Grammar-ease: It’s/who’s vs its/whose

Here is a grammar refresher on using it’s/its and who’s/whose.

It’s extremely common to see mistaken use of it’s and its, but this is a simple rule:

It’s is a contraction for “it is” or “it has.” Period. Only use it’s to replace “it is” or “it has.” Its is possessive and means belonging to it.

And similarly:

Who’s is a contraction for “who is” or “who has.” Period. Whose is possessive and means belonging to who.

Those are simple, right?

Other possessive pronouns don’t have apostrophes: theirs, ours, yours, my, his, hers. For instance, we don’t write:                     But we do write:

  • The camping gear is their’s.               The camping gear is theirs.
  • Those kayaks are our’s.                       Those kayaks are ours.
  • That assignment is your’s.                  That assignment is yours.
  • My’s bicycle still looks new.              My bicycle still looks new.
  • His’s car barely runs.                            His car barely runs.
  • Her’s prom dress is gorgeous.           Her prom dress is gorgeous.
  • It’s nest.                                                      Its nest.
  • Who’s gloves are these?                       Whose gloves are these?

See if you can pick the correct answers:

  1. It’s/its time to give the dog it’s/its bath.
  2. Who’s/whose going to drive me to the mall?
  3. It’s/its the most versatile ingredient to work with.
  4. I don’t know who’s/whose dog this is.
  5. It’s/its siding had blown off during the storm.
  6. Who’s/whose cooking dinner?
  7. The truck was missing it’s/its door.
  8. Who’s/whose side are you on?
  9. It’s/its okay to be confused.
  10. An idea who’s/whose time has come.
  11. The tree has lost all it’s/its leaves.

Answers:

  1. It’s / its
  2. Who’s
  3. It’s
  4. whose
  5. Its
  6. Who’s
  7. its
  8. whose
  9. It’s
  10. whose
  11. its

Does this help clarify when to use it’s/who’s and its/whose?

Thank you for the suggestions so far. What other grammar topics would you like help with? Let me know in the comments!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer, editor, journalist, and chocolate lover. She loves working with words and helps businesses with theirs. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter

Grammar-ease: Then versus than

Last week’s post on the difference between “lay” and “lie” garnered a couple of suggestions for grammar topics, so here’s one: how to know when to use “then” and when to use “than.”

The two words can sound alike when used in conversation, which, I think, leads to most of the confusion.

Do you know which of these 2 sentences is correct?

  • A. You reacted a lot more calmly then I would have.
  • B. You reacted a lot more calmly than I would have.

How about which of these 2 sentences is correct?

  • A. Apples are bigger then grapes.
  • B. Apples are bigger than grapes.

And one more set. Which of these 2 sentences is correct?

  • A. I bought a dress at Macy’s and then went to JC Penney’s for shoes.
  • B. I bought a dress at Macy’s and than went to JC Penney’s for shoes.

Then refers to sequences in time. It tells when something happened.

  • I washed the dishes, and then I dried the dishes, and then I put the dishes away.
  • Finish your homework, then you can go out to play.
  • The kitten tangled himself in the yarn, then jumped in the box.
  • Once upon a time, boy met girl, fell in love, and then lived happily ever after.
  • Until then, let’s stay where we are.

Than is a comparison word.

  • I would rather watch this movie than exercise.
  • Lilacs are more aromatic to me than lilies.
  • Rather than walking on the beach, how about we cycle up the seacoast?
  • Five is more than four.
  • Cats are more independent than dogs.
  • His writing is more formal than mine.

*Here’s a trick if you need a little more help:

When I need to pause to figure out usage as I’m writing, I remember “rather than,” because that turn of phrase sticks in my head and I know ‘than’ is to compare one thing to another. Or the phrase “and then and then and then” which I hear in my mind as a teenage girl’s voice telling me about her day, and it triggers ‘sequence’ for me.

**Or here’s another trick:

“Then” relates to “time” (both have an ‘e’). “Than” is a “comparison” (both have an ‘a’).

Did any of these suggestions help cement the different between then and than for you?

(Answers to the 3 pairings: B, B, A)

What other grammar topics would you like help with? Let me know in the comments!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer, editor, journalist, and chocolate lover. She loves working with words and helps businesses with theirs. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter

Grammar-ease: Lay versus Lie

I haven’t had a grammar post in a while, so here’s a new one!

A particularly challenging one for many people, the conundrum of lay versus lie. 

