Part four of my series that looks to apply every single rule from Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style to my manuscript. Today, rules 9, 10 & 11.
First of all, I shall admit that these last few rules on Elementary Rules of Usage are, for me, quite a ways from being elementary. In other words, I don’t really understand them. I can study rule 9 and place it into the context of my manuscript, but the others…? We’ll see.
Rule 9. The number of the subject determines the number of the verb.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well yes it is, but I was still picked up by my editor on a couple of points in the first few chapters of my manuscript..
Example: The Royal Navy was renowned for its hatred of those bothersome little things called law courts,
Initially I’d written, The Royal Navy were renowned for their hatred of those bothersome little things called law courts.
You can see where I went wrong: there are many components to the Royal Navy, prompting me to use ‘were’, but of course the Royal Navy is singular, therefore the correct use of the verb is ‘was’.
S&W hightlight many ways in which writers get this wrong, and all I can say is, get yourself an editor. They’re the ones who know about all of this.
I know what S&W are saying here, but I can’t really say much more about this rule. Let’s move on.
Rule 11. A participle phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject.
Oooooh kay. Honestly, even looking at the examples provided for this one, I’m still confused. So, once again, moving swiftly on…
…let’s now move onto the Elementary Principles of Composition.
Elementary Principles of Composition.
Rule 12. Chose a suitable design and hold to it.
It’s a wee bit late to apply this rule to my manuscript, as my novel is already finished. But the premise here is have yourself a skeleton of where you want to go and build the flesh of your writing around that. This naturally holds itself in place if you’re a plotter, but as a panster (like myself) you need to pay a little more attention to this rule. As S&W say, writing, to be effective, must closely follow the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily the order in which those thoughts occur.
Yup; that’s me.
It’s a bit like this…
Next time, rules 13, 14 & 15 begin to cover the use of language itself and less the use of grammar (thank goodness).
Thanks for reading.