Written words and spoken words are two very different beasts, especially if you’re a historical adventure writer like I am. The trickiest bit has been figuring out how authentic I want to be with sentence structure, word choice and so on.
You’d think that, as a writer, I’d enjoy learning all the technical terms that come with the English language. Alas, I hated it. All throughout grade school I could never figure out why something needed a name to describe how a bit of language functions. Now, at nearly 34 years of age, I’m regretting not paying more attention.
So I decided to look a few of them up. While several make complete sense, others are clear as mud. Below are seven grammar terms I’ve definitely forgotten.
Represents a group of people, animals or objects. Collective nouns are singular in form and take a singular verb when they refer to the group as a single unit. Common collective nouns include audience, government, herd and public.
Is a grammatically incomplete clause because some key words have been omitted, usually to avoid repetition. Generally, the meaning can easily be understood from the context. For example, after reading that Jean has five dollars; Mary, three, most people will understand that Mary has three dollars, even though the words hasand dollars have been omitted from the elliptical clause. When an ellipsis is marked by a comma within the second clause, the clauses must be separated by a semicolon, as in the example given.
Follows a linking verb (e.g.be, become, seem) and completes the meaning of the subject by renaming it (e.g.supervisor in Janet is my supervisor) or describing it (e.g.tired in Jack seems tired). A subject complement may be a noun, a pronoun or an adjective.
Does not express an action. A linking verb connects the subject to its subject complement. The verbs be (e.g.My team leader is efficient), become (e.g.Julia became a doctor) and seem (e.g.The customer seems satisfied) are all examples of linking verbs. Verbs of sensing (look, feel, smell, sound, taste) can also be used as linking verbs: e.g.This stew smells good.
An –ing verb form that functions as a noun—e.g., Running is fun. Gerunds are identical to present participles, which usually function as adjectives.an –ing verb form that functions as a noun—e.g., Running is fun. Gerunds are identical to present participles, which usually function as adjectives.an –ing verb form that functions as a noun—e.g., Running is fun. Gerunds are identical to present participles, which usually function as adjectives.
The noun or noun phrase to which a pronoun refers.the noun or noun phrase to which a pronoun refers.the noun or noun phrase to which a pronoun refers.
The mood of a verb when its clause, which is necessarily dependent, addresses conditions that are contrary to fact—e.g., If I were good at grammar, I’d be a better writer.
So why is knowing these things useful? They represent the very basic building blocks for any writing project, big or small. I’m not an English major or an editor, so I won’t attempt to provide further explanations of these terms in conjunction with my own writing.
I think we can all agree that applying effective writing to the art of novel writing takes patience, time and learning.
Lots and lots of learning.
Now to look up what the words “subjunctive” and “elliptical” mean…