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Archive for December, 2016

12.26.16

Today’s Writers’ Tip: What a Difference a Comma Makes! (Part 2)

4-wise-men-still-seek-him-glass

Which Isaiah 9:6 verse is correct?

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Do you see the difference?

Depending on the translation, you might find either version, although the King James Version (verse one) is accepted by Bible scholars as the most accurate translation of the early scriptures. So what’s the difference?

One little comma. And that makes a big difference.

In the first verse, a comma follows the word “Wonderful.” In the second verse, the comma is missing. How does that affect the meaning of the verse?

In verse one, Wonderful is a predicative nominative, (a noun form capitalized), which refers directly to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior, who was to come. Because of that comma, we can attribute the word “Wonderful” to Jesus as a title. He is wonderful (adjective), and He is Wonderful! (noun)

In verse two, the missing comma changes the word “Wonderful” to an adjective (capped) describing Counsellor. Of course, Christ is a “wonderful counselor;” in fact, He’s a perfect counselor for anyone who needs godly advice to live a successful life that’s pleasing to God. So, indeed, He’s a wonderful counselor.

My personal opinion is that the comma in the KJV verse makes the verse so much more meaningful. Of the many names attributed to the Savior, I think “Wonderful” is one of the most poignant descriptions of our God, who is wonderful beyond description.

You might differ in your opinion. That doesn’t make you wrong. Either translation presents our Savior as WONDERFUL!

Blessings for the rest of the holiday season and a profitable new year to you!

Marsha

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 What a Difference a Comma Makes!

Which title is correct?

“God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen”

“God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen”

This carol is one of the best-loved Christmas hymns sung all around the world at this time every year. But does the song tell us about merry gentlemen resting or gentlemen who should be resting and merry?

Let’s take a look at the song’s roots:

Although the text was first published in 1833, it might have had its earliest origin among the 16th-century Waits bands (the night watchmen of that time), who travelled round London singing on the street corners and in taverns.

Some hymn arrangers of early versions decided to change the hymn’s meaning by putting the comma in the first line after the word “you,” but contemporary historians have concluded that is an incorrect interpretation.

Let’s take a look at the carol’s lyrics:

The first stanza and chorus go like this:

God rest you merry, gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay,

For Jesus Christ our Saviour

Was born on Christmas Day:

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray.

Refrain :

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy;

O tidings of comfort and joy.

 

At first glance you would come to this conclusion: It’s a song that depicts the gospel — Christ came to destroy the works of the devil, and now we (or the “gentlemen”) can rest and have comfort and joy. Therefore, all gentlemen can be merry. Right?

Well, not quite. If we trace the original meaning of the word “merry” in the Old English language, it could mean happy. However, it also has a second meaning: “mighty.” How many of you remember reading about Robin Hood and his “merry” men? In that case, the word didn’t mean happy. It meant mighty. Robin Hood’s men were strong and mighty, men to be feared. Therefore, “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” really means God rest you mighty (or in God’s strength), gentlemen.

I think you agree that knowing the origin of the words of this carol makes a huge difference in its meaning. So the next time you sing “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” remember where the comma is and how meaningful that one little punctuation mark is. And we, as mighty men and women, can make a difference this Christmas by living our faith before those around us. Amid the holly and the tinsel, we can tell them that Christ was born to die and that placing our faith in Him grants us life in heaven forever.

References:

http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/godrestye.asp

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/3674117/The-story-behind-the-carol-God-rest-you-merry-gentlemen.html

Have a wonderful Christmas season!

firstsnow-house-11-21-08

Marsha

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Let’s Talk Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Eleven)

MANGER08

Perky Parentheses and Bold Brackets

If you’re like me with your writing, you sometimes might be confused concerning when to use parentheses. Should you use em dashes instead? Or how about commas?

Let’s first define “parentheses” so we understand what in the world these little smiley face lines are used for.

Definition One: “Parentheses usually set off material that is less closely related to the rest of the sentence than that enclosed in em dashes or commas.” (The CMOS, 15th edition, The University of Chicago Press, 2003, p. 265)

Instead of going in to detailed descriptions of how to use the parentheses, I’m going to list some examples for you:

Example One: The judge decided that all the dogs (collies, etc.) in that division were worthy of a blue ribbon.

Example Two: The championship soccer game the Stallions won (under difficult conditions of freezing rain) was a thriller.

Example Three: The Book of John (see chapter 3) mentions Jesus as God’s Son and Savior who came to save us from our sin.

 Definition Two: “Parentheses are used to enclose glosses of unfamiliar terms or translations of foreign terms—or, if the term is given in English, to enclose the original word.” (The CMOS, 15th edition, The University of Chicago Press, 2003, p 266)

Example One: Downloading “Dropbox” (a free program on the web that allows you to transfer files from one computer to the other instantly without a flash drive) is a godsend for writers.

