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Website of author and professional editor Rachelle M. N. Shaw. Find information about her books, her editing services, and her blog, From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing.

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From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing

From Mind to Paper is a blog for writers, editors, and those interested in the English language. It covers a multitude of writing topics, from punctuation and grammar to plot development, character development, and world building. In addition to in-depth articles about various writing topics, this blog also has a number of series posts, which are currently being transformed into a nonfiction series on writing.

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The Grammar Grind: Tenses, Part 2

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

This article is a continuation of the previous article about tenses and will discuss all variations of the future tense as well as the conditional tenses. Each tense can be written using an affirmative statement, a negated statement, and a question. Simple Future The simple future tense is used to indicate and action that will take place in the future. It is assumed that action cannot be influenced and is inevitable. The action indicated is sometimes spontaneous. The future tense is noted by two variations in structure: one uses the auxiliary verb will or shall, and the other uses the phrase am/is/are going to.

Example 1a: She will write. Example 1b: She is going to write. Example 2a: She will not write. Example 2b: She is not going to write. Example 3a: Will she write? Example 3b: Is she going to write?

Future Progressive (Future Continuous) The future progressive tense is used to indicate an action that will happen at a certain point in the future. The action is also one that is sure to happen in the near future. The –ing form of the main verb is used in conjunction with the auxiliary verbs will/shall be, or the phrase am/is/are going to be for this tense.

Example 1a: She will be writing. Example 1b: She is going to be writing. Example 2a: She will not be writing. Example 2b: She is not going to be writing. Example 3a: Will she be writing? Example 3b: Is she going to be writing?

Future Perfect The future perfect tense is used to indicate an action that will be finished at a certain point in the future. The perfect tense form of the main verb is used along with the corresponding auxiliary verbs will/shall have or the phrase am/is/are going to have.

Example 1a: She will have written a book. Example 1b: She is going to have written a book. Example 2a: She will not have written a book. Example 2b: She is not going to have written a book. Example 3a: Will she have written a book? Example 3b: Is she going to have written a book?

Future Perfect Progressive (Future Perfect Continuous) The future perfect progressive tense is used to indicate an action that will take place in the future before an even further point the future. Emphasis is on the duration of the action. The –ing form of the main verb is used with the auxiliary verbs will/shall have beenor the phrase am/is/are going to have been.

Example 1a: She will have been writing for hours. Example 1b: She is going to have been writing for hours. Example 2a: She will not have been writing for hours. Example 2b: She is not going to have been writing for hours. Example 3a: Will she have been writing for hours? Example 3b: Is she going to have been writing for hours?

Zero Conditional The zero conditional tense is used to indicate a situation that is real and possible either at the current time or always. It is often used to illustrate facts and/or general truths. The structure of this type of tense is as follows: if + simple present verb, followed by simple present verb. No auxiliary verbs are used.

Example: If you heat water, it boils.

Conditional I The conditional I tense is used to indicate a situation that is possible and is very likely to be fulfilled. The structure of this type of tense is as follows: if + simple present verb, followed by a simple future tense verb.

Example 1a: If you don’t hurry, you will be late. Example 1b: If you don’t hurry, you are going to be late. Example 2a: If you cut yourself, you will bleed. Example 2b: If you cut yourself, you are going to bleed.

Conditional II The conditional II tense is used to indicate a situation that is not based on fact but is unlikely or hypothetical with a probable result. The structure of this type of tense is as follows: if + simple past verb, followed by a present tense conditional statement with the auxiliary verb would.

Example 1: If you studied, you would do well on the test. Example 2: If you practiced, you would get better.

Conditional II Progressive (Conditional II Continuous) The conditional II tense is also used to indicate a situation that is unlikely or hypothetical with a probable result. However, the emphasis is on the course or duration of the action. The structure of this type of tense is as follows: if + simple past verb, followed by a progressive conditional statement with the auxiliary verbs would be.

Example 1: If you respond, you would be waiting for a reply. Example 2: If you earned a B, you would be doing well.

Conditional III The conditional III tense is used to indicate a situation occurring in the past that is contrary to reality. It refers to an untrue past event with a probable result if the conditions had been met. The structure of this type of tense is as follows: if + past perfect verb, followed by a perfect tense conditional statement with the auxiliary verbs would have.

Example 1: If it had snowed, you would have gotten the day off. Example 2: If you had been awake, you would have heard the announcement.

Conditional III Progressive (Conditional III Continuous) The conditional III progressive tense is also used to indicate a situation occurring in the past that is contrary to reality. However, the emphasis is on the course or duration of the action. The structure of this type of tense is as follows: if + past perfect verb, followed by a progressive conditional statement with the auxiliary verbs would have been.

Example 1: If you had been caught, you would have been in huge trouble. Example 2: If you had called, I would have been less worried.

Mixed Conditionals and Subjunctive Verbs Sometimes certain situations call for a mixture of the conditional tenses. Such situations are used to indicate a past event that is contrary to reality but would have had a direct impact on the present time if the conditions had been met. The structure of this type of tense is as follows: if + past perfect verb, followed by a present tense conditional statement with the auxiliary verb would.

