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Wednesday

THEIR is plural. Aargh.




Pronouns and possessive adjectives can be both pertinent and paramount, particularly when they are used appropriately and precisely. There are many instances, however, when these terms appear incorrectly. Although we may let such misuses slide in common speech, these errors can cut writers’ credibility.

Here is one such example: "their." This word specifically belongs with “them,” “themselves,” and “they.” All of these words are plural. 



Unfortunately, these terms are often used incorrectly as singulars. Consider these examples.

Each student must carry their own books.
Anybody can succeed by seizing the opportunities they find.
The winning essay will receive the prize due them.

None of these statements is grammatically correct. Nope, not one. Here are the appropriate ways to restate these sentences.

Each student must carry his or her own books.
Anybody can succeed by seizing the opportunities he or she finds.
The winning essay will receive the prize due it.

The misuse of “them” and “their” appears everywhere.

I’ve seen this wording gone bad in published books, newspapers, magazines, and all over. It makes me cringe.

One might say, “Everyone is entitled to their own pet peeve.” But that’s not right. This misuse has become so common that those who say such things may not even know they’re erring.

Here are two correct alternatives, depending upon whether the subject is plural or singular:

All people are entitled to their own pet peeves.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own pet peeve.

There. That about says it.

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Graphic adapted from public domain image

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Saturday

Zola: Famous writers from A to Z on writing




Writers often have unusual ways of viewing the world. We look at life in ways that may seem weird to others. Often, we try to make sense of it. Or we attempt to describe it with words that point to fuller understanding, deeper meaning, enjoyment, artistry, or entertainment.

French novelist and playwright Emile Edouard Charles Antoine Zola (1840-1902) might have meant something along such lines when he said this:

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, I will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”


If living out loud meant practicing political activism, bending societal boundaries of the time, and publishing plenty of attention-getting works, then Zola fulfilled his self-declared ambition. Books by Emile Zola include Germinal, Nana, Pot Luck, The Beast Within, The Belly of Paris, The Flood, The Fortune of the Rougons, The Ladies' Paradise, and The Masterpiece.

Clearly, Emile Zola was a gifted writer, although he pointed to the importance of effort:

“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.”

Gifted talent and hard work only pay off with practice, at least according to this third Emile Zola quotation for writers:

“There are two men inside the artist: the poet and the craftsman. One is born a poet. One becomes a craftsman.”

Even today, writing teachers almost unanimously trumpet the importance of melding natural talent with training, practice, purpose, and plenty of hard work – whether it all becomes published or not.



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Graphic adapted from public domain image

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Friday

Yolen: Famous writers from A to Z on writing




Where does writing start? How does a writer find his or her voice and begin to pursue the best and busiest communication career possible?
 
Jane Hyatt Yolen (1939-____) is an award-winning American poet, children’s author, and science fiction writer. Her best known books include the popular Commander Toad series, How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends, How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night, How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday, How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You, Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls, Owl Moon, The Devil's Arithmetic (which became a 1999 movie with Kristen Dunst, Brittany Murphy, and Mimi Rogers), and The Seeing Stick.


Consider this telling Jane Yolen quote, which offers a clue by breaking writing down into the most basic form possible.

“Take a step. Breathe in the world. Give it out again in story, poem, song, or art.”

Once started, is it possible for a writer to sustain this simplicity and still crank out plenty of worthy materials? This additional Jane Yolen statement offers a secret to productive and prolific writing, as well as how to practice the craft.

“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”

As a writer who has published so many titles for children, Yolen displays a clever sense of humor, as well as an appreciation for childhood creativity. This third Jane Yolen quotation illustrates this idea:

“Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.”

We have to wonder how many grown-up writers first caught the wordsmithing spark while enjoying read-aloud books as youngsters.


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A to Z Blogging Challenge promo logo – fair use
Graphic adapted from public domain image

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