MM’s Yellow Highlights Workshop on Mechanics
Just the facts, ma’am:
MM’s Yellow Highlights Workshop for Mechanics on Workshops on MM’s Yahoo group begins July 4, 2016.
The July workshop is limited to fifteen students. The cost will be $100. At the end of the workshop, students will have 24 edited pages and lessons to help them correct their errors.
MM Pollard, the MM in Workshops with MM, English teacher extraordinaire, certified copy editor, and editor with Black Velvet Seductions, will edit your weekly submission of 1500 words for four weeks for punctuation, spelling, grammar, sentence structure, usage, verb tenses, passive voice, word choice, and anything else that falls into the realm of writing mechanics. She will concentrate on all the nuts and bolts that are basic to solid writing. In four weeks, she will edit a writer’s six thousand words for the basics, that’s about twenty-four pages. She will post lessons for your errors so that you can learn how to recognize and correct them in your writing.
MM may point out problems in deep point of view and backstory issues and will recommend resources, but she will not offer lessons on these problems. She will not comment on story structure or character development. Those are the areas for a story doctor. Think of MM as a story mechanic, and a darn good one if you believe her former students. (See student comments below.)
——So, if you interested in taking MM’s Yellow Highlights Workshop for Mechanics in July, 2016, please email your comments, questions, and interest to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any questions? Send them to the above email address.
I will give directions on payment to those interested in taking this workshop in July directly to their email addresses based on who contacts me with intent first. Thanks for your interest and comments.
PS: I also give this workshop privately for $125.00 during selected months.
Comments from students who have taken this workshop
Debbi: Again, this class has helped me tremendously, and it was exactly what I needed. April, 2016
Janice: This class has been very helpful to me, and I’d love to do another session. April, 2016
Ginger: I am grateful for this class and the immeasurable help I am receiving from your lessons and from the other questions that my classmates post. Thank you all! October, 2015
Linda: Wow – thank you!! That was so fast [answering her questions]. You don’t have to sit and stare at sentences for 15 minutes, reading them aloud with the accent on different words before deciding where the punctuation goes? :D October, 2015
Suzanne: Thank you for the notes, MM! This is my first foray into novel writing. The prose (v. dialogue, dialogue, dialogue in screenwriting) has been a big challenge for me. And most of my knowledge about formatting a novel has come from the internet — scary, right? Your workshop is a much-needed life preserver! October, 2015
Lindy: These comments are wonderful. My critique partner mentioned my issue with tenses but she didn’t point them out for me. This is really helpful. October, 2015
Fran: Thanks MM! Your comments and corrections make incredible sense. I can’t believe you caught the out-of-alignment lines. You have great eyes!
I copied your comma lessons onto index cards and reviewed them as I edited my submission. I caught a few comma mistakes, but also missed a few. Your instructions, right next to my compound sentences, were extremely helpful. I think the combination of reviewing the lessons and seeing your corrections next to the mistakes is effective. It just takes time to absorb. August, 2015
Karen: Based upon my three submissions, I’ve concluded I’m not dreadful when it comes to the mechanics.
The other major benefits to me were:
- Your identification of my overuse of hyphenated words and characters’ names and my repetition of pieces of information.
- The lessons.
I’ve reviewed 10 of the lessons. Most of them provide information I can use to strengthen my writing. For example, if I practice using different types of sentences and the strategic use of fragments, I’ll be better prepared for a workshop on pacing. (I’m not ready for that just yet.) For quite a few of the lessons, I don’t have a good handle on what is mechanics and what is beyond mechanics. August, 2015
Alan: I enjoyed the comments of all types, be it mechanics only or the more subjective forms of the craft. August, 2015
Claudia: Thank you for the feedback. I’ll go back to the MS and work on the sentences. …I’m going back to make sure I don’t leave a thought hanging as I used to. For that I have to thank you a lot. August, 2015
Lois: I will review the lessons and work on them. I really enjoyed the class and I hope I learned from them as it has been a while since I’ve had English lessons. Thanks for your patience with me. August, 2015
Lesson topics from the August workshop – the topics in your workshop will vary because the lessons are based on your mistakes in mechanics and those of the other students.
