Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

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Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby Kureejii Lea » Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:06 am

"Sally, look out!" Cried Antione.
"Its too late, they're's no time two move!" Said Tails, cringed he tryed to look a way.
Amy covers her eye's. "I can't bear to watch!!!!" "I can't save her now" yelled Sonic.
The ship exploded in too a millyan peaces when the missile hits!
"I really suck at these video gaems." Sally Muttered. She turn's off the sistem annoyed.


What is this, you ask? Well, it's two things: an example, and a warning. Specifically, it's an example of what a lot of stories posted online look like. As for the warning part, well, put it this way: if you didn't notice at least twenty things wrong up there, you just might need to brush up on your writing and language skills.

How you write directly reflects upon you, the author. It also greatly affects the presentation of your work. Yes, everyone makes the occasional mistake or typo. It happens; nobody's perfect. However, to make the best impression, to properly and accurately convey your ideas, proper spelling and grammar are a must. On top of that, when representing real-world aspects, it helps if you actually appear to know what you're talking about. Writing about vegan Hindus eating beef while confusing there/they're/their will not get readers to take you seriously, and if they can't take you seriously or get the impression that you didn't care enough to put effort into your work, then why should they care about it? As a writer once said, "What is written without effort is read without pleasure."

This thread is here to serve as a resource. It will contain tips, rules, explanations and references that will hopefully be of use to budding writers.

General resources:

Okay, I just have to make this clear from the very start. With modern computers and the Internet, we have an unprecedented source of information literally at our fingertips. No one in human history (that we know of, at least...) has ever had so much direct access to so many sources of information. It is inexcusable to not at least make the effort to use it. Not sure how to spell something? Many programs have built-in spell-checking and even grammar hints. Need a definition? Use an online dictionary. Need a synonym? Online thesaurus. Not sure if a particular phrasing is proper, or if the usage of a term is accurate? Pop it into Google and see how it's being used. Want to write about a culture or country or anything you don't know much about? Use Wikipedia as a starting point and branch out from there. Cross-reference and take knowledge from multiple sources. It doesn't take long at all. It is incredibly unfortunate that many people don't use these tools that are so readily available. They exist for you to use. Use them!

Specific resources:

http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html
This site lists and explains common English mistakes along the lines of misused terms and confused words and expressions. Even if you're not looking up something in particular, you might want to take a look; tons of people have misconceptions they'd never be aware of if not told. Additionally, some phrases and expressions have origins that are somewhat dated, and thus, with the original meaning unknown, people may end up confusing words (example: if you've ever used the phrase "through the ringer" you're DOING IT WRONG). Basically, this site is great for clarifying any word usage you're unsure of, or explaining any misconceptions you may not even know you have.

http://www.behindthename.com/
This site is a database of names, including etymology, cultural background and meaning. It also contains info on cultural structure and name usage.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/UsefulNotes
Yes, there are a number of questionable things about TVTropes, but there are also a number of decent resources for cultural/religious/mythological/historic tidbits, as well as examples of common tropes and themes used in writing.

http://www.pantheon.org/areas/mythology/
A collection of articles describing various aspects of mythology from different cultures.

If you have any suggestions for a resource for me to add (or anything in general), please feel free to send me a PM. I hope to add to this thread over time, so if there's something specific you want me to cover, I'll hopefully get to it eventually.

Topics:

Punctuation
Tenses
Capitalization
Verbs, Nouns and Adjectives
Narrative Mode
Narrative Voice
Two/Too/To, They're/Their/There, It's/Its
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby Chris000 » Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:37 am

This is an excellent idea! I know that there are some talented writers on this site and getting this help here may assist them when they start writing their own stuff!

I hope that isn't an excerpt from an actual story. It pains me to see that people are writing before they know how to write. With just a little practice, one can do marvels with words.
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Punctuation

Postby Kureejii Lea » Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:38 am

Punctuation

Okay, so maybe you're thinking that this is pretty basic stuff. Actually, it is. That doesn't stop people from using it incorrectly, though.

These are basically symbols that help infer meaning and structure in sentences. They are very important; a change of punctuation can completely alter the meaning of a statement. For example:
Sally dropped the device that annoyed her.