Lay is an active verb. A person picks up a book and lays it on a chair. A chicken lays an egg. (The person and chicken are active.)

Lie is a still verb. People lie on beds. Cats lie on people. Fleas lie on cats. (The people, cats, and fleas are still.)

——————————————————————————————————

Lay: to place or set something.

Simple Progressive Perfect Perfect progressive (action continues for a while)
Present I layYou layHe/she/it laysThey lay I am layingYou are layingShe is layingThey are laying I have laidYou have laidShe has laidThey have laid I have been layingYou have been layingShe has been layingThey have been laying
Past I laidYou laidShe laidThey laid I was layingYou were layingShe was layingThey were laying I had laidYou had laidShe had laidThey had laid I had been layingYou had been layingShe had been layingThey had been laying
Future I will layYou will layShe will layThey will lay I will be layingYou will be layingShe will be layingThey will be laying I will have laidYou will have laidShe will have laidThey will have laid I will have been layingYou will have been layingShe will have been layingThey will have been laying

——————————————————————————————-

Lie: to recline or repose somewhere.

Simple Progressive Perfect Perfect progressive (action continues for a while)
Present I lieYou lieHe/she/it liesThey lie I am lyingYou are lyingShe is lyingThey are lying I have lainYou have lainShe has lainThey have lain I have been lyingYou have been lyingShe has been lyingThey have been lying
Past I layYou layShe layThey lay I was lyingYou were lyingShe was lyingThey were lying I had lainYou had lainShe had lainThey had lain I had been lyingYou had been lyingShe had been lyingThey had been lying
Future I will lieYou will lieShe will lieThey will lie I will be lyingYou will be lyingShe will be lyingThey will be lying I will have lainYou will have lainShe will have lainThey will have lain I will have been lyingYou will have been lyingShe will have been lyingThey will have been lying

Here are some great tips to help remember the differences, from Painless Grammar, by Rebecca Elliott, Ph.D.:

  • Think of to lay the same way as to say and to pay. We say (today)  “I pay”, “I say,” (yesterday) “I paid”, “I said,” and “I have paid,” “I have said.” To lay works the same way: lay, laid, laid.
  • Substitute the word place or put. If the sentence sounds right, you want lay; otherwise, you want lie. Is this okay?: You place the book on the table. Yes. Therefore, You lay the book on the table. How about this: You place in your bed at night. No. Therefore, You lie in your bed at night.
  • My favorite: No one ever says that chickens lie eggs. Chickens are active and lay eggs, so visualize the action when you are writing about how you lay out a rug, or lay down your book.
  • Lie is a quiet or still word. A fun ditty from the book: At night, I turn out my light and lie. (I’m going to lie down for a nap.) Whether it’s on a couch, beach blanket, or bed, if you are quietly reclining, you’re lying (not laying).

What do you think? Helpful?

If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment to let me know.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer, editor, journalist, and chocolate lover. She loves working with words and helps businesses with theirs. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on LinkedInBiznikFacebook, and Twitter

Some places to find writing jobs

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday if you celebrated it last week, and that you survived shopping if you were brave enough to go out this weekend!

There are so many writing job resources and so many niches, that a comprehensive list is rare. We build our resources based on what we need to have and know. This list is a good start, at least, if you’re in need of some places to start looking for writing opportunities.

  • Dan Case‘s Writing for Dollars – a weekly e-newsletter jammed with legit paying markets
  • Angela Hoy‘s Writers Weekly – resources for writers, including paying markets – and a quarterly 24-hour short story contest that is a lot of fun and offers numerous prizes.
  • WritersMarket.com – related to Writer’s Digest Magazine (which also has job opportunities), this online database has a lot of up-to-date markets. Subscription fee.

PayingWriterJobs– this Yahoo group has its worldwide subscribers posting the job opportunities, it’s a community effort. From the site:

This is a mailing list for PAYING writer and editor jobs. It can be Freelance, Staff, Contract, or Permanent, but must PAY. No work for free or chit-chat allowed. This is primarily a network for writers and editors who are looking for work and editors who are looking for professional writers. This is a moderated list, which means the owner approves of all postings.
  • On Twitter, you can find various job listing folks to follow such as @writersjobs, @writingjobs @writing_jobs, @dnzwritingjobs, @writethismoment, @dnzcontentwrite, @freelanceWJ, @UOPX (University of Pheonix), @AnneWayman
  • Also on Twitter for writers and others: @workfreelancer, freelancejobz4u, @theonlinejobs, @careerbuilder, @AlisonDoyle

Craigslist – Free listings for just about anything you can imagine. But for writers, you can search in your area, or anywhere in the world, under Gigs, Jobs, and Services. It isn’t the best place to find decent writing jobs, but it’s a great place to get new keyword search ideas. Postings that list rates and company names are more trustworthy than anonymous posts that require samples be submitted before payment is discussed.

