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Get Your Grammar Fix(ed): Kings, Lords, Serfs, and Other Nouns

First, I am not advocating a move back toward feudalism. That would be daft. (Although there are days it sounds strangely appealing.)

But I do think we need a brief refresher course on nouns--especially common and proper nouns.

Bear with me for the briefest overview imaginable.

Noun: a person (Ringo Starr), place (dime store), thing (compass), idea (loyalty), concept (poverty), or activity (distance-running).

Nouns can be concrete or abstract. Concrete nouns are things you can experience with your five senses, more or less. Abstract nouns must be mulled over, considered, felt, appreciated, hated. They generally involve the mind and soul. 

Nouns can be singular or plural.  One or more than one. The verb in the sentence will need to agree with the noun. The polished sword glints in the sunlight. The polished swords glint.

Nouns can be collective. If a single word refers to a number of individuals acting as a whole, it's a collective noun. A parliament of owls, a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows, a herd of cattle, a pride of lions, a football team, a troop of soldiers, a group, a choir, a collection, a company, an ensemble. The list could go on and on, but I promised to be brief. These words generally function as a singular noun.

Nouns can be compound. Two or more words (either both nouns or an adjective-noun combo) might combine to make a noun. Hymnbook. Team-sport. Seventeen-year-old. Townhouse. Boyfriend-Who-Is-My-Husband. (That's my favorite compound noun of all.)

Finally, nouns can be common (the king) or proper (Lord Tennyson). A man; Henry Cavill. A team; the Pittsburgh Steelers. A month; September. A general event like spring break vs. Spring Break Beach Trip 2014. A mother or mom; Mom (used as a name).

Here's where I see a lot of mistakes. Often, when a king, lord, or captain is introduced into a story, we meet him by name. Theoden, King of Rohan, for instance. Throughout the dialogue, people might refer to him as:

King Theoden
King of Rohan
Theoden, King
the king

Did you catch that? If the word "king" is used as a name or title, then it's a proper noun and should be capitalized. If it's used as "the king" or "a king," referring to the office but not the named person, it's common. Leave it lower-cased. 

I see the same thing often with "my mom" and "Mom". If you or your character are referring to the role someone plays--my mom, my father, my friend--then don't capitalize the word. But if you're talking about Mom, Daddy, or Celine, by all means, name them. Some kids call their parents George and Sally (don't get me started on my thoughts about that). Some call them Mom and Dad, some Mama and Pops. If it's a name, it's capitalized

Got it? Simple and sweet.

Now, one other (slightly) unrelated topic. It's good news, actually. Drum roll...

The Kaczmarek family is having another little one! 

(Wha? Yeah, I'd be lying if I told you we planned it. But we're always excited about life, and we love kids, so we're stoked).

Yay! Anyhoo, because of this wild and crazy news, I need to dial my blogging schedule back a notch. I was aiming for the every single weekend Get Your Grammar Fix(ed) and trading off with Erynn on the mid-week post. Now, we'll just take turns weekly. 

So I've got a question I need you to weigh in on.

Our blog is for YOU. Writers. We'd like to keep it that way, even with the schedule slowing a tad.

We've started off with beginner tips, but we're heading into deeper, more advanced territory soon.

What would you prefer of me? Pick the statement below that most represents your opinion and vote in the comment section below.

a) The writing stuff is what I need. Ditch the Grammar Fix and stick to writing tips--style, plot, pacing, characterization, dialogue--with Erynn.

b) Trade off on writing tips and a Grammar Fix on your week. (That way, we'll get one grammar post and three writing tips per month).

c) Keep Get Your Grammar Fix(ed) comin'. Erynn can handle writing tips, but I need two doses of grammar medicine a month.

Thanks for voting. I'll gladly do whatever helps the most. We want to offer something unique, obviously, but mostly we want to be useful.

And as always, thanks for swinging by.


                And thanks to Helen Simonsson for the great image.


  1. I vote for B. Thanks! And congratulations!

  2. I'm tempted to vote "A", but I enjoy the grammar tips so much that I'm going with "B". This post and the photo brought to mind several other nouns: shrubbery, herring, witch, coconuts, and swallows (both African and European).

    1. Yes. Also migration, rabbits-with-big-nasty-pointy-teeth, minstrels, and Tim. Thanks for voting!

  3. Congrats again!

    I vote B.

    I also thought of one who some call Tim and the fact that watery women of ill repute handing out swords is no basis for a system of government. :)

    1. I mean, if I went around, sayin' I was an emperor, just because some moistened bink had lobbed a scimitar at me? They'd put me away. (And thanks for voting!)

  4. I have to go with B as well. It was nice to see you again at the Christmas party Ronie Kendig held.

    1. It WAS nice, Erin. Hopefully we'll all see each other more often. Accountability is WIN. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Oh, congratulations! Yay for more little people!!

    As for blog posts…I'm happy with any type of writing advice—grammar, plot, whatever.

    1. Thank you, Julie! Little people are fun. And I'm glad for the ride. I hope your next book is coming along well. Eager to hear about it.


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