This means that the device itself was annoying Sally. However, if you add a semicolon, you get this:

Sally dropped the device; that annoyed her.


...which means that the action of dropping the device was annoying, not the device itself. That one little semicolon changed the meaning of the sentence.

So, let's cover the basics and how to use this stuff.

---------------------------------------------------------

Space (spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace I'm in space)

Okay, so it's not really a mark, but it's important and used with the others so it's going here. A space is simply the empty bit between words that helps keep them separated. Otherwisesentenceslooklikethis.Annoyningisn'tit?Itgetshardtotellwhenonewordendsandanotherbegins.

Spaces also come after each sentence (in some schools of thought, a sentence is followed by two spaces rather than just one). That is not to say they
automatically follow all punctuation marks.


Period (also called a full stop)
.
This is essentially used to indicate the end of a sentence. It is also used for abbreviations and shortened titles (though the latter does not apply in some forms of English).
Concerning the injured G.U.N. agents, Sonic spoke with Dr. Quack.


Quotation marks
"

These are generally used at the start and end of a sentence to indicate speech, or around text to indicate a direct quote. Generally the punctuation at the end of a sentence goes inside the quotation marks. A quote within a quote may be marked with single marks (like apostrophes), though in some forms of English, this is reversed.

"But Sally," said Amy, "Sonic already left!"

"I don't know what you're talking about," muttered Julie-Su.

"I believe he told you to 'get bent,'" Fiona said smugly.

Dimitri's notes mentioned "other zones" in some sections.


Exclamation mark/point
!

This is used to indicate surprise, shouting, excitement and so on. Like the period, it is used to end a sentence. Be careful not to overuse these; in many cases, a period will be completely sufficient. People don't need to scream every sentence, after all.

The entire village is being bombarded!

Look out!

I've never been so insulted!



Question mark
?

Rather self-explanatory, this is used to indicate the statement is a question of some kind. It is used to end a sentence.

Shall we buy one or two of these things?

Can I come with you?

Does Kureejii really know what she's talking about?


Colon
:

These two vertical dots can serve as an introduction of sorts, usually preceding facts/statements, descriptions or quotations. The colon can also be used to precede dialogue in script format or in certain notations, such as indicating the time (e.g. 11:46).
There could only be one conclusion: Antoine had stolen his lunch.

Nack had four known relatives: Nic, Jeff, Karl and Connor.


Semicolon
;

This little thing is fairly versatile; essentially, it can be used to link separate sentences or clauses that continue the same thought. See? I just did it. Awesome, huh? It can be used to link a transition between ideas (generally, in this case, the semicolon is followed by words such as yet, however, but, and so on). It can also be used in the place of a comma when listing things that already have their own punctuation. It is not used to end sentences. As previously mentioned, it links separate sentences and clauses, so don't use it to split a single sentence in two, or leave one half with a sentence fragment. T'ain't proper, y'hear?
Tails had a crush on Fiona; however, the feeling was not mutual.

Lupe soon became Grand Chief; this allowed her to peacefully control the settlement.

Sally contacted three people: Knuckles, from Angel Island; Guntiver, from the Northern Tundra; and Rob, from Mercia.


Hyphen
-

This is a tiny dash usually used to connect terms and words. The specifics of hyphen-usage are not perfectly set in stone, but generally the hyphen can be used to connect prefixes (like non-, anti-, pre-, de-, un-) to certain words, link words into a single term, or compound terms so as to modify a word. Along that line, sometimes hyphens can also be used to break apart terms simply in order to avoid confusion; for instance, "two-hundred year-old echidnas" and "two hundred-year-old echidnas" would either refer to two hundred toddlers or two elderly guys (again, you can see how a slight change in punctuation can easily alter meaning). Spaces are not used around hyphens. Don't confuse this with the dash.

Some people think Hamlin sounds rather anti-Freedom Fighter lately.

Sonic wears red-and-blue shoes.

Cream is a six-year-old girl.

The well-thought-out plan had been inspired by Sally's earlier experience in the region.


