Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

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Sommer Leigh
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Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by Sommer Leigh » September 29th, 2010, 10:58 pm

Today YA author John Green (of Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns fame) posted a vlog in response to his brother's Monday vlog about grammar and communication.

Watch the videos below, but at the end of John's vlog he says:

"The job of grammar and pronunciation is to make language as clear and efficient and transparent as possible ...but if we are all constantly correcting each others grammar and being really snotty about it then people stop talking because they start to be petrified that they'll make some kind of terrible grammatical error. And that's precisely the opposite of what grammar is supposed to do which is to facilitate clear communication..."

And I really, really agree with this because as a card carrying English graduate, I still don't have a handle on effect vs. affect, I still misspell "definately" "definitely" "definetely" every time I type it, and I mispronounce "opossum" as "Oh-possum" which comes up a lot more often than you think when you own a home and they won't stop partying in your garbage cans.

My husband teaches high school English and it never fails that his kids understand grammar until he starts teaching it. They know what a noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, conjunction are until he names them and suddenly they have no idea what function "quickly" has in a sentence that reads "He quickly ran away when the opossum attacked." And they loathe answering grammar questions out of fear of sounding like an idiot when, if they stopped thinking about it so hard, they would remember they already know how to use grammar correctly. For the most part.

It is worse for us as writers because the last thing in the world you want other writers to know about you is that you couldn't explain the difference between affect and effect if you had a gun held to your head. Thankfully, Nathan's forums have been a safe place free of the tyranny of people awesome at grammar attacking those that aren't, but not every place is a safe haven of thoughts and ideas and honest mistakes as Nathan's forums.

So at the end of John's vlog he proposes that we all come together and non-snottily ask and answer grammatical and pronunciation questions we've always had. I thought this was an excellent idea, and to expand it further and say, not just ask and answer, but also use this time as a safe confessional to admit that we don't notice split infinitives half as often as we should, and that "that and who" still get mixed up when we write, and that spell check really saves our dignity most of the time.

I admit that this year, when teaching someone at work the difference between e.g. and i.e., I finally understood it enough not to have to look it up for clarification anymore, but I will probably never understand effect and affect. Unless someone has a great way to teach it that doesn't make my head explode.

This is John's video, which is a response to the one below.


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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by Down the well » September 29th, 2010, 11:25 pm

Hello, my name is Down the well, and I don't know when to use lay or lie. Unless someone is telling fibs.

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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by cheekychook » September 29th, 2010, 11:34 pm

Life would be much easier if we could all get away with talking/writing like the I Can Haz Cheezeburger Cats.

Actually, in my house we humans sometimes talk like that for entertainment purposes. The most common phrase being "I bawt yous some chocklat but I ated it."
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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by Claudie » September 29th, 2010, 11:54 pm

Down the well wrote:Hello, my name is Down the well, and I don't know when to use lay or lie. Unless someone is telling fibs.
Neither do I. Or rather, I can never remember which is which. I check them up when I revise.

As for pronunciation, well, I'll pretty much mess up every single word I say, or nearly. I have what you call an accent, though, so I think most people forgive me. ;) Ironically, I cannot, for the life of me, put the stress on 'character' at the right place -- and you can easily imagine how often I use that word.
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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by polymath » September 30th, 2010, 12:56 am

I don't correct grammar unless expressly asked or hired or assigned. I get asked a lot. I don't often do it for free. I overlook a lot when I'm not asked. I can usually figure out what's meant in everyday casual conversation.

Affect/effect. Generally, affect is used as a transitive verb, effect a noun for most usages. However, affect has noun usages and effect has transitive verb usages. For a best practice, I resort to a dictionary for its example sentences for comparison when in any slightest doubt. Webster's collegiate edition lists effect/affect usage distinctions under effect's definition entry 2, transitive verb.

Affect transitive verb examples;
Bailey and Connor affect indifference toward each other around campus.
Gravity and sunlight affect most of life.
Bullets don't affect Superman.

Effect noun examples;
The effect continued for days.
Hollywood movie explosions are exaggerated for effect.
No one currently knows Neuronitin's full effects.
Lethargy is a side effect of sedative drugs.

