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Dinsdale Piranha

Writing Tips

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Since some folks use the boards to work on their writing, I thought it would be a good idea to start a thread for tips about writing.

 

I'm going to start it off with something really basic, the apostrophe s. It's one of those things that's easy to misuse, and which will make an editor's eyes bleed (I've seen it and it isn't pretty.) The basics can seem trivial, but they're essential if you want a reader or an editor to take you seriously. Mess them up and it doesn't matter how great your story is.

 

1. The first thing to remember is that an apostrophe is never used when making a plural. If you are writing about a Jedi who is joined by another Jedi, they become a pair of Jedis. You may be tempted to think of them as Jedi's, but don't. It's not correct to write about cat's, or dog's, or house's, or zombie's, or any other group of things using an apostrophe.

 

2. One of the uses of the apostrophe is to show that something belongs to someone. You can legitimately use "Jedi's" if you're talking about the Jedi's light saber or something else he owns.

 

This one can be a little tricky. If there are a group of people and they all own something together, you need an apostrophe, but it needs to be placed properly. If you've got a group of Jedis and they've got a ship, you'd refer to it as the Jedis' ship. It may look weird to put the apostrophe after the s, but that's the only correct way to do it. If you say the Jedi's ship then you have made it one Jedi, which isn't what you were going for.

 

Another tricky thing with this is when the person who owns the thing has a name that ends in an s. If you've got a character named Ventress, and she has a light saber, you need an apostrophe, but where? I've seen people do things like Ventres's light saber, but this is a mistake. It causes you to misspell her name, which could piss her off. There are actually two correct ways to do this. You can just add the apostrophe at the end: Venterss' light saber, or you can add an apostrophe and an s to the end: Ventress's light saber.

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Another one that really gets people is when referring to a certain decade. People tend to put 50's or 60's instead of 50s and 60s. However, correct me if I'm wrong, but if there are more than one Jedi, isn't it still Jedi (e.g. Three Jedi stormed the castle)?

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always ensure the first alphabet of every sentence is capitalized. always.

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Another one that really gets people is when referring to a certain decade. People tend to put 50's or 60's instead of 50s and 60s. However, correct me if I'm wrong, but if there are more than one Jedi, isn't it still Jedi (e.g. Three Jedi stormed the castle)?

 

That's probably true; maybe I should have used Jedi Knights.

 

You can use an apostrophe with years, but it's done like this: '50s and '60s. The easiest way to remember where the apostrophe goes is to look at what you've removed from the word. If I'm abbreviating 1960s, you put it in where the 19 was. If you're abbreviating "did not" you run the words together, remove the "o" and put the apostrophe where it was: "didn't."

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Interesting topic. Depending on how helpful it becomes, it just might be pinnable.

 

Okay, here's a writing scenario that rarely comes up: a quote within a quote within a quote. I'm pretty the FPL vets know the answer to this, as do grammar n--, uh, guys Nova and surfer, and Dinsdale just may have more writing experience than most of us, so I'm only posing this to test the less "grammar savvy".

 

What kind of quotation marks would be placed around the underlined words in this sentence?

 

"The gal was all over me, mon ami," bragged Gambit. "Next thing I know, she's askin' me 'So when do I get to try the... Cajun express?'"

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Oooh! Oooh! Pick me! Pick me!

 

Heh, heh, oh no. For all we know, you might even teach writing IRL.

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Any guesses on my question? If no one figures this out by 9:00 Eastern time, anyone that knows the answer for sure can tell it then.

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Interesting topic. Depending on how helpful it becomes, it just might be pinnable.

 

Okay, here's a writing scenario that rarely comes up: a quote within a quote within a quote. I'm pretty the FPL vets know the answer to this, as do grammar n--, uh, guys Nova and surfer, and Dinsdale just may have more writing experience than most of us, so I'm only posing this to test the less "grammar savvy".

 

What kind of quotation marks would be placed around the underlined words in this sentence?

 

"The gal was all over me, mon ami," bragged Gambit. "Next thing I know, she's askin' me 'So when do I get to try the... Cajun express?'"

 

"The gal was all over me, mon ami," bragged Gambit. "Next thing I know, she's askin' me 'So when do I get to try the... Cajun express?' "

 

I think it is just supposed to be like this ^

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Nope. :D

 

The speaker Gambit is talking about puts emphasis on those particular words, so they are required to be within quotation marks of their own. The question is, what type of quotation marks?

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Nope. :D

 

The speaker Gambit is talking about puts emphasis on those particular words, so they are required to be within quotation marks of their own. The question is, what type of quotation marks?

 

Okay. Ummmmm how about this:

 

"The gal was all over me, mon ami," bragged Gambit. "Next thing I know, she's askin' me 'So when do I get to try the... "Cajun express�'"

 

Other than that I'm not sure without looking it up

 

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But he put the woman's statement in single quotes.

 

That's right, but the woman puts emphasis on the words "Cajun express", and Gambit is restating the woman's words.