When looking for writing work, search by area of interest, company you’d love to write for, your location, state/location, editor name, publication name, etc.

You can find writing jobs on LinkedIn, too, by doing keyword searches or even searching by a particular company to see the openings.

The above are some resources I use and think they can get you jump started if you’re looking for writing gigs.

Please add your go-to resources to help our writing community.

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She loves working with words, and helping others with their own. As Lisa Haselton, she writes fiction, co-blogs about mystery-related writing topics at Pen, Ink, and Crimes, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is a chat moderator at The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter

What type of writing do you do?

At networking events, I most often introduce myself as ‘a writer’ or ‘a business writer.’ Both lead to one of two  inevitable questions: ‘What do you write?’, or ‘What kind of writing do you do?’

Then I take a deep breath and try to explain myself in 30 seconds or less, (even typing this, I took a deep breath.) I’m interested and have experience in a lot of different types of writing. For my business, I can write marketing collateral – and that in itself can be an arm-long list of different things from success stories to business profiles to solution profiles and product briefs.

Then there’s ghost blogging for businesses, web content, press releases, content for newsletters, interviews, process guides, and more.

I’ve found that my business card is a great ice breaker, however. My business tagline is “Your Lisa Jackson business cardwords, only better.” And I constantly get a lot of compliments on that phrase. Business folks who are intimidated by writers, especially, smile at that and visibly relax. That’s when they’ll share a bit about their insecurities or concerns with their own writing.

I’m also realizing that if I can find out what type of business the person I’m meeting is involved with before I answer, I can give examples that he or she can relate to.

  • For instance, many businesses have websites that have existed for 5 years or more and never been updated – I can talk about my web copy experience.
  • Or if the person mentions sales letters that have resulted in zero inquiries, I can talk about how I can write marketing and sales pieces that catch attention.
  • Social media scares a lot of business owners – they don’t know how to even approach LinkedIn or Twitter for business. If I know this is what they’re thinking about the most, I can talk about how each has a different goal and therefore the writing has to also be different. I can mention that it isn’t rocket science, but it is a skill, and I’ve been writing professionally for more than 25 years.

Empathy goes a long way, and I love it when someone gets inquisitive about the art of writing. For me, asking questions about their business is natural – I need to know more in order to be able to write for them and keep their ‘voice.’

It’s probably not best to reply to ‘what do you write’ with ‘whatever you need,’ but in most cases, it’s true. I love working with words and helping others express what they need to in their own words, only better.

How do you answer the question, ‘what type of writing do you do?’

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She loves working with words, and helping others with their own. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter

LinkedIn for Journalists

Back in January, I talked about how LinkedIn is a networking resource for writers.

Today, I’m going to talk specifically about one group for journalists that has a lot to offer if you’re in the journalism field.

The group is aptly called LinkedIn for Journalists. You request to be added, and will only be accepted if the staff can confirm, by reading your profile, that you are a journalist. So, it’s not only critical that you’re already on LinkedIn, but that also you have a comprehensive profile, and some connections.

The 40-minute training is valuable in that it shows you the additional features you’ll have with a premium LinkedIn membership and how those additional features can benefit your writing career. It isn’t a sales pitch, there’s nothing to purchase. By participating in the training, you receive a 1-year free upgrade to premium LinkedIn.

LinkedIn badgesIf you want people who view your profile to know you have a premium account, you can have the ‘in’ badge appear on your profile.

For the training, you use your phone for the audio and you sign in to your profile so you can see what the instructor is explaining. You’ll gain deeper search abilities with an upgraded account meaning you can search all LinkedIn members as a whole, or just in a few groups you belong to, you can search on relationship level to you, seniority level within a company, and so much more.

Think of the power you have to find the resources you need for an article you are researching if you’re able to search on any key word(s) you want and to any drilled down level you need. Here’s a sampling of the type of drilling down you can do to find resources (the categories with the ‘in’ badge are only available to premium members).

