Chapter by chapter, Constance Hale's book is about the rigors and romance of sentences, sentences!), you've picked up a book called Sin and Syntax. What. Lesson Plans for Teachers. Created by Constance Hale, to be used in conjunction with. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose. (Three Rivers Press. Sin & Syntax by Constance Hale - Excerpt - Free download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read online for free. Today's writers need more spunk than Strunk.
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Editorial Reviews. Review. “Probably the hippest grammar guide ever written, this book shows or Gift Card · Share. Kindle App Ad. Look inside this book. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose by [Hale, Constance]. A fully revised and updated edition with writing prompts and challenges in every chapter Today's writers need more spunk than Strunk: whether. Today's writers need more spunk than Strunk: whether it's the Great American e- mail, Madison Avenue advertising, or Grammy Award-winning rap lyrics.
Two rules for leaving adverbs in: 1 Keep an adverb that supplies necessary information. He tried running faster and fell. If you remove the adverb the sentence means that he fell as soon as he started running. She drove crazily, frightening the oncoming traffic. Squinting Adverbs: We can't accept completely abstract logic.
Subscribe to view the full document. We can't accept completely abstract logic. Only he told me that she loved him. He only told me that she loved him. He told only me that she loved him. He told me only that she loved him. This is why the plurals seem irregular: in attorneys general and notaries public, its the rst word, the noun, that gets the s. Sometimes, writers take poetic license and reverse the usual order of nouns and adjectives, as in The loving hands of the Almighty cradled him in bliss eternal.
A static verb can be wedged between the adjective and the noun it modies the sentences subject : I agree that hes lusty, but I never said he was indiscriminate. Placement is more important than you might think. Sleep deprivation may cause us to ask for a hot cup of coffee when we really want a cup of hot coffee. When a PC somnambulist asks for an organic cup of coffee, is he being fussy about the kind of mug he wants, or does he mean a cup of organic coffee?
This placement stuff may seem minor, but look what happened when one classied ad writer tried to save two short words, two spaces, and one letter by turning a lover of antiques into an antique lover: Four-poster bed, years old. Perfect for antique lover. That writer ended up hawking an accoutrement for a creaking Lothario!
Heres how it went: A lonely and somewhat dorky man in a business suit is sitting at a table in a diner. A no-nonsense waitress, in a crisp but somewhat dowdy uniform, approaches. SHE: Dessert? HE: Yes! Id like something cool, like ice cream. SHE: Ice cream! She nods and walks toward the kitchen, writing up the check. HE: But not ice cream. SHE: She returns. Not ice cream? HE: No, Id like something smooth, like pudding. SHE turning back toward the kitchen : Pudding!
HE: Not pudding. She returns and bends over him, her hand on the table. Shes got his number now. Fresh fruit? Something light, like chiffon pie? SHE: Uh, but not chiffon pie? HE: Something refreshing, like sherbet, but. He sits, mumbling, drumming his ngers on the table, looking desperately skyward, as she dashes off, returning a few seconds later with a bowl of Jell-O.
Your readers may not be as patientor perceptiveas that waitress. Fine-tune your adjectives before you demand a readers attention. Work to nd the exact word that conveys your meaning. Use a thesaurus. Be selective. President George H. Bushs kinder, gentler nation is a bit of a clich now, but thats because when speechwriter Peggy Noonan came up with the formulation in , it was novel and succinct. But the words didnt just pop into Noonans head. Out of all that effort came a phrase that worked.
Thats the alchemy of adjectives: boiling down an excess of ideas to the essence of a thing. We want the words to be precise and evocative. If we pick our adjectives carefully, any description can surprise. In Bad Land, a book about the settling and then abandonment of the Great Plains, the travel writer Jonathan Raban describes a lightning storm moving in from the west: One could see it coming for an hour before it hit: the distant artillery ashes on a sky of deep episcopal purple.
That deep episcopal purple isnt just original, it carries rich associations from the brooding skies of the American West to the velvet bands of a priests vestments. Travel writers like Raban trade in their ability to make a place come alive. The words must conjure the character of a place for readers who may never see it.
This may seem like magic, or incomparable talent, but the inspiration starts with acute observation. Notice how the travel writer Tim Cahill takes the care to work nouns and adjectivestogether they describe the precise colors he spots along the Ferris Fork of the Bechler River, in the southwestern corner of Yellowstone National Park: Hot water from the pool above ran down the bank of the terrace, which was striated in several colors: wet brown and garish pumpkin and overachieving moss, all interspersed with running channels of steaming water and lined in creamy beige.
The north side of the terrace was a Day-Glo green, overlaid with a precipitate of awless cream. There are elements of surprise, toothe Day-Glo green, the overachieving moss.
