The EFC Writer – Similes and Metaphors

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be). 

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: Similes and Metaphors

Metaphors equate one thing with another. Similes compare two dissimilar things. These are easy to use, but for some reason, we all find it tough to remember which is which.

Honestly? I don’t care if you can tell the difference (just save a link to this post to brush up on before parties); I just want you to use them–both of them, please. They’ll improve your writing by making it more descriptive and memorable. I promise.

Metaphor: I am a god.

Simile: I am like a god. I am as awesome as a god. I am more beautiful than a god.

Metaphor: The Doctor is a star.

Simile: The Doctor is as bright as a star.

Metaphor: This pot roast is crap.

Simile: This pot roast tastes like crap.

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

“A metaphor is a figure of speech that compares one concept to another by likening the first to something else. Often the concepts are unrelated but equal, joined by some form of the verb ‘to be’ to create a new or unusual association . . . ”

“Metaphors are frequently confused with similes because they have similar uses. They are both used to make comparisons, but they have different structures.”

“A simile is a figure of speech that compares two unlike concepts and joins them by the words like, as, or than. Similes differ from metaphors in that the concepts are not treated as equals.”

(Robbins, Lara M., Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips, Alpha 2007, 82-3.)

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

met·a·phor
noun
\ˈme-tə-ˌfr also -fər\
plural met·a·phors
1:  a figure of speech in which a word or phrase denoting one kind of object or action is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in the ship plows the seas or in a volley of oaths) :  an implied comparison (as in a marble brow) in contrast to the explicit comparison of the simile (as in a brow white as marble)
1sim·i·le
noun
\ˈsi-mə-(ˌ)lē\
plural -s
1:  a figure of speech comparing two essentially unlike things and often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses, a heart as hard as flint)

 

Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

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The EFC Writer – Parallelism

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be). 

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: Parallelism

Oh, friends, pretty please make sure your lists are parallel? For me?

I don’t want to see any of this nonsense:

The waiter’s responsibilities include making hot tea and to bring the meals. 

Ugh.

Do you think I should go see Star Wars opening night or that I should wait a week? 

Ew (and also, why would you EVER wait a week?).

The mommy manages to do the laundry, making dinner, and played trains without crying. 

I need to either go to bed or to go to the spa. 

It hurts my poor little OCD soul, people. Let’s get it together and make sure our lists are STRUCTURALLY IDENTICAL, okay? Like this:

The waiter’s responsibilities include making hot tea and bringing the meals.

Do you think I should go see Star Wars opening night or I should wait a week? 

The mommy manages to do the laundry, make dinner, and play trains without crying. 

I need to go either to bed or to a spa.*

Aaaaaahhh.  Much better.

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

“Whether the list is shown as a series within the sentence or as a bulleted list, the elements should be structurally identical.” (Robbins, Lara M. , Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips, Alpha 2007, 80). That means everything in your list should be past tense (or present participle, or whatever floats your boat)!

The same goes for numbers, too–don’t use digits in the first bit and words in the second bit; be consistent!

  • She finished 12 of the twenty books she wanted to read. — NO!
  • She finished twelve of the twenty books she wanted to read. — YES!

*This one’s a special case–it’s a correlative conjunction (you know the type: and/or, not only/but also, etc). To keep your parallelism in check, just make sure you’re using the same part of speech directly after each conjunction.

 

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

par·al·lel·ism
noun
\ˈper-ə-ˌle-ˌli-zəm, -lə-ˌli-, ˈpa-rə-\
plural -s
1:  the quality or state of being parallel<a lack of parallelism of the heads of the testing machine — Proving Rings for Calibrating Testing Machines>
2:  resemblance, correspondence, similarity<parallelism of interests><parallelism in nomenclature between the kinship terms of affinity in English, French, and German — Edward Sapir><parallelism between obesity and hypertension — H. M. Marvin>
3a :  similarity of construction of adjacent word groups equivalent, complementary, or antithetic in sense especially for rhetorical effect or rhythmb :  reiteration in similar phrases (as in Hebrew poetry)

 

Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

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The EFC Writer – Comma Splices

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be). 

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: Comma Splices

Listen, I know. You’re in the zone. You’re on a roll. You’re so wrapped up in getting to the end of the chapter before you lose track of what the hero is going to do that you forget to stop your sentence. It happens. That’s why we edit, right? RIGHT. But let’s make sure we’re editing correctly, eh, people?

A comma splice is a run-on sentence someone tried to fix with a comma. They look like this:

I couldn’t figure out what to say, I was speechless.

Melissa loves watching Dr. Who, Chrissy does not watch it. 

Kudos to you for realizing you needed to do something, but a comma isn’t going to cut it. To fix a comma splice, just up your punctuation game to either a period or a semicolon:

I couldn’t figure out what to say; I was speechless. 