The next LinkedIn for Journalists training is October 3 at 1PM EST. You sign up by commenting on the discussion within the group with the headline “the next LinkedIn for Journalists training”.  You’ll receive an email from the LinkedIn staff member who is running the training with all the details you need (and with an offer to share it with your editorial team members). The training is offered at least monthly, so don’t feel like you will miss out if you aren’t ready by Oct 3.

I’m still getting used to the new features, but my favorite is being able to see who has viewed my profile. I get to peek behind the curtain when I see these numbers now, and it’s fun!

LinkedIn Profile Views

 

So, it’s not as though you have to be a journalist to get the premium features, but if you are a journalist, you can be upgraded for free. There may be other opportunities for other categories of LinkedIn members to receive a similar opportunity, but I haven’t come across it yet.

Are you on LinkedIn yet?

 

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She is now enjoying the benefits of a premium LinkedIn membership. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter

View detours as challenges, not excuses

Whether you write down your goals, or just know what you need to do each day, life has a way of interrupting sometimes.

Detour Ahead signIt doesn’t matter if it’s writing, career, fitness, financial, or any other category — detours can, and generally do, happen to even the most successful people.

The challenge is to stay focused and see the interruptions and setbacks for what they are – delays – and not as excuses for giving up.

It can be especially difficult when you see your goal ahead to be waylaid by life, but if everything were simple, everyone would be doing it all, right?

Maybe we can’t always move forward as fast as we want, but we can always be determined to reach the goal, no matter what.

Some tips:

  • Keep in mind that the only way to fail is to quit. Honest. If you keep trying, you’re not failing.
  • Life happens – interruptions and setbacks are part of life. Accept this as you do the fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
  • View the setbacks as a detour – I see them as orange pylons put in front of me on a straight road – the detour could be short and sweet or long and meandering, but it’s still just a detour.
  • Realize that your endpoint hasn’t moved, you have — adjust course to keep going.
  • Stay focused on your goals and keep working. You’ll get there.

End Detour sign

When life interrupts your plan to reach your goal, how do you react? Do you realize right away that it’s just a detour? Can you get yourself back on course right away?

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She does her best to take her own advice when she needs it. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on Facebook or see what she tweets about as @lisajjackson on Twitter. 

Getting the details right – mixing personal experience with historical facts

When writing for newspapers, magazines, or other non-fiction market, it’s important to get the details right. I hope that’s not a surprise.

I’m currently working on a destination piece for a regional magazine. This particular piece is a mix of my personal experience and history I’ve learned about the location. The goal is to draw people in and inspire them to visit, or at least be aware of a place they hadn’t known about before.

I’ve lived in this a wonderful little town in New Hampshire for a year now. Before that, I had driven through a few times and hiked here before, but I wasn’t aware of the history. There is a lot (of course), and it is enthralling me more every day. I’m thrilled to be writing about even this one small aspect of the town.

The Uncanoonuc Mountains August 2012

The Uncanoonuc Mountains, Goffstown, NH

The article has a 1,000 word cap. It has to include my personal story and some history.

When I need to research a place, I start with the historical society and local library.  If neither of those places have what I need, they usually have recommendations. Newspaper archives are also fantastic and research librarians make the searching easy.

Of course, the Internet is full of information – but it has to be vetted as having correct facts, and that takes time.

So, for Internet research:

  • I start with a general search on the topic and hone the search as I find more information.
  • I create a folder in my Favorites and save relevant websites to that folder so I don’t lose them (it took me a long time to come to this method!) When finding a Web page of interest, I save it right away. *Most* pages will allow you to ‘go back’, but sometimes they don’t. And there’s nothing more frustrating than finding a page with several links, knowing it’s going to be a resource, clicking on one of those links, and then not being able to ‘go back’ to that first page.
  • I do my best to track information I find online back to a solid resource – a book, newspaper, or person, otherwise I’m leery to use it.

Getting quotes from real people also helps with a non-fiction piece. Any subject matter expert, whether they call themselves that or insist, “I just grew up and remember, I’m no expert,” are fabulous. Direct quotes from a couple of people make the piece more conversational and appealing to the reader.

Important: Keep track of all the details and give credit where it is due. I’ve obtained a lot of photos from my local historical society and if the magazine uses them, the historical society needs to be acknowledged. For quotes, first and last name, and town are relevant.

South Uncanoonuc - track remnants

South Uncanoonuc – remnants of former train track up 33 degree incline

And your personal experience, if the piece calls for it, is what all the details of the article should be wrapped in. For this particular article, I went to part of the historic site and took photos of remnants that still exist today. They’ll complement the images I have from the historical society.