Affect noun examples; (conscious subjective aspect of an emotion considered apart from bodily changes, also; a set of observable manifestions of a subjectively experienced emotion. Webster's)
Mabel's affect was different after her lifelong husband's death.
Lyrica, Cymbalta, and other pregablin medications, though prescribed for neural pain, epillepsy, and social anxiety treatment, cause a difference in behavioral affect akin to Valium.

Effect transitive verb examples;
Circus clowns effect laughter.
Civil courts effect judicious settlements no one is ever completely satisified with.
Modern government is presupposed to effect the will of the citizenry.

Lay, a transitive verb meaning to place, and lie an intransitive verb meaning to recline. For a lengthy discussion on the distinctions and usages I recommend a dictionary of English usage.

Conjugations;
Present, past tense, past participle
Lay, laid, laid
Lie, lay, lain

Sorting out the differences between transitive and intransitive verbs goes a long way toward grammar proficiency, which, unfortunately, isn't a widely-taught general education topic in public schools. Public schools in general focus on nine parts of English speech. There are hundreds of other parts of English speech categories and subcategories. Too many to cram into young persons' heads in so short a time as grammar school or later high school.

For writers' continuing grammar education, I recommend a style manual appropriate to a writer's chosen genre. Chicago Manual of Style for U.S. prose. Associated Press Style Manual for U.S. journalism. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing for U.S. formal writing, for examples. There are hundreds of region and genre-specific style manuals. Also, I recommend a dictionary of English usage. Webster's for U.S., Fowler's for British publishing. And a modern collegiate-level dictionary for all its additional content, i.e., synonym distinctions, examples, usage distinctions, cross references, etc.
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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by Down the well » September 30th, 2010, 9:16 am

Claudie wrote:Down the well wrote:
Hello, my name is Down the well, and I don't know when to use lay or lie. Unless someone is telling fibs.


Neither do I. Or rather, I can never remember which is which. I check them up when I revise.
Yep. I always have to double check to see if I'm using the right one. Gee, and now I find out they have these newfangled things called dictionaries with definitions and everything. Where have I been? :?

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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by Margo » September 30th, 2010, 11:13 am

Down the well wrote:Hello, my name is Down the well, and I don't know when to use lay or lie. Unless someone is telling fibs.
Ditto, though polymath's post below yours cleared it up...until I forget again.

So my handicap is the usage of 'was/were' when the subject is first person. If I were going to... No, no, I mean if I was going to... No, maybe... Merde.
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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by Mira » September 30th, 2010, 11:40 am

Goodness, polymath. That's.....awesome.

Sommer - great post. Effect/affect is one of my biggest challenges. I feel better though, reading polymath's explanation. No wonder - it makes no sense whatsoever. It's completely random.

I also confuse ie with ei ALL the time. Is it achieve or acheive? They both look right to me.

And I can't spell exercise. or is it exersize? exersice? I look it up, spell it right, and lose it again. I think the first one is right, but I can't be sure.

I have a long list of those. I've sort of given up, other than to laugh at them. I will never master this - I surrender. Truly. There are just some words I never use - I've gotten very good at word substitution. :)

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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by sierramcconnell » September 30th, 2010, 11:44 am

This is why I let the squiggles in Word do their thing.

Then I let the betas do their thing.

Then if anything is left, I usually get a nagging feeling if I hadn't already gotten it before the squiggles in Word.

XD

Oh, I neglected to mention, I grew up in the country, so I don't talk near as well as I write\type, and that's barely as proficient as it should be.

I'm too much like Mikael, my character that grew up 'in the Valley'. Because I grew up in the river valley. XD

"I don't wanna bother ya'll none, but do ya got any water?" Yes, I talk like that when I'm around friends, and at work, I tend to be a little more professional, but it was hard tryin' ta learn! XD
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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by Down the well » September 30th, 2010, 11:55 am

Margo wrote:So my handicap is the usage of 'was/were' when the subject is first person. If I were going to... No, no, I mean if I was going to... No, maybe... Merde.
Spoiler:
Merde.
Ha! Yay, new button. Had to try it. :)
Last edited by Down the well on September 30th, 2010, 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by Sommer Leigh » September 30th, 2010, 12:29 pm

Mira wrote:Goodness, polymath. That's.....awesome.

Sommer - great post. Effect/affect is one of my biggest challenges. I feel better though, reading polymath's explanation. No wonder - it makes no sense whatsoever. It's completely random.