 

Okay. Ummmmm how about this:

 

"The gal was all over me, mon ami," bragged Gambit. "Next thing I know, she's askin' me 'So when do I get to try the... "Cajun express”?'"

 

Other than that I'm not sure without looking it up

 

You got it! Give this man an Internet cookie! :):P

 

I'm not sure of the exact terminology of what this instance of quoting is called, but in writing, when a person in a story (not the story's narrator) recites someone else's statement who in turn quotes something on his/her own, the way to "phrase" that third level of quote would be to revert back to double quotation marks.

 

Now, fourth-level quoting and beyond, I have no idea. :D

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You got it! Give this man an Internet cookie! :):P

 

I'm not sure of the exact terminology of what this instance of quoting is called, but in writing, when a person in a story (not the story's narrator) recites someone else's statement who in turn quotes something on his/her own, the way to "phrase" that third level of quote would be to revert back to double quotation marks.

 

Now, fourth-level quoting and beyond, I have no idea. :D

 

:D yay! Anyway for fourth level quoting and above you probably just alternate between double and single quotes. Although I'm sure there are exceptions as always in the English language :P

 

Also Dinsdale if I have questions about writing do up you mind if I ask them here. Or do you want to make a separate thread for asking questions and have this thread just for posting writing tips ?

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That's right, but the woman puts emphasis on the words "Cajun express", and Gambit is restating the woman's words.

 

 

 

You got it! Give this man an Internet cookie!

 

I'm not sure of the exact terminology of what this instance of quoting is called, but in writing, when a person in a story (not the story's narrator) recites someone else's statement who in turn quotes something on his/her own, the way to "phrase" that third level of quote would be to revert back to double quotation marks.

 

Now, fourth-level quoting and beyond, I have no idea.

 

A quote within a quote within a statement. Very devious.

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Also Dinsdale if I have questions about writing do up you mind if I ask them here. Or do you want to make a separate thread for asking questions and have this thread just for posting writing tips ?

 

Go for it.

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Oh, come on you old sticks in the mud. (I say that with all do respect, some of my best friends are sticks in the mud). Grammar tips are helpful and everyone needs a refresher course sometimes, but those kind of tips are far from the fun part of writing. So here's my impute for those looking for some story telling tips. From Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing:

 

1) "Never open a book with the weather." Basically, this is because your reader is going to look for characters long before they look for setting.

 

2) "Avoid Prologues." These tend to be back story, and back story can be dropped in anywhere. Get to the meat of your story as fast as possible.

 

3) "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialog." As an writer you want to stay out of the story as much as possible. Much more than verbs like "grumbled" "exclaimed" "lied" or whatever else you can think of, "said" tends to vanish and keep attention on the characters, not the writer.

 

4) "Never use an adverb to modify the word 'said'". This goes back to the last rule. An adverb is the author sticking his nose into things. This can distract from, or break the rhythm of, the dialog.

 

5) "Keep your exclamation points under control." "You are allowed no more than two or three per 1000,000 words of prose."

 

6) "Never use the words 'suddenly' or 'all hell broke loose'." These words actually take away from the feeling they're trying to create.

 

7) "Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly." This is one of those "once you start, you won't stop" things with writing. And, once again, it tends to distract from what's going on in the page as the writer tries to control how the reader reads.

 

8) "Avoid detailed descriptions of characters." Leave your readers room to imagine. No matter how little description you give of "the woman at the bar" your reader WILL picture a woman, sitting there. Bogging them down with too many sensory details will bore them.

 

9) "Don't go into great detail describing places and things." Same reason as above. Don't have the action come to a stop because the character happened to notice a flower.

 

10) "Try to leave out the part the readers tend to skip." This rule, right here, explains why you don't want to give too much description. People get board with huge chucks of text with far too many words. "I bet you don't skip dialog."

 

And, as a bonus, Mr. Leonard offers one final rule that sums up the 10, "If it sounds like writing, rewrite it."

 

If after reading some of these rules you disagree, keep in mind these are the opinion of one man (who probably happens to have a lot more published work than you and makes money off of his ability to write) and aren't set rules. However, for a beginning writer who is still learning to craft a compelling story, these are the perfect guidelines to use as building blocks. So, I urge you, if you're unsure the quality of your writing, use these rules until you've mastered them. Once you've done that, you can experiment with breaking them.

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Go for it.

 

Ok well this was a question I had when I was working on my next match. Well first here's a random example of writing to show you what I'm not sure of writing concerned. This example isn't a part of my next match in case you were wondering :P . I just came up with it randomly.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"That book we read was weird" said Fred.

 

 

"I agree" said Bob. "I hated the book. In fact, it was the worse book I ever read."

 

 

"I totally agree" said Fred

---------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Anyway, is there anything I did wrong concerning quoting and anything else? For example, is it okay to have two sentences in one quote?

 

Oh, come on you old sticks in the mud. (I say that with all do respect, some of my best friends are sticks in the mud). Grammar tips are helpful and everyone needs a refresher course sometimes, but those kind of tips are far from the fun part of writing. So here's my impute for those looking for some story telling tips. From Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing:

 

1) "Never open a book with the weather." Basically, this is because your reader is going to look for characters long before they look for setting.