Example Two: In my Amish fiction book, I used the word “boppli” (baby) many times.

Example Three: The word for mother (mamm) in my Amish books occurs dozens of times.

In the CMOS, a few more examples of complicated uses for parentheses are listed, which most of us writers would not need to know. So for simplicity’s sake, we’ll stop with the perky parentheses plug here and move on to the bold brackets.

Bold Brackets

 To use brackets, or “square brackets,” properly, all you need to remember is that they are used to enclose words that are inserted by a second author inside a first author’s original work.

What? Say again?

You would use brackets if you inserted your own words in material from the following types of already printed material: quoted matter, reprints, anthologies, editorial interpolations, explanations, translations of foreign words, or corrections. Allow me give you some examples cited in the CMOS, 15th edition:

Example One: “They [the free-silver Democrats] asserted that the ratio could be maintained.”

Example Two: “Many CF [cystic fibrosis] patients have been helped by the new therapy.”

Example Three: Satire, Jebb tells us, “is the only [form] that has a continuous development.”

Example Four: “The differences between society [Gesellschaft] and community [Gemeinde] will now be analyzed.”

I believe the only other use of brackets that we might need to know is when they are used within a set of parentheses. Here is an example; take notice where the period is at the end:

Example: (For further explanation see Strunk and White’s Element of Style [1979] and Webster’s Dictionary [1984].)

I hope I haven’t totally confused you with this parentheses/bracket blog. These two little punctuation tips might not be of use to us every day, but once in a while, we do need to know how to use them effectively, so perhaps these tidbits today will refine your writing style a little more as you write your way to that next published piece.

Happy writing!

Marsha

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Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Ten)

“The Quirky Quotation Marks”

“What can I say about quotation marks?” Marsha says. “If you are a fiction writer, you need to master the technique of using quotation marks. However, over the last few years, many publishing companies of nonfiction works have asked authors to incorporate ‘fiction’ techniques in their manuscript. That entails using quotation marks, mostly in dialogue, correctly.”

Of the many times I’ve seen quotation marks used incorrectly, the following example is the most misuse I’ve noticed:

Bad Example: Bert yelled to his son Raymond in the back yard, “Throw the ball, son”.

Folks tend to want to put that period AFTER the quotation marks at the end, but it is incorrect. The proper usage is as such:

Good Example One: Bert yelled to his son Raymond in the back yard, “Throw the ball, son.”

The same goes for the use of quotation marks with question marks and exclamation points:

Good Example Two: After lunch Eva asked her friend Bonnie, “Would you like to go shopping?”

Good Example Three: When Bobby saw his puppy fall off the sofa, he yelled, “Watch out, Scruffy!”

Another frequent abuse of quotation marks occurs in a series when words that need the marks are listed. The following example shows how the list should be correctly written:

Good Example Four: Last year, our writers’ conference featured workshops entitled “Write an Irresistible Query,” “Kiddie Lit for Toddlers,” and “It’s Time for an Agent.”

But what about double quotes in the same sentence? You might be thinking, How do I write them? Well, here’s how the CMOS says to use double quotes:

Good Example Five: Barney said to his cousin Elmo, “You must have heard cousin Heathcliffe say, ‘We’re going to the shore on Friday.’ ” (Note the period, the single quote, a space, and a double quote.)

I’m sure it is no surprise to you that there are exceptions to using quotation marks with other punctuation marks. The English language is one big exception, if you ask me!

Anyway, here are some examples of when the quotation marks go INSIDE the ending punctuation mark:

Example One: Harry subscribed to “The Pennsylvania Magazine”; he loves the pictures. (A work that needs quotes around its title)

Example Two: The sergeant asked Private Botting to state his “name and serial number”; he forgot his serial number and got in big trouble. (A phrase that is a direct quote)

Example Three: Which of Shakespeare’s characters said, “All the world’s a stage”? (A question asked with a quoted statement within it)

Example Four: Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3).  (The period follows the Bible reference.)

Example Five: I can’t believe Pauline said, “I’m leaving tomorrow at five in the morning”! (The exclamatory statement was made by “I” not “Pauline.” Therefore, the exclamation point comes AFTER Pauline’s quote.)

Example Six: How can teachers motivate students to learn who constantly say, “I hate school”? (The entire sentence is a question; therefore the question mark comes AFTER the quotation mark at the end.)

There are other uses of quotation marks and exceptions, but I’m thinking this blog is enough to confuse even the best writers in the land. If you have doubts, go online to the CMOS and check out your quotation mark question firsthand.

Next time we’ll look at perky parentheses and bold brackets, which will just about wrap up our series of blogs offering punctuation advice for writers. Then we’ll move on to another venue in the fascinating world of writing and publishing.

Happy writing!

Marsha

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