Tips & Hints

Those of us who are inclined to use a pen as our sword in the mighty war with words often encounter frustration in the expression and description of our battles. Just when we think we've conquered the almighty comma, the semicolon flanks us from behind, and before you know it, there are grammatical casualties lying all around us. To add to the mayhem, we're rushed from the left by the colon and a dash from the right. Where are the grammar medics?
Because there are so many resources available both in print and online, finding concise help can be confusing. Trying to resolve a particular situation can induce frustration when bogged down by too much information.
My purpose in this section of my website is to highlight the problem areas I encounter as an editor in the hope that I can make your job easier by bringing clarification to common issues.  My remarks will be limited to the mistakes I see  frequently and what to do about them.
Using Commas to Separate Independent Clauses
An independent clause is a complete sentence in that it contains a subject and a verb; it can be simple or very complex. In writing, it is common practice to join one or more independent clauses together with a coordinating conjunction to keep the flow of thought moving and not get chopped up with periods.
  1. Before: It is a beautiful day outside. I want to sit in my chair on the deck and enjoy the warmth.
  2.  After: It is a beautiful day outside, and I want to sit in my chair on the deck and enjoy the warmth.
By inserting the comma before the connecting word (conjunction), the sentence automatically flows more smoothly. Examples of connecting words/conjunctions are and, but, yet, or, nor.

As an editor, I see these words confused all the time.  A writer will use one form in a sentence and then will use the other in the next. After a few chapters, it is obvious that the writer is guessing.  Here are a couple hints to help clear this up.
1.  Affect: Normally used as a verb, meaning "to influence, have an effect on.  When used as a noun, it is being used in a psychological sense about moods or emotions.
  • As a Verb:  Bad weather conditions can affect the outcome of a race.
  •  As a Noun:  The patient's affect was inappropriate to the situation.
2.  Effect: Normally used as a noun meaning "outcome, result." It may also be used as a verb meaning "to make happen,  produce."
  • As a Noun: The sound effects were incredible.
  • As a Verb:  The idea was to effect a change in policy.
In most situations, affect is a verb, and effect is a noun.

Have you ever admired a beautiful painting, a piece of handmade lace, or anything handcrafted that caught your eye as well as your mind? Have you thought about what specific elements earned your admiration? Was it the color, texture, or the overall effect?  Give a group of artists the same assignment of painting a particular landscape, and rarely, will any be alike.  Artists analyze the composition of the scene through light, color, texture, as well as the type of media to produce what is in their minds. The end result is a journey through the eye of the painter, and that vision is as unique as each individual.
It is the same for a writer, only the tools are different.  When I read a novel, I "hear" the voice of the author in my mind. I enjoy experiencing the different voices of writers, for they offer me a glimpse into their minds concerning places, people, and events at a particular point in time.  A novelist cannot be objective, as it is the nature of the content to be subjective.  I refer to this as the "voice" each writer has within him/herself. It is this voice that makes the words unique, that have the power to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.
It is advised that every writer make use of an editor, one that can help strengthen that voice through the proper use of grammar, correct spelling and sentence structure, as well as good content flow.  Don't ever settle for an editor who would want to make you sound like a technical manual; instead, find that editor who listens for the melody created by your words.

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