Example 1: If I had put my keys away, they wouldn’t be lost. Example 2: If I had flown, I would be there already.

I also want to briefly mention subjunctive verbs. When dealing with conditional statements, especially types II and III, there will be times when a completely impossible event is being mentioned as hypothetical for the sake of giving advice or expressing one’s opinions about a particular situation. In those cases, the verb were is used, even if it disagrees with the subject. (i.e. It goes against standard subject-verb agreement.)

Example: If I were you, I wouldn’t press that button.

Under normal circumstances, the verb was would be the most agreeable with the subject I. However, since a conditional statement is being made in which a completely impossible event is expressed, the subjunctive verb were is correct. If the statement made had been possible in any way, was would then be the appropriate verb.

Example: If I was at home instead of at work, I could take a nap.

The Grammar Grind: Tenses, Part 1

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

Tenses are a distinction of the various verb forms that express duration of an action and when it took place. Not only do they guide a reader through a narrative, but they also help enrich the writing and make it more complex. Most people master the simple and perfect tenses rather easily, but the others can be a struggle. Including the conditional tenses, there are a total of 18 tenses in the English language. This article will discuss the present and past tenses and all the variations thereof. Each tense can be written using an affirmative statement, a negated statement, and a question.

Simple Present
The simple present tense is used to indicate an action that is currently taking place. This can be a one-time occurrence, a repeating occurrence, or one never happening at all. The auxiliary verb door does is sometimes used, especially in the case of a question.

Example 1: She writes.
Example 2: She does not write.
Example 3: Does she write?

Present Progressive (Present Continuous)
The present progressive tense is used to indicate an action that is taking place during the current time and the currently time only. In other words, the action has a limited duration. The –ing form of the main verb is always used along with the corresponding auxiliary verb am, is, or are.

Example 1: She is writing.
Example 2: She is not writing.
Example 3: Is she writing?

Present Perfect
The present perfect tense is used to indicate an action that is still going on or has recently stopped. If it is signifying a finished action, that action has an influence on the present and often immediately precedes an action taking place in the present time. The perfect tense form of the main verb is used in conjunction with the auxiliary verb has or have.

Example 1: She has written a book.
Example 2: She has not written a book.
Example 3: Has she written a book?

Present Perfect Progressive (Present Perfect Continuous)
The present perfect progressive tense is used to indicate an action that has recently stopped or is still going on. Emphasis is on duration of the action. If it is signifying a finished action, that action has an influence on the present. The –ing form of the main verb is used along with corresponding auxiliary verbs have been or has been.

Example 1: She has been writing since she was a young girl.
Example 2: She has not been writing since she was a young girl.
Example 3: Has she been writing since she was a young girl?

Simple Past
The simple past tense is used to indicate an action that took place at an earlier time. It is often used to speak of an action that occurred in the more recent past, though that is not always the case. The auxiliary verb did is sometimes used, especially in the case of a question.

Example 1: She wrote a book.
Example 2: She did not write a book.
Example 3: Did she write a book?

Past Progressive (Past Continuous)
The past progressive tense is used to indicate an action that happened at a very specific point in the past. That action is also considered to have a limited duration. The auxiliary verb wasor were is used in conjunction with the –ing form of the main verb.

Example 1: She was writing.
Example 2: She was not writing
Example 3: Was she writing?


Past Perfect
The past perfect tense is used to indicate an action that took place far in the past before another event in the past. It is sometimes interchangeable with (and preferable to) the past perfect progressive tense. The perfect tense form of the main verb is used in conjunction with the auxiliary verb had.

Example 1: She had written.
Example 2: She had not written.
Example 3: Had she written?

Past Perfect Progressive (Past Perfect Continuous)
The past perfect progressive tense is used to indicate an action that took place before a certain time in the past. It is sometimes interchangeable with the past perfect tense. Emphasis is on the duration of the action. The –ing form of the main verb is used in conjunction with the auxiliary verbs had and been.

Example 1: She had been writing all weekend.
Example 2: She had not been writing all weekend.
Example 3: Had she been writing all weekend?

The Grammar Grind: Sentence Types

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

When I was first asked to do an article on sentence structure, I wasn't positive how I wanted to approach it. Sentence structure is a rather broad topic that covers many techniques and rules for writing sentences. However, I settled on splitting the topic into several articles rather than one large one. This particular post will cover sentence types and how to incorporate sentence variation into your writing. There are four main types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Each one contains different parts of speech and can be somewhat manipulated to give you a wide variety of sentence structure. As I discussed in a previous post, sentence variation is one of the key elements of good writing. Without it, the writing can by dry and monotonous, so it's important to include each of these throughout your pieces, particularly with longer pieces of fiction.

Simple Sentences Simple sentences have one independent clause with no dependent ones. They usually contain little more than a subject and a verb but can vary in length.

Example A: The dog barked. Example B: Christopher walked to the store. Example C: Michael fed the chickens in the yard.

