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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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On Writing: Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

 

(Post Number Eleven)

 

Perky Parentheses and Bold Brackets

 

  

Perky Parentheses

 

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 that 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.

 

Next time, I’m going to post a Q&A blog about one of our Writers of Any Genre members. If you’d like to be interviewed and have your gorgeous picture posted on my blog too, please let me know. I’d be absolutely thrilled beyond description to feature you on my Writers’ Tips blog.

 

Happy writing!

 

Marsha

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On Writing: Let’s Talk Grammar and Punctuation for a While

(Post Number Nine)

The Excitable Exclamation Point!

Today we’re looking at a “quicky” punctuation mark because its uses are quite limited.

Most writers agree that the exclamation point is not in much danger of being used incorrectly. But I would venture to say that its greatest misuse is OVERUSE!!! (Case in point: Never use more than one exclamation point consecutively, no matter how emphatic or dramatic you’re trying to be!!! The second and third exclamation points in a row actually negate the effect or mood you’re trying to portray, so take it easy. Use just one!)

So, when do we use the exclamation point and how often? Well, the obvious use of the exclamation point is to inflect fear, panic, surprise, irony, pain, anger, or a command. To use more than one every several pages of your writing is also OVERUSE! So watch that excitable little mark well! (I’ve already used nine in this blog [ho hum]; are you getting the point?)

Since this mark’s use is limited, we’ll just cite some popular examples for this little guy:

Example One (Fear): “Watch out,” Susie cried. “The tiger got out of his cage!” (Note that the exclamation point is inside the quotation marks.)

Example Two (Panic):  Mabel forgot to turn off the stove, and the house is burning down!

Example Three (Surprise): I can’t believe I just won that car!

Example Four (Irony): Bill boarded one plane and his wife boarded another!

Example Five (Pain):  Ow!

Example Six (Anger): “Stop kicking the door!” Jane screamed to the top of her lungs at Herman.

Example Seven (A command): Stand up and shut up!

Let’s mention one more example, which is perfectly legal, even though many “English pros” might call it into question, since it IS a question:

Example Eight (At the end of a question that is essentially an exclamation):

A.  How could Barry possibly have lifted that!

B.  “When will you ever learn!” Carrie’s anger with her puppy was obvious.

So there you have the eight most common uses of the exclamation point. Use it sparingly and wisely, and your writing will have an extra spark that will impress even the editors!

Next time we’ll have a look at quirky quotation marks. These can be quite confusing, especially when you have a quote within a quote, so until next time happy writing!

Marsha

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