 

2) "Avoid Prologues." These tend to be back story, and back story can be dropped in anywhere. Get to the meat of your story as fast as possible.

 

3) "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialog." As an writer you want to stay out of the story as much as possible. Much more than verbs like "grumbled" "exclaimed" "lied" or whatever else you can think of, "said" tends to vanish and keep attention on the characters, not the writer.

 

4) "Never use an adverb to modify the word 'said'". This goes back to the last rule. An adverb is the author sticking his nose into things. This can distract from, or break the rhythm of, the dialog.

 

5) "Keep your exclamation points under control." "You are allowed no more than two or three per 1000,000 words of prose."

 

6) "Never use the words 'suddenly' or 'all hell broke loose'." These words actually take away from the feeling they're trying to create.

 

7) "Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly." This is one of those "once you start, you won't stop" things with writing. And, once again, it tends to distract from what's going on in the page as the writer tries to control how the reader reads.

 

8) "Avoid detailed descriptions of characters." Leave your readers room to imagine. No matter how little description you give of "the woman at the bar" your reader WILL picture a woman, sitting there. Bogging them down with too many sensory details will bore them.

 

9) "Don't go into great detail describing places and things." Same reason as above. Don't have the action come to a stop because the character happened to notice a flower.

 

10) "Try to leave out the part the readers tend to skip." This rule, right here, explains why you don't want to give too much description. People get board with huge chucks of text with far too many words. "I bet you don't skip dialog."

 

And, as a bonus, Mr. Leonard offers one final rule that sums up the 10, "If it sounds like writing, rewrite it."

 

If after reading some of these rules you disagree, keep in mind these are the opinion of one man (who probably happens to have a lot more published work than you and makes money off of his ability to write) and aren't set rules. However, for a beginning writer who is still learning to craft a compelling story, these are the perfect guidelines to use as building blocks. So, I urge you, if you're unsure the quality of your writing, use these rules until you've mastered them. Once you've done that, you can experiment with breaking them.

 

great tips. I find this very useful ;):)

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Also concerning my previous comment if a quote is reallly long like this:

 

 

"I believ..............." said Bob. ".................. d..................................... .........................................................................................."

 

 

should I indent it or do something to make it look better?

 

If you would rather i make a better example with actual words I can do so

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Ok well this was a question I had when I was working on my next match. Well first here's a random example of writing to show you what I'm not sure of writing concerned. This example isn't a part of my next match in case you were wondering. I just came up with it randomly.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"That book we read was weird," said Fred.

 

 

"I agree," said Bob. "I hated the book. In fact, it was the worst book I've ever read."

 

 

"I totally agree," said Fred.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Anyway, is there anything I did wrong concerning quoting and anything else? For example, is it okay to have two sentences in one quote?

Bolding the parts that are incorrect.

 

Yes, there can be two sentences in one quote.

 

I also think you used the word "agree" too much in that short section(?) of writing, but this may just be a matter of writing style.

 

EDIT: It's hard to tell what's bolded with punctuation, give me a moment to further edit and point out the errors.

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I also think you used the word "agree" too much in that short section(?) of writing, but this may just be a matter of writing style.

 

It could also, in a larger piece, be simple characterization.

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Ok well this was a question I had when I was working on my next match. Well first here's a random example of writing to show you what I'm not sure of writing concerned. This example isn't a part of my next match in case you were wondering . I just came up with it randomly.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------

"That book we read was weird," said Fred.

 

This is fine, except you need to end the clause inside the quotes with some punctuation. A comma is the most common and is usually the best, but an exclamation point or a question mark can also be used, depending on the content of the sentence.

 

"I agree," said Bob. "I hated the book. In fact, it was the worse book I ever read."

 

 

"I totally agree," said Fred.

 

I added appropriate punctuation in red. The quotes are fine, but you don't want to leave the quoted section without ending punctuation.

 

Anyway, is there anything I did wrong concerning quoting and anything else? For example, is it okay to have two sentences in one quote?

 

You can have as many sentences as you want inside the same quotes. The only place it gets weird is when you have someone speaking uninterrupted over the course of several paragraphs.

 

"I don't know," Joe said. "It seems to be that we should realign the deflector dish to project a tachyon pulse into the Horsehead Nebula. If that doesn't work, we may have to jostle the oscillation overthruster and boost the flux capacitor to a million percent efficiency.

 

"It's a shame the ship isn't dimensionally transcendent. I'd love to have the space to store all the Yoyodyne surplus parts we'll ever need. Now, if only I could remember where I put my sonic screwdriver."

 

--------------------------------------------

 

The fact that I left the closing quotes off the first paragraph isn't an accident. As long as the same speaker is talking, each new paragraph has opening quotes but only the last one will have closing quotes.

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I'm pretty sure some characters less acquainted with Jedi like Gungans and Hutts refer to them as 'Jedis' but yes, I am sure it's 'Jedi' no matter what the context.

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