Compound Sentences Compound sentences contain more than one independent clause and no dependent ones. The clauses are typically joined with a coordinating conjunction. Each clause in a compound sentence must be able to stand on its own.

Example A: Jill turned left, and Tommy turned right. Example B: I remembered to pack my lunch, but I forgot to grab my umbrella. Example C: My aunt is coming to visit, so I need to clean my room.

Complex Sentences Complex sentences only have one independent clause, but they contain at least one dependent clause. In other words, they contain a clause that relies on the rest of the sentence to make it a complete thought. Dependent clauses used at the beginning of a sentence require a comma after them.

Example A: After I brushed my teeth, I was ready for bed. Example B: Samantha gets nervous whenever she has to speak in front of a large group. Example C: As per Miss Haley's instructions, we continued writing our papers until the end of class.

Compound-Complex Sentences Compound-complex sentences utilize more than one type of sentence. They contain multiple independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

Example A: The stormy weather knocked out our power last night, and because of the outage, our alarm clocks never sounded. Example B: When one of our tires suddenly went flat, we pulled over, and Dad retrieved the spare from the trunk.

As you can see from the above examples, there are many ways to construct each sentence type just by adding or a removing adjectives, adverbs, and phrases. Use the different types to strengthen your writing and flow prose.

For further information about sentence types and independent/dependent clauses, you can check out the following resources: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/573/02/ http://eslbee.com/sentences.htm https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/598/01/ http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/subordinateclause.htm

Grammar Grind Post Update

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

The next Grammar Grind series post is coming soon for those wondering about it. In order to tackle some of the larger topics that were requested, I’ve decided to break it up into components and do multiple posts regarding it rather than one large one. In the mean time, there is always new stuff to check out on my Tumblr blog. This week has been a rather crazy one, so I've fallen behind a bit on my regular postings, but rest assured, things should be back to normal next week.

The Grammar Grind: Semicolons and Colons

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

Semicolons and colons are great for adding variety to your sentences and establishing bonds where necessary. But they are often misused because of their fluidity. It's also easy to confuse the two. So let's take a look at each and clarify when they are appropriate.

Semicolons
Semicolons can be used to link two sentences or ideas that are closely related but function independently. The joined sentences will often have a cause/effect relationship and are considered to be of equal weight. In other words, they express a similar idea or outcome.

Example: I went to the store; we were out of laundry detergent.

In the example, using a period after "store" would also be correct. However, the second half of the sentence serves as a cause to the first half, so joining the two clauses makes sense.

A good test to use for semicolons is to replace the semicolon with so or because. If the sentence makes sense with one of those words, a semicolon is likely suitable. Of course, writing the two sentences separately with a period at the end of each is always acceptable. So, if you're not sure whether the clauses can be linked with a semicolon, use a period instead.

Semicolons can also be used to separate items in a list when the items are lengthy or when you have lists within the overall list.

Example 1: When writing a book, you should consider all the characters involved and how they interact with one another; the plot and any related subplots; and what the overall goal in telling the story is (i.e. whether the protagonist will succeed or fail in getting what they want).

Example 2: In order to bake the cake, we need to buy: red, white, and blue berries; white and chocolate cake mix; and tall, medium, and short candles.

A semicolon should never be used to join fragments or to connect two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction (e.g. and, but, and or). A comma is the appropriate punctuation in those situations. The only except is when you have a list within a list, as illustrated in the previous example.

Lastly, semicolons are used to join two main clauses with a conjunctive adverb (e.g. however, therefore, and instead). These adverbs often show cause and effect, sequence, contrast, comparison, or other similar relationships. (See Wikipedia's entry on conjunctive adverbs.)

Colons
Colons are known as the drum roll punctuation. They are used to introduce or define something and to connect related ideas of a different weight.

Example 1: In our garden this year, we planted several things: lettuce, carrots, peas, tomatoes, and cabbage.

Example 2: You only need one thing: common sense.

A good test to for colons is to replace the colon with a comma and the word namely. If the sentence still makes sense, a colon is acceptable.

Unlike the semicolon, a colon can actually be used to join an independent clause with a fragment, usually a noun. It's important to remember though that the independent clause must precede the colon, not follow it.

Note that just as with periods, colons only require one space after them.

Capitalization after a colon is another common question. The short answer is, it depends on the content following it. If the clause following it is a fragment, you should not capitalize the first word. However, if the clause is independent, a stylistic choice must be made. My preference is to capitalize the first letter of the word following a colon, but the most important thing is to be consistent. Also, if there is a proper noun following the colon, such as a name, then the first letter of the following word must be capitalized.

Quick Overview of Semicolons and Colons
1. Semicolons are used to join two independent sentences that are closely related; for separating long items in lists or lists within lists; and to connect two main clauses using a conjunctive adverb.
2. Semicolons should never be used to join fragments.
3. Semicolons cannot replace colons.
4. Colons are used to define or introduce the content following it and can be used to join an independent clause to a fragment.
5. Only one space should be used after a colon.
6. The first word after a colon should not be capitalized if the clause is a fragment; otherwise, capitalizing the first word after a colon is optional unless a proper noun is used.