Category Archives: Writing

Quotation Marks – Basic Punctuation and Peculiarities Rules

When writing I am most often puzzled by punctuation rules. That is why, whenever I think of this blogging topic, #WriterlyWednesday, I turn my view towards punctuation. Today’s matter of discussion is quotation marks, a.k.a. inverted commas. The use of quotation marks in English is a tough topic for me, not only because it’s different in my language, but also by the complexity and variety of cases that are present.

First of all, let me say how indignant I am at the fact that there are two types of quotation marks – single and double, and, of course, British and American English go completely opposite each other in the way these are used. There are also two names for the same thing, and namely, you can either call them “quotation marks” or “inverted commas”. Such diversity is unnecessary, IMHO. Let’s move on, though.

In British English, you would use the single quotation marks. They are very hard to see and distinguish, partly because they look like the apostrophe, and this is a good reason for me to give up using them after years of poor attempts. You see, I naturally go with the British English version of everything, but typing ‘said he’ quickly gave way to “said he”. Did you see that? Visibility and certainty that these commas are in fact marking a quotation.

The Americans use the double marks for the same cases. Why then the other marks exist? Very simply, they are used when you need to put some quotation inside the main quotation. This is also the reason why our language doesn’t need a second pair of quotation marks – we don’t put dialogue in inverted commas, so if we want to use them in dialogue, we simply use the normal ones.

One of the huge puzzles for me personally is where to put the full stop – inside or outside the quotation marks. No wonder, that also depends on whether it’s British or American English. In the latter, the full stop (which is called “period”) goes inside the marks. I prefer the logic of the British writing style, however, where it depends on whether the ending punctuation mark of a sentence is an integral part of the quote. Thus, if it isn’t, it will stay outside. Here is an example:

I wonder what would be an appropriate use of the phrase “point blank”.

Do you think he’ll say it’s “long overdue”?

See what I mean by logical? This is the way I use quotation marks. Where I step away from American style is the type of the marks – I tried to use single, but this simply doesn’t work with me, so I turned to double and plan to stick to them.
Do you follow the British or American style? Which one seems more intuitive for you?

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Flash Fiction: Ritual

Today it’s #FridayFlash time, and here is a 120-word piece, entitled Ritual:

Andy wakes up, a quick dash to the bathroom, toothbrush, cold water on his face, then back. Wardrobe opens, slick suit out and on. Business swoosh though bedroom. Therefore, inappropriate.

Margaret flips the eggs, flops them in the plate. Juice in the glass, ice cubes rattle. Soft sounds and smells of the kitchen. Totally suitable.

Suddenly, the building is rocked by the shock of the waterjets attacking it. No, no waterjets, they are waves. The word is tsunami, the cause is earthquake deep in the ocean, far off shore. So many small items crashed, floating, broken, floating through kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms. Floating. People scream, float, fight the stream, float, get lost.

Sounds, smells, movements – all in strict observance of their ritual.

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Monday Mentions: Sojourner Truth

My #MondayMention post today is dedicated to an extraordinary lady.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883)
We celebrate her life and legacy on 26 November, the day of her death, only because we aren’t sure about the date of her birth. Not even about the year. No wonder, as we are speaking the 18th century.

Sojourner is not her real name, of course. She accepted is as a symbol and a message. But let me start at the beginning. She was born in slavery in the state of New York, her real name was Isabella Baumfree and her first language was Dutch. The region where she lived used to be the property of Dutch settlers, which is why that was the everyday language.

She was just 9 years old when she was sold after her owner’s death, and over the next 2 years, she changed hands twice more. Around that time, Bella started to learn the English language. In 1826, she escaped to freedom with her youngest daughter. Her master had promised to emancipate her but didn’t, so Bella ran away. She had two other children who stayed behind. That happened only a year before slavery was abolished in New York.
She learned that her 5-year son was sold in Alabama, which was illegal since he was to be emancipated in New York. Isabella had the courage to start a court suit. That case was the first one where a black woman got a victory over a white man. Then she converted to Christianity and worked as a housekeeper with two priests successively. Curiously, the latter one was accused of killing the first one in order to appropriate his fortune. Isabella Baumfree was implicated for the murder. This case also received huge public attention, and she was successful once again.

