Tag Archives: Editing

Cats and First Sentences

This past week I have been babysitting my daughter’s cat. Isabella Rose is a sweet brown tabby. My daughter watched Perry once for a week, so Izzie knows Perry and they get along fine. At one point, I thought Perry was in love with Izzie, but that ardor has cooled and they are just “parallel play” buddies, like toddlers. The other day I let Perry go in the bedroom alone with Izzie because I was busy and thought he would babysit her for awhile. Hah!

When I went back to look for him, I couldn’t find him anywhere. I started to think the gardener had let him out of the bedroom and had forgotten. I searched the whole house. Nada. Then I remembered something. The bedroom was once his bedroom when he was new to our house. At that time, he clawed a hole in the bottom of the box springs so he could climb up in there.

Sure enough, I found him up under the bed. With the boards and the fabric bottom surrounding him, I thought he was stuck up there. If you want to see a very dark video, check out my Instagram. If you have an account, please follow me, and I will follow you back if you “like” Perry’s pic/video (so I know you’re legit haha).

Come to find out, Perry just didn’t want me to take him out of Izzie’s room. He got out of there just fine when he wanted a treat.

Before I let you go, tell me if you think this is an appalling first sentence for a chapter (because I do):

The first hint of fall filled the crisp late afternoon air.

It’s boring, but that’s not the problem I find with it. What the heck is the “first hint of fall”? Huh? WHAT specifically fills the air. I can’t imagine it. There is no image so of course I can’t imagine it. Is it a smell that fills the air? A sound? Please share it with me, writer.

I discovered this annoyance in Rita Mae Brown’s Tall Tail, one of the cat mystery series Brown writes with Sneaky Pie Brown (her tabby who MUST have passed on by now). It’s a Bantam Book and Brown is a big-ass writer. Years ago, I read her influential lesbian novels Rubyfruit Jungle and Six of One. She’s a good and prolific writer, but I’m really appalled at the poor editing (on the part of an editor?) that would allow this sentence to go to press.

Why am I sharing my frustration? I tend to think that if the book has a big publisher it’s been well edited. But I guess not. This is not my first disappointment of this nature either. Is this a new development in the world of books or have I not noticed it before?

OK, done, time to think about other things.



Love and light to you and yours!




Filed under #AmWriting, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Editing, Writing

Getting a Little Help With My Grammar

I use Grammarly to check plagiarism online because I want to find out if somebody’s pilfered something from my head before I can use it.

Yes, sometimes I feel as if somebody gets the ideas out before I get a chance.

Seriously, though, if you’re wondering why I wrote that first sentence it’s because I got a nice present from Grammarly for linking to them. But the truth is that I like Grammarly and that’s the only reason I am writing this post. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think the product had value.

I used to teach college, and there were always those papers. “Those papers” came in different forms.

  • There were the well-written papers by people who can’t string two sentences together for a quiz.
  • There were the well-written papers that were definitely not written to fulfill the writing prompt.
  • There were the very awful papers with a big patch of grammatical writing smack in the middle of sentence fragments and misspellings.
  • There were the papers that sounded like a review on Amazon (and were).
  • There was the papers like the one I got from a white female about the experience of a black male from a previous generation (turned out to be Langston Hughes).

You get the idea. They were plagiarized papers.  You know, the ones where I spent a lot more time grading them than the students spent “writing” them.

I wish I’d had Grammarly to use for these papers.  So what do I like it for now that I am no longer teaching? It’s a quick fix that tells me if a piece of writing has grammar issues or if it accidentally cribs somebody without giving credit.  My daughter and I have been working on her acting and music website, and we used Grammarly to help smooth out the text.

I’m not an expert on grammar because my training in teaching English was in reading and analyzing literature and in writing fiction and poetry. And I’m not a grammar snob either, although I have some friends who are (they are the ones who make grammar jokes on Facebook).

My students used to ask me if there was something like “spell check” for grammar. There wasn’t anything that worked well.

But now there is Grammarly.

So I ran the above through Grammarly.  The results were 21 errors and a score of 56 out of 100!  Huh? For an ex-teacher of–wait for it–English?!

I proceeded to use Grammarly the way it is intended: as a little nag that makes you stop and look at a variety of possible errors.  The first few errors were related to the name Grammarly. Because it ends with an -ly it read the word as an adverb. That’s understandable. But it shows that you have to use Grammarly as a guide, not as a model.

Another error was that I began the third sentence with the conjunction “but.” This usage is not proper for formal writing, but hey, this is a blog post, and I like it to be more conversational. Don’t you? But I appreciate the reminder.

Grammarly didn’t like my first sentence because it is wordy. Thanks, Grammarly :).

Now look at the second item in my list.  It reads: “There were the well-written papers that were definitely not written to fulfill the writing prompt.” Grammarly advises me that I do not necessarily need the modifier “definitely.” I sure don’t. But I like it because it adds emphasis. Oops, I just started a sentence with a conjunction again. Actually, I am really glad it pointed out the “definitely” though because I am prone to overusing modifiers.

Overall, a lot of the errors Grammarly found were because I wrote the blog post in a conversational style, using informal grammar. But for more formal purposes, like my daughter’s website or professional writing, these prompts from Grammarly are invaluable.  Also, there are two explanations for each error–a long one and a short one!


But wait. There are different formats to use for reviewing your writing! I was running my blog post through “General.” They also offer Business, Academic, Technical, Creative, and Casual.

I ran the above section of this post through Creative and got only 5 errors, and through Casual I received 4. Most of these were stop-and-consider notices, not true errors.

One caveat . . .

Up above, I wrote this sentence: “There was the papers like the one I got from a white female about the experience of a black male from a previous generation (turned out to be Langston Hughes).”

Do you notice the error? There was  should be There were.  But Grammarly didn’t catch it the first time or the second or the third. Then I isolated the sentence and tried it alone, and Grammarly told me I had zero errors.

Bottom line is this

I really like Grammarly. I’ve been waiting for it for a long time. It performs some of the same functions as the WordPress proofreader, but is much more elaborate and specific.  It’s not meant to be used on its own to edit your writing. It’s meant to be your partner in the process. You need some knowledge of English grammar and punctuation to get the most out of the program.

And for some reason running text through the review is almost as addictive as Candy Crush.

Here’s a little image for my grammar snob friends:


Filed under Editing, Nonfiction, Writing