Tag s | Grammar

Exclamation Points!!! Avoid or Embrace?!

I love using exclamation points! Don’t you? How about interrobang sentences?! Finally, I think we should bring those back, don’t you?! And not just in dialogue, but in narrative! Finally, shouldn’t readers just really ought to be able to keep up with run-on sentences, no matter how complex, or whether or not they stay on topic, and I wonder how many people could diagram a sentence that’s simple, not to mention complex or run-on, but do they even teach diagramming sentences in school today, because they just really need to because students will learn the parts of speech if they are really taught how to diagram a sentence!

Sometimes I type like I talk, so of course all of my manuscripts are fascinating! Take the word just! I use it a lot in speech so what’s wrong with using it even more in writing?! Just is a really lovely word that just moves the conversation forward in just the right manner, doesn’t it really?! Really is just another great word that is just really underappreciated and really just should be used more often! The word really really puts an emphasis on any word that comes after it, so we just really need finally to start a movement to encourage greater use of this neglected word!

Finally, I just really need to talk about adverbs! Of course, once a writer has mastered the art of using the word really, the use of other adverbs may seem inconsequential! Sometimes many adverbs can be combined to great effect! The squirrel didn’t just run, but the squirrel really ran quickly! Notice the nuance of really here. The squirrel didn’t just run, but really ran! And quickly!

Finally, remember typing class?! Did you type the pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog?”

Why stop there, with a sentence that contains all the letters of the alphabet, when you can enhance your writing with, “Finally, the quick brown fox with a shiny coat just really jumps frantically over the lazy but lovely white Maltese dog who badly needs grooming but her totally deadbeat owner consistently runs out of money and has limited grooming skills and what’s a quick brown fox doing jumping over a dog, anyway; is this happening in someone’s back yard, or did the owner take the Maltese on a hike in a local national park or what?! I mean, does this scenario sound true to life at all?!

Notice what a great improvement has been made to the sentence! Now, not only can you practice typing, but the sentence begs the reader to ponder the situation with the animals and owner, plus the wonders of nature! Believe me, this expanded scenario gives the creative writer enough information to write an entire novel! Or a nonfiction tome on meditation!

And finally, please be advised that as a writer, I, Tamela Hancock Murray, have never ever, ever used too many exclamation points, too many adverbs, too many instances of really, or just, or finally! Seriously! Well, okay, if I did, I went back through the manuscript and took 90% of them out. Editors everywhere have thanked me.

Your turn:

Do you have a favorite excess word that pops into your writing?

How about punctuation?!

What are some tips you can offer that can help writers identify and delete excess words and breathless punctuation?

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Tools to Tackle Grammar Gaffes

Oh my. We all have our peccadillos when it comes to English, don’t we? If I addressed them all, we’d be here til next year. So I’ll just give you the cheats…uh, tips I use most often. —Don’t be afraid of me. Poor ol’ me has been sorely maligned, as …

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When Trying to Sound Intelligent Backfires

So, I’m at a writers’ conference—a professional setting, yes? With folks who are clearly well educated, especially about the use of words, yes?–and this is what I hear: “Just give Jim and I a call, and we’ll talk it over.” Cringe. Then came a recent commercial on TV, where a …

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Misused Words and Phrases


The English language is full of persnickety quirks, the most despicable of which are buzz words. Words and phrases we’ve decided work better than plain speech. Why say what you mean when you can just toss out a phrase that says what you want, but in such a vague and convoluted manner than people spend so much energy figuring it out that they can’t challenge you? Genius! Or how about those words we overuse, or misuse? Oy, da pain!

So here, for your reading pleasure, are some of the words and phrases that drive this logophile right up the wall. Literally!

Can you unpack that for me?

Nope. I can’t. Literally. What’s more, I don’t want to. I don’t like packing or unpacking. And what does packing have to do with anything? Whatever happened to the plain and simple, “Would you explain that, please?”


Folks, we all know what this means. Fired. Laid off. Out of a job. You can’t take away the devastation by giving it some innocuous name and hoping nobody challenges you on it.

Baby bump

Seriously? It’s not a bump. It’s a baby. Way better than a bump.

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What’s On Your Desk? (Part Two)

Last week I told you about my writing books, those valued, printed friends who’ve gone through this writing/editing/agenting journey with me. This week, I want to introduce you to some buddies that are too often ignored. Or avoided. Or cursed.

Yes, my friends, I’m talking about grammar books.

I, too, am less than delighted with grammar. However, I’m delighted by the following books that are a wonderful—and fun!—resource for those of us who work with words. So, without further ado…

Of course, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is front and center. I have the little book with a white and red cover, but in ’05 I received a wonderful gift from writer/editor Erin Healy: The Elements of Style, Illustrated. It’s a beautiful clothbound version of EoS, with lovely, four-color illustrations that bring the examples to life. I love it!

Then there are the style and grammar books by

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It’s National Punctuation Day

Today is National Punctuation Day! In celebration, take out a comma.

Or at least visit the official site: www.nationalpunctuationday.com.

Recently I walked into a church classroom to find a list of the 10 Commandments on the board. The first line read “No other God’s.”

If you want to read a fun book on grammar and punctuation I can recommend Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

So while you take a moment to appreciate the need for precise punctuation enjoy this delightful five minute repartee between Dean Martin and Victor Borge singing with Phonetic Punctuation.

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Spell Checking

Shortly after I became a book editor, I was working on a nonfiction manuscript that focused on Mormonism. When I finished editing, I ran the spell check. Imagine my reaction when the dear spell check wanted to replace every Mormon with moron and Mormonism with Moronism!

Since those long ago days, spell check has invaded countless emails, files, and text messages. As much as we appreciate it catching our errors, we curse it for “fixing” words that didn’t need fixing. So when I came across recently, I knew I wanted to share it with you.

So here, for your reading pleasure:


Eye halve a spelling chequer

It cam with my pea sea

It plainly marques four my revue

Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word

And weight four it two say

Weather eye am wrong oar write

It shows me strait a weigh.

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To Comma or Not to Comma?

by Steve Laube

I came across this entry in the Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynn Truss. The book is a classic on punctuation (although based on British English usage it is still a great book). Read the story below and then answer the questions in the comment section.

On his deathbed in April 1991, Graham Green corrected and signed a typed document which restricts access to his papers at Georgetown University. Or does it? The document, before correction, stated: “I, Graham Greene, grant permission to Norman Sherry, my authorised biographer, excluding any other to quote from my copyright material published or unpublished.” Being a chap who had corrected proofs all his life, Greene automatically aded a comma after “excluding any other” and died the next day without explaining what he meant by it. A great ambiguity was thereby created. Are all other researchers excluded from quoting the material? Or only other biographers?

Which do you think he meant?

What other ambiguities with commas have you seen or written with your own hand?

Why should it matter? It is just punctuation.

Is punctuation important in book contracts?

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