In addition to editing science this month, I’m finishing The Grumpy, Grouchy Old Man’s Guide to Grammar. It’s been sitting at about eighty percent finished for quite a while; at this point, I’m cutting material out, to keep the book short. I have a sequel/companion volume planned, too: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, which will be mostly about the fact-checking side of fiction writing. (Remember my micro-rants about some author having a passage in his novel stating that “Earth was the only planet in the galaxy” — full stop, no qualifier — plus some nonsense about a starship traveling at four times the speed of light taking only twelve years to cross the Milky Way, interstellar dust pinging like rain off the hull the whole way? Yeah… There’s gonna be a lot more ranting later.)
Below are a couple of entries from the Homophones page here on my blog, but they’ll give you an idea of what that section in GGOMGG (titled “Give the Devil His ‘Do”) is like.
♦ raise/raze: You can’t raise something to the ground unless it started out below ground, because raise means to bring up or lift. They can, however, raze it, meaning to scrape or cut (like a razor does — see?), or to destroy or erase. Please, stop raising empires, kingdoms, and villages to the ground! You kids are freaking me out…
♦ yay/yea: The first is an expression of joy or approval: “Yay! I don’t have to go to school today.” The second is an old-fashioned word meaning yes: “Yea, sire, the frog-kisser-for-hire is at the gate again, just as you predicted.” (Yeah, an informal version of yes, is pronounced differently: short a instead of long.)
I don’t know what to use for cover art on GGOMGG. I’d toyed with the idea of a cartoon drawing of a lawn gnome holding a sign on which the sentence “Get off the grass!” is diagrammed… That implies a different sort of book, though, from what I’ve actually written. There will be no diagramming of sentences, especially not imperative sentences lacking their subject nouns/pronouns, in The Grumpy, Grouchy Old Man’s Guide to Grammar. Instead, there will be a lot of explanations of the rules (or guidelines, if you prefer, because grammar ninjas are kinda like pirates that way) of writing, how those rules, work, and when/how to disregard them. All with minimal jargon, ’cause knowing what to call something is less important than knowing what to do with it. D’you know what a gerund is? Do you care? Probably not… but you do know how to use an -ing verb as a noun. That’s what I’m talking about.
(If anyone has a better idea than the lawn gnome, please let me know.)