March 4 is National Grammar Day

National Grammar Day

March 4 is National Grammar Day in the United States. Established in 2008, it is a yearly celebration of the nuts and bolts of the English language.

In honor of National Grammar Day, author and podcast host Mignon Fogarty has a piece on the Top Ten Language Myths.

Who is Mignon Fogarty? Form her website:


Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and the “Today Show” and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase “grammar nazi” and loves the word “kerfuffle.” She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University.

You can read a short piece on her Top Ten Language Myths at her blog, Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips, or you can listen to her podcasts on them for more details. I will post a link to a playlist of them below, but first, I will give you Grammar Girl’s Top Ten Language Myths, in reverse order:

  • A run-on sentence is a really long sentence
  • You shouldn’t start a sentence with the word ‘however’
  • ‘Irregardless’ is not a word
  • There is only one way to write the possessive form of a word that ends in S
  • Passive voice is always wrong
  • ‘I.e.’ and ‘e.g’ mean the same thing
  • You use ‘a’ before words that start with a consonant and ‘an’ before words that start with a vowel
  • It’s incorrect to answer the question “How are you?” with “I’m good.”
  • You shouldn’t split infinitives
  • You shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition

Be sure to read Mignon Fogarty’s explanations for these, or even better, listen to her podcast episodes for more details. You can listen to the Grammar Girl episodes for each of these top ten at the playlist that Mignon Fogarty has posted exclusively to Spotify. You can also find each of the episodes wherever you might already listen to podcasts, such as Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, or Podbean.

Come on back and post your thoughts on these language myths in the comments.

 


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Bygones

Today we have a recommendation for a useful website from WF member Dave Smith. And a little historical perspective.


Bygones

By Dave Smith

The Saturday Evening Post, a magazine that in its heyday towered by size over others in the rack and often had a cover by Norman Rockwell, popped into my life a few weeks ago.

While cleaning out the back room (one of those Covid-generated activities) I found a book that contained short stories from the Post, and vaguely remember picking it up at a book exchange sometime in the past. The title is Mystery and Suspense and the subtitle is Great Stories from The Saturday Evening Post. It’s not a recently published book. The last printing was 1976.

The book contains sixteen stories, and since the Post was such a quality magazine for a hundred-plus years, I thought I had found a nugget to read and learn about great writing.

One of the stories was ‘The Black Cat’ by Edgar Allen Poe. Yes, because the Post began in 1821, Poe could indeed have been a contributor.

The cat story was good, but Poe tends to write superfluously and pleonastically (he uses big words, and a lot of them). I think it may have been because writers often got paid by the word in those times.

I decided to pick a more recent story for my next read, ‘Pen in Hand’ by Ben Ames Williams, dated 1933. This turned out to be a cozy mystery, set in a backwoods country village, and the protagonist was an elderly lady who lived by herself on a ridge a few miles from town, and who once a week hooked up her horse to the buckboard and went to town. She was Grandma Ankers, referred to locally as Marm.

The story was intriguing, and I got caught up in trying to solve it, as this is what mysteries do to you. But the writer in me began to notice a verbose style and unusual dialogue tags. That’s okay, the story was good. Then near the end I came across a dialogue tag I don’t usually see. Here it is, after Marm had solved the puzzle, she spoke:

“There!” she ejaculated. “Sheriff I dunno what you think, but that’s enough for me.”

Every book about writing published in the past forty years has derided such tags—no, even longer if you consider the Elements of Style by our buds Strunk and White. And yet here it was, in the Saturday Evening Post no less.

Did the Post have editors? Did people talk like that back then?  Even though as used here it is technically correct, wouldn’t another word have been less interruptive?

I had to find out, so I did what any reasonable person does today—Google. And damned if I didn’t find something really cool and useful for us writers.

It’s called Google Books Ngram Viewer.

Maybe I’m showing my ignorance here, and I apologize for that, but this is one interesting tool I was not aware of. Ngram takes any word, phrase, or group of words, and can show relationships, usage in writings over time, and a hundred other too-deep-for-me things. And then Google puts it into a graph form which can cause one to exclaim, “Aha.”

