (I have ADD, so follow me down this bunny trail, or skip ahead to the meat of the story…up to you), here’s an issue I have with spelling.  As a child, I’d ask my mother how to spell a certain word.  She’d always say, “Go look it up in the dictionary.”  What?  If I fundamentally don’t know how to spell something, how can I look it up in the dictionary?  Should I have looked through the entire “O” section because I didn’t know whether “s” or “c” came next in the word oscillating?   Thank goodness my grandma took pity on me and bought a Franklin speller.  I could put my badly mangled word into it, and the machine would spit back out about 15 different possibilities.  I still have it, by the way.  ;)

If you read Grammar by Erin Part 1, you can skip down to the next section.  If you’re just joining the party, the following section explains my journey to grammar freakdom.  You might ask, who even loves grammar, and when did you develop this affliction?  Well, I went to one school up until the tenth grade and learned very little about grammar there.  When I switched to a new school in the eleventh grade, my world changed.  The teacher started my first day of class by saying, “Today, we will discuss predicate nominative and predicate adjective,” to which I replied, “A wha-wha?”  I knew a noun, verb, and possibly an adverb, but nothing more.  To her credit, my sweet teacher, Mrs. Hinton (she’s a writer too and has published books you can find here), stayed after school with me for six months to catch me up on grammar.  I took this special knowledge with me to college where I became a grammar and writing tutor for the other students who didn’t recognize strange words like “predicate nominative” and “predicate adjective.”

Now that I am a soon-to-be-published author, I have the privilege of working with fellow authors.  We critique one another’s “works in progress” to sharpen and improve them for submission.  My critique partners recently dubbed me “The Passive Voice Hunter,” a name I quite like. 

Without further ado, let me introduce common grammar/writing errors.  I hope the following information will be useful whether you are a writer, business professional, student, or any other type of human being (LOL!). 

1)  Semicolons
     a) The best and most common use for a semicolon is in place of a period.  If you can put a
         period, you can put a semicolon.  However, only use semicolons to attach related pieces of 
                Example:  Jill stepped closer to Jack; he moved further away.
                Incorrect:  Jill stepped closer to Jack; she ate pizza later.

     b)  Under most circumstances, you should NOT use a semicolon with a conjunction…with one
          exception (don’t you love the English language—there’s always an exception). 
              Example of exception:  The three out-of-state applicants who received scholarships are
                  Maxwell Hammond from Atlanta, Georgia; Selina Graham from Austin, Texas; and 
                  George Matters from Cheyenne, Wyoming.
          The semicolon is used as well because commas are required.  Without the semicolon, the 
          sentence would be a comma nightmare.
          Note:  Try never to use this type of sentence in your writing if you can help it.  All the
          commas and semicolons wreak (had to spell check that one) havoc on the reader’s
          eyes and brain.

    c) Semicolons are acceptable after a conjunctive adverb (therefore, indeed, however,             
        furthermore, nonetheless, etc.)
         Example:  Sheila regretted not studying; nonetheless, she had to take the test.

2)  The word “this.”
      I see this (haha) problem often when critiquing/editing for others.  Mrs. Roberts, who taught me my freshman year of high school AND my freshman year of college (what are the odds?), first brought my misuse of “this” to my attention.  I would leave a “this” hanging out without a noun to support it, and she would draw an arrow and write “this what?”  My critique partners can attest…I picked up her habit.  The word “this” must have a noun to follow. 
          Incorrect:  I can’t believe you left me to deal with this alone.
         Correct:  I can’t believe you left me to deal with this problem alone.

3)  Quotation Marks and Punctuation
    a) Always put periods and commas INSIDE the quotation marks (at the end of a sentence).   
          Correct:   “I have always loved him,” she said.
          Incorrect:  “I have always loved him”, she said.
          Correct:  She said, “I have always loved him.”
          Incorrect:  She said, “I have always loved him”.

    b) The punctuation of exclamation points and question marks depends on the context.  These
         can be confusing and require quite a bit of attention to get straight.
         Correct (because the whole thing is a question):  What do you think of Pink’s new song
              “Just Give Me A Reason”?
          Also correct (because the question is only related to the part inside the quotation):
              John asked, "Did you go to Miami last year?”
    c) Colons, semicolons and dashes always go OUTSIDE the quotations.
        Correct:  I really enjoyed the Justified episode called “Fire In The Hole”; Raylan
               Givens kicked butt.  (Follow the same rule for colons and dashes)

Though there are plenty more grammar rules I could share, I think I’ll stop before your eyes glaze over (if they haven’t already—LOL).  Often, it’s hard to see the errors in your own work.  Asking friends, family, or co-workers to proofread your material before you send it out can be most helpful.  My beta readers (Kim Sharp, Ginny Hunsberger, Danielle Craver, and Dawn Ward) as well as my critique partners (Mary Waibel, Michelle Pickett, and Meradeth Houston) locate the grammatical, spelling, logic, and voice errors in my pieces.  I encourage you to find a group of people to help you as well. 

If you have grammar questions, please feel free to ask. I love to talk “shop.” Thanks again for hosting me, Jay! 

Also, if you want to know more about me and my upcoming novel, The Prophecy,

Please like me on 

Follow me on 

Mark my book “to read” on

and/or visit my website www.erinalbertbooks.com

Until next time,

Thank you so much for "stopping" by today, Erin. As always, I have learned something.

Please be sure to visit Erin's web site, her Facebook and Goodreads pages, and follow her on Twitter. More importantly, watch for her book, The Prophecy, out November 2013!


  1. Great post, Erin, I mean Superhero PVH!!

    I'm still working on the this 'thing' :-) And yes, folks, she does write "This what?" in my MS.

  2. Thanks for hosting me, Jay! I am always ready to fight the villain Atrophy wherever he lurks... ;)

    1. Thank you for guest posting! It has been so much fun having the PVH on my blog. Lookout evil doers everywhere!

    2. Indeed! I am on the hunt for evil doers!! With my Mighty Red Pen, I shall slay them where they stand!!

  3. Very helpful, PVH! Thanks so much. I'll have to keep this (what?) in mind, along with all the rules you laid out in Part 1. ;)

  4. LOL! Thanks, Jimena. Please do keep "this what" in mind. ;)

  5. Go PVH!! Always some good tips to be had! The quotation mark pointers are the ones that bug me the most--and the ones my students always mess up (I'm still not sure if there's a correlation there!).

  6. Thanks, Meradeth! The quotation mark stuff can be pretty tricky because it feels backwards sometimes! ;)

    I argued one with one of my professors once...why is "everybody" singular? I couldn't fully wrap my brain around that one. ;)

  7. Thanks for mentioning the "this" rule. I had no idea a noun had to be attached to it. None at all! I won't forget. I enjoyed reading this tips, Erin!

    1. Christine-- LOL! Thanks so much for stopping by! Now, whenever you see a "hanging this," you'll think "this what?" ;)