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Old August 3 2013, 05:24 AM   #1
Sgt_G
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OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

Feel free to tell me to go fly a kite.

Here's the thing: I rarely if ever post a reply to someone pointing grammar errors. Lord knows, I'm not perfect, and we'll all usually typing fast while posting to the board. However, when people write fan-fic, I assume they do so off-line in a word processor and upload it. There should be little excuse for basic grammar & punctuation errors.

I'm sorry, but as I was reading some fiction stories here, something kept jumping out at me in almost every story posted.

One of my pet peeves is the wrong use of commas when joining two independent clauses -- that is, phrases that can stand alone as complete sentences.

The boys went to the game.
The girls went to the movies.

These can stand alone, or they can be joined into one sentence by a variety of methods.

WRONG: The boys went to the game, the girls went to the movies.

This is a comma-splice error.

RIGHT: The boys went to the game; the girls went to the movies.

Note the use of a semicolon instead of a comma. Use it sparingly as it will tend to catch the reader's eye. Best used for dramatic impact: "She walked in; I walked out." Can be used in fairly long, compound-complex sentences, but consider if it might not be better to break it up into two shorter sentences.

The most common compound sentences use a comma plus a coordinating conjunction to join the two independent clauses together.

The boys went to the game, and the girls went to the movies.

The boys went to the game, so the girls went to the movies.

There are seven coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. You can remember them as “FANBOYS”.

Note: you must have the comma; otherwise, you have created a run-on sentence error.

WRONG: The boys went to the game and the girls went to the movies.

(Note that in informal writing, the comma isn't needed for very short sentences: "I laughed and she cried." You could get away with this in fiction writing, but not in a formal term paper.)

However, if you use two coordinating conjunctions, you do not need the comma.

RIGHT: The boys went to the game and so the girls went to the movies.

Another way to combine two independent clauses is by use of a semicolon, a conjunctive adverb (or phrase), and a comma.

The boys went to the game; therefore, the girls went to the movies.

The boys went to the game; however, the girls went to the movies.

The boys went to the game; in the meantime, the girls went to the movies.

Isn't the English language fun?

I'm sorry if I have offended anyone. Between comma-splice and run-on errors, I figure these two may make up 80% of the gramma errors in fan-fic stories, not just here but on all fan-fic sites. For me, when my eye hits those, my brain skips a beat. It's very distracting.


Anyone else have a pet peeve that you want to mention? That is to say, any pet peeves not about grammar cops, of course!

Last edited by Sgt_G; August 3 2013 at 08:43 AM.
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Old August 3 2013, 06:37 AM   #2
JJohnson
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

Other grammar errors:

"I should of gone" - "OF" IS NOT A VERB. You cannot "of". It's "I should have gone" You can have, but you cannot "of." People whose 5th language is English get this right. People from the American public school system have no excuse for being this incompetent.

"If I were..." not "If I was..." - subjunctive mood. If something did not happen it is contrary to fact, and must be subjunctive mood. It's similar to the past tense in English in practically all cases except for "If I/he were..."

"Between him and me" not "Between he and I" - after a preposition, a pronoun MUST BE in the form "me, thee, you, us, you, him, her, it, them." Those are object pronouns, or if you know grammar, they are dative and accusative. People whose 3rd or 4th language is English know this better than people who supposedly graduated the American public school system and most Hollywood writers.

"I would like to thank my parents, Mother Theresa, and God." not "I would like to thank my parents, Mother Theresa and God." The first is a list of three nouns: (1) parents, (2) Mother Theresa, and (3) God. The second is an appositive phrase where the item after "my parents" describes or clarifies it, namely that one's parents are in fact "Mother Theresa and God." It's called the Oxford comma, and you should make use of it. I know it's not current usage in the media or in Commonwealth countries, but it is incredibly helpful to avoid errors in understanding.
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Old August 3 2013, 06:57 AM   #3
Sgt_G
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

and most Hollywood writers
Oh, don't get me started about Hollywood writers.

Another pet peeve I'd like to mention: wrong words.

its vs. it's
its = belongs to it
it's = it is

to vs. two vs. too
to = as in to and fro
two = 2
too = also

there vs. they're vs. their
there = not here
they're = they are
their = belongs to them

And my favorite: weather vs whether
weather = rain, snow, etc.
whether = one or the other

Check the weather forecaster to see whether or not it'll rain tonight.

A friend of mine pointed out a third spelling, "wether", and said that once you look that one up, you'll never use it in the wrong context.
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Old August 3 2013, 08:20 AM   #4
scotpens
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

JJohnson wrote: View Post
"I should of gone" - "OF" IS NOT A VERB. You cannot "of". It's "I should have gone" You can have, but you cannot "of." People whose 5th language is English get this right. People from the American public school system have no excuse for being this incompetent.
I, too, cringe whenever I see would of, could of, etc. The problem is people writing what they hear, rather than what they were taught in elementary school. In speech, we usually use the contractions could've, would've, should've, etc. The shortened form of have sounds like of, so that's what gets written. Of course, that doesn't make it right.