The answer to my question was yes, ejaculated was used as a dialogue tag in many stories from the early 1800s to about 1940.

If your writing involves history, Ngram could help determine the written usage of a particular word at any time in the past. And even better, Ngram will show you the exact books and passages they found to support their data.

I now realize I was born 100 years too late. Today the golden  rule is to use he said or she said, with an occasional whispered or shouted if absolutely necessary, and yet in the not too distant past one could sell to a national magazine a story containing words like *insert your favorite*. I can write stuff like that, and would have made a fortune selling my stories, if only I had not been misplaced in time.

But all is not lost even if bygone words are bygones.

From where the sun now stands until forever, whenever I am disgusted with my writing, when the words smell so bad even my wife turns up her nose at them, when I am positive I am the worst ever, when I want to fast-ball my coffee cup—or beer bottle—through the glass patio door, when I want to throw open the window and shout I can’t take it anymore, when I want to stab my writing hand with a pencil to keep me from using it to waste my time, when I want to crumple up my computer and toss it into the wastebasket, when the deepest depth of despair threatens my sanity, … at those times I promise I will remember Marm ejaculating in the Saturday Evening Post.

And the black clouds will part, and the writers’ sun will shine on me once more.


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Member Monday: Excerpt from From “Sweet Danger, a Mystery Novella”, by CR Roberts

author photo

We have a Member Monday submission for you. This is an excerpt from CR Roberts’ novel, Sweet Danger; A Mystery Novella. You might recognize CR Roberts as Writers Forum member Carolyn R. Flaubel. Carolyn was the grand prize winner of last summer’s short story contest, with the Southern Gothic story ‘Let Freedom Ring’. You can find Carolyn’s novel at Amazon by clicking on the above link.

From “Sweet Danger; a Mystery Novella”

By CR Roberts

author photo

I was happy and feeling content. The first honeybee yard I was heading to was my own. All one hundred hives belonged to me, Jessie McConnell, either bought and paid for or painstakingly divided from one stronger colony into two. After I checked on my busy little girls, I’d go see how the rest of the yards were doing. Dad and Mom ran their bee business, McConnell Honey Company, by themselves with just one employee, but the bees had really taken off lately, and the folks were plenty glad to have me working for them also now. Some people were surprised when I showed up to handle an account. They weren’t expecting a kid of seventeen, much less a girl.

My hive tool and various hammers, empty coffee cans and baling wire rattled around in the floorboards as the old Chevy bucked and pitched over the ruts. I was happily thinking of the icy Pepsi in my cooler and tuna sandwich in my lunch bag. The only other equipment I needed that day was stuffed in a couple of bee boxes tied down on the flatbed; a smoker, some burlap, extra rope, and a bucket of water. I was only planning on cracking open the hive lids, checking on the health of the colony, and then moving on to the next one. I needed to confirm that each one was full of bees, the queen was still there, and it was well-stocked with honey and brood. These were due for going to the seed alfalfa pollination. The farmers paid well, but only for good bee hives.

If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with my own happy thoughts, I might have had an early warning when I pulled to a stop to get out and open the gate. It was kept shut with a chain. Half a dozen padlocks laced the rusty chain, and my key opened one of them. But I didn’t need to use it. The chain had been cut. Instead of being concerned, I just shrugged. One of the property owners must have forgotten their key and needed to get in, I figured. I got back in after pulling the gate shut behind me and wiring it shut with a piece of the baling wire.

At first, I didn’t notice the fresh tracks leading down to my bee yard. But the background noise of bees humming sounded ominous. Something was wrong. My belly tightened. I turned the corner and was shocked at what I saw next. I gasped at the black cloud of honeybees in front of me, and I cringed at the furious whine that came in through my open truck window.

I quickly rolled up my window and backed away from the bee yard to give the angry bees a little space. What in the world was going on? They’re crazy mad! I thought. The last time I had seen something close to this was when I was driving in to one of the parents’ locations, and I met in passing a man running in the opposite direction, one hand dripping with honey and the other wildly swinging about his face, which was already raising red welts.

