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Distributed for University Press of New England

The Language of Fiction

A Writer’s Stylebook

Grand themes and complex plots are just the beginning of a great piece of fiction. Mastering the nuts and bolts of grammar and prose mechanics is also an essential part of becoming a literary artist. This indispensable guide, created just for writers of fiction, will show you how to take your writing to the next level by exploring the finer points of language. Funny, readable, and wise, this book explores the tools of the fiction writer’s trade, from verb tenses to pronouns to commas and beyond. Filled with examples from the best-seller lists of today and yesterday, it will help you consider the hows and whys of language, and how mastery of them can be used to achieve clarity and grace of expression in your own work. Here, you’ll find Encouragement and advice to face the big questions: Past or present tense? Comma or semicolon? Italic or roman? Should your dialogue be phonetically rendered, or follow standard rules of grammar? (And where does that pesky quotation mark go, again?) Warning signs of the betrayal of language, and ways to avoid it: Unwitting rhymes, repetition, redundancy, cliché, and the inevitable failure of vocabulary How-to (and how-not-to) examples: The grammatical “mistakes” of Charles Dickens; ambiguous pronoun usage by Nathaniel Hawthorne; the minefield of paragraph fragments found in one of today’s most successful authors.

264 pages | 6 x 9

Language and Linguistics: General Language and Linguistics

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Table of Contents

Introduction • STYLISTIC DECISIONS • Which Verb Tense Should You Write In? • How Should You Format and Punctuate Dialogue? • What Words Should You Use to Present Dialogue? • Should You Phonetically Represent Characters’ Speech? • What Are Your Options for Portraying Characters’ Thoughts? • FUNDAMENTALS OF LANGUAGE • The Past Perfect • Pronouns • Adverbs • Participial Phrases That Modify • Diction • NUANCES OF PUNCTUATION • Fragments • Comma Splices, Run-ons, and Semicolons • Dashes, Parentheses, and Nonessential Commas • Exclamation Points and Italics • COMMON ERRORS • Verb Tense Shifting • Commas • Betrayals of Language • Cliché • Afterword • Glossary • Exercise • Index

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