Book Review of Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

By Annette Rey

The full title of the book is Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose. I am only through Chapter Four and I am miles smarter than I was before. Ok, so, let’s agree I am miles more informed. And I know of what I speak. My library is full of instructional books on writing and, yes, I have read them. Some stand out from the others, but I’d say this one leads the pack.

Constance Hale has command of the English language and uses that skill to generously inform her audience. She includes grammatical detail without fogging the facts with superfluous words. She smoothly weaves correct English usage among short pieces of the works of other authors, and adds appropriate and entertaining quotes. She deftly demonstrates participles and other language conundrums so they can be understood. The way she illustrates the parts of speech in a piece of work illuminate the idea bulb above my head, and old mysteries are made clear.

Ms. Hale uses terms like “adjective-polluted” and sentences like: Adverbs are crashers in the syntax house party.

I suggest buying the book just to passionately (oops! adverb!) treasure pages 64-70. If you love fluent use of the English language, you will understand why I want these pages, this book, in my personal book collection.

The book reads like a story, not like a manual or guide or boring instructional course. I am immersed in the book and can’t put it down. At the end of chapter four is a directive from Ms Hale, an exercise, to write of a turbulent sky. I chose this moment to write of a sky view I have seen, so beautiful, I did not want to minimize it by my feeble attempts to describe it. Yet, on her directive, I did so. And I accomplished a great thing. I wrote that sky.

Study this book. Enjoy this book. It will make you a better writer.

It’s a book I look forward to reading again.



Exercise Your Pen

Practice Results in Unblocking

By Annette Rey

I tell you writer’s block is an imagination. It’s not real. It has no substance. If you open your mind to such thinking, you will follow advice, go along, and see unblocking results in your own work. I promote doing writing exercises. Once you do them, you will find blocking either goes away in your life or can never exist as long as you keep your pen moving.

In that vein, I am practicing what I preach.

Continue reading

Four More Sites for Writers

By Annette Rey

On occasion, I have used the following sites as I create my work. The first three are sites to help you correct your work. The last one is a one-stop idea/information site to flesh out your work. Give these sites a try and rest easier that your efforts are going out with fewer errors and a lot more punch. – This site can hardly be described – there is so much to see and learn. I found it by checking on a grammar issue. It has info on psychological tests, how to write a weather report, how to search for a Canadian address, how to find people in Russia. Under the category College, I found information on special collections at libraries that have rare books and archives and special manuscripts. I found an article How to Find Good Resources for Writing an Essay, by Jen Saunders. The article has very concrete info on where and how to start a credible essay, add opposing views and challenge a theory, and more. Anyone can find something of value on this site, especially writers. – This site is not just for children. It boasts thousands of free, printable reading and writing worksheets that cover spelling, reading comprehension, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and more. Every writer has some area in which he lacks knowledge. So, bite the bullet and rake in what you need to make your written work stand out from the others. – This site is a simple page with a box. Just start plugging in the title of your piece and the program automatically capitalizes the appropriate words. You can choose AP style, Chicago Manual of Style, or capitalize words with five or more letters. So, your first line, your title, will be sure to impress. – Have you found yourself writing a flash fiction or another work and, unplanned by you, a thought enters your head to include something about an unfamiliar location? Perhaps, it’s Canada, or Winnipeg in particular, or something about native plants in Canada, or population of its cities, names of its airports, rivers, territories, etc. Or you may want to include something about islands in the Pacific, but you don’t know where to start. At this site, all you have to do is click on the category continents, and it seems a list of every island in the world comes up. Click on one of them to reveal individual facts. For a writer, here is more fodder than meets the eye. Article titles could trip a chord with you and off you go with a new idea and a new writing project. Who wants to believe in writer’s block?

Who Are the Whoms?

Quick Tip

By Annette Rey

Grade school grammar classes were a drag and I owe that memory to the teacher who made it boring. She went too fast and made the rules sound like mysterious science. Though it is still very important to know the rules of using parts of speech correctly, there comes a time when brevity serves best.

And what better time for a quick tip than muddling through with the correct choice between who and whom?

Continue reading

Write with Your Reader in Mind

Stop and Check for Clarity

By Annette Rey

As writers, we can get lost in our own words. We get absorbed in our stories and we concentrate on many aspects of putting our story together. Often, our fingers are moving slower than the speed of our mental thoughts, and mistakes are made.

Let’s put a concentrated eye on unclear sentences that confuse the reader. Once you become aware of these errors, you will be able to correct them.

Continue reading

Word Errors #3

Here We Go, Yet Again

By Annette Rey

This particular misuse occurs frequently, on all kinds of platforms of television programs, radio, and in daily conversation. Recently I heard it on a commercial. Curious?

Continue reading

The Free Grammarly Program is Awesome!

You Really Need to Use This Software

By Annette Rey

Writers, how familiar are you with multiple predicate commas? And do you add a comma when there are less than three predicates? Do you miss adding determiners in your sentences? What about missing a comma to isolate a clause? How about adding an unnecessary hyphen or not adding a necessary hyphen? How about the rule to make a word a gerund so it can act as a noun?

I thought so. Not many of us do know all the rules of grammar. Read on to see how the free program at can instruct you and make you more confident in your work before you press send.

Continue reading

Using Infer and Imply

Grammar Help

By Annette Rey

A difference exists between the words infer and imply. Labels of parts of speech can be confusing – transitive verb, intransitive verb, adjective, etc. – so I am doing away with those terms, and simply looking at how the words are used.

The examples presented should be extremely helpful for polishing your writing.

Continue reading

Creating a Character Sketch Exercise

Growing Your Character

By Annette Rey

There probably are as many ways to create a character as there are writers. Here is a quick way to get started and put meat on his bones.

Continue reading

Five Sites for Writers

We Can’t Get Enough of Them

By Annette Rey — — Find out how libraries have changed and what they have to offer. – — by Mignon Fogarty, self-explanatory. Quite a variety of information for writers on this site. — — is a grammar checker program that proofreads, checks for plagiarism, and more. At a price — $29.95 for monthly, or $19.98 a month for quarterly, or $11.66 a month for yearly. Just plug in your material. This may be useful to a writer who does not have an editor, and has his manuscript near to completion. The site also offers a free subscription. Just plug in your work and it will run basic corrections with instructions for you to implement changes or not. I have found this very helpful in guiding me to lessen errors for future articles. So, I use it as a teaching site, as well. — — If you are writing a character into your story that has a mental disorder, you will find it here in an alphabetized list of scientific-phobias. — — an online site that details a public television program by the same name. It provides a wealth of books to investigate, reviews, conversations, and more. You can join the WellRead Book Club for free and participate in live chats with authors, win autographed books, and more. The site also includes BookMarks by Mary Ann Gwinn who reviews multiple books a week.