"Between him and me" not "Between he and I" - after a preposition, a pronoun MUST BE in the form "me, thee, you, us, you, him, her, it, them." Those are object pronouns, or if you know grammar, they are dative and accusative. People whose 3rd or 4th language is English know this better than people who supposedly graduated the American public school system and most Hollywood writers.
People will casually say "Would you like to have dinner with Mary and I?" even though they'd never say "Would you like to have dinner with I?" While English spelling is ridiculously inconsistent, English grammar is highly logical. Unfortunately, lots of people don't think logically -- at least when it comes to grammar.

Another nitpick of mine is the use of "aren't I" as an interrogative. "Aren't I" is no more correct than "I aren't."

(Somewhat paradoxically, while "ain't" is nonstandard English, "ain't I" is grammatically correct!)

And speaking of homophones, I can understand how it's easy to confuse, say, palate, palette and pallet. But how the hell does anyone make it to the 8th grade, let alone graduate high school, without knowing the difference between principal and principle, affect and effect, accept and except, roll and role, or insight and incite?
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Old August 3 2013, 08:49 AM   #5
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

I can agree there, scotpens. It's sad the differences aren't taught...perhaps kids are too busy worrying about Instragramming or tweeting every fleeting thought on their iPhones or listening to "One Direction" to worry about things like grammar or punctuation.

A role in a play is different from rolling while at play. You incite a crowd, but have an insight into why the crowd does something. Dictionaries are useful, and you can then find out why words are the way they are, and where they came from (or perhaps 'whence they came' to avoid ending with a preposition).
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Old August 4 2013, 02:24 AM   #6
Timewalker
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

I'm all in favor of correct grammar in fanfic. However, there are times when the author shouldn't use it. For example, I wrote a LOT of stories and poems based on The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (TV series back in the late '90s). To really capture the characters, I realized I would have to write the dialogue as the characters spoke on TV. This meant throwing out some of the basic rules of grammar, and it drove me crazy. The results were worth it, though. The stories (and characterization) ring true for me.
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Old August 4 2013, 03:22 AM   #7
Sgt_G
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

Timewalker: Love the handle!

Dialogue is different. People speak how they do, so you have to try to write that. You just can't go too far afield with it, or reading it becomes impossible.
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Old August 4 2013, 03:43 AM   #8
Timewalker
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

Sgt_G wrote: View Post
Timewalker: Love the handle!

Dialogue is different. People speak how they do, so you have to try to write that. You just can't go too far afield with it, or reading it becomes impossible.
Thank you!

I just figured that if it worked for Mark Twain (I read Huckleberry Finn many years ago), it would surely work for my stories. I don't use the same dialect, but it is what I would consider a dialect. I read a really useful piece of advice on writing fanfic dialogue years ago: Listen to the characters speak, without watching the screen. You'll start noticing verbal nuances, tone of voice, the way the characters space their words, and so on. Incorporating these traits into the writing may make it look odd, but the internal voices the reader gives the story will be more authentic.

Two other unusual traits of my "Crow" stories come from the style of Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country (in that I don't use quotation marks around the dialogue) and the stories are written in present-tense. This may all sound like a nightmare, but it works.
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Old August 4 2013, 04:15 AM   #9
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

Sgt_G wrote: View Post
. . . Dialogue is different. People speak how they do, so you have to try to write that. You just can't go too far afield with it, or reading it becomes impossible.
Depends on the characters and their background. In Forbidden Planet, Dr. Edward Morbius is a philologist, an expert on language and literature. He has the speech patterns of a highly literate man who chooses his words carefully before they leave his lips.
In times long past, this planet was the home of a mighty and noble race of beings which called themselves the Krell. Ethically as well as technologically, they were a million years ahead of humankind. For, in unlocking the mysteries of nature, they had conquered even their baser selves. And when, in the course of eons, they had abolished sickness and insanity and crime and all injustice, they turned, still with high benevolence, outward toward space.
Most people don't talk like that, but it's natural for the character to speak that way.
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Old August 4 2013, 06:04 AM   #10
Sgt_G
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

True, most people don't talk like that, but it is grammatically / punctuation correct. In fact, I tend to write like that. If you've read my TIMELINES story, you'll see a lot of compound / complex / compound-complex sentence structure.

The worst thing about dialogue is when the author attempts to convey a thick accent. Too often it ends up with whole sentences made up of words spelled "wrong" or clipped with apostrophes all over the place. It's supposed to "read like it sounds", but I'm reminded of the screen in the movie BRAVE where the big guy talks, and everyone looks at each other like "WFT did he just say?" Just toss in a few simple words with the accent and leave the rest spelled correctly, please. We'll get the gist that Scotty has a broage accent.

