I’m No Tolstoy

As a fan and user of the software Grammarly, I look forward to receiving my weekly progress report. It’s like being in high school again. I’m not graded, thank God, but the report does provide insight and includes my longest writing streak, productivity, accuracy, vocabulary, and top three writing mistakes.

Can you guess the mistake that always appears?  You got it! The first time the comma isn’t listed – we’ll celebrate with virtual champagne! Okay, not sure how that would work, but I’ll toast you while I enjoy a glass or two.

This week’s progress report noted I was 97% more productive than other writers. I read that twice, 97 %? My first thought was, who’s using my account? And, the second thought was, where’s the evidence? Cause damned if I can find all that productivity.

Then they gave me this little nugget. 7 weeks of active writing? Tolstoy? War and Peace? Somebody was sipping the bottle.

Regardless, it was inspiring. You, my friends, my fellow fence jumpers, may be reading a post from the next Tolstoy! Or, not.


 I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Join the conversation. Talk to me or tell me your story. I’m all ears.

Are Your Commas in the Wrong Place?

images-12One would think with years of education stored in my brain I would have conquered sentence structure and those damnable commas – I haven’t. If you’ve been following my blog, you may remember I wrote about this some time ago in Confessions of a Comma Whore.

Recently, I had the opportunity for an editor to review the first chapter of my novel. I was pleased with his comments and surprised to see only a few red marks on the pages.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

“You need to review participial phrases, which is quite a common mistake. Additionally, I recommend learning about restrictive VS nonrestrictive phrases, which will help you better place a few troublesome commas.”

Well, Hells Bells! It looks as if those damn commas will haunt me till I die. Thank God for editors. Forgive me if I’m insulting anyone’s intelligence but I thought I’d review these “quite common mistake’s.”

Participial Phrases

participle is a verb used as an adjective, and they end in – ing, d, t, or n.

An example: Barking dogs (Bark = verb)

A participial phrase is a group of words containing the participle and any complements or modifiers.

xbasic_diagram_participial_phrase.jpg.pagespeed.ic.QxRA8-JccHThanks to Grammar Revolution, here’s how a participle phrase looks diagrammed:

Restrictive versus Nonrestrictive Clauses

restrictive clause is part of a sentence that explicitly restricts the noun.

Dogs that jump on people annoy me.

The words “that jump on people” restrict the kind of dogs I find annoying. Restrictive clauses do not require commas.

A nonrestrictive clause provides additional information but when left out doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence.

My, fluffy white, Bichon Frisé is a lap dog.

Removing the words “fluffy white” doesn’t alter the meaning of the sentence. It just provides more information. Non-restrictive clauses require commas.

I did well in college. English was one of my favorite subjects. The fact that commas remain my nemesis can only be explained in one of two ways – This Southern gal likes to write the way she talks, or my brain cells just aren’t what they used to be.

Many thanks to James from Storymedic for his feedback and encouragement.

“… very minor corrections. I could immediately tell that you possess a more developed craft, well beyond average.”

Want to know more about those pesky participles and clauses? Check out these resources:

  1. Grammar Revolution (Diagram it)
  2. Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips
  3. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
  4. English Plus
  5. Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab
  6. The Grammarly Handbook

Do you still struggle with certain grammar issues? I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, Contently, and Instagram.