Something was terribly wrong. Maybe some animal had knocked some boxes over, or worse, some person had come in and vandalized my hives. These bees meant a lot to me, both financially and personally. My stomach squeezed in anxiety. I wasn’t afraid, mind you, but I was worried over my honeybees, and I slid my long legs into my white cotton coveralls, tying off the bottoms around the tops of my leather work boots. Normally I didn’t bother with a lot of fuss in protecting every crawl hole in my coveralls, but this was different. Angry bees were stinging bees, and I did not need angry, stinging bees crawling under my clothes. I tied the strings of my wire veil around my chest and then put my leather gloves on, pulling the canvas gauntlets up past my elbows. Finally I was ready. I jerked the truck door open and hopped up on the flatbed, rooting around in the bee box for my smoker and a piece of dry burlap sack.

My heart was pounding as I jogged toward the storm of screaming bees. I was pumping the smoker bellows madly to encourage the curl of acrid smoke wafting from the hole while juggling my hive tool and trying to stick my phone in my pocket with clumsy gloved hands. The closer I got, the more worried I got. The bees hitting my veil and my body felt like someone was tossing gravel at me. Most were bouncing off, but the angry ones were hanging on to me, and I could see their stings sticking out, pulsing as they sought to stab me through my clothes. I stopped to give my coveralls a few puffs of smoke. The stupefied insects let go and wandered off, forgetting what they had been up to a second ago.

A dark object lay crumpled on the ground. I saw legs sticking out, and I was confused. Then I realized it was a man, his shape disguised under the roiling, buzzing, stinging honey bees.

Good Lord! I had to calm things down, and fast! Was the man alive or dead? If he was still alive, maybe I could save him. Another part of my brain was kicking into business—if I didn’t stop this mess, I would have no hives left. The mob mentality would take over and they would all start robbing from each other, killing and stealing honey in a mad frenzy until the whole yard was ruined. I started puffing my smoker over the bee-covered man.

I didn’t want to asphyxiate the bees, or the man, I thought, coughing from the rank smoke, so I spread out the fume in a light blanket, back and forth over the crawling mass. Periodically I had to stop and puff smoke over myself as more bees attached themselves to me, trying to find a way in, to sting, in their blind fury.

I smoked them, and I brushed off clumps of them until the person was more man than bees. I grabbed him by the ankles and began dragging him back towards my truck, stopping to waft more smoke on both of us to keep the mad bees from following us. I was strong, strong as most boys are because of my work, but if the man hadn’t been a wiry guy, I’m not sure I would have made it back to where my Chevy was parked. The adrenaline was starting to wear off, and my arms were shaking by the time I lugged him over there and heaved him in through the passenger door. I ran around to the driver’s side, tossed the smoker onto the back of the flatbed, jumped in and slammed the door shut after me.

I hated to do it, but I started squashing the bees who had followed us into the cab, killing them or folding them up in my sweat rag to immobilize them. I’d never had a bee fly up my nose and sting me, and I didn’t want to find out what that was like. Finally I was able to yank off my veil and check the man out. I was no doctor, but I could tell that he was dead.

Grossly swollen, his face, neck, and hands were purple and covered with welts upon welts. Thousands of tiny pulsing bee stingers, each tugged from the abdomen of a dying bee dotted his skin. I couldn’t find a pulse when I pressed my fingers against his carotid artery. At least, where I thought his carotid artery should be, since his neck was so swollen it looked like a tree stump. It was then I noticed the odor.

The man was reeking of honey bee alarm pheromone.

Every experienced beekeeper recognizes that peculiar odor that masses of honeybees give off when they are at high alert, as in, Code Red! Danger! Kill it! I expected to smell a whiff of this around the poor guy because so many bees were stinging him and giving off the pheromone. But the overwhelming smell from the man rose above and beyond what you’d expect. The only answer was that it had been deliberately applied to him. This wasn’t some hapless dude who’d wandered into my bee yard looking for a free swipe of honey. This was murder.

Of course I sucked it up and tried a little CPR after I made the 911 call, like everyone knows you are supposed to do, no matter what you think about the patient’s condition. But then I had to start driving us back to the main road to meet the ambulance. I parked in front of the gate, rewiring the baling wire on the chain hanging around the post. I turned off the engine and waited, every now and then cracking the window to shoo a bee out.

