Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Grammar-licious: Making Grammar Fun - January

Let’s dive into the pond with the less/fewer differences. Less is used with mass nouns and fewer is used with count nouns.

A mass noun, also considered an ‘amount word’, is something that is measured in bulk – clutter, water, snow, milk, syrup, etc. A count noun, also a ‘number word’, is something you can count – books, pens, cards, paperclips, oranges, etc.

Examples to follow:

There are ____ kids in class than on the roster.
Can you count kids? Yes. Use fewer.

There was _____ snow this year than last year, so the kids had _____ snow days to make up.
Can you count snow? No. Use less. Can you count days? Yes. Use fewer.

Try these:

____ grapes to eat [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ flour to bake with [Refers to bulk as written. Cups of flour can be counted.]

____ frozen meals to thaw [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ tomatoes to slice [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ orange juice [Refers to bulk as written. Cups of juice can be counted.]

____ coffee to make [Refers to bulk as written. Cups of coffee can be counted.]

____ cups of lemonade [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ water in the lake [Refers to bulk as written. Gallons of water can be counted.]

____ fish for dinner [Can you count them? Yes.]

____ clutter on the table [Refers to bulk as written. Piles of clutter can be counted.]

Exceptions. There are always exceptions, aren’t there? Even though you can count hours, dollars, and miles, you want to use less.

We traveled less than twenty miles.
The reception lasted less than two hours.
We made an investment of less than a hundred dollars.

If you refer to individual units, then use fewer. Example: I have fewer than six state quarters.

You know how there’s usually a lane at the grocery store with the sign “10 items or less”? It sounds better than “10 items or fewer”, doesn’t it? “Less” is grammatically wrong because you can count items.

So, the general rule is: if you can count something, use fewer; if you can’t count it, use less.

This month’s recommended grammar book is: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty

I like finding ways to remember the ‘rules’ and hope you can find something helpful. It’s my hope the monthly grammar techniques and usage examples will make grammar a lot less frightening and potentially enjoyable (can you imagine?) for you.

If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment or contact me!

(originally published in TWC Spotlight for November, 2008)

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dreams and Writing.

I know when I’m working on a novel, I often dream about it. Scenes to come, scenes written, the time period or theme of the story. I usually chalk that up to all the research plus how immersed I become into the world and characters. Could it be more than that? Well, I jumped onto the web and crawled around to find out. I’d like to share what I discovered with you.

This article on the American Psychological association tells us how "There's a significant number of situations where the limitations of our waking logic and preconceptions keep us stuck on a problem," Barrett says. "And a dream can solve it." They go on to say how many persons throughout history, not just authors but scientists, have used dreams as ways to problem solve.

"Dreams make connections more broadly than the waking mind," Hartmann notes. "You can be working on a problem and you can't quite see how to get there. But you go to sleep and you have a dream. It makes new connections, and it helps you make sense of it. Dreams can be very useful in this sense." This is definitely useful for a writer stuck on a plot or logic problem in their novel.

Another article found here: suggests that dreaming is essential for the brain by providing a constant stimulus even when sleeping. This article addresses outside stimuli such as environment, telepathic messages, the dreamer’s life history and memories plus "day residue” from the previous day’s waking experiences.

While I’m not sure about the telepathic messages, it seems to me you can set yourself up to problem solve or encourage your creative self by providing those outside stimuli before going to bed. How? By reading through problem passages or research for the particular story in mind. Heck, do your research just before retiring. I like to take long walks or do mind freeing stuff like sewing after a long research session. It helps me sort out all the information I just bombarded myself with. I hadn’t thought to bring into my dream realms. Of course, it won’t work if I take any sleep aids. I’m definitely up for giving it a try. If you do, post your experience here. Did it work for you? How?

Last, don’t forget to keep a pen, light and notebook on the bedside. Booting up the computer takes too long, You want to go over your dreams in your mind upon first waking, then write them down…before you do anything else, before getting out of bed. I learned that from my 8th grade English teacher and it’s worked for me from day one.

As the words to an Aerosmith song go…"Dream on. Dream until your dreams come true."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Review - The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

Dr. Barbara will be a live chat guest at The Writer's Chatroom on Sunday, January 10 from 7-9PM EST. Please feel free to stop in and meet her.

The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything)
Written by: Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
Readers 9-12
Rated: Excellent (*****)
Review by: Lisa Haselton

The Truth is a glimpse into the diary and thoughts of a girl who is ten at the start of the story. We follow her through two school years and get a candid look at a ‘tween’s perspective of life.
Everyone can remember feeling that we knew more than our parents when we were kids.

In The Truth, the narrator gives us her opinion on falling in love, the damage done when parents argue, and her fears about getting older. She does so in a sincere and straightforward matter. She makes a list of truths that she wants to remember as she gets older because she fears aging has a negative effect. She knows adults must know the truths but that they somehow forgot, for how else can they possibly accept yelling at each other.

The unique voice along with the diary entry format make the book a quick read. It has an educational value which should be shared with all young girls and parents. The entries are direct and honest. The reader feels privy to the secret diary of the girl whose writing is personal, accessible. The observations made within the diary follow a natural progression of personal growth, which makes it feel more like non-fiction than fiction.

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein is the originator of The Enchanted Self(R). She has been a positive psychologist in private practice and licensed in the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts since 1981. She is currently in private practice in Long Branch, New Jersey with her husband, Dr. Russell M. Holstein.

I highly recommend reading The Truth. It is great for women of any age, and can definitely be appreciated by tweens and teens. It’s interesting to have memories of the tween years conjured up that are a mixture of enjoyable and hard to deal with.

Title: The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything)
Author: Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
Publisher: Enchanted Self Press
ISBN: 978-09798952-0-3
Pages: 96
Price: $6.95

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