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Questions in the Writing & Language category.
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July 31

Something feels wrong about this grammatical construction. What is it?
The contraction for "would have" is "would've". And yet, if I am writing that "If I have a doctor's appointment at 3pm, I would have to leave at 2pm to be there on time", I don't think I would write "would've to leave at 2pm". That doesn't feel right, but I don't know why. MeFi grammarians?
posted by John Borrowman at 8:58 AM - 16 answers

July 30

Did Victor Hugo really say this?
"Initiative is doing the right thing without being told." -- Victor Hugo but wait, did he really say that? If so, where? Because all I find online is a lot of dubious quotation sites with no specific attribution.
posted by HotToddy at 4:00 PM - 2 answers

Recommend-a-book
There is nothing quite like reading a book I really love. Help me find some more books I really love. (Fiction edition) [more inside]
posted by geegollygosh at 8:34 AM - 29 answers

July 29

One thing, multiple perspectives
I am looking for non-fictional literary examples of a place or a specific event described by two or more writers. A dinner party, a famous travel attraction, etc. I am curious about how the exact same thing, filtered through different minds and colored by the unique experiences and personalities of the writer, can be interpreted in very different ways. A hypothetical example would be two people attend the same dinner party and write two different accounts of it, each informed by their idiosyncrasies.
posted by Pantalaimon at 8:29 PM - 14 answers

Cemeteries -- use of a period?
I was walking in an old cemetery last weekend, and I noticed that many of the tombstones dating from around the late 19th to the early 20th centuries used a period after the surname on the tombstone: "JONES." and not "JONES" by itself. Can anybody point me to any resources for learning about this particular style convention?
posted by JanetLand at 11:32 AM - 5 answers

Learning Japanese and would like some Japanese-subbed sources.
Hi, I'm learning Japanese and am a big fan of anime/manga/tv shows. I'm far enough long in my studies where I would like to start watching/reading them with Japanese subtitles instead of English subtitles. The only problem is... I'm having a hard time finding manga/anime. Any sources for original Japanese manga or Japanese-subbed anime? (Like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)
posted by Thanquol180 at 8:21 AM - 13 answers

Forums for Grammar Nerds?
I feel like I should be able to find this somehow, but I'm just not having much luck - where do grammar nerds go online? I'd like to find some forums. I've found a few language blogs (and if you can recommend more of those, too, I'd appreciate it) and a couple of grammar forums, but they weren't quite what I'm looking for. I want a place to really geek out on grammar/language - sentence diagramming, obscure grammatical rules, history of the English language, etc.
posted by signalandnoise at 7:05 AM - 7 answers

July 28

high-concept low-spectacle speculative realistic fiction
What are some good novels that have a high-concept speculative element in the background, but aren't quite about that? [more inside]
posted by threeants at 3:58 PM - 33 answers

Farsi Translation/Botany Question! What does the word "Bita" mean?
In the Persian song "Gole Bita" (گل بیتا) what does the word "Bita" refer to? Is there a flower called "Bita," or is that too literal of a reading? [more inside]
posted by ariela at 3:43 PM - 3 answers

Where should I read fiction online?
What are the best websites/blogs/etc. to read contemporary fiction? I'm particularly interested in writing by women, experimental fiction, and magical realism, not necessarily all at once. [more inside]
posted by dysh at 10:30 AM - 6 answers

Let's get physical (in fiction)
Recommend me novels that have a strong component of sport, physical training, or exercise. [more inside]
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:32 AM - 23 answers

July 26

Like Octavia Butler, but even more awesome?
I'm sure this has been asked before, but searching the archives didn't help much. I'm an avid reader, but can't find any compelling new books to read. Feminist, sci-fi-ish books with a literary bent would be ideal. Detailed likes and dislikes inside! [more inside]
posted by snaw at 10:44 AM - 42 answers

Short stories with alternating storylines?
I'm looking for examples of short stories that have two oscillating storylines that ultimately intersect. I mean two different characters on two different trajectories whose paths ultimately cross. This is a frequent structure in novels, but I'm looking for short stories where this is done. I'm sure Alice Munro has done it, but I can't think of examples off the top of my head. Anyone know of any?
posted by swheatie at 7:44 AM - 9 answers

July 25

If you were learning Japanese, which radical list would you use?
I'm going to start learning Japanese in a couple of months, and in researching the language, I'm realizing that it's going to be a *lot* easier if I could recognize all the component parts of any Kanji I encounter. But..I'm noticing that there are a lot of different lists of those component parts...Heisig's lists, Wikipedia's tables of radicals, The Kanji Dictionary's 79 radicals, etc. Which radical lists do you like best, and why? Are there any out there that show you the radical, show you the characters that use it, and explain how the radical fits into those characters (meaning-wise)? [more inside]
posted by sdis at 2:46 PM - 9 answers

Extreme shortcuts to Italian?
Are there any shortcuts for an English speaker to speak and understand Italian on the spot? [more inside]
posted by mirileh at 10:28 AM - 14 answers

July 24

Such good smut: Help me identify this 70s steamy romance novel
Written in the 70s or early 80s, four women moving through adulthood. Much sex, maybe some drugs, and some troublesome men. [more inside]
posted by Milau at 6:18 PM - 13 answers

Looking for quality Japanese songs that will improve my Japanese.
I'm looking for good Japanese songs or artists that will teach me new, useful words or phrases so that I can improve. I read articles in Japanese too, but words seem to 'stick' better when I am listening to a song and going over the kanji and hiragana at the same time. Details inside. [more inside]
posted by Kamelot123 at 8:43 AM - 12 answers

July 22

Recommend me some books about old sailing ships
I'm in a mood to read non-fiction history books dealing with sailing ships. Any suggestions? [more inside]
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:29 AM - 22 answers

July 21

How can I finish my novel and establish an effective writing routine?
I have been writing since I was about 7 and always enjoyed writing stories, sometimes hundreds of pages long. In my final year of English at school my teacher said that I should really turn the start of a piece I had written at the time into a novel. At the time I was flattered but I don't really think I considered it possible. [more inside]
posted by Kat_Dubs at 2:02 PM - 11 answers

We do (A + B) * (C + D) * (E + F)
I need to write a short blurb describing the services our group provides, which is basically defined in three dimensions, eg. "We provide services (A + B) for data types (C + D) in domains (E + F)." I imagine this is something faced by technical writers, is there some best practice for writing this sort of thing so that it is readable in plain English? [more inside]
posted by bjrubble at 9:54 AM - 6 answers

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