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Defining the Words You Use 2

Posted on : 16-02-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Help with Writing

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Photo on Flickr by akqp 2

Words are the tools of a writer’s trade. It can sometimes be helpful to know more about your trade in order to improve your work.

CLAUSE – a group of words which make sense and contain both a SUBJECT and a VERB. A simple sentence is a CLAUSE, but a more complex sentence may contain more than one CLAUSE.

E.g. The dog ran.

This is a CLAUSE. It can stand on its own without further explanation, so it can also be called an INDEPENDENT CLAUSE.

If we make the sentence longer:

The dog ran because Billy scared it.

The second part of the sentence is known as a DEPENDENT CLAUSE because it could not stand on its own and be understood.

‘because Billy scared it’ – does not make sense.

However sentences are not always that simple or they would be boring. We prefer longer, more descriptive sentences to enable us to keep the reader’s flow going. Short jerky sentences can break up the text too much.

To enable the sentence to be more descriptive, we can use ADJECTIVE CLAUSES or ADVERB CLAUSES.

An ADJECTIVE CLAUSE gives us more information about the SUBJECT in the sentence. Remember, the SUBJECT is the NOUN that the sentence is about.

James is a great magician and he can make his assistant disappear.

This sentence tells you more about James, but it reads in a rather stilted way.

Try this:

James, who is a great magician, can make his assistant disappear.

The words in bold italics have been changed so that they modify the noun they describe in a neater way. The sentence still maintains its sense, but it reads so much better.

This ADJECTIVE CLAUSE will not stand on its own – it only makes sense in the context of the sentence. It is a CLAUSE rather than a PHRASE because it still contains a NOUN and VERB.

Usually an ADJECTIVE CLAUSE will start with one of three RELATIVE PRONOUNS:

WHO – always refers to people

WHICH – always refers to objects

THAT – can refer to people or objects

Find the ADJECTIVE CLAUSES in these sentences:

The girl slid down the hill and tore her dress.

The girl, who tore her dress, had to go home and tell her mother.

The girl’s mother, who had to sew the hole in the dress, was very cross.

Answers

The girl slid down the hill and tore her dress. (No ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

The girl, who tore her dress, had to go home and tell her mother. (ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

The girl’s mother, who had to sew the hole in the dress, was very cross. (ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

Punctuation

When do you use commas in ADJECTIVE CLAUSES?

You do not use a COMMA when THAT is used in a sentence:

E.g. The race that was abandoned was rescheduled for Thursday.

If the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is essential to the sentence then you do not need a COMMA.

E.g. Children who have mud on their legs will need a shower.

Balls which have gone soft will be put in the bin.

Not all balls are to be put in the bin – just those that have gone soft. Equally not all children require a shower – just those with mud on their legs.

If the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, then use a COMMA:

The dogs, who had been washed and brushed, were going to a pet show.

The boys, who couldn’t stop laughing, were sent to detention.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by akqp

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How to Define the Words You Use

Posted on : 10-02-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Help with Writing

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Photo on Flickr by Dr Stephen Dann

Each word that you use as a writer has a function. They all have a part to play in communicating your message through your writing. Here are some of the names of words that writers use every day and their function in a sentence.

NOUN – a name – dog, cat, person, girl, boy

PROPER NOUN – someone’s actual name: Jane, Susan, Jack, Frank

VERB – describes an action – run, jump, walk, ride, write, curtsey

Also includes words such as ‘is’, ‘was’ and ‘are’

ADJECTIVE – describes a noun. Includes colours.

E.g. small table, black sideboard, little girl, tall woman

ADVERB – describes a verb. Tells you how something is done.

E.g. He ran quickly. She walked slowly.

SENTENCE – a group of words which together make sense. It contains both a SUBJECT and a VERB.

The horse jumped the hedge.

SUBJECT: horse

VERB: jumped

SUBJECT – the main thing that the SENTENCE is about. It is usually a NOUN or a PROPER NOUN.

E.g. The dog ran over the hill.

The dog is the SUB JECT because it was doing the running.

Susan poured the flour into a mixing bowl.

Susan is the SUBJECT.

OBJECT – is involved in the sentence but is usually having something happen or done to it. So in the above examples, both ‘hill’ and ‘mixing bowl’ are OBJECTS.

PHRASE – a group of words that do make sense (are not just random words) but do not contain both a SUBJECT and a VERB.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Dr. Stephen Dann

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Using Apostrophes – its and it’s Part 3

Posted on : 02-02-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Help with Writing

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Photo on Flickr by mag3737

In the first post on Apostrophes, we looked at using them with plurals and singular nouns to show possession. The second post looked at using apostrophes with contractions. This post will examine a simple little word, yet the apostrophe is often used wrongly in it.

Its or it’s?

Do you know which is which?

In this case, the answer is simple – disregard the possession rule. So if you have a sentence:

The dog lolled out its tongue.

This is correct. You do not need to put an apostrophe in because you do not need the apostrophe to show possession of ‘it’.

However:

I love going to Spain. It’s a great place to have a holiday – lots of swimming pools and sunshine.

In the case of this sentence, ‘it’s’ is actually a shortened form of ‘it is’ – a contraction. So you will need the apostrophe.

In short when deciding whether to use ‘its’ or ‘it’s’, you need to know whether the word is showing possession or if it is a contraction. Only use the apostrophe if a letter is missing.

Try these out just for good measure. Is the apostrophe right or wrong?

The horse was lame in one of its hind hooves.

It’s OK you don’t need to explain it to me.

The house was old and ramshackle: it’s whole outward appearance was one of neglect.

Its dangerous to go water-skiing when the red flags are out.

Did you get it right?

The horse was lame in one of its hind hooves. – CORRECT

It’s OK you don’t need to explain it to me. – CORRECT

The house was old and ramshackle: it’s whole outward appearance was one of neglect.  WRONG – NO MISSING LETTER.

Its dangerous to go water-skiing when the red flags are out.  WRONG – ‘ITS’ IN THIS CASE IS SHORT FOR ‘IT IS’ SO IT SHOULD BE ‘IT’S’

Using apostrophes can be easy once you know how. This concludes this series of posts on apostrophes.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by mag3737

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