Mechanics of Internal Monologue
Tense in Flashbacks
Strategic Uses of Fragments
Using Find to Search for Common Errors
Numbers and Apostrophes
Editing Strategy to Find Missing or Wrong Words
Writing Excellent Exposition
Apostrophes to Show Joint Ownership
Vague –ing Words
Simple Dialogue Punctuation
The Overly Long Sentence
Commas and Appositives
Preposition and Clause Words
Commas after Introductory Elements
Beats in Dialogue
Fixing Problem Participial Phrases
Phrasal Adjectives and Hyphens
Concrete vs. Abstract Nouns to Show
Compound Sentence Punctuation
Hope to see you in class,
MM’s Fundamentals of Writing
|September 1, 2015||Volume 3, Number 1|
This month, I’d like to share some common mistakes I noticed in the submissions from MM’s Yellow Highlights Workshop on Mechanics – the trial run.
Using character names several times each page. You need to use character names only to prevent confusion. Unless you have two men or two women in the same scene, once a page is good.
Using beats as dialogue tags. The most effective dialogue tag is said. Don’t need to be creative or use big words like responded or inquired. Characters can’t possibly smile words, chuckle words, frown words…. ACTIONS ARE NOT TAGS; they are beats.
Using participial phrases that defy logic. A participial phrase begins with a verb form, but the phrase itself is an adjective that modifies the noun or pronoun that immediately precedes or follows the phrase. The problem with participial phrases is that the main verb of the sentence AND the verb in participial phrase MUST be able to happen at the same time. Often, writers ignore that rule.
For example, Hearing the phone ring, Sharon stopped washing the dinner dishes and answered it.
Two verb forms – hearing – the participle & stopped – the main verb. She won’t stop washing until AFTER she hears the phone ring. These two actions can’t happen at the same time. It’s illogical, as Spock (Star Trek for you non-Sci-Fi fans) would say.
Workshops with MM
About MM Pollard
As an English teacher for fifteen years, the MM in Workshops with MM, and currently as editor for Black Velvet Seductions, MM Pollard has helped writers correct ungrammatical grammar, misused usage, problematic punctuation, and poor writing. Check out Testimonials on her blog, MM’s Fundamentals of English. While you are there, sign up for her monthly newsletter and even look at previous newsletters.
MM began presenting workshops four years ago and has presented on many sites, including her own. Many RWA chapters, including From the Heart RWA, RWA Online, OCC/RWA, Passionate Ink, Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal RW, Maryland RWA, and Florida RW, have sponsored her workshops. In February, 2015, she presented at FRW’s Fun in the Sun Conference, her dream come true!
Through her fun workshops – English class can be fun! – she is sure she can help you, too, master the fundamentals of English composition.
I have sent you this newsletter because you have either taken a Workshop with MM, you have signed up for my newsletter, or because you’re someone I want to keep in touch with. You haven’t received an email from me in over a year. The reason isn’t that I didn’t want to keep in touch. To be honest, the reason is that I’m not a graphic designer. I spent so much time worrying about and agonizing over the newsletter design and fighting with the email provider that I finally just gave up.
Well, I’m back with a simple design and no sender except me and live.com. I’m excited! I plan to send out emails once a month or so with news about Workshops with MM and tidbits that will help you grasp the mechanics of writing.
If you aren’t excited to hear from me, you haven’t hurt my feelings. I know – out of sight, out of mind. So, if you would never like to receive another email from me, just send this email back to me. Just hit reply with your name on the subject line. That’s all you have to do.
<waving to all of you who are typing your name and about to hit send>
What can you expect in future newsletters? Read on. MM
News about Workshops with MM
First, expect news about Workshops with MM, and, boy, do I have exciting news to share with you today!