Copyright ©2019 by CR Roberts; used with permission


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the e-newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction. 9.) Poetry.

Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Fridays With Dale: WHAT DO BIG GAME HUNTING AND THE CRITICAL WATER SHORTAGE HAVE IN COMMON?

Title with image of author

Dale Angel

 


WHAT DO BIG GAME HUNTING AND THE CRITICAL WATER SHORTAGE HAVE IN COMMON?

By Dale Angel

 

At one time, no gun was big enough, no distance too far, no safari too overpriced to hunt trophy game. This activity created whole economic industries. Stuffed animal heads were displayed for admiration and the hunter was always recorded in pictures with his game. These exploits are today embarrassing as we all know what the end results were. Today large areas of the earth are set aside to save what’s left of their slaughters. Big game hunting was for man’s temporary amusement.

This appetite for diversion continues.

Recently a citation was issued informing a family they had a broken water pipe. Some communities are hiring water monitors to control the using of excess water. The above mentioned householder had no broken pipes it was a drip system under his trees.

The meetings of Government officials to cope with the water crisis are in our daily news. Farmers are warned of the possibility of being affected, because crops demand large amounts of water. Cities gathered to protest. They need more water.

Citizens are to do their part reducing their most basic water needs

Communities using vast amounts of water for their grasses and grounds are exempt. Big business is generated by these large lucrative spacious tracts of earth because it also for entertainment, just different trophies. Pictures of the winner and his prize are always recorded for our admiration.

One desert city has over a hundred different areas set aside for this activity, drinking rivers of precious water. Will we look back and be embarrassed? Big Game hunting and critical water shortage have in common that price is not too high for amusement. Today, it’s called golf.

Dale Angel


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction 9.) Poetry

Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.

Fridays With Dale: Promises

Title with image of author

Dale Angel

 


Promises

By Dale Angel

                                                    

My body is self-destructing with my knowledge, but without my consent.

These pills I do battle with every time we meet, which is often, I hate them. It says on the label they may give some relief to my ailments…or they may make matters worse. ‘Prescription’ sounds so authoritative and empowering but the list of side effects will require a whole forest of paper to cover their disclaimers: it can bring on weakness and palpations, and each time I re-up they add more zeros to the price.

 You understand why I use the word ‘pills.’ It sounds so unthreatening, like vitamin pills. They offer the best they have, but like some people, they may be undependable or dangerous.

All come with promises.

How close to death do I dance when I swallow these promises?

Watching the world on TV showed the elder of some tribe shoot his darts into the Amazon canopy as high as a mountain and bring down a bird. I asked my eye doctor how come he can see and I can’t? He said, “The Amazon man is just like us. He can see far away, but can’t find his finger nails. He would need glasses for close ups too.’’

I watch these ads that say if I send money, I can learn to see without my glasses. It’s easy, you just throw away your glasses. In a few hours you can see. It implies only stupid people wear glasses. I want to send for the power to do life without them.

But…it keeps rising in my mind that ad that promised unending libido…and my neighbor who climbed out of the motor home window after playing unending…he went to the hospital…she closed up her house and left town. A new updated version shows a man spraying under his arms but warns that at contact she may grow whiskers or lose her singing voice.

Professional assurances…scare me.

Tonight on the world news, it tells us to beware of these wonderful pharmacy products, at the same time it shows people who take them having fun in first class resorts with healthy smiles. They got there with the aid of these promises.

Who to believe?

Dale Angel


Writers Forum is open to submissions for the blog or the newsletter.

Type of Material and Guidelines for e-newsletter and Website Submission: 1.) Your articles on the art or craft of writing. 2.) Essays on subjects of interest to writers. (200 words can be quoted without permission but with attribution.) 3.) Book or author reviews. 4.) Letters to the Editor or Webmaster. 5.) Information on upcoming events, local or not. 6.) Photos of events. 7.) Advertise your classes or private events. 8.) Short fiction 9.) Poetry

Please submit copy to the editor at writersforumeditor@gmail.com . Electronic submissions only. Microsoft Word format, with the .docx file extension, is preferred but any compatible format is acceptable. The staff reserves the right to perform minor copy editing in the interest of the website’s style and space.