Melissa loves watching Dr. Who. Chrissy does not watch it. 

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

“Run-ons result from two or more independent clauses joined into one sentence that lacks punctuation or conjunctions. . . . People often speak in run-on sentences, where they are less noticed because the speaker usually pauses and changes his tone in verbal speech. . . . Considered errors of punctuation, run-ons should always be corrected.” (Robbins, Lara M., Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips, Alpha 2007, 78)

“A comma splice is a run-on sentence that’s joined by a comma even though stronger punctuation is necessary to correct the sentence.” (Robbins, Lara M., Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips, Alpha 2007, 79)

 

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

run–on:
adjective:
:  continuing without rhetorical pause from one line of verse into another :  characterized by enjambment — contrasted with end-stopped

 

Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

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The EFC Writer – Identifying Subjects

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be).  

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: Identifying Subjects

Having a little trouble figuring out where the subject of your sentence might be? Here’s an easy, simple trick to get the job done:

Turn the sentence into a yes/no question—it’ll restructure things so the predicate comes first, leaving the subject hanging on at the end instead.

Check it:

“All Whovians are geeks.”  becomes  “Are all Whovians geeks?”

See how you’ve bumped the verb (“are”) to the front? Now you can easily identify “all Whovians” as the subject! Want to try it again?

“River Song is an awesome chick.”  becomes “Is River Song an awesome chick?”  Did you guess the subject?  Yup! It’s “River Song”!

 

REMEMBER: There can be lots of bits and pieces involved in just once sentence, so don’t let all those extra words distract you . . . you’ll learn their places eventually. For now, just remember that every sentence needs a two-part foundation: SUBJECT + PREDICATE, and do your best to work on identifying examples of each in your own writing.

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

This rule doesn’t ALWAYS work . . . sometimes subjects and predicates aren’t right next to each other. All sorts of pesky things (like adverbs and prepositional phrases) can muddle your sentence order, and not only can the order be reversed in a question, but the subject can sometimes come smack dab in the middle of a complete predicate. Yeah. It gets tricky. Break things down as best you can, and remember: subjects always contain nouns and predicates always contain verbs. Your subjects and predicates will almost always have more than one word to them (that’s why we call them “subjects” and “predicates” instead of just using “noun” and “verb” again), but you should ultimately be able to split every sentence into its two basic parts.

 

Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Y our Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

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The EFC Writer – Predicate Types

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be).  

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: Predicate Types

How’ve you been doing with the different subject types? Feeling comfy slipping them into your prose? Great! Now, let’s add another layer of depth to the game: the different types of predicates!

Predicates, or the action bits of your sentences, also come in three varieties.

SIMPLE PREDICATE: a verb (and any helping verbs)

Examples: 

  • bounce
  • was drooling
  • could have driven

COMPLETE PREDICATE: a simple predicate and its modifiers

Examples:

  • bounce on the trampoline
  • was drooling uncontrollably
  • could have driven to the airport

COMPOUND PREDICATE: two or more predicates with the same subject

Examples:

  • (She) was bouncing on the trampoline and drinking a margarita.
  • (The hipster) drooled uncontrollably and fixed his bowtie.
  • (Your mom) could have driven or could have taken the metro.

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

If you’re interested in the names of all those modifiers, take a peek at adverbs, complements, and prepositional phrases. Also, if you’re using a verb that ends in -ing, don’t forget that helping verb (“was bouncing”)!

Now go do some editing, friends!

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

predicate

noun pred·i·cate \ˈpre-di-kət\

grammar : the part of a sentence that expresses what is said about the subject

Full Definition of PREDICATE

a :  something that is affirmed or denied of the subject in a proposition in logic
 b :  a term designating a property or relation
2:  the part of a sentence or clause that expresses what is said of the subject and that usually consists of a verb with or without objects, complements, or adverbial modifiers
pred·i·ca·tive \-kə-tiv, –ˌkā-\ adjective
pred·i·ca·tive·ly adverb

Examples of PREDICATE

  1. In the sentence The child threw the ball, the subject is the child and the predicate is threw the ball.

 

Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

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The EFC Writer – Subject Types

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer — a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be).  

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: SUBJECT TYPES

Remember last time when I told you there’s more to a subject than just one word sometimes? Well, as promised, here’s a little peek at the different types of subjects.

Just as a refresher, the subject of a sentence is a noun or pronoun (person, place, thing, idea) that a sentence describes. There are three different types of subjects:

SIMPLE SUBJECTS: A noun or pronoun.  Easy!

Examples:

I

Steve

she

Tardis

 

COMPLETE SUBJECTS: This is where some of the extra words fit in . . . a complete subject is a noun or pronoun along with its modifiers.

