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Musical Grammar Quiz #1

Musical Grammar Quiz #1

By Miss Marm

Jealous of the finalists in the musical fiction contest? I understand. They're good writers.

But even good writers struggle with grammar.

Each line below is from a MFC finalist's story, and each contains at least one error. See if you can spot the problems. Answers after the jump!

1. "Don’t think I won’t sell him," She yelled.
2. It's lighter now, the sun has almost come up.
3. Raising my hands up and closing my eyes, I relish the droplets of sustenance that is falling on our skin.
4. “Alright, Grace.  I think it’s time I showed you my garage.”
5. “I can’t take being lonely any longer,” I can hear my voice getting shrill, but I can’t stop.
6. [The driver glared with the kind of irritation] that says 'I'm not having a good day and you aren't helping'.

1. "Don’t think I won’t sell him," She yelled.
Problem: The capital S in "She." If you're following up a line of dialogue with a dialogue tag (a phrase like "he said" or "she asked"), there's no need to capitalize the first word of the tag (unless it's a proper noun).
Edited version: "Don't think I won't sell him," she yelled.

2. It's lighter now, the sun has almost come up.
Problem: Comma splice. "It's lighter now" is a complete sentence. So is "the sun has almost come up." Therefore, you can't smoosh the two together with comma.
Edited version #1: It's lighter now; the sun has almost come up.
Edited version #2: It's lighter now. The sun has almost come up.

3. Raising my hands up and closing my eyes, I relish the droplets of sustenance that is falling on our skin.
Problem: Disagreement. "Droplets" is plural; "is" is singular.
Edited version #1: Raising my hands up and closing my eyes, I relish the droplets of sustenance that are falling on our skin.
Edited version #2: Raising my hands up and closing my eyes, I relish the sustenance that is falling on our skin.

4. “Alright, Grace.  I think it’s time I showed you my garage.”
Problem: Alright. "Alright" is not a word. Everyone uses it constantly, which means it may become an officially-recognized word by, say, the year 2020. But in 2012, it's still incorrect.
Edited version: "All right, Grace. I think it's time I showed you my garage."

5. “I can’t take being lonely any longer,” I can hear my voice getting shrill, but I can’t stop.
Problem: Comma splice. It's correct to use a comma between dialogue and a dialogue tag like "she said." But when you're using a complete sentence after a line of dialogue, you must use a period to separate the two.
Edited version #1: “I can’t take being lonely any longer.” I can hear my voice getting shrill, but I can’t stop.
Edited version #2: “I can’t take being lonely any longer,” I say.

6. [The driver glared with the kind of irritation] that says 'I'm not having a good day and you aren't helping'.
Problem #1: Single quotation marks used in place of double quotation marks. SINGLE QUOTATION MARKS ARE A SCOURGE. Sorry to yell, but I see them used incorrectly everywhere—including in the New York Times, which I'm sure has some maddening explanation for the outrage ("We use them to make headlines more legible/because the Brits do it like that/because it's a tradition carried over from the old days, when we used them to save ink"). Use single quotation marks only to indicate a quote within a quote. That's it! For example:

Tania shrieked, "Did you hear that? Brynn just said, 'You're a chickenheaded dumb-butt.' Don't let her talk to you like that!"

Problem #2: No comma before the dialogue begins. You almost always need a comma to introduce dialogue.
Problem #3: No comma when the subject changes. Oh, commas, you confuse us on an hourly basis. Here's one of the millions of comma rules: if the subject of a compound sentence changes, you need a comma.
Problem #4: Punctuation outside the close quotation mark. This is confusing, because when you're quoting something from a book in an academic paper, you don't put punctuation inside the close quotes, unless the author herself put it there. But when you're indicating something your character says, you MUST put periods, commas, dashes, and so on inside the close quotation marks, "like this," and not "like this".
Edited version: [The driver glared with the kind of irritation] that says, "I'm not having a good day, and you aren't helping."

Did you get 100% on the grammar quiz? Be honest!

Topics: grammar, comma splices, commas, grammar quiz, dialogue tags, single quotation marks, dialogue, capitalization, agreement, made-up words
 

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