Dash
-- or —

Basically, this appears as a doubled or longer version of the hyphen and like it, its usage is not necessarily universally recognized. Often it's used to cut a sentence short or to isolate an interjected idea.

"Wait! Don't--"

Bunnie destroyed the guard robots -- including the two larger models -- before making her way back to the base.


Ellipsis
...

These three dots generally indicate a pause or omission (that is, something missing or removed). The three dots count as a singular punctuation mark and it is always three dots. Three is the number of dots you use, no more, no less, and the number of the usage shall be three. Four is one too many and five is right out. Okay, enough of that, but seriously......don't go linking words like I just did there. Why? Well, in terms of writing on a computer and having to take word-wrapping into consideration, that little example there turned what should have been two words and two forms of punctuation into a twenty-one-character-long blob. Don't forget the space afterward so as to avoid that. Anyway, as mentioned earlier, an ellipsis can be used to cover omissions, such as when quoting something (especially as a selective/partial quote). It can also be used to show hesitation or trailing off in dialogue. It is NOT a replacement for commas and periods. Don't go... writing all of your sentences... like this... in an attempt... to sound more pensive... and deep... or something.
It was a ridiculous notion... unless Espio has something secret in mind.

...Maybe Amy isn't the best choice here.

"We must consider the... in order to appease all those presentdisastrous otherwise."

I didn't understand...!


Brackets
[ ]

These can be used to indicate material added to or modified from a direct quote, usually for the sake of clarification.
He [the shopkeeper] threw her out of the store!

“They had no idea what [Bernie] was talking about.”


Parentheses
( )

Essentially a kind of bracket, parentheses can be used to interject material that could generally be removed without affecting the structure of the sentence. Essentially, it's supplemental material designed to not be crucial to the sentence. Parentheses can contain punctuation or even more parentheses (though commonly another type of bracket will be used), though if at the end of a sentence, only the outer period is needed.

Sally announced (with some hesitation) that Antoine would be responsible for supplies.

Knuckles (don't laugh - his father named him after an ancient tribe!) was actually born in Echidnaopolis.

Amy decided to set out, feeling bored (and perhaps a bit curious).



Comma
,

This one is very common, and unfortunately, it's also often misused. In very basic terms, a comma helps break up a sentence in order to inject appropriate pauses and help
clarify context and meaning. Commas are used to separate clauses, to break up lists and adjectives, and to isolate terms of address (often pronouns). They can also be used for the indication of dates and locations (“Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada” means the city of Vancouver in the province of British Columbia in the country of Canada). They are also used when quoting, which is something amateur writers seem to often overlook. Despite what some people teach, don’t use one’s breath while talking as an indication of comma placement. It has nothing, to do with that and, sounds ridiculous while, completely destroying your, context. Yeah, that? Don't do that.
Dr. Quack said, "Keep that up and there won't be any bones left to set."

Sally thought that Amy, Rotor and Nicole would be perfect for the job.

Espio frowned and, before anyone could protest, jumped over the wall.

"Okay, you guys start heading back," said Amy, pointing to Cream and Big, "while I report this to Sonic."

Casually, Julie-Su picked up her gun, checked the calibrations, adjusted the sight, and then fired a practice shot.

Vector, enjoying a day of relaxation, turned on his headphones.


Apostrophe
'

Another target of frequent misuse, the apostrophe generally has two main purposes; to indicate the omission of letters (usually in the form of contractions) or to indicate possession. Unfortunately, because it often gets stuck next to the letter s (which is often used for possessive forms), many people get the mistaken notion that the apostrophe is required just about any time a word ends in the letter s. They end up slapping on an apostrophe for present-tense verbs AND plurals, spitting out nonsense such as this: "He see's his friend's when he walk's to the store and say's hi to them." Don't do that. It is wrong. If you do that, I will come to your house and hurt you. Well, maybe not, but I will glare angrily in your general direction. You just might feel the burn of disappointment.

Since people get so confused about this, we'll break it up a bit. First, we'll look at contractions. These are essentially two words that are shortened and combined into a single term. Essentially, the apostrophe replaces a letter (sometimes two). Depending on the context, a single contraction might represent more than one combination of words.

