Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Put Your Readers in the Mood

Blue Parasol
Image courtesy of stock.xchng
Hello, dearies! Your Style Maven is feeling especially pleased today; there was just enough rain to call for unfurling the lovely new umbrella, but not enough to cause the dreaded frizzies.

Balance in all things, you know.

Let’s look at moods today, shall we? While writing can be dark and serious or light and humorous, the word mood (or mode, in some cases) means something entirely different in the Chicago Manual of Style. Rather than feelings, a mood here refers to verbs expressing action.

First up, we have the indicative mood. The most common, this is quite simply a verb telling it like it is. These are the shoes that I bought today. In addition to stating a fact, the indicative mood can also ask a question. Are they available in leopard print?

Next, there’s everyone’s favorite, the imperative mood. Verbs disguised as divas, if you will. Don’t even think about wearing that shirt with that skirt. In addition to commands, an imperative mood can include requests (Bring me my brown pants!) or permission. Come in and see my walk-in closet.

The third mood is the subjunctive mood. This covers quite a lot of ground, and involves abstract and hypothetical concepts. If I were you, I wouldn't wear the purple and orange checked blouse. The subjunctive mood can also be used to convey demands (Her stylist insisted on that bob cut.) or wishes. If only I’d gone for the two-inch heel!

And there you have it. A mood for all occasions, and a handy cover-up excuse. “I’m not being bossy, I’m practicing my imperatives!” Well, I must dash. Leave a note describing your favorite mood, and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!

Photo courtesy of Darrick Bartholomew

Taking a cue from the local squirrels, the Style Maven is preparing for fall by stocking up on tasty treats and fuzzy sweaters. She spends quite a lot of her free time wondering where to put the newest shipment of books.

11 comments :

  1. Excellent reminder. Do they still teach advanced grammar? :)

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    1. As a matter of fact, there is a course available at cambridge.org. Just the ticket for a dribbly afternoon. ;)

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  2. When I'm in a mood to learn something about writing, I always go the BRP!
    BTW, Ms. Maven, judging from your picture, it seems your stylist went a little too far with the bob.

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    1. Around here, heads will roll, Christoper. Hahahaha.

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  3. Now I'm going to be humming "In the Mood" all day - Hahaha. Great post, Style Maven!

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    1. Only humming? I'll send the lyrics straight away. ;)

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    2. Memorized. My parents' theme song when they were dating!

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  4. I guess I'm going to be "moody" whether I feel moody or not. :-)

    About that advanced grammar Diana mentioned...a strong grasp of grammar -- acquired or innate -- goes a long way in connecting writer and reader. Our ability to paint pictures, evoke emotions, and dramatize scenes that draw our readers into our stories comes from our use of words, including grammatical moods, to create moods in our readers.

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  5. I agree to a point, Linda. But I've read some books that go overboard and are just plain unclear with all the embellishments. It's especially annoying when the dialogue is "advanced", because it destroys the voice of a character. I just read a historical with a child in it who spoke like a college professor. Puh-leeze. It's a complicated balance, getting it just right.

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    1. Yes! Having a strong grasp of grammar sets a writer free to use language effectively. Proper grammar in narrative passages works, but not so much in dialogue. Who of us always speaks properly? What young child talks like a college professor? However, we need to demonstrate that we know the rules before we break them, lest our readers think we are poor, uneducated writers.

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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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