Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Proofreading 101 cont'd: who vs. whom

I've got another trick for you, this time to help clear up confusion between who and whom.

To check your who/whom usage, try replacing who with "he" and whom with "him", and recast the sentence. Here's an example:
Who/Whom wrote the book?
He wrote the book.
Therefore, "who" is correct.
Let's try another:
To who/whom did she dedicate the book?
She dedicated the book to him.
Therefore, "whom" is correct.
These are a bit tougher:
The head of marketing consults with writers, who editors say always listens.
Check: Editors say he (the head of marketing – for our purposes, we'll assume he's male) always listens.

The head of marketing consults with writers, whom they admire because he listens.
Check: They admire him because he listens.
So...problems with who and whom should plague you no more; just replace with he and him and you're done!

(Marketing departments working together with writers is another matter entirely.)

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Proofreading 101: that vs. which

I was tempted to post a picture of our only pet fish, Flame, but I was afraid something like this might happen, owing to the number of cats spotted here lately.


Instead, in an effort to return us to the art of writing, I've decided to dedicate my next few posts to proofreading. The fact is I do a great deal more proofreading and editing of fiction that I do the actual writing of it. So here goes.

Here's our first lesson: the difference between "which" and "that", a real toughy.

Strunk and White go on about restrictive and non-restrictive pronouns, which is well and good. I prefer this little trick. Try using an appositive, which is teacher speak for the stuff you place between parentheses. Use your ear as you write. If you get the sense of the appositive, use which and place a comma before it. If, on the other hand, you get the sense of something specific, which requires further clarification, use that with no comma before it.

"I bought Amanda Ashby's book, which is a real page-turner."
Check: "I bought Amanda Ashby's book (which is a real page-turner)." This makes perfect sense—of course it does, Amanda's brilliant! duhh!—so go ahead and delete the parentheses and add a comma before which.

"It is Bronwyn Storm's latest book that has me shouting for more."
Check: "It is Bronwyn Storm's latest book (that has me shouting for more). " This doesn't make sense— actually, her first work published by The Wild Rose Press is a short story—because it's not any book (no kidding!), it's a specific one, and we need more information. Plus what's in parentheses makes no sense at all on its own. So use that and no comma.
Make any sense?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Looking forward, not back

I promised to wax euphoric about summer, in the wake of children returning to school, Labour Day, etc., but I've decided there's no need to belabour the past. We all have a list of our favourite things about the season, and I imagine yours may include some of my top items: hot, steamy weather, leather sandals, cut-off jeans, frocks worn with bare legs, faces adorned with mascara and nothing else, dining al fresco, barbecues, fresh farmers' produce, drinks with umbrellas, preferably enjoyed in the garden...

Oh, the garden! I'm going to miss my garden.

Lest my mood take a dark turn, I think it best to look ahead to autumn with high hopes. So here is my list of things to wax on about in coming weeks:
  • walking home at dusk— there's something about the quality of evening light in September/October, don't you agree?
  • the colourful array of leaves—gold, umber, scarlet—every year it's different
  • Halloween, of course, and excited children gobbling sweets (just as much fun over here as Bonfire Night in the UK)
  • planting bulbs and corms in hopes of spring splendour
  • digging out favourite coats, cardigans, sweaters/jumpers, wool skirts and slacks, and particularly that favourite pair of sexy leather boots
  • checking out the new fashions (and dreaming about buying yet another pair of sexy boots)
  • imagining curling up by the fire with a good book while the snow falls steadily outside (imagining, mind!)
  • Christmas shopping?
Care to add to the list?