Examples:

your mom

that guy’s sweet beard

the One Ring

 

COMPOUND SUBJECTS: It’s just what it sounds like—two or more subjects hooked together.

Examples:

Amy and Rory

your mom and that guy on the internet

she and I

 

Not too tough, right? Take a look at your most recent draft and see if you’ve used all three types of subjects. If you haven’t, try editing in a few compound or complete subjects—it’ll give your writing more depth and keep readers interested.

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

For the record, the “modifiers” I’m talking about in complete subjects can include articles and adjectives, and compound subjects get joined together with conjunctions: and/or/nor/but/yet/for/so.

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

Merriam-Webster was decidedly less than helpful with the definitions I needed for this post, so instead I humbly offer this: 

Full Definition of TRAMPOLINE

:  a resilient sheet or web (as of nylon) supported by springs in a metal frame and used as a springboard and landing area in tumbling
tram·po·lin·er \-ˈlē-nər, –ˌlē-\ noun
tram·po·lin·ist \-nist\ noun

 

Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

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The EFC Writer – Subjects & Predicates

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be).  

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: Subjects & Predicates

So this one may seem like a no-brainer, but EVERY SENTENCE YOU WRITE NEEDS A SUBJECT AND A PREDICATE. Every. Single. One.

Pretty obvious, right? I mean, really. Label things as you’d like: subject/predicate, subject/verb, topic/comment . . . whatever. The point is that a sentence must contain two basic components, and you, as a writer, must use them correctly and appropriately. Every time.

 

SUBJECTS are nouns located near the beginning of a sentence that give that sentence it’s meaning.

PREDICATES are verbs located after the subject that comment on the subject.

 

Here are some examples:

I ate.

Barry is tired.

Your mom is in my bed.

The Tardis travels in space and time.

Bears hibernate.

 

SUBJECTS: I, Barry, mom, Tardis, bears

PREDICATES: ate, is, is, travels, hibernate

(Yes, I know I didn’t label all the words. It turns out there are different bits and pieces to both subjects and predicates; we’ll get to those later. For now, let’s keep it simple).

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

“A SUBJECT is the word (or words functioning as a unit) that’s the focus of the action or state of the predicate within a sentence or clause.”

“A PREDICATE is a part of each sentence that’s neither the subject nor its modifiers. It must contain a verb and may include objects and modifiers of the verb.”

– from Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

 

 

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

subject

noun sub·ject \ˈsəb-jikt, -(ˌ)jekt\

: the person or thing that is being discussed or described

: an area of knowledge that is studied in school

: a person or thing that is being dealt with in a particular way

Full Definition of SUBJECT

1:  one that is placed under authority or control: as

a :  vassal

b (1) :  one subject to a monarch and governed by the monarch’s law (2) :  one who lives in the territory of, enjoys the protection of, and owes allegiance to a sovereign power or state

2a :  that of which a quality, attribute, or relation may be affirmed or in which it may inhere

b :  substratum; especially :  material or essential substance

c :  the mind, ego, or agent of whatever sort that sustains or assumes the form of thought or consciousness

Full Definition of PREDICATE

1a :  something that is affirmed or denied of the subject in a proposition in logic

b :  a term designating a property or relation

2:  the part of a sentence or clause that expresses what is said of the subject and that usually consists of a verb with or without objects, complements, or adverbial modifiers
pred·i·ca·tive \-kə-tiv, –ˌkā-\ adjective
pred·i·ca·tive·ly adverb

Examples of PREDICATE

  1. In the sentence The child threw the ball, the subject is the child and the predicate is threw the ball.

 

Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

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The EFC Writer – FRAGMENTS

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer — a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be).  

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: EVIL, EVIL FRAGMENTS (SORT OF)

Remember all those conversations we’ve been having about independent and dependent clauses? It turns out I actually had a reason for filling your head with all that stuff, and here it is: YOU’RE WRITING TOO MANY SENTENCE FRAGMENTS. Stop it, okay?

FRAGMENTS are incomplete sentences, that is, sentences that are missing either a subject, verb, or complete thought. Fix sentence fragments with a bit of clever punctuation, a few more words, or even another sentence. Let’s look at some examples:

Donna wants to remember. But can’t.  The fragment is obvious, right? Check out this easy fix: Donna wants to remember but can’t. Problem solved! 

The Doctor likes food. For example, jammy dodgers and fish fingers with custard. Can you fix this one? Try this: The Doctor likes food, especially jammy dodgers and fish fingers with custard.

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

Listen, guys. I know fragments can be cool sometimes. They’re especially awesome in scenes with a lot of dialogue, especially if your character stammers or has a stutter. PLEASE BE CAREFUL, though. There’s a fine line between intentional fragment use and thinking you don’t need to use the rules of grammar because you’re just a naturally talented writer. You can’t compose a symphony without learning to play the instruments, you can’t be a chess master without first learning how each piece moves, and you can’t be the next Shakespeare unless you know the basic rules of grammar. So. Use fragments in moderation (mainly in dialogue), and don’t ever, EVER use them in formal or technical writing. Please? For me?