Do not = don't
Will not = won't
Does not = doesn't
Are not = aren’t
You have = you've
I will = I'll
She is = She's
She has = She’s
Should have = should've (no, it is NOT "should of" and never is)


The other general usage is to indicate possession, that is, that something belongs to or is associated with someone or something. Generally this is done with the letter S, in which case the apostrophe comes before it. However, in the case of plurals, which also often use the letter S, the apostrophe comes after. For instance, saying "the cat's whiskers" would refer to the whiskers on the face of one specific cat, whereas "the cats' whiskers" refers to those on the species as a whole (if not just several cats).
Sally's vest had gotten stained with grape juice.

The Arctic Freedom Fighters' tactics needed improvement.

Mighty's sister's whereabouts were unknown.

Lien-Da's shot barely missed Snively's head.

That is equal to six rings' worth of power.



Keep in mind that not all possessive terms use an apostrophe.

That sandwich is hers. (never her's)
The lands to the south are theirs. (never their's)
The computer fried its systems. (it's is a contraction of "it is" or "is has" -- this is a very common mistake)
The Empire was expanding; its goal was world domination. (if you used an apostrophe here, you'd end up with "it is goal was" which obviously makes no sense)


Now, the usage of an apostrophe to indicate possession when the subject's name already ends in S (essentially, there is already an S at the end of the word) is iffy, and unfortunately, depending on who you ask, the rules can change. Some say it's a matter of whether or not the noun is proper, others say it's a matter of pronunciation that can even apply to other letters (-x, -ce, and so on), so in some cases it's a bit of a hard call. In many cases, it's generally acceptable to place the apostrophe after the already-existing S as you would with plurals (e.g. Knuckles' hat) though it still may be up for debate. Have fun with that one.
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby Kureejii Lea » Thu Sep 29, 2011 3:11 am

Tenses

Tenses are, in general, used to indicate the time of the situation being described. In simplest terms, they are the past tense, present tense and future tense, though there are variations within to further indicate particular context.

Because English can get rather wonky with its rules (and exceptions to those rules), I'm not going to go too in-depth with this. If you don't know your verb tenses, well, there are a lot of resources in the first post that should be able to help with that. Generally, the important thing here is the idea of being consistent with your tenses.

Most stories are written in the past or present tenses. Generally, using the past tense indicates that someone (the author/character) is telling a story that has already happened, while the present tense tells a story as it happens. Using one or the other can affect the overall feel of your story and its pacing.

Sally walks over to the fallen tree and examines it. She noticed the unnatural scorch marks that crisscrossed the bark and took a few pictures for Rotor. Then she hears a noise and quickly stood.


This is an example of confusing tenses. The verbs in the first sentence indicate the present tense. However, those in the second sentence are in the past tense. The last line alternates between the two. It should generally be one or the other.

Past tense:

Sally walked over to the fallen tree and examined it. She noticed the unnatural scorch marks that crisscrossed the bark and took a few pictures for Rotor. Then she heard a noise and quickly stood.


Present tense:

Sally walks over to the fallen tree and examines it. She notices the unnatural scorch marks that crisscross the bark and takes a few pictures for Rotor. Then she hears a noise and quickly stands.

Here are some examples of the same verb used in different tenses:

Present tenses:
Nicole does some calculations.
Nicole is doing some calculations.
Nicole has been doing some calculations.

Past tenses:
Nicole did some calculations.
Nicole has done some calculations.
Nicole had been doing some calculations.


Future tenses:

Nicole will do some calculations.
Nicole will be doing some calculations.
Nicole will have done some calculations.
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby Speedlion » Thu Sep 29, 2011 3:25 am

This is great, Kureejii! Wonderfully done!

I have two questions. Me myself, I use a lot of ellipsis, but is my type of use (behind every sentence) good or not?

