The Celestial Grammar

Version 2.1
8th January, 2002

Created and written by Celeste

Maintained and updated since April 2001 by Nat

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, 9th August 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 The Celestial Reviews on alt.sex.stories.moderated (“ASSM”), 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 ASSM 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 you!

Seriously, many writers can significantly improve their writing skills by following these guidelines, which cover the most common errors made by ordinary writers—including ASSM 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. The third edition is the latest; web versions of the first edition, by Strunk, may be found here and here.

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 news-group 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 The 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, Nat 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
  8. Handling dialog

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

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


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, 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.

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 The Advanced Celestial Grammar.)

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 sentences.

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 period.)


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 sentence.

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.


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).

    Example: 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.

    Example: 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.

    Example: 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.

    Example: So far this week Bob has sodomized the Bobbsey 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 rules.

Some frequently misused words


Choose is the present tense. It rhymes with snooze. Chose is the past tense. It rhymes with hoes.


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.


People lose things (including their virginity and their tempers). When things are not tight, they’re loose (which rhymes with goose).

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 ASSTR

Use they’re to mean they are.

Example: They’re going to be surprised at how good her pussy tastes.

Combined example of all three:

"They’re going to fuck their brains out when they get there."


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 store.

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.


People get used to doing things. Likewise, Johnny used to fuck Janie. Use is a present tense, as in the song, Use me, abuse me…


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 lie.

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.

The Advanced Celestial Grammar | Update History | Celeste’s Credulous Assumptions

This page last updated 21st July 2001 by Nat [1070458]