These articles – the ones where I can participate today and learn about yesterday – are my favorites.

What methods or resources do you use when writing non-fiction?

 

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She loves writing about New Hampshire for local papers or regional magazines, like New Hampshire ToDo.  She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter

Randomness of details

As a writer of any sort, details are important. In journalistic pieces, the correct details are critical. In fiction, the details can be parts of patterns, clues for the reader, used to set the scene, and to have fun with.

In real life, there is a randomness to details at times and this is one fun tale I wanted to share.

Recently, I was spending a Sunday with Little Sis (I’m part of Big Brothers Big Sisters), and in telling me a story (she’s 16), she mentioned that she has little kids call her Peanut Butter. Of course I asked why. She giggled and said because most little kids can’t pronounce her name, but they all like peanut butter and can say that.Peanut butter

Okay. We continued with our day. One stop was a used book store. As we were checking out, the booksmith randomly mentioned an article in a recent magazine for writers that talked about a particular writer’s passion for peanut butter.

All we had said to him before that was, ‘hi, thanks for having the AC on today.’ I wasn’t purchasing a magazine, hadn’t mentioned the author he brought up, and there was no way he could know about us and peanut butter. So random!

Later, Little Sis and I headed to a pet shop (it’s so fun to check out the cats up for adoption and roam the aisles to meet the dogs who get to shop with their owners.) As we’re driving to the pet store, we passed a Salvation Army location. On the sign, I can’t make this stuff up, was “Donations needed: peanut butter and ” (I can’t remember the second item).

Three times in less than 4 hours. What were the odds? I laughed, told her what I saw (we drove past too fast for me to read the sign, tell her, and for her to turn around to see it). She just said, “You’re weird, Lisa.”

We’re then at the pet store. We ooh and ahh at the cats and I read the details. No joke, one of the cats was named Peanut Butter. I threw up my hands, said “no way,” told Little Sis to check out the name, and then we both lost it to laughter. The cat was black and white.

Of all the places to run into ‘peanut butter’, I feel those are 4 unique ones. And they did all happen on 1 day. I haven’t seen any references to peanut butter out of context since.

I could write a fun children’s story from this, don’t you think?

Can you recall a time you had this type of randomness with something? Was it in real life, or something you read? Or maybe something you wrote?

 

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She’s been a Big Sister for over 7 years and enjoys time with her Little Sis. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter

An essential for freelance writers – the business card

Business cards are just one essential tool freelance writers should have in their marketing toolboxes.

Business cards can be a way to start branding yourself. The colors, fonts, and designs are just a few ways to start discovering yourself as a business.

Think of how you’d react to these examples – plain white cards, no images, standard horizontal placement:

Business Card A is entirely in blue script (cursive) font.

Business Card B is entirely black Arial font.

Without know anything about either cardowner – you already have an impression about each one, right? So when you design your card, play around and find what feels right for you.

As for what to include on your card, here are a few recommendations:

  • Your name
  • Your business name (if you have one for your freelance writing business) or a tagline that says “freelance writer”
  • A business telephone number (I use a Google Voice number so I don’t have to share my personal phone number)
  • A PO box address (instead of a home address) if a mailing address is required for your business
  • Your e-mail address

[You never know where your business card may end up, so keeping your home address and personal phone number private are ways to stay safe.]

I use Vistaprint (and am in no way compensated by anyone for saying that). Over the years, I’ve found them to be the most reliable, reasonably priced, and of consistent good quality. It also doesn’t hurt that even when I ask for ‘standard shipping’ (up to 2 weeks), I always receive my order much sooner.

Where do you hand out your business cards?

  • In-person networking events for business owners, chambers of commerce, industry-specific organizations, and so on
  • Bulletin boards in places where your target market visits
  • Speaking engagements
  • Conferences
  • Basically, wherever you meet people you want to work with or who may be able to connect you with someone you could work with

And, remember, just because you hand someone your business card, doesn’t mean you’re done marketing. People need to get to know you a bit before hiring you. So make sure to develop (and follow) a process for following up with people you meet – that is, if you truly want to build a career as a freelance writer.

What do you think about using business cards as a freelance writer?

Lisa J Jackson writerLisa J. Jackson is a New England-region journalist and a year-round chocolate and iced coffee lover. She has several business cards to suit different needs. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter