Writing well (for the rest of us): No Grammar. No Rules. Just Common Sense. (8 page)

BOOK: Writing well (for the rest of us): No Grammar. No Rules. Just Common Sense.

Still, stick with the simple “reflexive” rule. People will
get irritated if you use the “self” pronouns incorrectly. And it sounds stuffy
anyway, and you don’t want to sound pretentious, do you?

“I’m doing good.” “I’m good” and “Think Different

Get your grammar freak on, because things are going to get a bit hairy

What’s wrong with this picture?

I am doing good.


I’m good.

A lot of people think the use of the word “good” here is flat-out

Actually, there is nothing wrong, at least grammatically
(even though I personally dislike the use of the word “good” used here).

Why do some people get upset? “Good” is an adjective.
Adjectives modify

Here, people will say that “doing” is the verb, and that so
you can’t use an adjective to modify a verb. Instead, you should use an
 (like “well”) to modify a verb.

Except they are a bit wrong.

Good is actually modifying “I.” only because there’s a
 there (“am”).

Linking verbs do not express action. Instead, they join the
 with the
(the predicate – from Latin, “to assert” – tells us
what the subject is or does).

In an odd twist of English grammar,
if there is a linking
verb between the subject and
the modifier, then you use an adjective. It’s called a
predicate adjective
It’s an adjective which is predicating (asserting) what the subject does.

This is why English grammar can become so hated.

However, I do think that “well” is a better word choice: “I’m
doing well.”

You make the decision.

Think Different
Now, regarding “Think Different.” experts agree that it’s obviously
supposed to be “Think Differently”
And, I agree. It’s just Apple being cute in marketing.
However, there are two arguments that supposedly make it acceptable.
One is that “different” is actually being used as an adverb.
I have personally consulted several large dictionaries, and find this argument
to be absurd.

There’s a different argument, coming directly from Steve

“They debated the grammatical issue: If ‘different’ was supposed to modify the
verb ‘think,’ it should be an adverb, as in ‘think differently.’ But Jobs
insisted that he wanted ‘different’ to be used as a noun, as in ‘think victory’
or ‘think beauty.’ Also, it echoed colloquial use, as in ‘think big.’ Jobs
later explained, ‘We discussed whether it was correct before we ran it. It’s
grammatical, if you think about what we’re trying to say. It’s not think the
same, it’s think different. Think a little different, think a lot different,
think different. ‘Think differently’ wouldn’t hit the meaning for me’.”

Hmm…I don’t completely buy it. I think they just liked the
way it sounded. It certainly sounds more interesting.

And so, with this argument, we come to the close of this
book, emphasizing that grammar is not rules-based (prescriptive) but actually descriptive of the changes that occur in language through use.

In other words, “Think Different” has now entered the
language as acceptable speech, and I’m sure we’ll see its use continue in other
forms, leading to the simplest possible solution: major dictionaries will add
“different” as an adverb.

There’s certainly precedent. After all, the entire language
has been evolving for the last 1,500 years and will continue to evolve.

In the wonderful movie
, we see that English has become a weird mix of Chinese, English and whatever else happened to come
along, with odd (sometimes old-fashioned) syntactical rhythms that match the
spirit of the space frontier:

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds
But it ain't all buttons and charts, little albatross. You know what the first
rule of flying is? Well, I suppose you do, since you already know what I'm
about to say.

River Tam
I do. But I like to hear you say it.

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds
Love. You can learn all the math in the 'Verse, but you take a boat in the air
that you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the
worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's
hurtin' 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

River Tam
Storm's getting worse.

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds
We'll pass through it soon enough.

And so, as an endnote, whatever storms we will go through in
the English language, in the words of Captain Reynolds: “We’ll pass through it
soon enough.”

Good writing.

Credit where credit is due.

I have avoided using footnotes in this basic book in order
to keep the text simple. The various sources I consulted are cited below.  Any
errors made, of course, are my own.

General grammar
Hubbard, L. Ron.
New Grammar.
Los Angeles, CA: Bridge Publications, 1990. Print.

Hubbard, L. Ron..
Small Common Words Defined.
Angeles, CA: Bridge Publications, 1990. Print.

General grammar
 and style:

Devlin, Joseph.
How to Speak and Write Correctly (1910).
(It is my belief that this book is in the public domain; it can be freely read
on Google Books.)