I also confuse ie with ei ALL the time. Is it achieve or acheive? They both look right to me.

And I can't spell exercise. or is it exersize? exersice? I look it up, spell it right, and lose it again. I think the first one is right, but I can't be sure.

I have a long list of those. I've sort of given up, other than to laugh at them. I will never master this - I surrender. Truly. There are just some words I never use - I've gotten very good at word substitution. :)
I would be lying if I said my rule of thumb for "effect/affect" is whichever one I instinctively went to use, I pick the other.

I also have trouble with exercise. And restaurant. Honestly, I have no idea how I ever graduated some times. I can analyze the heck out of any piece of literature, but don't ask me to spell check your essay for you. I thank God every day for the little red Microsoft squiggles and the right-click-correct option.
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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by Mira » September 30th, 2010, 12:56 pm

Sommer: Restuarant! That's an impossible one for me too!

I don't know why it makes me feel better knowing someone else can't spell a word, but it does. :) I've given up on using the word: "particularly". I can NOT spell that word. Is that right? I give up. I just use the word 'especially', instead. :p

And I'm in school now, where occasionally I have to use the word effect or affect. It's very embarrassing to write a paper for school and basically cross my fingers while I pick one or the other.

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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by polymath » September 30th, 2010, 1:04 pm

Were/was, regardless of narrative person in most cases, have objective and subjunctive case distinction usages. Second person past singular takes an objective case usage of were. There's an exception to every rule. For objective case persons otherwise, were for plural and was for singular uses. This is another circumstance with English usage dictionary answers.

Objective case uses;
I was fine after the storm.
We were at the game late.
You weren't either taking your time.
He was an ancient warrior.
They were late.

Were subjunctive first person case uses;
If I were to go now, you would go too?
If I were a rich man, I would be the emperor of my destiny.
[subjunctive; of, relating to, or constituting a verb form or set of verb forms that represents a denoted act or state not as fact but as contingent or possible or viewed emotionally (as with doubt or desire) <the subjunctive mood> Webster's Collegiate]
Note conditional or contingent if used for subjunctive case between subjunctive verb were and modal verb would.

Wiggle clause: These and other grammar rules are prescriptive principles. With descriptive principles the sky's the limit, as discussed at length and sometimes quite humorously in English usage dictionaries.
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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by polymath » September 30th, 2010, 1:29 pm

Mira wrote: I also confuse ie with ei ALL the time. Is it achieve or acheive? They both look right to me.
"I before E except after C or when sounded like A as in neighbor and weigh." Is the mnenonic I learned in grammar school. But there are numerous exceptions to the rule. Height, ancient, species, etc. Achieve follows the main rule, I before E.

Exercise is correct. Restaurant, but restaurateur.

What can I say? English is a living language. It got more lively with the Internet and follow-on digital technology. Middle Twentieth century social change also radically affected language. I've got a hundred years of dictionary installments on my reference shelves for keeping abreast. Noah Webster pretty much standardized U.S. Standard Written English at the beginning of the Nineteenth century and it stayed that way until the beginning of the Twentieth. Then it started slowly evolving again, major bumps middle century and century's end. Texting is having a major impact. A noun that's become a verb: text, texting, texted, etc. And all the bleeping acronyms and punctuation smilies. Squirrely capitalizations and compounded words to keep abreast of . . . I'd lose my mind if it weren't so fascinating how language adapts and evolves.
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Re: Grammar, Language, and Communication: Ask & Answer

Post by AMSchilling » September 30th, 2010, 5:49 pm

Hmm... so many to choose from....

1. Hearing people talk about participles and gerunds and all those grammar bits makes my eyes go fuzzy and roll up in the back of my head. I can communicate clearly, and most of the time I can string a sentence together properly. But if you ask me to identify the parts of a sentence, my mind will promptly leave for vacation and not tell me where it's going. If I'm lucky it will send me a postcard reminding me that verbs boss nouns around. Which is why I will never be an English teacher.

2. I hate semi-colons. It's a sickness, I know. My novel has exactly two semi-colons in it, and that's only because I had no choice.

3. Affect/effect. And I find myself saying the "I before E except after C..." a lot. Then again, I also still say "My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets," to remember the order of the solar system. Sorry, but Pluto got robbed. I'll keep my saying as is. :-)
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