In this part of the grammar series, I will include: splitwords, long sentences, conjunction words, fragment sentences, paragraphs, giving the comment and rereading.
Very often I see people have two words combined when they shouldn’t. It’s a common error which I think is due to writing on phones or non-pc-devices. Still, it’s something you should double-check before you publish your story. I often read, in middleof a sentence, that two words are put together, when they shouldn’t be that way. Double check, it is probably the easiest thing to spot.
Some abbreviations are well known and easy to understand, while others are not-so-much used. I'll make a short list of "The abbreviation - stands for in Latin - means in English".
I.E. - id est - "that is" or "it is"
E.G. - exempli gratia - "for the sake of an example" or "for example"
etc. - et cetra - "and the rest" or "and so fourth"
B.C. - Before Christ - before the year 0
A.D. - Anno Domini - "the year of our Lord", after the year 0
A.M. - Ante Meridiem - before noon, after midnight
P.M. - Post Meridiem - after noon, before midnight
A sentence can be constructed in different ways. If you want your character to tell the story directly, long sentences may be used as a way the character talks. If this is not the case, it is considered incorrect to have several ‘ands’ and ‘ors’ in one sentence.
Having several ‘ands’ and ‘ors’ or having three complete sentences in one are known as run-on sentences. Especially when talking about abstract things, it can be hard to follow what is said and it will make the readers work hard, and may cause the reader to skip back to fully comprehend what is said and possibly leave him or her in confusion. Splitting this up in commas would make the trick for you, leaving only the LAST ‘and’ to finish off. Sometimes it may often be too many commas in one sentence, even if the conjunction words aren’t overused. Try reading the sentence for yourself, and think for yourself “Where is it natural to put on a pause?”
A fragment sentence, is a sentence lacking syntax. It means it lacks either a subject (an active person or active thing) or a verbal (the thing or person doing something). “He sits” is a complete sentence, while: “sitting there” is not. In the last sentence, it is not referred to who is sitting there. To complete it, one may add “sitting there, he pondered upon life”. In general writing (especially articles), one should, strictly, always use complete sentence. In fictional writing, you may break a lot of rules, depending on which way you like your writing. Fragments are often used for inner though of the main character, or as a way the narrator speaks, either it is closed within quotation marks or not. Example: “He could see the big tail. He was terrified. Shaking even.” or “Three meters up in the air. He really was.”
Reading a wall-of-text is very difficult, we all know that, so let us help each other out. Break that wall and give your text some space to let the wind blow through. One use of paragraph is to signify a new turn in the story.
If a green space-ninja-monkey suddenly jumps out of the bushes, let him start the paragraph, it is sort of adding a chapter within the chapter. As additional information, all though it’s nothing exact, I keep track of statistics on my novel. “The Grey Fox” has an average of 5.6 lines per paragraph, so it may give you a guide (information obtained from MS Word).
Others like to have separate paragraphs for dialogues, giving each line a separate paragraph. When this is used, you don’t have to add “he said” or “she said” on the end of every line, because it will, in most cases, be obvious who’s talking.
Giving the comment
Finally, with all this critique, we need to ensure it gets out right. There’s no limit on how many errors you can comment on, but be sure to leave at least 50 words for praise, to make up for the critique.
I often like to think that I will praise equally much as “not praise”, but that may not always be as easy. Your honest opinions are always the best, but consider what you are going to say. If you keep saying negative things, it may not longer be called critique, but simply tearing down. This is little wanted between writers. Either way, try to separate the good stuff and the ‘bad’ stuff. There are two results of this. If you put the good stuff first, the writer will be happy at first but then get a “downhill” into the negative afterwards. It may also be easier to remember what to change then, since it’s the last thing he or she will read. If the critique is too heavy however, it may be easy for the writer to simply look away from the last part and ignore it.
My personal favourite is the opposite, both to give and receive. If I first get all the suggestions for change, followed by praises of how good my writing was, I will more easily remember what to change, because I liked the person’s cheerfulness. This will also cause an effect of “can only go upwards from here on”, since all the bad stuff came first. The only problem with this may be, that the critique is forgotten, due to overwhelming encouragement, so balance is always healthy.
I like to share a few tips on at least how I go through my texts, which is always useful. We are all humans and may all do mistakes, but try to avoid them. Whenever finishing a text, take yourself at LEAST five minutes away from the screen and the text. It will give your head a chance to clear up as well as putting your mind to something different. Right after writing something, it is common that you are so into the text, that you will read the way you intended it to be, not the way it actually looks. When you get back, have your text-edition program ready and start reading, correct as you go. The more you do this process, the less is the chance for any errors, but of course you can't do this two hundred times, so going thoroughly through once, then skimming through the second time, should be sufficient.