Oh, and I have the same issue with foreign / alien character names. If they're too weird, it makes my brain stumble every time I see it. I have a character in a story named Sarisha Sahani. She is of Indian decent (Hindu, not Native American), so she has a unique name, but it's not unpronounceable. I cringe when I see characters named something like Ps'K'houewe'T'sca'woo. Seriously, why do that to your readers?
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Old August 4 2013, 07:07 AM   #11
scotpens
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

Sgt_G wrote: View Post
The worst thing about dialogue is when the author attempts to convey a thick accent. Too often it ends up with whole sentences made up of words spelled "wrong" or clipped with apostrophes all over the place.
Deliberate misspelling to convey dialect pronunciation or to suggest the speech of people who are illiterate or poorly educated is called "eye dialect." It's been used by many notable authors but is considered rather un-P.C. nowadays.

Oh, and I have the same issue with foreign / alien character names. If they're too weird, it makes my brain stumble every time I see it. I have a character in a story named Sarisha Sahani. She is of Indian decent (Hindu, not Native American), so she has a unique name, but it's not unpronounceable.
I've often wondered why so many aliens in science fiction have names with apostrophes in them. Other planets' languages must be full of glottal stops.
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Old August 4 2013, 06:17 PM   #12
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

I think the apostrophes are a lot of shorthand for look, ma, it's an alien!

There are a ton of doubled a's, too.

To dovetail with the above, there's dialect and then there's not respecting characters' intelligence. And there's also just plain getting it wrong.

Trip Tucker, for example, is from the northern Florida panhandle. This is near Alabama and so a speaker from there can get a bit of the Alabama sound, plus Tucker is educated (I don't buy the nonsense that he didn't graduate from college; Engineers aren't mere tinkerers. It's a profession analogous in many ways to physicians and attorneys) so he was likely in contact with a lot of different people with varying ways of speaking, or he may have attended school outside of his home town. So there is a little bit of a twang and occasional g's are dropped (darlin', goin') but not all the time. He also occasionally elides sounds, e. g. kinda, woulda, etc. Plus not all Southerners sound alike, and they don't just pepper their speech with a ton of y'alls and then the writer can call it a day.

Same with British/Irish/Welsh/Australian/New Zealander speak. It differs, and I think it makes sense for writers to listen for subtleties and even listen to interviews with actors from these various places in order to get a feel for the sounds. But again, British characters don't necessary speak in a super-posh manner all the time.

Further to the point, word choice can often convey more about an accent than dropping a bunch of apostrophes into the mix. Someone who says prior to instead of before is going to sound more educated and precise, usually. But of course it can be overdone. Spot is a cat. Calling him a feline is, except when Data says it, overdoing it. And even Data calls him a cat a lot of the time.

PS Re the overly complex character names - amen! If a name is long, that character had better get a nickname really, really fast.
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Old August 4 2013, 08:23 PM   #13
Sgt_G
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

I have been informed that I should have used "Hindi" and not "Hindu" to describe someone from South Asia. [sigh] Some people are easily offended, and will even refuse to believe that I had actually meant to type "Hindi".
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Old August 4 2013, 09:22 PM   #14
scotpens
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

Sgt_G wrote: View Post
I have been informed that I should have used "Hindi" and not "Hindu" to describe someone from South Asia. [sigh] Some people are easily offended, and will even refuse to believe that I had actually meant to type "Hindi".
Actually, neither term describes a nationality or ethnic group. Hindu is a religion; Hindi (also called Hindustani) is a language.

Of course, you could always have said "dot Indian, not feather Indian."
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Old August 4 2013, 11:00 PM   #15
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Re: OT: Grammar Cops Unite!

Oh, like THAT would have gone over well.

As I said, some people look for things to be offended by. Years ago, I was working on a story, and I sent what I had to a friend to read over. He allowed a friend of his to read it (against my wishes that he keep it to himself). This other guy started writing me with comments, mostly saying how good the story was but also had a few minor points. All of a sudden, my e-mail box blew up, this guy was flaming me so bad. He was on a tear about how "racist" I must be. Why? Because of one character I brought in for a cameo. Here's how I described him:

The man walked the front of the room and stepped up on the stage. He towered over Commander Sahani. His skin was as dark as night; his hair might have been in years long past but was now a distinguishing silver. Upon his Police uniform, which he filled out with a bodybuilder’s physique, he wore the rank insignia of Commodore.

The problem? This character's name was Dennis Masterson. I picked the name by randomly opening the phone book and randomly sticking my finger to the page. This guy refused to believe that, because of course he just knew that I had to know the history of that name. Everyone knows that "Masterson" was the name given to the illegitimate child born to a slave woman, being "the Master's son", and given that I had to know that, I must be intentionally perpetuating the stereotype. I was so disheartened by the whole mess that I stopped writing that story and three others I was working on at the time. The only thing I've written since was TIMELINES.
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