Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Was asked to provide ye olde grammar rules for adjectives and adverbs -
privatim et seriatim.
Caught me, it did.
I mean adjectives usually describe nouns and adverbs usually modify verbs - at least when they're not modifying other adverbs and stuff.
Fairly straightforward, what?
Finally found these:

1. Use the comparative when comparing two items.
Ex: Vivian is the taller of the two sisters. (Not tallest)

2. Avoid double comparisons, such as "more wiser," "most beautifulest" - unless, of course,you are using it in dialogue to indicate something about the character.

3. This and that are singular and modify singular nouns; these and those are plural.
Ex: I can't understand why you enjoy that kind of book. (Readers/writers of erotica see those kinds of comment a lot.)

4. Repeat the article before a second noun in a series for contrast, clearness or emphasis.
Ex: In those days life was kind to neither the old nor the young.
The captain and the manager of the football team have agreed to address the cheering squad.

5. Use a before a consonant sound and an before a vowel sound.
Think in terms of sound instead of letters.

Big discussion over at Miss Snark and Evil Editor on this, regarding whether it should be a SASE or an SASE.
Someone even hauled up the argument that since SASE was an acronym, pronounced sassy or saysee, the rule no longer applied.
Pardon me. SASE is not an acronym in the same sense as NATO is, rather it remains in the same form as IBM. It may become one; it may develop thus, but at present, saysee or sassy remain in the realm of colloquial expression. Most query letters are still regarded as formal business communications. Use an SASE.

6. Avoid - on pain of death - the double negative. No, not, never, nothing, none, nobody.
The negative is not used with half-negatives hardly, scarcely, only, and but when it means only.
Ex: When Jane returned from training camp, I could ( not couldn't) hardly wait to see her.
I had to admit I didn't know anything ( not nothing) about ventriloquism.( Or, I had to admit I know nothing about ventriloquism.)
There is ( not isn't) but one high school for the children of the three towns.

7.Do not carelessly use to and their as adverbs.
Ex: There are too many adjectives in your sentences.

Does this help any?


Ric said...

Simple, helpful.

Dennie McDonald said...

I just want a computer that works...

oh woe is me... I killed another one - that's three in 18 mo.s - what am I doing wrong?!?!?!

Erik Ivan James said...

Clearly so.;)

Bernita said...


Dennie, do you have intermitten electricity where you live, as in browns-outs and fades? Need surge protector?

Dennie McDonald said...

no, it wasn't even hooked up to the ac when it went out - I have no clue why ... the tech guy seemed surprised to

I am just a computer killer
(I am kinda afraid to use the kids computer - I killed it almost two years ago and the hubby had to put a new hard drive in it)

Bernita said...

Dennie has Black Fingers?
Dennie emits invisible frying rays on unsuspecting electronic devices?
Does she glow in the dark?
Do you have this problem with watches, hair dryers, and other hand held objects of the electrical/chip persuasion?

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I would not, never do any of those things...LOL.

That should be a primer lesson. quick, short and explanatorily elegant...LOL, I made a new word!

Sheesh! Poor Dennie, I've heard of people with a black thumb but this poor woman has ten fingers of death!

Ohh that sounds like a good book title!

Bernita said...

Great book title, Bonnie!
Cue The Strangler...

Rick said...

My History of English professor permanently spoiled me on the subject of double negatives. He argued that language is not algebra, and pointed to wonderful literary examples from the age before the prescriptivists hung this rule on us.

In a contemporary setting you can hardly use it, because it is coded as uneducated, but I might be able to get away with it for 16th c. characters.

Bernita said...

Indeed, that is true, Rick.
My old book also points out that the double comparison was correct when Shakespeare wrote, but has gone out of style.
You may have to argue with an editor though who might not recognize the authenticity of your constructions. Still, dialogue is the key to overcome such objections.

Rick said...

That's what I hope. I haven't had occasion yet to use a double negation, but it would sound different from a Tudor-era character than from a contemporary one.

Lisa Hunter said...

The New York Times has also published a set of guidelines, available for download from Gawker (a guilty pleasure read).

Mark Pettus said...

I gots to point out, there is exceptions to them, their rules.

I ain't got no problem using double negatives, no mam, not hardly. Not when I'm a-writing that dialogue stuff.


I warned you that you'd regret finding me.

Bernita said...

Mark, did you not READ the caveat about dialogue?
Obviously, not.

Mark Pettus said...

Who you callin' a skimmer?

Hide your exceptions inside a single guideline and ask me to apply universally to the whole list, will you?

Why, I'm apalled, Miss Construer.


Bernita said...

My mistake, I assumed a word to the wise would be sufficient to the acute and serious writer, and counted on cela va sans dire.
I'm appalled too.

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