From Science to Fiction - Mini Grammar Overview

I'm taking a class this semester to learn about proposal writing - not fiction proposals but scientific ones. For those of you who have only ever heard of book proposals, scientific proposals are very similar. Rather than an attempt to sell a project, it is an attempt to "sell" a research idea, or to obtain funding or permission. In case my professors are ever to read this, I am aware that is a very rough explanation, but apologies for that will wait for another post. For now, let's ask ourselves why scientific writing is even on this blog.
One way proposal writing is so similar to writing even fiction is that of course they both require some use of a common language, such as English. And proper English requires some understanding of grammar. So with all the most recent English instruction I've been getting, I feel I should share with you a few of the things I've learned. I always felt I understood English rather well, but I know I make quite of few of these mistakes sometimes. The greatest offenders appear to be:

 Less/Few - You ask for less pain, less rain, less salt or a little less bad luck. You request fewer bills, fewer barn cats, or fewer textbooks. Now, if you wanted to count the grains of salt to make sure you really got less salt, you could perhaps say "I would like fewer salt grains." Why? Because grains can be counted. And such: use fewer if what you are referring to can be counted, and use less if it cannot be counted.

Comprise/Compose - This blog post comprises several grammar points, therefore it is composed of several grammar points. You cannot use anything comprised of several parts, because someone will find you and hand you over to the grammar nazis. (Note: This is one of those things that is in contention right now. Many dictionaries defend the use of "comprised of" while the nazis will spit at you if you try to use it.)

Only - "The mare only fell last month" means that, in the month of February, the mare fell and nothing else happened to her for the rest of the month. She would have starved, because she didn't eat. She never drank water or walked around or flicked her tail at an annoying fly. Now, she also could not have starved or died from lack of water because, after all, she only fell last month. On the other hand, "the mare fell only last month" makes a bit more sense, since "only" is meant to fall directly before the word/phrase in question.
 

And now, the bonus round:

The traditional plural of octopus is octopodes, not octopi or octopuses.

"The only people who should use the Royal We are editors and people with tapeworms" -Mark Twain

Of course, watch your your/you're/yers, affects/effects, it's/its, that/which, and ending a sentence in a preposition.

Consider that hopefully means "full of hope" and "it is hoped." Despite another point of contention, "hopefully, we can buy fewer textbooks this year" is grammatically correct because "hopefully" is a disjunct. Don't listen to the traditionalists on this one.

Don't begin sentences with "the fact that..." "the reason is..." or "it goes without saying...". You can say whatever you want to say without saying any of that.

And, as always, don't listen to me all the time, because - particularly with dialog - the link between science and fiction can be a wee bit... strained. So yeah, you read this post for nothing. (Except, really, you shouldn't tell the nazis that their party is comprised of grammar freaks).

With love and hugs and hope for long naps tomorrow,

Race

Psst...

 This is a mini overview. All this info was selected (kinda carefully) from this smarter peep:

Lloyd Goldwasser
Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America
Vol. 79, No. 2 (Apr., 1998), pp. 148-150