Category Archives: Mechanics

Cumulative Adjectives vs. Coordinating Adjectives

Where do the commas go?

Quick recap: Adjectives are describing words. They describe nouns (people, places, things, ideas).

Coordinating Adjectives

Coordinating adjectives are interchangeable.

Bright, warm sunshine relaxed me.

Warm, bright sunshine relaxed me.

*

Sparkly, glittery earrings dangled from her ears.

Glittery, sparkly earrings dangled from her ears.

Changing the order of these adjectives does not affect the sentence’s meaning. You may have a preference, but one sentence isn’t “correct” versus the other.

Separate coordinating adjectives with a comma.

Cumulative Adjectives

Cumulative adjectives build on one another.

A few weeks ago I explained the royal order of adjectives. In the royal order of adjectives, there is a very specific order to place your adjectives.

Guess what? These adjectives, in the royal order, are cumulative adjectives.

Do not separate these adjectives with commas.

Master the Comma

I teach this lesson and many others about commas in my online course Master the Comma: Save Face, Time, and Money. It’s hosted by Udemy, which runs fantastic sales and has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Royal Order of Adjectives

This is one of those fun grammar rules that native English speakers follow without having to be taught it explicitly. Your brain will ping when it hears adjectives out of order. Several years ago, Mark Forsyth had a tweet go viral about this.

What is the royal order of ajectives?

Adjectives are words that describe (modify) nouns. And order is to put items in a sequence. Royal, well, I don’t know why this rule gets the regal treatment. But the royal order of adjectives is the order in which we list adjectives when there are multiple adjectives modifying a noun.

Beth Hill, at The Editor’s Blog, says this order (and other similar rules) are created through use and exist to create clear communication.

Nine adjective categories (that precede the noun):

Determiner: articles (a, an, the), possessives (his, hers, theirs), and numbers.

Observation: can be objective or subjective (hot, cold, tall, short, beautiful, ugly)

Physical Description: Size, Shape, Age, Color (in this order)

Origin: where something is from (American, Australian, Brazilian, Canadian)

Material: what it’s made from (aluminum, cashmere, pipe cleaners)

Qualifier: what kind of noun you’re describing (packing tape, bubblegum tape, masking tape, washi tape)

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Ellipses aka Drama Dots

Dot, dot, dot. Does anything stir your curiosity more?

I recently heard someone call ellipses drama dots, and now I want to rename them. Drama dots sounds much more intriguing.

Figuring out how to use ellipses correctly comes with its own kind of intrigue.

Here are four ways to use an ellipsis in your writing.

Omission

When writing nonfiction, sometimes a quote is needed to lend credence to an idea or to illustrate a description. The ellipsis can be used to indicate that the writer has chosen to omit something from the quoted material, usually to maintain brevity and to focus on one idea.

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The Very Sweary Dictionary

Someone once told me that cursing indicated a poverty of language. He’d been in the Navy, so I imagine he’d gotten his fill of swear words. If you agree, or don’t write in a genre where cursing is appropriate, then skip this Teaching Corner.

I know many writers are swearbears, though. Nothing can make a writer cuss louder than an unexpected Word update just when they’ve hit a writing groove and all the words are flowing easily.

How do you spell $%^#@?

And sometimes, characters curse, too. The basic swears can be found in most any dictionary. But there are so many creative options that aren’t found in Merriam Webster. And Urban Dictionary can make your eyeballs bleed. So how do you know when to hyphenate or close up that compound swear word?

The Very Sweary Dictionary

My edibuddy, Kia Thomas, has written a blogpost about this very thing. And if that’s not enough, she’s put together her own compendium, called “A Very Sweary Dictionary.” I learned a few new colorful phrases after reading this treat. You’re welcome.

As Kia says, the important thing, as always when writing, is consistency. Mark down your swear-word spellings on your style sheet, and find that writing groove again.

Photo by Ocean Biggshott on Unsplash

Punctuation Pizzazz with the Em-Dash

The em-dash is one of my favorite punctuation marks. No worries if you have no idea what an em-dash is. I didn’t either until I became an editor. Well, I knew what it was, I just didn’t know its name.

I love the em-dash because it’s got some pizazz. As a reader, it catches my eye and makes me pay attention to what follows it. As a writer, I can use it to slow a moment down fast, to create a mood, and to guide the readers’ attention to a detail I don’t want them to miss. The em-dash can’t be ignored.

The em-dash looks like this: — .

It is often confused with the hyphen (-) and the en-dash (–). But the em-dash (—) is longer than the hyphen and the en-dash. In the old days of typesetting, the em-dash was the width of the letter M, hence its name.

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A Holiday Card Punctuation PSA

Here’s my PSA for holiday card prep:

Apostrophes do NOT make a word (including your last name!) plural.

If you want to make your last name plural, add an “s” or “es” to the end of your name.

Correct: the Physiocs, the Hyders, the Witkopps, the Millers, the Evelyns

Incorrect: the Physioc’s, the Hyder’s, the Witkopp’s, the Miller’s, the Evelyn’s

I know you’re wondering about those names that end in “s” or “z”. What about them, you ask?

Correct: the Ayerses, the Cappses, the Corneliuses, the Martinezes

Now, I do not care for Ayerses. It looks wonky to me. So I opt for a rewrite.

Also Correct: the Ayers Family, the Capps Family, the Cornelius Family

Please, please, pretty please, do not add an apostrophe to your last name when you’re trying to make it plural.

And if you’re still not sure how to make your last name plural, email and ask me. I’ll hook you up!

Style Sheets

Style sheets are one of my favorite organizational tools during the line editing process. They will save you so much time as you move from line editing, or copyediting, to proofreading.

When you’re reviewing your line edits, the style sheet is like a buddy that you can refer to when you’re wondering why I made a suggested edit.

Providing your proofreader with a style sheet is a great gift and will make their process so much easier because they’ll have access to all the decisions we made for your book. And if you’re writing a series, there a must have because there is no way you’ll remember all the stylistic decisions you made when writing the first book.

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