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weeveeship's avatar

Can someone help me with some grammar questions?

Asked by weeveeship (4632points) October 24th, 2010

I’m revising a story that I wrote (for fun, not for class), and I have a few questions:

1. Commas for two adjectives describing the same thing?
e.g. She had long blonde hair. vs. She had long, blonde hair.

2. Hyphens in terms that include two words?
e.g. There was a bubble gum craze. vs. There was a bubble-gum craze.
e.g. I am a sixth grade student. vs. I am a sixth-grade student.

3. Run-on sentences.
There are sentences that might appear run-on but would make sense as one sentence instead of two.
e.g. He did not like to dance, but everyone else was dancing so he joined in.
e.g. I felt I should do something, but the two guys looked vicious and I did not want to get hurt.

4. Comma or semicolon?
e.g. I loved him, but he hated me. vs. I loved him; but he hated me. (A teacher told me that a semicolon was right, but I think the comma was right).
e.g. Although he gave me a book, I did not read it, and I just put it on my shelf. vs. Although he gave me a book, I did not read it; and I just put it on my shelf.

5. What is the difference between will and would? (the rest of the story is in past tense).
e.g. He promised that he will give it to me. vs. He promised that he would give it to me.
e.g. They will go to the yard after school. vs. They would go to the yard after school. (They do not usually go to the yard.)

6. How do you indicate thought? Quotes? Italics?

7. (this is a real stumper for me) How to best write this: “Once in a while, she will sit with whoever does not mind having her sit next to them.” There is at least one grammatical error here, it seems. Maybe two.

Thanks in advance for your time and your help!

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6 Answers

muppetish's avatar

I’m by no means a grammar expert, but I’ll take a crack at answering a few of these.

1. I would use a comma in this instance.
2. I think it is actually spelled “bubblegum” (one word) and not “bubble gum”. A hyphen wouldn’t be needed in that case. I think “sixth grader” is also more concise than “sixth grade student” and fits better with colliquial English.
3. I’m not sure about the run-on sentences.
4. The semi-colon has no business being used in the first example. “I loved him; he hated me” – would work, but the two would work better as separate sentences. In the second example, I think the semi-colon is in the proper place, but the conjunction “and” should be deleted. I am in Kurt Vonnegut’s camp when it comes to semi-colons overall.
5. Here is an explanation about the use of “will versus would”. I cannot for the life of me put it into my own words. It was one of those tricky grammar sections that made my life as a tutor difficult.
6. That is purely an aesthetic decision. I personally use quotation marks because I reserve italics for titles and things. But it is very rare for me to include the thoughts of characters as I favour writing in first person.
7. I think the main issue with the sentence is there are too many pronouns. It makes it difficult for the reader (in this case, me) to follow your train of thought. I’m not sure how I would rewrite it.

Sorry if I wasn’t especially helpful. Have fun with your story! :)

Jeruba's avatar

1. No comma.

2. Hyphenate a compound adjective before a noun; so hyphens in both places.

3. Those are not run-on sentences because you have conjunctions (“but,” “and”). They’re fine as you have them. This would be a run-on sentence: “I felt I should do something, the two guys looked vicious I did not want to get hurt.”

4a. A comma is correct. If you really wanted to stress the pause, you could use the semicolon, which here acts as nearly a full stop, but unless you intend that much emphasis there is no reason for it. However, if you omitted the conjunction you would need the semicolon: “I loved him; he hated me.”

4b. I would not use an “although” construction here because this is not about contrast between giving and reading. It shifts point of view. I would use “although” here: “Although he gave me the book, he did not intend for me to read it.” For your sentence, I would choose a structure such as “He gave me a book, but I did not read it,” contrasting one action with another. This is pretty subtle.

5. The difference in this instance is tense: “would” is the past tense of “will.”
a. For agreement between the tenses, you should use “would” because it is future from the point of view of a past moment—the past being established by the main verb (“promised”).
b. Choice depends on meaning. The first refers to an intended future action, the second to a past habitual action or an expression of past intent (for example, “They planned the attack carefully. They would go to the yard after school and hide behind the dense shrubbery.”). More context is needed here.

6. Treatment of thoughts varies among authors. Some do use quotes or italics (not both). Some omit punctuation:

   In the next moment, the roof collapsed. Things can’t get any worse, he thought.

Some imply thought without stating it:

   In the next moment, the roof collapsed. Things couldn’t get any worse.

Choose a style and stick to it.

7. This is just a very clumsy construction, although the only thing technically wrong with it is the use of “them” for a singular. Recast the sentence. Here’s one possibility:

“Once in a while, she will sit with anyone who does not mind sitting next to her.”

The context would probably suggest a much better handling of this statement.

josie's avatar

Ditto @Jeruba knows this shit.

Foolaholic's avatar

I would only argue that in question 2, the word bubblegum seems to be common enough that you could get away without hyphenating it.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@Jeruba I may have just fallen in love with you.

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