Monday’s Grammar Tidbit

Very. Seldom. Fast.

Flat adverbs are those without the -ly ending. Would-be Grammarphiles often correct statements such as “Drive safe!” by tagging on that infamous suffix, but are their friends even saying such things incorrect?

Elbow nudge.

Drive Safe: In Praise of Flat Adverbs

Let’s Just Make Up Words

I was watching an old episode of “Kitchen Nightmares,” and the hostess from a featured restaurant said “He likes to presentate [the food] in a unique way.”


I was suddenly reminded of my aunt’s consistent use of “conversate” (for the verb converse), or my grandma’s “unthaw,” meaning to thaw. I hope this is not unique to my family. I hope there are others.

Please tell me you’re out there…

Rule #1

[W]hen a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter.” -E. B. White

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very.’ Your editor will delete it, and the writing will be just as it should be.” -Mark Twain

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining–show me the glint of light on broken glass.” -Anton Chekhov

Though each quote says something different, they’re all saying essentially the same thing: Don’t let your writing get in the way of your story. This is my Rule One; most writing rules can fit under its banner.

When meeting fellow writers, editors, or Grammarphiles, ask what their one defining rule is. You’ll put them on the spot (so rude), but usually the awkwardness is worth suffering through. I’m especially keen on finding rules that cannot fit under Rule One; I have yet to really find any, but I’ll be very excited when I do!

What is your one defining rule? If you think through your editing process, I’m sure you’ll find it. Does it fit under Rule One?


The lifeless corpse stood up and wandered aimlessly through the dark night.

The image aside, this sentence is un-publishable; the redundancies within this sentence and others like it are common in writing that will never get past the query stage. Redundancies are tricky because it takes a trained eye to catch some of them, since we speak redundancies all the time:

“Where you at?”

Since only Jennifer Hudson can do redundancy well, the rest of us have to edit it out. My trick to catch redundancies is to think brevity; it’s my mantra when writing and editing. If it can be cut, then I cut it!


Words of the Whenever

Are there and their homonyms or homophones?

They’re (teehee) homophones!

Homophones are words that  are pronounced the same but written differently. Another example is this pair: compliment and complement. (He complimented me on my outfit because of its complementing colors.)

Between Homophones and Homonyms are Homographs, or words that are written the same way but pronounced differently. Think “wind” like Gone With The Wind, and “wind” in “Wind that up!”

Homonyms are words that are spelled and pronounced the same way, like “might” (verbal auxiliary) and “might” (noun). These seem like the scariest of the three, but they’re actually the least confusing–if you meant “might,” but you typed “might,” you’re no worse off. Phew!