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

fragment

noun frag·ment \ˈfrag-mənt\
: a broken part or piece of something

: an incomplete part

Full Definition of FRAGMENT

:  a part broken off, detached, or incomplete

 

Resources/Further Reading: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

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The EFC Writer – Complex and Compound Sentences

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be).

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: Complex and Compound Sentences

We’ve already established that good writing utilizes more than just simple sentences (check out my post HERE to learn more). Now let’s chat a bit about how to polish your prose. First up, compound sentences:

COMPOUND SENTENCES are just two simple sentences stuck together. Use either a semicolon or a conjunction (and, or, nor, but, yet, for, so), and voila! Instant sentence upgrade! Let’s try it!

SIMPLE: “Clara is cool. I like Rose better.”  COMPOUND: “Clara is cool, but I like Rose better.” COMPOUND: “Clara is cool; I like Rose better.”  Still totally easy! Be careful, though—hooking too many simple sentences together will make your prose sound like it was written by a three-year-old.

COMPLEX SENTENCES hook a simple sentence (an independent clause) to at least one dependent clause (a dependent clause is a group of words that doesn’t form a sentence on its own). Use words like although, while, that, who, or because to link your clauses. Ready to give it a go?

SIMPLE: “Clara is cool. I like Rose better.” COMPLEX: “Although Clara is cool, I like Rose better.”

SIMPLE: “Clara is cool. I like Rose better.” COMPLEX: “I like Rose better because the Bad Wolf story arc is awesome.”

Can you identify the different clauses? In the first example, “I like Rose better” is the simple sentence and “although Clara is cool” is the dependent clause. The comma is just another added bonus to help you figure things out. Nice, right? In the second sentence the word “because” links the two clauses to form a complex sentence.

So. Take some deep breaths. You’ve probably been writing sentences like these forever . . . all I’ve done is given you some fancy grammar lingo so you can impress your friends at parties (because everybody’s impressed by grammar, right? RIGHT?!). Ahem. Anyway. Take a look at some of your own writing; see if you can level up your simple sentences!

FOR BONUS POINTS: Can you figure out how to write a compound/complex sentence?

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

According to Lara M. Robbins, “The most effective way to use a compound sentence is to juxtapose your thoughts to show contrast or to equate your thoughts to show balance.”

The words you’ll be using to hook those complex sentences together are either subordinate conjunctions (although, while, because) or relative pronouns (that, who), and officially you ought to be calling those dependent clauses “restrictive clauses.”

Complex sentences are awesome for showing which clause or idea is more important, so keep that in mind when you’re writing.

MERRIAM-WEBSTER DEFINITION:

sentence

noun sen·tence \ˈsen-təns\

Definition of SENTENCE

1:  a group of words that makes a statement, asks a question, or expresses a command, wish, or exclamation

Full Definition of CLAUSE

1:  a group of words containing a subject and predicate and functioning as a member of a complex or compound sentence

Resources/Further reading: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

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The EFC Writer – Simple Sentences

 

Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be).  

 

TODAY’S TOPIC: SIMPLE SENTENCES

It’s like this: you’re using simple sentences too often. Yeah, they’re easy to write, and yeah, they’re easy to understand, but you’re not in the fourth grade any more. It’s time to level up. The first step is making sure you know what simple sentence actually are. Here’s one:

Die!

Here’s another one: Dumbledore dies.

I can keep adding words (“Dumbledore dies a surprising and heartbreaking death in the Harry Potter series.”), but the structure stays the same: simple. You probably use simple sentences when you’re talking, so this structure can be okay for character dialogue as long as you’re not using it too often. Too much simple structure makes your prose read like a primary school report, and we both know you’re better than that.

Take a quick peek at your latest draft. Are you using simple sentences all the time? More than half of the time? More than you think I want you to? Hmm? Hmmmmmm?

Next time I’ll show you some quick ways to grown-up-ify (YES. It’s a word. TRUST ME, I’m your editor!) your sentences. *grin*

 

FOR GRAMMAR GEEKS:

Simple sentences are great for clarifying tough topics and adding variety to your prose, but use them too often and you run the risk of sounding like a tween. You WANT to write about complex ideas and relationships, and simple sentences just can’t hack that sort of depth. Stay tuned for next time, when I’ll introduce you to compound and complex sentences—two great ways to change things up and mature your writing.

 

Further Reading/Sources: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

Have a suggestion or request for an EFC Writer topic? Want to complain about something? Want more info about EFC Services?

E-mail me: everyfreechance@gmail.com with EFC Writer in the subject line.

 

melissasig

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