The Grammar Guru is in…

Not sure who or what is a split infinitive? In purgatory over your present participles, tense over tenses? Do your modifiers *gasp* dangle?

It’s okay, you can tell us. We understand. In fact, we can help. And by we, I mean The Bookshelf Muse’s Guest Editor, Grammbo!

Grammbo, when she isn’t wrestling polar bears and sipping chilled cosmos après ski, does manuscript evaluation, style, and substantive editorial work, helping writers by the hundreds get their manuscripts up to snuff (with an impressive percentage going on to secure publication!) and is here to offer her expertise. She is choosing to remain anonymous as she currently straddles both sides of the fence as a published author in addition to being an editor.


She’s here to give us all a grammar lesson!

Do you have a grammatical stumper that keeps your MS awake at night? If so, please add a comment on this post, posing your query for our visiting grammar guru. Next week, our guest editor will post the answers. She’s eager to fix your semi colon issues and dares you to bare all your run-ons and fused sentences…she can take it!

One thing to note: Grammbo is versed in the rules of several countries (especially Canada!) so please state which market you’re writing for (US, UK, Canada, etc) as not all rules are uniform.


Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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Beginning Writer
Beginning Writer
5 years ago

Hi Grammbo,

My post may be coming a bit too late, but I’ll ask my question here anyway.

I’m a beginning ESL writer trying to write short stories in English. Just wondering if there are any grammar rules books you would recommend for me? I’m concerned my horrific grammar might be scaring professional book editors away!

Thank you!

Beginning Writer
Beginning Writer
5 years ago

Thank you for your prompt reply, Angela! I’ll definitely get a copy of that book!

Mary Witzl
12 years ago

I’m too late for this one, I see, but I’ll pose it anyway, for what it’s worth.

While I believe that I use reasonable grammar (I studied it in university as part of my TESOL degree and used to teach it to foreign students), my question is perhaps a mixture of style and grammar: when do you abandon the past perfect because it becomes too clunky? Can you use it a few times, then drop it? I’ve noticed a wide variation in published works, but getting this just right drives me quite wild.

12 years ago

I’m here in the US and finally can ask a question, which is a miracle because I’m so poor at grammar that I was sure I wouldn’t be able to articulate one.

towards or toward–
He moved towards the door.
He moved toward the door.

Both sound right to me.

Joan (aka unohoo on CC)

12 years ago

I don’t have any grammar questions at the moment but I’m looking forward to Grammbo’s post! Yay!

12 years ago

I have an overabundance of passive voice and quick ways to fix this or at least find it?

And ing verbs are my mortal enemy. I have them everywhere is this acceptable?-Saw the post on CC and man do those ing’s haunt me.

12 years ago

Hi Grammbo, thanks for answering our grammar questions.

Mine is about the difference between a hyphen, m-dash and n-dash, and examples of when to use each.

I sub to Canadian and American markets, so if you could explain it for both (if there’s a difference in this case) I’d appreciate it.

12 years ago

Oh, interesting!
I’m a crazy foreigner trying to write in (US) English. So I should have plenty of questions. Two jump out straight away:
1. When to use capitals (uncle – Uncle; prince – Prince etc.)?;
2. the do’s and don’ts(?) about contractions. Only use them in dialogue, or also in narrative?

Thank you in advance.

12 years ago

This question is about tense. When is it okay to switch tense? (If it’s ever okay.)

I know a person wouldn’t write:
The cat chases the ball. He stopped what he was doing and began washing his tail.

I’m talking about during the narrative. Is it okay to put have/had -ed in along with the other -eds, or is that tense flipping? If you have two verbs together, can -ing endings indicate the past if the first verb is in the past tense?

She turned, floundering with a logical explanation.

Sorry the examples are rough, and thanks for taking time to look over my question. 🙂

12 years ago

whoooo hoo! Yeah! This sounds like a fab opportunity. I’ll pass it along to my crit groups. Thanks for doing this!