Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pesky Grammar Problems

I'm going to start a series of posts each Thursday on the pesky grammar problems that show up in our writing. This workshop is what I taught last Monday evening at our local ACFW chapter, HIS Writers, and what I'll be teaching at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference May 11–14 in Estes Park.

Resources I use:
The Chicago Manual of Style 16th ed. (

Thurman, Susan. The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment. Adams Media, 2003.

Trenga, Bonnie. The Curious Case of the Misplace Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing. Writer's Digest Books, 2006.

  • Word choice  
    • Weak verbs 
      • form of to be (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) 
        • Weak: The misplaced-tiger case was time-consuming to solve.
        • Better: The cops stayed up all night hunting down the misplaced tiger.
      • Phrases to avoid: (there is, there are, there, was, there were, there has been, there have been, there will be; it is, it was, it has been, it will be; this is, this was, this has been, this will be)
        • Weak: There were bees everywhere, so the officer was nervous during the stakeout.
        • Better: Bees buzzed all around the officer during the stakeout, so he nervously flapped his arms.
      • form of to do, to get, to go, to have, to make, to occur, and to use
        • Weak: He did the crime so he could get enough money for a new watch.
        • Better: He stole from Grandpa so he could splurge on a new watch.
      • seem, feel, look (telling verbs; show instead) 
        • Telling: She felt her all-too-quick blush rise up her face. 
        • Showing: The heat rose in her cheeks.
        • Telling: She saw their eyes flit nervously back and forth between both gun and dagger seeming to weigh their risks.
        • Showing: Their eyes flitted back and forth between the gun and dagger, weighing the risks. 
        • Telling: She could tell he seemed amused by the object in her hand. 
        • Showing: Amusement tugged at his lips as he studied the object in her hand. 

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