Even without the unlikely but very Cahillian overachieving, how many of us take the time to see the striations of landscape and water, much less to name them? Think of how many times you have used the generic yellow? A peek in a thesaurus, a glance at the paint chips at Home Depot, or a browse in The Pantone Book of Color hints at the possibilities: bamboo, butter, canary, chamois, dandelion, jonquil, lemon, maize, mimosa, mustard, ochre, old gold, popcorn, saffron, sauterne, turmeric, and yolk, for starters.
Adjectives are just as important in describing people as landscapes, of course. In the prole about a North Carolina revenue agent on page , journalist Alec Wilkinson writes that Garland Bunting has eyes that are clear and close-set and steel blue. Those three adjectives convey Buntings glare and they capture his gritty personality. And notice the role of adjectives in David Kehrs portrait of Harrison Fords face on page 18from comfortable, creased, familiar to solid, stalwart.
Adjectives can surprise and even express paradoxthink of Shakespearean oxymorons like brawling love. Its not just the Bard who pairs nouns and adjectives together in suggestive ways; more recent inventions include Walter Winchells lohengrinned couple newlyweds , Betsey Wrights bimbo eruptions Bill Clintons ever-evolving cast of female friends , or Candace Bushnells toxic bachelors the vicious dating predators of Sex and the City.
The Urban Dictionary adds Microsoft Works to that list. Cardinal Sins Adjectives may tart up stodgy nouns, but they can cause grammatical trouble.
And they can blur meaning, taking us down blind alleys. Lets review some ne points. When talking about a smaller number of things as you are when youre loading your arms with groceries or loading your body with calories , use fewer. When you are talking about a smaller quantity of something, use less. Say, for instance, you need less catsup: get the smaller bottle. You would also use less to refer to degree or extent.
If you have less patience than ever, download fewer things and stand in the ten-items-or-fewer line. Wanna get more technical?
Fewer is used with countable nouns Are your eyes glazing over? Those would be nouns that take an s in the plural : fewer burgers, fewer buns.
Less is used with uncountable, or mass, nouns: less mustard, less catsup, less hunger, less indigestion. If you use many with a word, use fewer with the same word many cartons of milk, many shopping bags; fewer cartons of milk, fewer shopping bags.
If you use much with a word, use less much food, much hassle; less food, less hassle. If you can count items individually, use fewer. If not, use less. In describing Barack Obamas scal record at the Democratic National Convention, Joe Biden lost count of his lesses and fewers: Because Barack made that choice, working families in Illinois pay less taxes, and more people have moved from welfare to the dignity of work.
Heres the thing: taxes are countable. Thats what makes them so odious; we count every dollar!
Fewer taxes would have been more grammatical, though the best adjective might well have been lowerthat conveys that working families paid a lower dollar amount. Or Biden might have said that people in Illinois pay fewer types of taxes. No, I dont mean utterly, but kill most of themthen the rest will be valuable. Indeed, adjectives should be used sparingly and astutely. Novice writers goo up descriptions with lush adjectives. Pile up the adjectives, and it gets even worse: The thin, mauve ngers of dawn reached up over the at, charcoal-gray horizon.
Contrast that with Jonathan Rabans episcopal purple. Lying on a porch swing with an iced tea nearby, a poor mensch indulging in a little summer reading hits this patch of adjective-polluted prose: Night fell over the land like an L.
Bean navy-blue summerweight one-hundred-percent-goose-down-lled comforter covering up an Eddie Bauer hunter-green one-hundred-percent-combed-cotton, machine-washable king-size tted sheet. Using more adjectives is not more descriptive. Throughout the interview, Bezos repeatedly omitted the, saying how Kindle is succeeding, how Kindle is a companion to tablet computers, and how many e-books are available for Kindle.
Was Bezos just affecting a Russian accent? Not exactly. Fowler and Kane noted that Bezos is part of a growing cadre of marketers who avoid the tiny words like the, a, and an that precede most nouns.
Kaplan added: When a brand evokes something bigger than just a little object, it doesnt want to have the in front of it. Apple, they noted, approaches articles as it does buttons on its gadgets. A person familiar with the article-free computing brand said that Apple tries to simplify language out of a desire for white space. Branding gurus defend the the omission, they added, quoting an adman who argued that dropping the article gives a brand a more iconic feel.
The marketing blogger and business book author Seth Godin took the idea of an article of faith one step further. Removing articles, he said, is an artifact of the desire of some brand professionals to turn brands into religions or cults. Epithets have often great beauty and force. But if we introduce them into every Sentence, and string many of them together to one object.
Updating Blair just a bit, lets put his advice this way: a few well-chosen descriptors trump a pileup of adjectives. A luau of fruits and shes is better than a delicious, inviting, attractive spread of food.