Fun with Grammar: Lessons from DFWCon

This is my cat, Tavi. He is not a Grammaticat. Maybe one day. We all need dreams.

This is my cat, Tavi. He is not a Grammaticat. Maybe one day. We all need dreams.

Five weeks ago (wow, has it been that long already?) I had the privilege of attending DFWCon, where I got to meet Tex Thompson, grammar-clarifier-extraordinaire. She runs, which, in addition to general greatness, is where she posts “Grammaticats”–cats teaching lessons in grammar.

I know. My mind was blown, too.

It is no surprise, then, that she led an excellent presentation on Grammar and Style. I hadn’t planned on attending, but my schedule worked out and I made it, and I am so glad I did.

I’ve been a copyeditor and proofreader for years, but I’ll tell you a secret: when editing stuff, we don’t typically talk about it in fancy grammarian-speak. Mostly we just say “ugh, you did that wrong.” For that reason, it was great to brush up on my grammar in Tex’s class: I don’t think I’ve heard some of the fancy titles since high school (if then).

Mostly for my own benefit (and because, who knows? Maybe it’ll help you out, too), here are my notes from Tex’s class.

  • modifier:
  • non-restrictive modifying phrase:
    • 1) Can be deleted
    • 2) must be close to the thing it modifies
    • 3) needs a matched set of commas or dashes
  • Types of modifiers and errors: relative clauses; restrictive vs. nonrestrictive modifying phrases; dangling modifiers; misplaced modifiers; ambiguous modifiers (the phrase being modified could be interpreted two different ways); implied simultenaety (which is fine as long as the actions being given really could be happening at the same time, eg. “Sally walked while talking to Jim.”)
  • Pronoun: subs in for a noun or noun phrase
    • Pronoun case error: using the wrong form of the pronoun (I/me, for example)
    • pronoun antecedent agreement: the pronoun needs to go with the thing it refers to (a group = them; he = Bryan)
    • pronoun reference error: it’s not clear what the pronoun is referring to (“I took my boat and my girlfriend for a ride. She’s a real beaut!” –the boat or the girlfriend?!)
    • wandering body parts (this one’s my favorite)-when anatomy causes confusing issues (is the eye literally falling on the jacket? Ew)
    • dialogue tag: said/ asked/hissed/etc. – it should describe how something is said
    • comma splice
  • Fragment: an incomplete sentence; it needs a subject
    • implied subject (ie. “Run!” The “You” is implied)
    • coordinating vs. subordinating conjunctions (rules for whether or not to use commas)
    • Fragments are often okay if you are writing in deep POV–we don’t always think in complete sentences.

Look at all the words you learned! Don’t you feel like a smart cookie now?


Filed under Conventional, Editing, writing

2 responses to “Fun with Grammar: Lessons from DFWCon

  1. Oh my cheese, ma’am – I’m going to HAVE to get a GrammatiCats post up soon, cuz every time I see that kitty in his bin, I melt all over the floor. Thanks so much for the write-up and the shout-out – I consider it the highest of high praise, especially coming from you!

  2. Thanks for being so awesome, Tex!

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