Announcing MM’s Yellow Highlights Workshop on Mechanics
I will offer a month-long workshop in October, 2015, called MM’s Yellow Highlights Workshop for Mechanics on the Workshops with MM Yahoo group. Students will submit 1500 words a week for four weeks. I will edit for punctuation, spelling, grammar, sentence structure, usage, and word choice with mistakes highlighted and suggestions for corrections given. I will also post lessons that address each student’s specific errors. In four weeks, I will edit 6,000 words for the basics – nothing on the how to write a novel topics like deep point of view or character arcs, but all the nuts and bolts that are basic to solid writing.
I just completed a trial run of this workshop with five students. I have included some of their comments below.
Alan: I enjoyed the comments of all types, be it mechanics only or the more subjective forms of the craft.
Fran: Thanks MM! Your comments and corrections make incredible sense. I can’t believe you caught the out-of-alignment lines. You have great eyes!
I copied your comma lessons onto index cards and reviewed them as I edited my submission. I caught a few comma mistakes, but also missed a few. Your instructions, right next to my compound sentences, were extremely helpful. I think the combination of reviewing the lessons and seeing your corrections next to the mistakes is effective. It just takes time to absorb.
Karen: Based upon my three submissions, I’ve concluded I’m not dreadful when it comes to the mechanics. That was worth the $75. Would be worth $100. Would be worth more.
The other major benefits to me were:
· Your identification of my overuse of hyphenated words and characters’ names and my repetition of pieces of information.
· The lessons.
I’ve reviewed 10 of the lessons. Most of them provide information I can use to strengthen my writing. For example, if I practice using different types of sentences and the strategic use of fragments, I’ll be better prepared for a workshop on pacing. (I’m not ready for that just yet.) For quite a few of the lessons, I don’t have a good handle on what is mechanics and what is beyond mechanics.
Claudia: Thank you for the feedback. I’ll go back to the MS and work on the sentences. …I’m going back to make sure I don’t leave a thought hanging as I used to. For that I have to thank you a lot.
Lois: I will review the lessons and work on them. I really enjoyed the class and I hope I learned from them as it has been a while since I’ve had English lessons. Thanks for your patience with me. – – – – –
The cost of this workshop will be $75 for everyone who receives this newsletter. Consider it my way of saying thanks for your interest in Workshops with MM and your support over the past few years. I will limit the October workshop to ten students. I can’t see myself taking on more than ten – that’s 60,000 words – gives me tremors just thinking about all the work involved in editing that many words and writing lessons for the errors I see.
Why then, if just the thought gives me the shakes, am I thinking about offering this type of workshop? I see so many self-published books that have a fabulous story, but the mechanics of writing are bad. Sorry, no other way to say that. I’m not judging, really. I’ve been out of school for a really long time. If I hadn’t taught English for 15 years, I’m sure I would have forgotten a lot of what I learned back in the dark ages. <smile>
So, would you be interested in taking MM’s Yellow Highlights Workshop for Mechanics in October? I’d love to know your pros and cons to this type of workshop. Please email your interest and comments to me at email@example.com. The registration will be on a first emailed first registered basis. Any questions? Send them to the same email address.
Check out MM’s blog MM’s Fundamentals of English for other Workshops with MM and for information on all fundamentals of English.
Here are the lesson topics I covered with my five students in the trial workshop. Of course, lessons during each workshop will vary because I choose them based on the students’ errors in their submissions.
