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For Authors: November 24, 2021 Issue [#11042]

 This week: To Infinitive and Beyond!
  Edited by: Northernwrites
                             More Newsletters By This Editor  

Table of Contents

1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions

About This Newsletter

Greetings from Northernwrites , your guest editor for today's For Authors newsletter.

Infinitives belong in every writer's toolbox.

Word from our sponsor

Letter from the editor

To Infinitive and Beyond!

Present participles are popular and get abused a lot, but there are plenty of other choices available to complex, compound, or verbal-ize a clause or sentence.

Especially when the verb is transitive. This kind of clause has the form subject - verb - direct object and offers the most opportunities to replace a single word with a phrase or clause. The same opportunities are available when a transitive verb is used in an infinitive.

Now, I've seen some WDC members claim they don't know what an infinitive is. Maybe and maybe not. However, it's quite unlikely that these members have never asked anyone, or been asked themselves, "What do you want to do?" Maybe their problem is just that they don't know what "infinitive" means:

         An infinitive is the verbal with the form to [verb], which can be used as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.

See? Not so scary, not so big as infinity, but very useful.

Yoda was of the opinion, "Do or do not. There is no try." Nonetheless, he is not here today, and the transitive verb in the examples will be try.

Try is a transitive verb so it requires a direct object (which is the answer to "[subject] [verb] what?"), either specified or understood. When try is used as an infinitive, it can still take a direct object (which is the answer to "To [verb] what?"), the same as when it's used as the main verb of a clause.

Its direct object can be a noun or a pronoun:
"Please try the bottle to see if it has warmed up to the right temperature for the baby."
"Do you want to try the new apple variety everyone's talking about?"
"Let's try kindness." [You let us to try kindness.]
"Let's try him for murder."

Its direct object can be a gerund or a gerund phrase:
"I will try waterskiing when we vacation at the lake."
"When you bought your new office chair, did you try sitting in it first?"
"Let's try doing something different this time."

Its direct object can be an infinitive or an infinitive phrase:
Try to dance.
Let's try to write a novel by the end of November.
Let's try to avoid homonym errors [in|inn] [our|hour] spelling.
Let's try to go to sleep before midnight.

Its direct object can be a noun clause:
"We're under staffed." The manager hung the hiring sign in the window. "Let's try whoever shows up."
"Let's try 'It was a dark and stormy night' as the prompt for the slam flash fiction contest."

Its direct object can be part of a compound predicate:
Some people try and fail; others try and succeed.
If at first you don't succeed, then try, try again. = If at first you don't succeed, then try and try again. [Third time's the charm, apparently.]

In these, what is to be tried is unspecified and can be anything. It's a generic observation -- about trying in general. With a specific thing to try and everything on the page, the observation reads like this: Some people try to swim, and they fail; other people try to swim, and they succeed.

Another compound predicate, where the action to be tried has previously been specified:
"We could ask the boss for a raise."
"Let's try and see what happens." (understood that or it)
"Let's try that and see what happens."
"Let's try, and see what happens." (optional clarity comma with understood that or it)

All three of those sentences are grammatically correct, but the first one won't work when writing invisible prose where you want the reader alerted to the end of the thought in the first predicate before they get to the grammatical evidence of that, which doesn't occur until three words later, at which point the reader has to go back and reformat their understanding of what the sentence is saying. The expanded sentence without any understood or contracted words or pronoun substitutions: "You let us to try asking the boss for a raise, and you let us to see what happens."

Note that in this example, the two predicates happen sequentially, not at the same time. While "and" can mean "occurring at the same time", it's more often used to mean "occurring in sequence." If there is any possibility of confusion about the timing for the two predicates, make sure to use enough words and punctuation to eliminate the wrong interpretation.

Nuances in meaning:

To me, using try to [verb] adds an element of uncertainty about whether the following action will happen, while using try [verb]-ing means that the action will happen, and what's in question is whether the results of the action will produce the desired effect. For example:

"Let's try to write a best-selling novel during NaNoWriMo."

"Let's try writing at least 1700 words a day during NaNoWriMo."

Practicing New Skills:

Here's a practice assignment to train your brain not to reach for an -ing verbal quite so fast:

The verb try has a phrasal-verb version in the horror genre:

"Let's try on swimsuits!"

