From: (Celeste801)
Subject: Ceelestial Grammar 1.4
Date: 1997/01/21
Message-ID: <>#1/4
organization: AOL

Celestial Grammar 1.4
(Updated Sept 18, 1996)

by Celeste

A reader sent me the following passage, which reminded me that maybe I
should repost my Celestial Grammar:

"Seatmates May Share Their Deepest Secrets Or Their Bologna,"
_The Wall Street Journal_, 9 Aug 1996, p. A4, col. 5:

    The close confines [on airlines] sometimes bring on
   unwanted advances or other bizarre behavior. Robert Cross,
   chairman of an aviation revenue-management firm, recalls
   that on a flight from Dallas to Atlanta, he was seated next
   to a woman who was feverishly scribbling in a notebook. As
   the flight was about to land, she asked Mr. Cross if he
   wouldn't mind proofreading her work. On the page were two
   paragraphs of what he delicately describes as "pornography."

     "I was flabbergasted," he says. So he did the only thing he
   could think to do. "I just critiqued it from a grammatical
   standpoint: This is a run-on sentence, you ended this with
   a preposition."

I do NOT believe that grammar is more important than ideas.  However, as a
reviewer for Celestial Reviews on, I have read many
stories in which the grammar stood in the way of what the author was
trying to say.  In many cases there were a few simple errors that the
authors could have easily avoided.  These mistakes annoy most readers (not
just myself); and by avoiding them you can improve the chances that your
readers will understand your story.

Although these guidelines are written with a.s.s. in mind, they are
equally applicable to high school and college term papers and to numerous
other practical situations.  You may quote these rules in high school and
college term papers, as long as you follow the correct format.  I dare

Seriously, many writers can significantly improve their writing skills by
following these guidelines, which cover the most common errors made by
ordinary writers - including a.s.s. authors and writers of college term
papers.  There are at least two college teachers of English composition
that I know about who use these grammar guidelines as part of their
courses.  Since that has started to happen, I guess I should be
responsible and tell you where else to find good information on grammar
and style.  I strongly recommend Strunk & White s  Elements of Style,  a
short book that can be found at two locations on the Web:

When I need to look up a  grammar rule,  my main source is  The Little
Brown Handbook,  published by Little, Brown.  For word choice and usage
questions I use the Unabridged Random House Dictionary and the New York
Times Manual of Style and Usage.  I also lurk on and occasionally
contribute to a newsgroup called alt.usage.English.  But don t quote me
over there.  Those people are interesting but serious; and I always clean
up my examples before I post comments there.

I also occasionally post an Advanced Celestial Grammar, which goes into
questions slightly more technical than those discussed here.  Both these
notes and the Advanced Grammar are under continuous development, and if
you have questions or suggestions, I would be happy to hear from you.

* * * *

The following topics are covered here:

1.  Apostrophes
2.  Verb tense
3.  Run-on sentences
4.  Sentence fragments
5.  Commas
6.  Semicolons
7.  Some frequently misused words

These additional topics are covered in Advanced Celestial Grammar, which
is posted separately:

1.  Restrictive phrases and clauses.
2.  Dangling and misplaced modifiers.
3.  Relative and interrogative pronouns.

1.  APOSTROPHES.  Don't make a noun plural by adding apostrophe s ('s).
This rule applies to all nouns -  including proper nouns.

      (The plural of Smith is Smiths, not Smith's.)

The purpose of an apostrophe with a noun is to show possession.

     Example:  "Sue's pussy" means the pussy that belongs to Sue (at least
until she gives it to someone else).

Some confusion arises when you use plurals with apostrophes.  For example,
the "Smiths' orgy" refers to the orgy held by Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  In this
case, write the plural (with the s) and just add the apostrophe (without
another s).

It can get more complicated than this, but we don't want to write a
grammar book here.

2.  VERB TENSE.  Stick with one tense, unless you have a reason to change.

     Bad:  "I was walking down the street one day.  I see a girl who was
wearing no bra or panties."

     Better:  "I was walking down the street one day.  I saw a girl who
was wearing no bra or panties."

There are cases when it does make sense to change verb tenses.  Just do so
on purpose.  (Verb tense is discussed in greater detail in Advanced
Celestial Grammar.)

3. RUN-ON SENTENCES.  When you are finished with a sentence, use a period
and begin a new sentence.  Sometimes this becomes complicated, because
many sentences contain more than one idea (like this one.)  The easiest
way to deal with this is to read the sentence and see if it expresses a
coherent thought.  If you are uncertain, turn it into two or more separate

4. SENTENCE FRAGMENTS.  Make sure every sentence contains a full thought
that makes sense.

     Bad: "He kept fucking her.  Until she begged him to stop.
     Better: "He kept fucking her until she begged him to stop.

Actually, it's sometimes OK to have an incomplete sentence (like the one
marked "bad" above); but you should only do that on purpose.  And for a
good reason.  Like emphasis.  Like this.  But it gets distracting if you
do this too often. Like this.

Improper fragments seem to occur most often when the writer has a long
sentence that concludes with a subordinate clause.  The writer often
incorrectly puts the last thought into a separate sentence, like this:

      Bad: "While she continued to drive him crazy by fondling his balls
with her free hand, she began to suck on his cock.  Until he came in a
wild explosion of excitement."

In this example there should be a comma after cock, and a lowercase
"until."  (One Freudian theory is that women make this mistake more often
then men - because they think something bad will happen if they skip a

5. COMMAS.  A comma tells the reader to pause within a sentence.  Don't
overuse commas.  But don't underuse them either.  In general, if the
sentence is confusing because the reader may run words together, you
should add a comma.  Both of the commas in my previous sentence were
necessary for this reason.  Many writers would add a comma in the previous
sentence to make it "necessary, for this reason"; but that would be a
mistake.  "For this reason" is closely related to the rest of the

The best way to deal with commas is to read each sentence to yourself, and
to check and see whether additional commas would make the sentence easier
to read, and to eliminate commas that make things drag needlessly.
(Omitting the commas in my preceding sentence would make it hard to figure
out what I was trying to say.)

There are many more rules for commas, some of which I'll discuss later;
but the preceding commonsense rule works pretty well.

6.  SEMICOLONS.  The semicolon can be viewed as a combination of a
super-comma and a half-period.  (That's why it's a period written above a
comma.)  That is, it can serve as a half-period by joining two sentences
into one (as in the first two rules below); and it can serve as a
super-comma by replacing a comma in situations where a comma itself won't
quite do the job (as in Rules 3 and 4).  Here are specific rules:

1.  Use a semicolon to join two clauses when these two clauses are NOT
joined by a coordinating conjunction.  (When they are joined by a
coordinating conjunction, use a comma - except in the case of Rule 4
below.)  The coordinating conjunctions are "and," "but", "or," and "for."

The following are all correct - at least grammatically, although the order
may be reversed socially:

      I licked her pussy.  Then she sucked my cock.
      I licked her pussy, and then she sucked my cock.
      I licked her pussy; then she sucked my cock.

In the actual context of a story, the sentences would convey a slightly
different meaning.  For example, the third sentence suggests that the two
activities were more intimately connected than the first (because the
author put the two ideas in a single sentence).

2.  Use a semicolon to join two clauses when these two clauses are joined
by a conjunctive adverb.  (When they are joined by "and" plus a
conjunctive adverb, use a comma - except in the case of Rule 3 below.)
Conjunctive adverbs include words like "therefore," "however," "thus," and
"furthermore."  {Note: If you have trouble recognizing conjunctive
adverbs, you can ignore this rule and simply apply Rule 1; you will almost
always be correct anyway.}  Example:

      I licked her pussy; therefore she sucked my cock.

3.  Even when main clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, use a
semicolon (instead of a comma) to join them if the clauses are very long
and complex or if they contain commas.

This rule is the one about which readers have been giving me grief.  I'm
simply going to state one more time that this is the rule as it is
currently taught in high school and college courses and as it is applied
by most major publishers throughout the United States.  Some people would
say that the semicolon followed by a coordinating conjunction is
redundant.  It would be better, they say, to just drop the conjunction and
use the semicolon alone, since that serves the purpose more efficiently.
If you're really hung up on Occam's razor, fine; do it that way.  These
same writers would probably never begin a sentence with a coordinating
conjunction; that rule is no longer taught, and good writers often begin
sentences with "and."  My point is that the semicolon alone is correct;
but so is the semicolon followed by a coordinating conjunction when one or
the other of the clauses contains internal punctuation or is long and
complex (like this one).  Examples:

      Occam's Razor is the principle, first formally stated by William of
Occam, that the most efficient way is always the best way; but Occam never
had sex with me.

       "While she continued to drive him crazy by fondling his balls with
her free hand, she began to suck on his cock, until he came in a wild
explosion of excitement; and then he began to turn his own attention to
her clitoris, which he had neglected until then."

Using a comma instead of a semicolon in these example would be confusing,
because each half of the sentence already contains commas.  In the second
example, a good author might instead just insert a period and omit the
"and," especially if she is concerned about skipping a period.