Mechanics of Internal Monologue Tense in Flashbacks
Strategic Uses of Fragments Using Find to Search for Common Errors
Numbers and Apostrophes Subject-Verb Agreement
Editing Strategy to Find Missing or Wrong Words
Apostrophes to Show Joint Ownership
Commas after Introductory Elements Comma Splices
Commas and Appositives Comma Conventions
Telling Words Writing Excellent Exposition
Simple Dialogue Punctuation Vague –ing Words
Pronoun Cases The Overly Long Sentence
Preposition and Clause Words Pronoun Antecedents
Beats in Dialogue Fixing Problem Participial Phrases
Phrasal Adjectives and Hyphens Concrete vs. Abstract Nouns to Show
Compound Sentence Punctuation Compound Parts of Sentences
In each newsletter in the left column, you’ll also find MM’s Tidbits, short lessons on English mechanics and composition. ⇐
MM’s Favorite Resources this Month
Here, I will post my favorite resources. You’ll find them on Amazon. Right now, my favorite books are
For the writer’s Life: The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block by Hillary Rettig
Fav grammar book: The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English by Roy Peter Clark
Books to improve facets of your story:
Showing and Telling in Fiction by Marcy Kennedy
She Sat He Stood: What do your characters do while they talk? By Ginger Hanson
Writing about Magic by Rayne Hall
|Until next time . . .||
That’s it for this newsletter. Please let me know what you think about the new layout, sections, and the new workshop. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to receive future newsletters, just leave your name in comments or email me at the above address. If you would like to take MM’s Yellow Highlights Workshop on Mechanics in October, email me at the above address soon. I already have three paid registrations. Ten is the max. MM
A student in one of my workshops asked about using the and a. I had written four lessons on articles and noun determiners–yes, we all know I tend to be wordy–for a forum almost two years ago. If the writer has questions, I assume others might to, so I’m posting them here as one article.
Yes, the post is long, but you don’t have to click on three more posts to get the whole picture of articles.
Lesson 1 The Three Articles — A, An, and The
We’ll start with an easy one — the articles — a, an, the. When you see one of these words in a sentence, you can bet (safely) that a noun is nearby. We’ll talk about nouns in the later lesson.
How to use the articles correctly:
A and an are indefinite articles, meaning they point out any noun, not a specific noun. They are both singular in number, meaning one. Examples: I am reading a good book. (one book) I love having a new car. (one car) This is an honorable gesture. (one event)
Use a before words that do NOT begin with a vowel SOUND. Examples: I am reading a good book. I love having a new car. This is a historic event. Bradbury’s story is about a utopian society.
Use an before words that begin with a vowel SOUND. I am reading an interesting book. I love having an antique car. This is an exciting time of year.
The is a definite article, meaning it points out a specific noun. The may be singular or plural, may point out singular and plural nouns.
Read the story for homework. (Not just any story, but the one I gave you to read.)
I heard the baby cry at 3 p.m. (Not just any baby, but the one that was crying at 3 p.m. I know this crying baby.)
I saw the girls in the library. (Not just any girls, but the ones I have mentioned earlier.)
Let’s look at the next three sentences and compare their meanings with the examples above.
Read a story for homework. (You choose the story. I don’t care.)
I heard a baby cry at 3 p.m. (I don’t know this baby.)
I saw girls in the library. (Usually, only boys go the library. I don’t know these girls.)
In case you are wondering, there is no indefinite article to use with plural nouns.
That’s lesson 1 — questions? Post as a reply. MM
December 23, 2012
Lesson 2: Articles — The Fine Print
Here’s the first rule: When two or more nouns joined by AND refer to different people, places, or things, use an article before each noun.
The surgeon and the nurses were super during her stay in the hospital.
The dog and the cat fight like brothers and sisters.
The professor and the leader of the dig crew argue over where to dig.
He found a coat and a scarf left in the church pew after mass.
Each example gives you two nouns. In each example, the two nouns refer to different people, animals or things. (Sorry, I just can’t call animals “things.”) If the nouns joined by AND are the subjects of the sentence, make sure that the verb agrees with your subjects.
Here’s the second rule: When two or more nouns joined by AND refer to the same person, place, or thing, use an article before the first noun only.
The lead surgeon and head of Barnes’s neurosurgery department offers her valuable advice before the surgery.
The mini Australian shepherd and love of my life is named Foster.
A student and aspiring surgeon has visited her room after her surgery to check on her.
MM is a workshop presenter and editor of Black Velvet Seductions.
Each example here also gives you two nouns. But here, both nouns refer to the same person or animal. Since student and head, for example, refer to the same person, use a singular verb to agree with the subject.
January 8, 2013
Lesson 3: Noun Determiners
Noun determiners go by many different names: articles — a, an, the demonstrative adjectives — this, that, these, those (as opposed to demonstrative pronouns this, that, these, those. Pronouns take the place of nouns.) possessive pronouns — my, our, your, his, her, its, their
If you see any of these words in a sentence, you can bet that a noun closely follows, in a grammatically correct sentence, that is!
