Monday, September 26, 2011

Today's Writing Tip Is on Realistic Dialogue

Some of you may know that I was raised in New Jersey, and when I get very tired or sloppy, I revert to Jersey speak. The other day I said to my mother, "Why you gotta get so upset?" This is a great sentence for many reasons.

First, often writers create stilted dialogue in their novels. Characters say things that they would never say in real life, such as "I am going out now. I will call you later. Thank you for understanding." Someone is much more likely to say, "Going out now. Call later. Bye." Note that credible dialogue often has sentence fragments; it's not composed of whole sentences or whole thoughts.

In my Jersey sentence, I make at least three grammatical mistakes, but they are believable in dialogue. You can create a character who talks that way, especially if it sounds right for him or her. Tony Soprano might say that; Tom Brokaw would not.

So, look carefully at the conversations you've created in print. Make sure that a grandmother's vocabulary sounds age-appropriate and a teenager sounds like a kid. And don't forget to add contractions. Say I am or I've instead of I am or I have. The best way to write plausible dialogue is to listen to people when they talk. And it's the polite thing to do anyway!

Happy writing

Monday, September 19, 2011

Today's Writing Tip Is on When to Use He, His or Him

Most of the time it's a no-brainer as to when to use he or his. "He opened the car door to get his groceries." Simple. But what about this?

"Mark and his wife were excited about their evening; the president of the college provided theater tickets for he and his family."

Right or wrong? Wrong.

The president provided tickets for him and his family. Whenever you're confused about using a pronoun because of a second pronoun, just omit the second clause – “the president provided tickets for he” sounds bad. If you're still unsure, say it out loud. What throws people off balance in this example is the combination of referring to two different people.

Read more about punctuation in my third book, Be Your Own Editor, available in print ( and now a bestseller on Kindle ( Or get 20% off the regular price by writing directly to me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

If you're interested in expanding your vocabulary, understanding homonyms, and learning a word a day,check out Grammar Net. It's a fantastic resource. Don't forget to subscribe to their grammar newsletter.

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