Write a scene that includes the swimsuit sentence as the prompt, plus at least 10 other sentences that each contain at least one infinitive. If there are any -ing verbs in your scene, they must be used as gerunds (nouns), not as present participles (adjectives) or as progressive verbs ([be] [verb]ing).

If you choose to accept this assignment, you can include a link to your results (Static item, Book entry, or note in your Notebook) in a comment submitted to this newsletter. Due date, 11:59pm site time on 1 Dec 2021.

Editor's Picks

Today's reads:

Stammer  [13+]
Reciting a poem has never been so difficult. Or so important.
by Antonia Ryder

 Tin Star  [13+]
A robot detective has to bend the law, when all humans have left.
by Kotaro

"Mom, Who was my Dad?"  [13+]
A life changing secret is kept from a very ill daughter.
by Redtowrite

 Collector  [13+]
He was a Collector, who reached into the heart of magic and held it in his hands...
by Professor Q bought a house!

Grandfather  [13+]
What is a valid proof of humanity?
by Eric the Fred

 Just Like Coming Home  [E]
A woman's journey to find herself brings her to find something she didn't expect.
by ExpressMyself

The Girl Who Wrote Fairy Tales  [E]
She lives by the forest where dreams and fairy tales are wove. Rewritten: 6/13/2011
by Sarah Rae

The Art of Disingenuous Apologies  [18+]
Dramatic, funny essay based off of a conversation I had about fake apologies.
by Charlie ~ thx anon

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Ask & Answer

These comments were submitted in response to my previous editorial in "Unwanted Repetition: Sentence Beginnings. I appreciate all those who took the time to write in:

Comment: This is an excellent breakdown of essential craft. I respect the hard work and hard thought in formulating this principle so thoroughly and precisely.
         Once you know the rules, you know how to bend them. An example:
"She takes two steps. She takes me in a quick, supportive embrace ..." from Ladysmith

         The meaning of "take" does not change, but the verb type does. It's a subtle difference. One reviewer completely missed the point and gigged me for the repetition. That's the kind of thing that makes me think twice when I review.
         Just when I think I've got it down ...

NW: Thanks.
          Their verb type is not different. Both cited verbs are transitive with the direct objects steps and me, and are in active voice, indicative mood, present tense, and third person singular. The usage of me is not an indirect object because "She takes to me in an embrace." does not mean the same thing.
          It's the verbs' meanings that differ. If the two sentences were written as a single sentence with a compound predicate, thus eliminating the repetition, you'd have a zeugma.
          Writing such as your example doesn't work as invisible prose in fiction because it calls attention to itself and requires the reader to stop reading the story to figure it out.
          A second reason not to use such things in fiction, is that the verb to take is a generic verb with several dozen meanings. While other generic verbs could be used to avoid the repetition, the more useful solution is to use more specific verbs. Using specific verbs as nouns (step, embrace) increases the chances the text will contain redundancy and filler.
          In addition, supportive is a POV error unless the sentence continues to show it is a factual observation rather than non-narrator intent or misplaced narrator interpretation or reaction.
          For example: "She stepped closer and embraced me. The brief hug cleared my head, and I focused on what to do next."

Comment: WOW! What a newsletter. I flunked English. Not literally, I did get D's and barely passed. I read through your entire post and thought it more than adequate to teach the sponges that read it to become better writers. I, however, must have either a force field around that part of my brain or it's solidified in my old age. I didn't get it. I reread it and it read like a text book.(brain froze) I really wish it made sense, because I know it's important. I'm grammar challenged. (sad face)

NW: Thanks.
          The editorial assumes that the reader already understands how to identify things like prepositional phrases and how to use them in a sentence. It has to. It would take a whole book to try to include that prerequisite information in a newsletter.
          For most people, it probably takes a lot of practice to understand grammar. My HS grammar teacher made us diagram sentences for 8 weeks of class time. After that much practice, which was 100-200 sentences for most of them, even the F students could do it by themselves, and the worst student in the class got a C on the final.

Comment: A really powerful article. We need; "New Horizons Academy," back.

NW: Thanks.
          I can't help you with the Academy. I've never been associated with them.

Additional comments were posted in the newsfeed to "Note: View this Note" by Writing.Com Support .
Until our paths cross again, keep writing!


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