In 1843, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth by which she grew popular. She spent her life advocating abolition, women’s rights, and suffrage. Her views were radical even for her fellow-abolitionists. Sojourner Truth’s main concern was that freedom and equal rights are sought only for black men, but not women. She worried that after slavery is abolished, the movement and activists would decrease the pressure they put on political figures and law-makers and would be satisfied with the partial victory. That way, women would remain without basic rights still.
In truth, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, the one regulating women’s right to vote, wasn’t voted until 40 years after Sojourner Truth’s death.
Still, she set the beat, right?

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Flash Fiction Friday – The Key and the Door

Today is Friday, and one of my blog themes for this day of the week is Flash Fiction. Here is a topic I took from a prompt back in September. It was to write a six-word story, but you know limitations and conditions are “more like guidelines than actual rules”, as Captain Barbossa once said. So, here is my

Story about a Found Key

Amshar’s heart burnt. His passionate love of his mother and the determination to find a cure for her illness set his course. He left home at 16. The priest promised to guard his mom from the evil spirits until Amshar’s return.
One night, he couldn’t go further. Dropping to the ground, he hardly had the power to pull his carpet out and lay it down under a great tree. The dark branches whispered ingratiatingly above, so Amshar leaned against its trunk. When he touched the ground, something small and hard poked his left hand. Hardly seeing in the dark, Amshar realised it’s a key!
Every key belongs to a key-hole in a door somewhere. Filled with hope, the boy clutched the cold object and closed his eyes.
When he woke, it was still night. Standing up to move his numb legs, Amshar circled around the tree and saw the door in the bark on its other side. A door! His heart almost stopped stopped and Amshar held his breath fumbling the key until he almost dropped it in the thick grass. It fit and clicked lightly. The door opened. What he saw on the other side made him freeze.
His sick mother lay on a bed near a window, and a fire burned at the far end of the room. The village priest stood up from a low stool in front of the fire and moved towards him with a beastly flame in his eye and agile step.
The air around them stirred and everything dissolved in mist.

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Watching a Film: Passengers, 2016

#WebWednesday

Although I didn’t bump into it on the web, it was thanks to the web that I watched Passengers. It can be found on Netflix, and you need an Internet connection for that. That’s how the film found a place on my blog in this particular #web topic.

Don’t read if you haven’t seen it and you want to find everything out for yourself, because I am about to make a synopsis of the plot.

Passengers was released in 2016, and I read that before getting to our screens, it was in some hell of its own. Many works of art nowadays are. That thing aside, the plot is not too complicated. A sleeping ship full of people travelling to a colony planet 120 years away from Earth to start a new life on, malfunctions due to serious asteroid collisions. A passenger is awakened, Jim, starring Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy. A year later, having done nearly everything there is to do onboard, Jim awakes another passenger, Aurora, not telling her the truth but pretending her awakening was just as accidental as his. For a year both live together on the ship, gradually falling in love and settling in for a happy life. Then suddenly, the truth about how Aurora was brought up resurfaces, and their harmony is shattered.

The fact that the ship is in critical condition and their attempts to prevent its destruction finally brings them together for a happy ever after. Perhaps they didn’t have children, or maybe they did, but that’s not part of my story.

I enjoyed the film mostly because of Jim’s character. He is a mechanic who left Earth where “when something breaks, we don’t fix it, we replace it”. He wants to go to a new world where he can help build it. All the time we saw him on the screen, if he wasn’t at the bar or with Aurora, he was making something. Making, fixing, changing, adapting – never stopping. When Arthur, the android bartender, asked him what he had been doing to get so soiled, Jim said simply: “Improvements.”

He found the bio area where they carried the plants and succeeded in planting a tree in the middle of the Concourse – the ship’s spacious lounge. Not only did he accept his fate – that he will die on the ship before it reaches the colony, but he also did all he could in cool mind and intention to make his life there count… for him, at least. It seems to me, Jim had the meaning of life figured out very clearly and neatly. He was fine with being quietly happy in a small family and house. He didn’t put an equation sign between happiness and popularity. His astonishing and extraordinary deeds may seem too everyday, but in the universe of his soul, they were huge.

Aurora’s character evolved from a girl who thought that only extraordinariness can make her happy to someone who realised that being part of the perfect couple is all you need to feel accomplished.
At the final difficulty, when Jim had to stay out of the ship in order to hold the door open for the reactor to vent, my husband said: “Here’s how one should never give up.” My husband likes pointing such signs to me, just so as I don’t forget.

Passengers was one of the few films I really enjoyed since a long time ago. I have been getting lazy and used to series lately, so I don’t often sit down for over 1 h to see one full-length piece. I liked the film much more than The Martian, that was widely-acclaimed as another never-give-up survivor story. To me, The Martian was boring, I don’t know why. Maybe due to the lack of an Aurora in it.

Cheers to all the unrelenting mechanics who never stop improving their surroundings, and to all the Auroras who inspire them with their starlight and faltering enthusiasm!

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Frivolous Friday: Tarot Reading

Today, I’m going to describe and interpret a Tarot reading for you. You know what Tarot is, I’m sure. I own a deck of a design I don’t enjoy too much. That was the reason I’ve wanted to create my own Tarot deck, where an artist will draw the cards and I will decorate each with a brief verse reflecting its core characteristics.

Still, the deck is here, and with it goes a booklet with explanations and instructions. I’ll use that and you’ll follow my reading. While shuffling the cards, we should think of the question. Well, that is difficult. I never know what question to ask. Maybe I should try to be smart and ask: “Which question is the best one?” or something of the sort.

I’ll use just the Great Arcanas because using the whole deck will be tiresome. So, here we go. Shuffle, shuffle, split in two groups, then shuffle more. Take some cards, turn them head down and then repeat the whole thing. I draw 7 cards and put them face down on the table. I have to be careful and not turn them head down while drawing, because their meaning changes when they are head down.

What Can I Expect from the New School Year?

1. Past influences: The Magician
Obviously, in the past, we relied on the spiritual to lead us rather than the material. Is that regarding our daughter’s schooling? Because, as far as I know, she’s in a private school, and the material aspect in the form of annual tuition fee, is quite well presented. The ruling planet of the Magician is, however, Mercury, which gives me some peace, as our girl is very mercurial. Does this word even exist?

2. The Present: The Empress
The present is subject to the relaxed balance between positive mind and love. I have nothing to add here.

3. The Future: The Temperance
First, let me say that the Empress next to the Temperance also indicates that some inheritance is to come, but one which is smaller than the expectations. Well, who had any expectations anyway? Plus, what does this have to do with school?
But, let’s move to the interpretation of our future. If we can wait, the results will be worth the wait. I like this. Moving on.

Before that, I should mention that the above three cards influence one another and intensify their positive effects. So, keep the balance and rational thinking, and we’ll rock it!

4. The Methods of Action: The Judgment
Important changes will come and the influence of our daughter over others will increase. For that to be successful, she needs to have a philosophical mindset and life view.

5. Others’ Attitude: The Hermit
Hm, others will not be very supportive, it seems. Rather, she will have the freedom to listen to her own mind and the opportunity to consider everything without rushing. I can’t say if it’s good or bad. Normally, it’s good, but now we speak about school, and no schoolchild should be alone. We expect support from the teachers. The number of this card is 9, which is also our daughter’s number, so let’s see.

6. Potential Hardships: The Force
A possible difficulty will come from group dynamics. The child needs to listen to her own mind and must overcome her own lack of confidence. The anger from competition should be silenced and defeated. Well, upon my soul, this is difficult.

7. The End Result: The Chariot
Wow! Am I not the luckiest mother alive? Why, the Chariot is one of the best possible cards to come up for an end result. It speaks of success, issues overcoming and triumph. It also says we’ll have a pleasant journey.

So, after this reassuring Tarot reading, I can go shopping and buy some school necessities for the starting year, can’t I?

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Writerly Wednesday: Punctuation

My mother tongue has very strict rules as to the use of comma, quite unlike the English language. They are so numerous that I often wonder at complicated cases if I should use one and where to position it. I have a deep respect to all colleagues who have graduated Bulgarian because they know what to do. All I know I have learned at school, and it’s just the basics. Moreover, I’m sure I have forgotten plenty of that over the years.

The moment I went to university to study English, I dived into happy ignorance and indifference as to the vague rules of using commas. A semester in, however, I started to resent this vagueness. After graduation, it upset me a lot, and I felt it could ruin my reputation of a language professional. Imagine, a student asks if she should use a comma in front of “if” or “when” and then, on top of that, also ask for an explanation. Imagine she would continue to explain the Bulgarian rule to me.
Most importantly, my ignorance threatened my writer’s life. I chose to write with no commas at all, for fear I might use some incorrectly. Have you noticed I haven’t even mentioned the semicolon? I’m not planning to involve that thing in this piece.

