Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Mild Case of Conjunctivitis


Hello, dearies! You’ll forgive my slovenly attire today, won’t you? Donna Reed might have pulled off the pearls-and-heels look whilst cleaning house, but your Style Maven has better luck with jeans and T-shirts.

Especially considering what was under the fridge; egad.

It was at some point during my third cappuccino break that my mind started wandering down the to-do list. “Laundry, dishes, lunch, aaaand …” And I gave up right there, I must confess, thanks to the sidetracking effects of conjunctivitis.

Not pinkeye; it’s not my shade at all. I mean I was captivated by those lovely little words that connect clauses and sentences. They’re more important than you might think. In fact, the Chicago Manual of Style devotes quite a bit of space to the subject. For the sake of a fresh espresso and some dust-free clothes, we’ll pare it down to a few paragraphs today.

Conjunctions can range from simple, one-word examples such as if, and, or but to elaborate phrases like as though and provided that. Most conjunctions fall into one of two classes: coordinating and subordinating. According to the CMOS, coordinating conjunctions “join words or groups of words of equal grammatical rank, such as two nouns, two verbs, two phrases, or two clauses.”

An example of the use of a coordinating conjunction would be Do you plan to loan this dress to her or to me? Subordinating conjunctions introduce clauses that are dependent on the independent clause, as in My tailor promised that he could mend that sleeve.

Hm. Methinks I need a mocha after that little bit of insight.

There are adversative conjunctions, which denote contrasts, such as Her jewelry is cheap but effective. You’ll also find distinctive conjunctions, which provide contrasts. I can’t decide between the heels or the flats. There are also copulative conjunctions, which don’t mean anything like what you’re thinking. They’re used to denote additional facts. Shopping for a cocktail dress was no less stultifying than the party itself.

Dear me, I’m in need of a long soak and a nap. Oo, I think I've just found a new kind of conjunction: restorative! Enjoy the rest of your day, and remember, a well-turned phrase is always in style!


After the Great Dust Bunny Eviction, 
the Style Maven was rewarded for her efforts with a heretofore undiscovered cache of yarn. When not dreaming of the perfect Fair Isle, she can be found thumbing through garden catalogs, circling typos and pondering the merits of French Breakfast radishes.

19 comments :

  1. Brilliant as always, Audrey. I'm being slapped over the wrist for, gasp, beginning sentences with conjunctions. My defence is that I'm writing for tweens and teens and it gives the text a more conversational, younger tone. What say ye, CMOS?

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    1. Pull your wrists out of slapping range, Elle. The CMOS states plainly, "In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions." :)

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  3. "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?" That particular School House Rock song has been stuck in my head for decades. I devoted a section to the types of conjunctions in Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers. Authors are advised to vary the length of their sentences. Conjunctions help them do so. I am guilty of starting sentences with conjunctions as well. Verdict? Okay occasionally or cut entirely?

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    1. While starting every sentence with "but" will only make you sound like a motorboat, now-and-then usage is perfectly acceptable. I've given the quote in reply to Elle, but you're welcome to use it in your own defense. ;)

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  4. Conjunctivitis, indeed! I do love this post. As always, Style Maven, you're right on the money. (Please forgive the cliché.)

    It always amazes me when a writer seems to have no clue how to use conjunctions, which are such a basic component of our everyday language. Do you suppose some of the common problems we editors see result from the failure of our schools to teach grammar as they did when I was a child? (We won't say how long ago that was, but it's been awhile.) Whatever the reason, the clarity of the written word depends considerably on understanding and using grammar rules with efficacy. Today, writers seem to think grammar and punctuation are expendable -- or open to options. While breaking the rules occasionally has a place in good writing, it works only if the writer has demonstrated a firm understanding of their proper use.

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    1. Exactly! You can't break the rules without having a solid grasp of said rules to begin with. Do they still teach the diagramming of sentences in elementary school?

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  5. I'd love to add something witty, even uppity and mavenly, but I don't have a firm enough grasp on the lingo presented to identify the example in the text! Hopefully I am speaking on behalf of other muddled readers, and not outing myself as the sole grammar wimp in our ranks.

    My dear Style Maven, any chance you could go back through and underline the appropriate words? Case in point: the example "My tailor promised that he could mend that sleeve," which supposedly illustrates the tenet, "Subordinating conjunctions introduce clauses that are dependent on the independent clause."

    I do believe I ordered up that last mouthful in a restaurant one time but it did not sit well in my stomach.

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    1. Oh, Kathryn! Befuddlement is far from wimpiness. I shall see if I can alter the requested lines in-post. Failing that, I'll add a comment for clarification. :)

      And now I'm thinking of butter. Sigh.

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  6. You made the lesson fun, as well as informative.

    Diana, now I can't get the Conjunction Junction song out of my head!

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    1. If there must be earworms, let them at least be educational. I've had worse things stuck in my head. ;)

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  7. You need a mocha? I need a stiff drink!

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    1. Heavens, you've discovered the secret to my mochas! ;) A visit from my friends, Messrs. E&J.

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  8. Conversation at the office, Audrey and Kathryn.

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  9. All I can say is, "Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?"

    Thanks for the reminders.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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  10. Thanks Audrey! This is oh-so-much clearer. The befuddlement is lifting... your posts are truly filling a gap in my education, thanks!

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  11. Diagramming sentences in schools these days? I doubt it. I worked for a school district in the late 80s, and I asked a middle school teacher if they taught students to diagram sentences.

    "Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "They can't understand the concept."

    Not one to keep my feet planted squarely on the floor, but rather to insert them squarely in my mouth, I fired back, "That's funny. We understood it when I was in school."

    Only later did it occur to me that it was probably the teachers who didn't understand it. As a result, their students didn't know a noun from a verb, an adjective from an adverb, or any other part of speech that they should have learned.

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  12. I have an entire section of SBBIII devoted to sentence structure. I think most people have forgotten what they are supposed to look like. I just put aside a book that had one sentence fragment after another. It was exhausting jumping over that many hurdles.I kept rereading the sentences looking for the missing pieces. I don't mind fragments used deliberately and occasionally. A steady stream puts the book on my trash pile.

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  13. I use conjunctions, but never give a thought to what type they are. Too mind boggling to remember. Thank goodness, it's not a requirement when using them!

    Morgan Mandel
    http://www.morganmandel.com

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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