Show, not Tell

There are 3 rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

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Lesson 21

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Continuation from Lesson 20. Once again, my inspiration is fictionpress. Today, I did my usual reviews and I stumbled across a writer with a very unique way of sounding out words. I commend them for their creativity in spelling. However, we’ve got more important fish to catch.

Vocab Wizard

First things first; the almighty there, their, they’re. You’ve got to love the way English is, right? (We all know it’s the easiest language to learn, of course.) There is a direction. One trick you can use to remember this is by remembering other directional words, such as here and where. Of course, this method is problematic if you can’t remember those… but we’ll assume you can! Notice how here, there and where all end with “ere”. When going through the choices, just keep in mind that the word ending with “ere” is the one you need for direction. Ex: It is over there.


Their is possessive. The best way I can think of would be to just remember the other two and do a process of elimination, though it’s not very exciting.

They’re is the contraction of they are. Just like with the last lesson and it’s vs its, the easiest way to check if this is the right one is to break it down. If you go into the sentence and say, for example, “They’re coming to visit.” –> “They are coming to visit.” Simple as that!

Sticking with th words, let’s move onto through vs. threw. Most often when I’m looking over fiction press posts, I notice that these two get mixed up. It’s a common mix up, sadly. Threw is the past tense action of throwing. Example sentence in present tense: “He throws his baseball bat.” Past tense: “He threw his baseball bat.” Threw is a verb.

Through is where something/someone goes into something on one side and comes out the other. Ex: “We went through a tunnel.” Not much more to it, really.

Hope this clears up any confusion people might have had about some of these! There are more homophones out there that I could go over, but this is it for now.


Written by Devin Bond

December 1, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Lessons, Punctuation

Lesson 20

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Each day I go through fiction and try to find interesting stories to read and review. Of course, sometimes I’m not in the mood, or there isn’t anything near 1000 words (my minimum) and sometimes I just forget. I try do 2-3 reviews and I try to be as constructive as possible–it’s good practice for critiquing. A skill that I definitely need to hone more, but that’s off topic. As I go through, I’ve noticed that there are quite a few people that forget apostrophes, spaces, hyphens and more. I think it’s common to do that at times (Jessie’ll be the first to tell you that I’m horrible with let’s vs. lets and it’s vs its.)

So, just to get it out of the way (and to show I really do know!) let’s vs lets. Let’s is a contraction of ‘let us’. Lets is the present tense of the verb let, which has quite a few meanings! The best way to make sure you’ve got the right word is to undo the contraction and see if it works. Ex:Let’s go to the store.” –> “Let us go to the store.” Or, you can check and see that it’s wrong. Ex: “She let’s go of him.” –> “She let us go of him.” Let’s doesn’t work there, so it has to be lets.


The Monster

Alot by Allie Brosh


It’s is the contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. Its is possessive. Just like with let’s/lets, you can use the same trick here! Ex: “It’s a tree.” –> “It is a tree.” Wrong would be: “It’s face.” –> “It is face.” That isn’t English, so you know it has to be its.

Sometimes we all forget, or don’t press the apostrophe key down and we end up with a word completely different than what we were going for. I often see “wont” and “cant” in the place of “won’t” and “can’t.” Wont means accustomed or used to, where as won’t is will + not. Cant is whining or begging and can’t is cannot–notice it isn’t can + not. Cannot is one word. (Also take note that can + not is legal, but it doesn’t equal the contraction “can’t”.) These seem like silly mistakes, but people make them a lot.

Speaking of a lot…

I’m going to bold this sentence because this really is the most common mistake I’ve ever seen. There is a space between the A and the word Lot. Alot isn’t a word! (Allot is, but that’s not what we’re talking about.) A friend showed me this lovely post about the wonders of Alot. Hopefully it will remind you Alot lovers that there is a space.

I could go on and on about more things like these, (like their, they’re and there, which has been beaten in since elementary school) but these are the biggest things that I see. I hope this helps at least some of you!

Written by Devin Bond

November 17, 2010 at 5:30 am

Posted in Advice, Lessons, Punctuation

Punctuation: Commas

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I was going to do an elaborate post on imagination, but that can wait for next week. I want to focus this time on the bare bones of writing: punctuation. Here are some hard and fast rules inspired by Dan Ranly. I’ve never been good with the technical language of sentence structure, so I’m going to avoid it and stick only with examples!

Placing Commas

1. Series and lists.

A cat, a dog, and a mouse.

Also when each item is a sentence.

She was beautiful ten years ago, she was beautiful five years ago, and she’s beautiful now.

2. Introductory phrases.

Until the sun rose, he was sleeping; Everyone was asleep, but John was not.

It is optional with a prepositional phrase.

In his earlier years, he was handsome.

It is also optional with introductory adverbs.

Suddenly, it was warm.

3. Interrupting phrases.

The lawn, which was green, was unkempt; Everything was white, a glittering white, and clean.

4. Interjections.

Oh, how fun; Yes, that sounds good; Elizabeth, shut up; You’re funny, too; Alas, I should have laughed.

5. Between two adjectives describing the same thing.

The glowing, bright orange; The tall, awkward girl.

There’s your basic rules for using and placing commas. The general understanding is that if you read the sentence out loud and naturally pause somewhere, a comma probably belongs in that place. Sometimes this doesn’t work (see: interjections) and that’s when knowing the rules can come in handy!

Written by Jessica Lei

November 4, 2010 at 6:00 am

Posted in Punctuation