Ah apostrophes. The bane of sign-makers and internet pedants everywhere. It seems so simple; they’re just commas in the sky, but dig a little further and they will trip you up with their many howevers and buts. So let’s dive right in and answer: How do you use apostrophes?
We’ll start this writing guide with the basics. Apostrophes have two functions; they indicate possession and the omission of letters. Let’s start with possession.
Also known as the serial comma, the Oxford comma can be a tricky subject, as well as a disputed one. It is commonly known as the Oxford comma because its use is advocated by the Oxford University Press (and the Harvard University Press too). Essentially, it is a comma that is placed before the ‘and’ that comes before the last element in a list.
Here is an example of such a list where the Oxford comma is absent:
Talking in the group was John, Martin’s father and a trained helicopter pilot.
Without the Oxford comma, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on. Are there three people – John and Martin’s father and a trained helicopter pilot? Or two – John (Martin’s father) and a helicopter pilot? Or is just a very busy John, who is Martin’s father and a helicopter pilot?
Diving into the literary world can be an intimidating thing, all those terms and rules and conventions just longing to trip you up and have you mocked on forums and Reddit. We at Sentient Ink feel your pain, and we’re here to guide you through them one by one. So what is a run-on sentence? And what is a comma splice?
After a couple of years wrestling with magical creatures, arguing with people who don’t exist, and single-handedly building an entire world, I have finished the first draft of my fantasy fiction novel The Walk of Shadows (A snippet of which you can read here). As a result, I thought I would share with you some of my editing process between now and sending it off to be read by millions, as well as some thoughts and writing tips. I should temper this by noting that I have never had a book published and these are merely my musings, along with things I have picked up from other fiction writers.
You have your characters, your plot and your world. You have at least a rough plan of your story’s contents – perhaps an event, good or bad (usually bad), has an effect on one or several characters. Or perhaps it even affects your world as a whole (some provocation of war; apocalyptic catastrophe etc.), but still you’ll tell stories of individuals and how they cope with this change you have constructed. You will likely have some sort of ending in mind, a resolution of sorts.
Excellent. Congratulations. So, you’ve sat down after days, weeks, maybe even months of planning, but how the hell do you start?
By D. C. Ward
If you’re still lacking confidence with punctuation in dialogue, then it is perhaps best to first read through Writing Dialogue Part One. But if you’re now in search of some flesh and a soul to add to those bones of discourse, look no further.
First of all, it is important to understand that you should never attempt to recreate natural speech. Your ears have grown used to filtering out all the stutters, repeated words and ums and ahs and so forth. If you record a conversation and play it back, you will see how ridiculous it would be to replicate it in text, and how it would serve only to ruin the experience of your readers. If your character is one who does in fact stutter, then let him, if they are scared, then you may want to show that too and there is no harm in that (“S-s-s-s-s-swamp monster!”). But to litter every utterance with these can dilute your characters and your story rather than offering any sort of realism or depth.
By Andrew Wright
There are many important aspects of writing that are needed to create even a good story, never mind a great one. D.C. Ward has already touched upon the more technical side with his article on punctuation. But today I’m going to look at what I consider to be the single most important part of truly engaging fiction: characters.
Even the most suspenseful cliff-hanger, the most breath-taking action sequence or the most perfectly crafted romance can leave the audience feeling unsatisfied or, worst of all, apathetic, if they do not care about the characters involved. As Harry Potter walked into the Forbidden Forest to meet Lord Voldemort in Deathly Hallows, the knot I felt in my stomach was there because I had spent my childhood getting to know him and I cared what happened to him
From a writer’s point of view, I would argue that the most difficult part is not coming up with the characters, but expressing who they are on the page. To demonstrate this, I hope you will indulge me a small reminiscence:
Do your characters babble incoherently and without pause? If so, you might need to sort out your punctuation. The first step to writing good, coherent dialogue – one of the most vital facets of storytelling – is simply getting the punctuation right. Some of the rules of punctuation change in speech, and it’s essential to hone these skills and nail your own dialogue technique to ensure your work is consistent – and consistently well scripted.
By Chris Wright
So you have your idea. It’s brilliant, genre redefining. You can see your characters as fully fleshed beings in your mind and the plot stretches out before you in glorious Technicolor, its intricate twists and devious turns ready to be unleashed into the world. So, now what?
Publishers, agents and the public at large really prefer if you somehow translate your abstract masterpiece into a series of symbols that can be visibly observed and decoded as language. Preferably, if you speak English (or many other languages) the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet. OK, I’m sorry, I’m going to stop being facetious and get to the crux of the matter. You have your idea, you need to get it down. Do you type? Do you write? Laptop? Pen? Typewriter? Pencil? Phone? Felt tip? What is the best way to physically write a book?