How I Got By?
I read carefully stories by other writers, always natives, and took mental notes how they use their commas. The terror, everybody was doing it their own way. That was awful, for sure, but in the same time, relaxing, as it was very likely that no one would notice I had no idea. Shooting in the dark is how I got by.

The time of MOOCs came, and I attended several very interesting ones in a variety of topics. I passed a course in history, called “The Matters of War and Peace”, for example, even though I’m not a fan of the science. I also took a course in Nutrition which was an eye-opener. I haven’t migrated to healthy eating, but I know a thing or two. General Philosophy, Chinese Humanities, Plato’s Dialogues, Fantasy and Sci-Fi in Literature…, you name it, but I shunned the Writing courses. Until one day I saw the Grammar 101: Punctuation, and I thought “That’s it”.

Needless to mention, all my classmates were graduate students. It didn’t matter as I had a goal. What I appreciated most about this course was the simplicity to which things were brought. How come no one had told me before that there WERE actual rules, and it was possible to follow them? Was it too simple to be true? Perhaps it was, but now I am at peace with my commas.

It’s time to start looking into the semicolon. That course DID say a lot on that topic, but who can learn so much in one time? I need to brace myself and shoot for another take of this MOOC, I suppose.
What’s your experience with the comma rules?

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spider on web

A Casual Flash

Jane got used to the darkness very slowly. She didn’t want to participate in this joke, as they called it. Yet, she had no choice. Now that things had gone too far, Jane couldn’t see how she could escape with both her reputation and dignity unbruised. She moved her stiffened fingers and felt dumb pain from pressing them too hard to the door handle. Working in a kitchen had never been her dream job, but even that seemed like a sweet paradisical world compared to the haggard reality of the moment.

“Jim,” she mumbled carefully. Then, more boldly, “Jim, are you there? Unlock the door already.”

No answer came from the other side. The radio unit cracked softly and went completely silent. Another day passed, then another night. Jane awoke to the cold truth that no one would hear her knocks and cries. Being found by chance now was an outcome that entertained a very thin chance.

© 2016, Mariya Koleva

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Wasteful, addicted, bruise

Wasteful Till Addicted to Bruise

I haven’t written for 3WW for a long time. Here are the 3 Words for Wednesday, last week – Wasteful, Addicted, Bruise. This time I felt like a flashy.
Wasteful, addicted, bruise

Wasteful – Addicted – Bruise
“If you’re wasteful in your habits, your body’ll get addicted to bruises.”

A board with that slogan on it hanged on the wall just over the blackboard in our classroom. For four years my eyes fixed on it when looking up. I grew so accustomed to the words that I lost all sense of their meaning. Which, at first, I couldn’t understand. I read and read, but I didn’t see the logic and the idea behind them. Then, one winter morning, we all got the message in a clear crispy tone. Three of our schoolmates were on the sports playground, in their underpants only, bodies bruised badly, heads hanging in utter shame. Large cardboard signs hanged on their necks, and on them one could read: “Wasteful, ergo bruised.”
The trick of the remaining years at the school was to keep from getting addicted.

See you next time 🙂

PS. And here is a link to the original posting where you can read what the others have come up with.

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215 week of worldes

To the Tower Over the Bridge Across the Pond

For the 215th Wordle by Sunday Whirl:
/organs tower money poor pond friends cell dna teeth signal bridge skirt/
I didn’t write a poem. As you see.
215 week of worldes***
Shine had her mother’s DNA in her cells. She knew it well, it hurt. All her mother’s organs had collapsed and defaulted by her 45th year due to the booze and pills, and all the unknown substances she took. Her teeth decayed as early as her 25th year, while Shine was still a little girl. In fact, didn’t have a memory of good teeth in her mother’s mouth.

The tower where all poor and diseased people had to go was leaning over the pond ready to fall. No one had friends and no one would signal the outer world about the things that happened there. You needed money to cross the bridge back to your previous life.

Shine put on her best skirt and a new shirt and went out of the flat.
(c) 2015, MK

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