Practical Grammar

What they didn't teach you in school.

Posts tagged english

2 notes

writeworld asked: Hey, do you guys know the difference between "dialogue" and "dialog"? Thanks! -C

I honestly didn’t know the answer to this, nor did I know “dialog” was a word that existed.

Google has told me that it’s different spellings of the same word, but google isn’t always right, so feel free to correct me if you know of a difference.

Filed under writeworld b helps out beta bitches english

7 notes

Passed vs Past

As with many mistakes, I can see where the confusion comes from. Both sound the same when heard out loud, and that leads to troubles when converting thoughts from verbal to written.

This should be relatively simple to remember, though.

Past shows that time has elapsed; something has happened before. It is an adjective, therefore it describes/modifies something.

Passed shows movement. It is a verb, so it describes an action, state, or occurrence.

Here’s some an example of each:

B passed the liquor store on her way home.

B remembered what happened last time she was at the liquor store, and thought about not entering, but decided that it was in the past so it was of no consequence anymore.

If one tries switching one out for the other, the sentences makes no sense at all. So really, this is a simple case of mishearing and unknown definitions.

Helpful hint: If you’re ever unsure which to use remember “t for time” because past has to do with time. Get it? YAY!

Filed under B helps out English Grammar

98 notes

Foreign languages and writing.

I’ve been seeing a lot of authors throw French into their fics. While I understand why you’re doing this, it’s something that shouldn’t be happening.

Why you’re doing it: To keep it authentic. To make the character more real. Etc.

Why you should stop: There are many reasons.

  1. It jolts the reader from the world you’ve created. If your story is written in English, you can probably bet that the reader speaks, or at least reads, English, right? Well, when reading a story made up of one language, seeing another language automatically creates pause, which screws up the flow that you, as the author, have worked so hard to create and maintain.
  2. The reader may not, and probably doesn’t, speak the language you’ve chosen to write in. I don’t speak French. I know merci, and c’est la vie, but that’s only because those are phrases that get thrown around a lot. They’re also very basic. If the author writes complex sentences and paragraphs in a foreign language that the reader doesn’t understand, the reader will most likely become frustrated.
  3. Disinterest and frustration. If there’s enough written in the foreign language, a lot of readers will begin to skim, which may lead to giving up entirely. I’ve read many a fic that I haven’t finished because I didn’t understand what was being said. I don’t like giving up, but it’s hard to want to read when I’m not understanding what’s being said in the dialogue, and only getting the physical clues.
  4. Are you, the author, fluent in the language? If the answer isn’t yes, then you really shouldn’t be writing in that language. Yes, you may have studied it for years, but that doesn’t mean that you know how to write everything. Hell, I’ve been speaking English since forever, and I still fuck up all the time. If you’re not fluent, then you’ve probably made a mistake somewhere in the sentence.
  5. But I translated it in parentheses/footnotes! Yes, and that makes the story look clunky, and is still annoying to deal with. 

Your best option is to put the foreign language in italics with a note somewhere, or have it made clear before/after the italics. (Example of the latter below.)

You look like nincompoop in those pants,” B said in German, as she put on a skirt.

Yes, but the pants are easier and less traumatic to deal with,” replied B, as she put the skirt on, “but if you insist, I will wear the skirt.

Good. Now spin, and watch that mother fucker fan out.”

I only need to clarify once that the italics are German, I don’t butcher a language (well, that’s debatable, I guess), and everyone understands that B is speaking German to herself without being confused or frustrated. This makes it easier on everyone.

Times when it is acceptable to use another language.

  • When both the character and the reader are not supposed to understand the language. Say there’s a Russian spy duo hunting a moose and squirrel. If the moose and squirrel overhear the spies talking in Russian, neither the moose or squirrel would be meant to understand what’s being said because the spies would be plotting evil things. AKA: You want your reader to know what the main character knows, and if the main character doesn’t know Russian, then it’s fine for the reader to be confused. 


  • Only if the author is 100% sure that everything in the sentence is perfect. It has to be in the proper tense, the proper form, the proper word order, the proper punctuation. Don’t be using Google Translate, and then copy and paste it into your story. Go to a Russian teacher, a friend who speaks Russian, and Russian exchange student, or make sure you speak fluent Russian. Look over it. Make sure that everything about that one, teeny, tiny sentence is correct. Then ask yourself if you really need it in the story. Chances are you don’t, but if you do, and it is a good sentence, then use it.

Any questions or have a topic you’d like covered? Feel free to ask away.

Filed under B helps out English writing STOP IT NOW BEFORE I PUNCH YOU ALL IN THE SHIN

2 notes

Cue vs Queue

Both of these words are pronounced the same, but they have very different meanings and are not interchangeable in the slightest.

Cue has one meaning:

  1. A prompt or signal for something like an entrance or a response.
"That’s my cue! I gotta go.”
Queue also has one meaning:
  1. A line of people.
  2. THAT’S IT.
"We should go queue up if we want good seats.”

One can’t be switched out for the other. You can’t drop the last “ue” off of “queue” to make “que” because that has no meaning at all in English.