The second one is about the colon. I am not sure about this, because I live in The Netherlands and the rules might differ, but isn't there a difference between the usage of a colon when quoting someone or when just listing things? I have been learned that, if things are just listed down, the first letter after a colon should not be capitalized. When quoting someone, however, it should, for it is the start of a whole new sentence. Or will this be noted under "Capitalization"? I just thought I'd say it... it's always good to be careful, right?
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby Rick » Thu Sep 29, 2011 6:41 am

If you'd like later, I can jump back into the role of English teacher and throw a few ideas of my own for lessons in.

I really, really miss that job.

---

Lea did cover the whole ellipse thing pretty well. However, when you're writing and you find yourself using the ellipse or not, think about whether or not it's necessary. Double-check and see if you really need the ellipse to indicate a pause. If used in dialogue, it could give the impression of someone trailing off in volume at the end, for one. I'm more of a poetry guy than a fiction writing guy, but I've heard a couple of my professors off the cuff mention heavily limiting ellipse use.

I'll try to provide more insight when I'm not in a hurry to get ready and leave town for the day.
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby SHRRN A FWOOSH! » Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:14 am

That's big of you, Lea! That really helped me!

By te way, what happened to "shan't"? :P (the long form is "shall not")
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby theJcfreak » Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:17 am

SHRRN A FWOOSH! wrote:By te way, what happened to "shan't"? :P (the long form is "shall not")


Shan't ain't a word.

Anyway, excellent topic, glad to see it here. It looks like this will be a very nice resource for any aspiring writers on the site.
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby SHRRN A FWOOSH! » Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:25 am

theJcfreak wrote:
SHRRN A FWOOSH! wrote:By te way, what happened to "shan't"? :P (the long form is "shall not")


Shan't ain't a word.

Anyway, excellent topic, glad to see it here. It looks like this will be a very nice resource for any aspiring writers on the site.

I go on the American way :P but that's particularly true.
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby Speedlion » Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:37 am

theJcfreak wrote:
SHRRN A FWOOSH! wrote:By te way, what happened to "shan't"? :P (the long form is "shall not")


Shan't ain't a word.

Anyway, excellent topic, glad to see it here. It looks like this will be a very nice resource for any aspiring writers on the site.


Not just writers... every user on this site, practically... cause writing also includes writing a post...
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby Kureejii Lea » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:56 am

Okay, first off, glad you guys like the idea. I've had this planned for a while, and have a lot more to come.

Secondly, though, sorry, but I deleted the last several posts. This is meant to be a resource, and I'd like to keep it as uncluttered as possible. The thread's open so that people who have questions or need clarification about something have the opportunity to ask, so I'd really rather no one flood it with spamming and other nonsense, thanks. While the main topics will be listed in the first post, we don't want to force someone to sift through a bunch of silly arguing or anything while trying to find information.

Anyway, Speedlion's questions. Rick mentioned some additional stuff about ellipsis use. For colons, do you mean as in a script format? Like

Sally: Let's talk about grammar!
Amy: Nah, let's go bowling.
Sally: That probably would be more fun.

In that case, yes, you treat the dialogue portion as a new sentence with a capital.
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby Frostria » Thu Sep 29, 2011 10:58 am

Well this thread can really help me at school cause i have a high reading skill but a low writing one so thanks for making this thread.
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby SHRRN A FWOOSH! » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:16 am

I have a question:

When using " ", when do you put the ? Inside the " " and when do you not? Same goes to ,

I'm actually trying to make sure about it, 'cause my teacher gives us a lot of incorrect grammar and such.
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby FairFieldFinder » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:20 am

I'm very good at English. If anyone has a question, I'll probably be around to help too.
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Re: Workshop: Writing (tips, techniques and references)

Postby Speedlion » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:21 am

SHRRN A FWOOSH! wrote:I have a question:

When using " ", when do you put the ? Inside the " " and when do you not? Same goes to ,

I'm actually trying to make sure about it, 'cause my teacher gives us a lot of incorrect grammar and such.


If Lea is okay with me answering this question:

When it's something someone says, the question mark goes in the quotation marks:

"What are you doing?"


The only instance I can think of they do not go into the quotation marks is displayed in the following example:

Why is that ship called "Rose"?


See? This time, it's not something that's been said, but rather a name or a term...

I have this hunch that I don't make sense at all, but oh, well...
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