A cat adopted my husband and me. A — what? — cat my — what? — husband
Not such an easy one this time!
The adorable, fluffy little fur ball purred its way into our soft hearts. The — what? — fur ball — adorable, fluffy, little are adjectives that describe fur ball. Adjectives are also noun determiners WHEN they precede the noun they describe. I avoid calling them noun determiners in this lesson because sometimes adjectives come after the noun they modify, after a linking verb. Start including verbs in the mix and you are asking for trouble. Grammar is hard enough. Why make it harder?
Its — what? — way
our — what? — hearts — soft is an adjective that describes hearts
Before I close, I want to address the issue of demonstrative pronouns vs. demonstrative adjectives. This story is really funny. What is really funny? Story — Which story? This story. This describes story — demonstrative adjective
That tasted very good. What tasted very good? That — whatever THAT is. Be careful using demonstrative pronouns as the subjects of sentences. Beginning vaguely is not a good beginning. BETTER: That seafood gumbo tasted very good.
Now we need to work on very good — another lesson!
More tidbits about this, that, these and those before I go — this and that before singular nouns This book, that cat
these and those before plural nouns These books, those cats
This and these — use with nouns near the speaker We found this cat in the alley. (Cat is the one with me now.)
That and those — use with nouns away from the speaker Those cars get the best mileage. (The cars I’m talking about aren’t in my driveway, for instance.)
Any questions? MM
21 January 2013 09:31 PM
Lesson 4: The Absolute Last Lesson on Articles, Promise
This lesson on articles — the last one on these tiny but mighty words, I promise — deals with WHEN TO USE AND WHEN NOT TO USE ARTICLES and THE DIFFERENCES IN MEANING WHEN YOU DON’T USE THEM.
RULE: Do not use articles with non-count nouns that refer to all of something or something in general. Non-count nouns are nouns that can’t be made plural. (Be careful: Many nouns can be both count — one or many — and non-count — no specific number.)
CORRECT EXAMPLE WITHOUT ARTICLE: Kindness is a virtue. No article before kindness. Kindness in general.
CORRECT EXAMPLE WITH ARTICLE: The kindness of strangers was a blessing to us. Use THE because the prepositional phrase “of strangers” makes kindness specific — the kindness of strangers, not kindness in general.
CORRECT EXAMPLE WITHOUT ARTICLE: In some parts of the world, rice is the preferred grain. No article before rice. Rice is a general term here, not referring to a specific type or serving of rice.
RULE: When you use a count noun to represent a general category, make the noun plural and do not use the. CORRECT EXAMPLE WITHOUT ARTICLE: Fountains add a focal point to landscape design.
EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE: When the noun is singular and refers to a scientific class or category of items, most often animals, musical instruments, and inventions, use the.
CORRECT EXAMPLE OF EXCEPTION: The assembly line modernized manufacturing. “The assembly line” is an invention here. INCORRECT EXAMPLE OF EXCEPTION: A assembly line or Assembly line . . . .
CORRECT EXAMPLE OF EXCEPTION: The American alligator is no longer listed as an endangered species. “The American alligator” is a category of animals.
RULE: Do not use articles with most singular proper nouns. There are exceptions to this rule.
CORRECT EXAMPLE: France, Lake Erie, Mount St. Helens
CORRECT EXAMPLE OF EXCEPTION: most are made up of a common noun and modifiers. We visited the Great Wall of China last year. Robert wants to work for the FBI.
RULE: Use the with most plural proper nouns. CORRECT EXAMPLE: the Smiths, the Great Lakes, the United States of America, the Rocky Mountains, the Hawaiian Islands
That does it for articles! Any questions? MM
30 January 2013 05:56 PM
Two images that prove punctuation is important!
from Pleated Jeans
Some of the images on the website might be objectionable to some people. These were funny and very telling! Enjoy. MM
‘s or just ‘ — That is the Question
A student in one of my recent workshops asked me if there was consensus on forming the singular possessive of nouns ending in s like Marcus.