I understand Britishisms slipping in because people from all over write fic, but really, queue kind of rips the reader from the story. It’s not a term that’s commonly used in the US. If you want to use queue, go for it, but I strongly recommend using something else like “wait in line.”

But please, do not use queue for cue.

Filed under B helps out cue vs queue English English tips betabitches

1 note

Word Choice

This topic has been bothering me for a while.

Word choice can enhance a story, but it can also distract.

Sometimes authors use really awesome words like “verisimilitude” or “imbues.” These words get across the meaning much better than other words or phrases could do.

As a word geek, I know these words, and get excited when I see them used.

As a beta, though, I have to stop and really think about the word. Would the audience understand it? Could they pick up the definition from contextual clues? Should this word be replaced with more common word? Does the word distract from the story?

I also have to keep the character in mind. Would they use this word? Would they even know this word? Does this word fit the scene?

And honestly, I’m not sure what to do in every situation. A lot of the authors I beta for use amazing words, and a lot of the time I ask them what they think they should do. If the story was just for me, I’d leave every larger word I see. Because it’s not just for me, though, I really have to guess about the general knowledge of the reader. And that’s hard.

I guess this lesson to take from this is that sometimes betaing isn’t black or white. Sometimes you have to talk it out with the author. And sometimes you have to change really awesome words.

I would also like to pose this question to you: Would you like an author leave in larger words, and just assumes the audience understands/can figure it out, or would you rather have the author (and I hate this phrase, but I can’t think of a better one) “dumb it down?”

Filed under word choice B helps out betabitches English words

7 notes

Less Vs Fewer.

Both are the opposite of more, but they are NOT interchangeable.

Less is used when something can’t be counted; things like ideas or something that you measure. 

Less anger
Less water
Less flour 

Fewer is used when you can count what is being removed.

Fewer apples on the tree
Fewer people on that ship
Fewer grammatical mistakes

Filed under A helps out ENGLISH ENGLISH TIPS betabitches

7 notes

Then vs. Than

Because one letter really does make a world of difference.

Then is used for many things, but than is only used for comparisons.


Bill is taller than Fred.
I’d rather have cake than a cookie.

First I write, then I edit.
Eat your dinner then you can have cake. 

Easiest way to remember: than is used for comparisons.

Filed under then than english english tips betabitches B helps out

6 notes


First, what is a preposition? 

A preposition usually precedes a noun or pronoun, and deals with space or time relative to the noun or pronoun.

Huh? Yeah, that’s not very clear. Seeing prepositions in action is usually more helpful, so here’s some examples:

The puppy ran next to the fence.
The puppy was inside the kennel.

Those examples deal with where the puppy is located, or space.

The puppy arrived after dinner.
The puppy barked during the show. 

Those examples deal with when the puppy did something, or time.

Now, ending a sentence with a preposition is usually frowned upon, and I usually agree, but for authenticity in dialogue/thoughts I can see the benefits of disregarding this rule.

1) “What did you step on?”
2) “On what did you step?”

The first is, technically, grammatically incorrect because it ends with a preposition. Switching it to the second, though, makes it sound unrealistic and a bit pretentious. No one speaks like the second example. If the second were to come up in a piece I was editing, I would actually switch it to the first. Coming upon something like that is jarring, and rips the reader from the world you’re trying to create. Making sure the reader isn’t jarred from the story because of something like phrasing should always come before being grammatically correct. 

That being said, if you can switch it to be grammatically without sounding odd, I recommend that option.

Lastly, if you’ve become paranoid and want to know if the sentence you’ve just written ends with a preposition (just me?), or would just like to know which words are prepositions here is a list of the most common prepositions.

Filed under betabitchs B helps out prepositions english

8 notes

Anonymous asked: effect vs affect would be helpful for many!

Yes it would, anon!

As you all know, there are two forms of this word: one is a verb, and one is a noun.

"Affect" is the verb.  It means to influence something, or causes change.

"Effect" is the noun.  It is synonymous with “the result.”


"The change in climate will affect our future.”

"The effect of the climate change is drastic to our future.”  

It’s a little difficult to really understand the differences - honestly, the only way to really get it is to memorize which one is which.  Sometimes I personally think “oh, if this is a noun, then it would be able to take a ‘the’ and since ‘the’ ends in ‘e’ then it must be effect!” 

Rare Uses of Affect and Effect

So what about those rare meanings that don’t follow the rules I just gave you? Well, affect can be used as a noun when you’re talking about psychology—it means the mood that someone appears to have. For example, “She displayed a happy affect.” Psychologists find it useful because they know that you can never really understand what someone else is feeling. You can only know how theyappear to be feeling.

And, effect can be used as a verb that essentially means “to bring about,” or “to accomplish.” For example, you could say, “Aardvark hoped to effect change within the burrow. (x)

Thanks, Anon, for bringing that up!  It’s actually one of my own personal pet peeves and I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of doing a post about it before!

Filed under J helps out affect vs. effect English English tips