4.  Use a semicolon to separate items in a series if these items are long
or contain commas.  Examples:

     "In one evening Sharon had sex with Sue; her dog, Ralph; the night
watchman, Bill; and Ray, her ex-husband." {Using commas instead of the
semicolons would result in a confusing sentence, where we might think
Sharon had an even more active night: "In one evening Sharon had sex with
Sue, her dog, Ralph, the night watchman, Bill, and Ray, her ex-husband."}

     "So far this week Bob has sodomized the Bobsie twins, Rachel and
Randy; fucked Millie, Alice, Patrice, and Carolyn in the hayloft; had oral
sex with Jane, Janet, Julio, and Billie Joe; and watched his sister have
nearly simultaneous sex with seven guys from the local gym. {Try reading
this sentence with commas in the place of the semicolons - and then
remember that there are still four days left in the week!}

I myself still think writers do not need all four of these rules.  For
over twenty years I have survived quite well using a semicolon when a
comma won't quite do the job and when I don't really want the full stop
indicated by a period.  Even if you or your teacher insists on knowing and
using the four rules stated earlier, the logic stated in the preceding
sentence will make it easier to remember and apply these more specific


CHOOSE/CHOSE.  *Choose* is the present tense.  It rhymes with snooze.
*Chose* is the past tense.  It rhymes with hoes.

ITS/IT'S.  *It's* means "it is."  *Its* means "belonging to it."  (This is
a little bit illogical, because normally an apostrophe shows possession.
But not with it.)*ITS'* doesn't exist.

LOSE/LOOSE.  People *lose* things (including their virginity and their
tempers).  When things are not tight, they're *loose* (which rhymes with

THERE, THEIR, THEY'RE.  Use *their* to mean "of them."

     Example:  "I could see their pussies through the hole in the wall."

Use *there* to mean "over there" or "in that place" and in the expression
"there is."

     Example:  "When I got there, she was already undressed."
     Example:  "There are lots of good stories on a.s.s."

Use *they're* to mean "they are."

     Example:  "They're going to be surprised at how good her pussy

Combined Example of All Three: "They're going to fuck their brains out
when they get there."

TO/TWO/TOO.  *Two* is the number of persons most frequently present in a
meaningful sexual encounter.  *TOO* means "also," as in "I'd like to fuck
you too."  *TOO* also means "excessively," as in "Sometimes I masturbate
too often at the grocery story."  *To* is a preposition, which means it
comes at the beginning of a prepositional phrase, as in "We went to the
store" or before a verb, as in "I want to fuck you."

USE/USED.  People get *used* to doing things.  Likewise, Johnny *used* to
fuck Janie.  *USE* is a present tense, as in the song, "Use me, abuse

LIE/LAY.  LIE means to recline.  (It is an intransitive verb - it cannot
take a direct object.)   Its past tense is LAY, and its perfect tense is
LAIN.  Of course, a serious source of confusion is that LAY (in addition
to being a word in its own right) is also the past tense of LIE.

LIE also means to state a falsehood.  This is a completely different word
that has a separate dictionary entry.  Its past tense is LIED and its
perfect tense is HAS LIED.  (This meaning is easily understood and usually
causes no confusion.  Its main relevance with regard to sex is its use in
poignant country western songs: "She was sound asleep in our double
bed/And I let her lie.")

LAY means to put something (or someone) down.  (It is a transitive verb.)
The past tense is LAID.  The perfect tense is HAS LAID.

The three most common problems with LIE/LAY are: (1) using LIE when you
mean LAY (and vice versa), (2)  Using LAID (instead of LAY) as a past
tense of LIE, and (3) using LAID (instead of LAIN) as the perfect tense of

     INCORRECT: We continued to lay in bed after our orgasms.
     CORRECT: We continued to lie in bed after our orgasms.

     INCORRECT: I had been watching her lay in bed for nearly an hour
before she woke up.
     CORRECT: I had been watching her lie in bed for nearly an hour before
she woke up.

      INCORRECT: She told me to lie the dildo on the night stand.
      CORRECT: She told me to lay the dildo on the night stand.

      INCORRECT: After lying the dildo on the night stand, I fucked her
brains out.
      CORRECT: After laying the dildo on the night stand, I fucked her
brains out.

      CORRECT: After laying her in the hay loft, I went inside and laid
her sister too.  (This is grammatically correct, but it may constitute a
social faux pas.)

      INCORRECT: I should have lain the key to the handcuffs out of her
reach before I left the room.
      CORRECT: I should have laid the key to the handcuffs out of her
reach before I left the room.