I looked up the question in The Chicago Manual of Style and posted the manual’s answer for her and others.
I’m including the answer here because I’m sure others face the same dilemma — ‘s or ‘?
There is no consensus concerning the apostrophe rule for making singular nouns ending in s possessive. Any publishing firm can decide how it wants to handle apostrophes in this instance and call it house STYLE.
Most do follow The Chicago Manual of Style, though, so I let this book be the authority for me on any subject related to questions of style.
From edition 16, Chicago says
“7.15: The possessive of most singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s.” One of the examples is a bass’s stripes.
“The possessive of plural nouns (except for a few irregular plurals, like children, that do not end in s) is formed by adding an apostrophe only.” One of the examples is puppies’ paws.
“7.16: Possessive of proper nouns, letters, and numbers. The general rule extends to proper nouns, including names ending in s, x, or z, to both their singular and plural forms, as well as letters and numbers.”
Singular forms: Kansas’s legislature, Dickens’s novels, Jesus’s adherents
Plural forms: the Lincolns’ marriage, dinner at the Browns’ home
This is where it gets interesting:
“7.17: Possessive of words and names ending in unpronounced “s.” In a return to Chicago’s earlier practice, words and names ending in an unpronounced s form the possessive in the usual way (with the addition of an apostrophe and an s). This practice not only recognizes that the additional s is often pronounced but adds to the appearance of consistency with the possessive forms of other types of proper nouns.”
the marquis’s mother
Albert Camus’s novels
Exceptions to the General Rule – you knew there had to be exceptions, right?
“7.19: Possessive of nouns plural in form, singular in meaning. When the singular form of a noun ending in s is the same as the plural (i.e. the plural is uninflected), the possessives of both are formed by the addition of an apostrophe only. If ambiguity threatens, use of to avoid the possessive.”
politics’ true meaning
this species’ first record (or better, the first record of this species)
7:20: “For…sake” expressions. For goodness’ sake, for righteousness’ sake – no s after apostrophe
for expedience’s sake, for Jesus’s sake – add s after apostrophe
Chicago’s final words on the subject
“7:21: An alternative practice for words ending in “s.” Some writers and publishers prefer the system, formerly more common, of simply omitting the possessive s on all words ending in s – hence “Dylan Thomas’ poetry…. ” “Though easy to apply and economical, such usage disregards pronunciation and is therefore not recommended by Chicago.”
BTW, I’m presenting a workshop on apostrophes and commas in September sponsored by Outreach International RW. For details, click on the link here. If you think apostrophes are a mess, just wait to you see all the comma rules!
Guess what? I’m going to speak at the Florida RW Fun in the Sun Conference, February, 2015. The conference will be held on the Royal Caribbean ship Liberty of the Seas — yes, a cruising conference in the Western Caribbean with a stop at Cozumel, Mexico.
When I started giving workshops, I dreamed of giving them in person, so this opportunity is the first step in making that dream come true. I’ll present a one-hour talk on either commas or genre clichés — the conference committee hasn’t let me know which topic yet.
Even though presenting in person was a dream when I first began giving workshops, I admit I’ve become comfortable with giving online workshops. I have grown accustomed to the privacy of this format. I stepped out my comfort zone big time when I sent FRW two proposals for its conference. I got my husband to promise that if the chapter invited me to speak, he would go with me so that I wouldn’t have to go alone.
Well, FRW invited, and now we are looking forward to leaving Illinois next February, going south, and visiting Mayan ruins. March, 2015, is our 30th anniversary. The cruise will be special for that reason even if I’m so nervous I tell jokes that no one thinks is funny — I tend to do that when I’m nervous — and people walk out on me — my greatest fear! Wish me luck.
Have any of you cruised on Royal Caribbean? On Liberty of the Seas? Been to Cozumel? What did you enjoy and what would you skip if you go again? We’ll only have a day in Cozumel, so I want to make the most of that short time.
I have sent March’s newsletter to subscribers. If you aren’t a subscriber, you can subscribe by clicking on the subscribe button to the right. If you would like to view March’s email, click on newsletter archives.