LaRocque, P.
The book on writing: The ultimate guide to
writing well.
Oak Park, IL, 2003: Marion Street Press.

A wonderful book on the subject of
grammar and punctuation:
Truss, Lynne.
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The
Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
New York: Gotham, 2004.
Print and online.”

On ending sentences with a preposition and the 17
century introverts:
Grammar Myths #1:...
OxfordWords Blog. Web. 28 Nov.
2014. blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/grammar-myths-prepositions”

On the history of English Grammars: History_of_English_grammars.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Web. 28 Nov. 2014.

Hyphenated Compound Words - When and Why?
(1999, June 1).

And lastly, I am indebted to some wonderful online

The Blue Book of Grammar

My favorite online etymology site, where I was able to get
the derivations of key words used in grammar so easily:

The delightful Grammar Girl:

Get it write

The UW–Madison Writing Center

Guide to Grammar and Writing (Capital Community College

A massive list of errors in language, which I found after
I’d written the book and wish I’d learned of earlier. Whatever I’ve missed can
be found here.

The wonderful Chaucer site at Harvard

Weber State University, commonly misused words and phrases:

Oxford Dictionaries commonly confused words:

And more that I can’t recall off-hand, but assuredly found
their way into my work.

I had many friends online who came up with suggestions as to
what they wanted to see covered in this book. Special call out to Sally
Berneathy, Sirio Balmelli, John Amussen, JoJo Zawawi, David Newberger and
Stephen Eckelberry for their help reviewing this book. To the rest, thank you,
I know who you are.

About the author

Alex Eckelberry has written and spoken extensively on a
broad range of subjects, including technology, the environment and investing.
He has nearly 30 years of experience in technology and related areas, including
several years in private equity and venture capital. He has been extensively
quoted and interviewed in national press, radio and television, including
BusinessWeek, the New York Times, and USA Today, the Today Show, NPR, Fox News
and CBC Canada. His community involvement includes founding the Tampa Bay
Conservation League; the Julie Group, which seeks fairness in the intersection
of technology and law; and co-founding Phishing Incidence and Response
Termination (PIRT). Alex is currently an independent advisor and board member
to a broad range of companies, and lives with his wife and four children in the
Tampa Bay, Florida area.

Can I ask a favor?

If you enjoyed this book, found it useful or otherwise then
I’d really appreciate it if you would post a short review on Amazon. I do read
all the reviews personally so that I can continue to write what people want.

Oh, and if you find something you’d like to see changed in
this book, or have a complaint, question or whatever, I’d love to hear from
you. Just contact me through my website – www.becomeabetterwriter.org.

Thanks for your support!



Thanks to Ann Gynn at the Content Marketing Institute for this great tip.

Thanks to the Writing Center at the
University of Wisconsin – Madison for this brilliant example.

“Grammar Myths #1:…” OxfordWords Blog. Web. 28 Nov.
2014. blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/grammar

History of English grammars.
(n.d.). Retrieved
April 8, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_English_grammars

Williams, Adrian J. (2014-03-15).
Language Mastery. The Ultimate Information Book
(Linguistics, Language,
Semantics, Syntax, Pragmatics, Etymology, Phonetics) (Kindle Locations
642-647). Jr Kindle Publishing. Kindle Edition.


 expansion 4000–1000 BC, according to the Kurgan hypothesis,
Author by Dbachmann, licensed under the Creative
Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. From Wikipedia,

Harris, William. "The Indo-European
The Indo-European Background
Web. 6 Dec. 2014.

e, T

V. V. Ivanov, and Werner Winter.
Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A
Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-language and a Proto-culture.
Berlin: M. De Gruyter, 1995. Print. Also available on Google Books.

Drummond, Henry.
The Ascent of Man.
Lanham: Start LLC, 2013. Print. Also available on Google Books.

Hitchings, Henry (2009-09-29).
The Secret Life of
Words: How English
 Became English
(p. 21). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Harbeck, J. (n.d.).
Are You Using Myself Correctly?
The Fantastic Flexibility of the Reflexive Pronoun

Discussed nicely at
Good" Outrage Is Nonsense.
Good Versus Well.

Olson, L. (2008).
Visual rhetoric: A
reader in communication and American culture.
Los Angeles: Sage.

Isaacson, Walter (2011-10-24).
Steve Jobs
329-330). Simon & Schuster, Inc. Kindle Edition.


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