While this list doesn't cover every possible attitude and tone word, these are heavy hitters. If you or someone you know is taking the SAT, ACT, or SSAT, this list contains helpful definitions and test-taking tips!
Why do people write articles, speeches, or letters to the editor? Because they care deeply about a given topic. They may be passionate, interested in sharing information, intellectually curious, mildly offended, or downright steaming mad. But they won't write if they feel any of the following ways, so these words will be INCORRECT 99% of the time:
#1: APATHETIC - indifferent or unconcerned
#2: AMBIVALENT - possess mixed feelings; take it or leave it attitude
#3: SCHOLARLY - devoted to rigorous academic study, not to writing
Have no fear: the list of possibly CORRECT tone and attitude words is longer than the one above. In fact, the first word below (#4) is almost always the CORRECT answer, especially with a review of scientific or historical facts.
#4: OBJECTIVE - presenting information in an impartial manner
#5: EVENHANDED - fair treatment to all sides
#6: DIDACTIC - to instruct or teach
#7: EXUBERANT - enthusiastic
#8: SANGUINE - optimistic, positive outlook about the future
#9: INDIGNANT - outraged about a perceived injustice
#10: SARCASTIC - show contempt through use of irony and biting wit
#11: FLIPPANT - responses that are neither respectful or serious
#12: SARDONIC - a synonym for SARCASTIC; also scornful and downright nasty
#13: REFLECTIVE - thoughtful; wistful
#14: VEHEMENT - strongly worded conviction
#15: CONDESCENDING - talking down to the audience; acting superior
I'll finish up with a very important tip: on standardized tests, there is only one CORRECT answer. It must be unique, so if two possible answers are synonyms or closely related, both can be ruled out. OBJECTIVE is too similar to EVENHANDED and DIDACTIC; SARCASTIC and SARDONIC are synonyms; and VEHEMENT AND INDIGNANT are strikingly similar.
Good luck to all the test takers out there!
Laura Fineberg Cooper
THAT vs. WHICH or WHICH vs. THAT: no matter which way you list them, these words cause a heap of mischief. I'm happy to manage that mischief by explaining how and when to use each one. So read on, my friends, and all will be explained in easy-to-understand language.
WHICH should always follow a comma, with the noun it explains placed right before it. Here's an example, with scholarship as the object noun tied to WHICH:
Ginger desperately hoped to win the scholarship, which was open to all student athletes.
Could you use THAT instead of which in the above sentence? Not without changing the sentence around, which I will do below.
THAT is used inside your main sentence (independent clause). As promised, here's the original example restated:
The scholarship that Ginger desperately hoped to win was open to all student athletes.
The 1st sentence has "Ginger" as its subject, while the 2nd sentence has "the scholarship" as its subject. In grammar terms, THAT sets off an essential (restrictive) clause, WHICH means it isn't separated by commas.
Sometimes, however, using WHICH instead of THAT can change a sentence's meaning. Here's an example:
Our dog that came from Arkansas is very energetic.
Our dog, which came from Arkansas, is very energetic.
The 1st sentence implies you own more than one dog. The 2nd sentence implies you own one dog only and it came from Arkansas.
Special grammar note: The way the 2nd sentence is constructed, "which" is part of an appositive phrase: if lifted out of the sentence, the sentence will still make sense. Without the appositive phrase, it would read, "Our dog came from Arkansas." That helps to explain why the 2nd sentence implies a single dog.
This helpful post came from a reader's question, so please, keep your questions coming!! Thank you for reading and sharing A Spoonful of Grammar.
Laura Fineberg Cooper
This summary contains two miniseries, a to-be-continued post on pronouns, and two special holiday posts. If you missed any spoonfuls, this is an easy way to catch up. As with the two earlier summaries, just click on any title that interests you, and you'll be brought right to it.
Spoonful #36: Time for TRANSITIONS
This post started off my transitions miniseries with transitions that introduce new information.
Spoonful #37: Transitions for CONTRAST
In contrast from the previous post, this post covers transitions that introduce contrasting information.
Spoonful #38: IPSO FACTO: Logical Transitions
These are transitions that introduce expected results.
Spoonful #39: TIMELY Transitions
This category of transitions makes your writing orderly and sequential.
Spoonful #40: Transitions that Introduce Examples
One of these is "for example." To read more, click on the title!
Spoonful #41: Transitions that SIGNAL CONCLUSIONS
A fitting conclusion to my transitions series.
Spoonful #42: HOLIDAY PRETZEL HUGS & KISSES
This special post features an easy and delicious recipe that I make every holiday season.
Spoonful #43: Ask Laura!
Ask me your burning grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary questions anytime, and I'll address them right away or devote a future post to them!
Spoonful #44: PERSONAL PRONOUNS
Personal Pronouns refer to people, places, and things. Just try to write or speak without them, and you'll see how important they are. They also help to introduce the POV series that follows.
Spoonful #45: POINT OF VIEW: 3RD PERSON OMNISCIENT
This POV features an all-knowing" narrator with the ability to see inside every character's thoughts.
Spoonful #46: 3RD PERSON LIMITED POV
This POV features a narrator who tells the story through one character's perspective.
Spoonful #47: 1st PERSON POV
This POV features "I" in the narration, because the narrator is a character in the book.
Spoonful 48: 2ND PERSON POV
This POV talks directly to YOU, the reader.
All three summaries can be found by clicking on the All Summaries tab under the Categories heading to the right.
Have a wonderful week! I'll see you again next Sunday
with a brand new spoonful.
Laura Fineberg Cooper
A Spoonful of Grammar
If YOU guessed this spoonful on POV would cover 2ND PERSON, YOU are absolutely correct! If YOU also guessed this POV relies on the personal subject pronoun YOU, YOU are absolutely correct once again.
Traditionally, the 2ND PERSON POV is primarily used in how-to books with names like "How to Build a Birdhouse" or "How to Train Your Puppy." But this POV has been showing up more and more in children's literature, too.
YOU may be familiar with the CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE series that allows kids to make important plot decisions (making them brilliantly re-readable, as kids can get a new story every time). Or YOU may have read IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE by Laura Numeroff, which celebrated its 30th anniversity in 2015 and is still going strong. A more recent picture book written in this POV is the delightful WHEN A DRAGON MOVES IN by Jodi Moore that states, "If you build a sandcastle, a dragon will move in." I don't know about YOU, but I'm itching to build a sandcastle to see if it works!
2ND PERSON POV doesn't need to be carried throughout the entire book to be impactful. In the adventurous PERCY JACKSON series by Rick Riordan, main character Percy occasionally slips into 2ND PERSON to warn readers about signs they might be demigods. In THE NAME OF THIS BOOK IS SECRET by Pseudonymous Bosch, the narrator/author interrupts the plot to snarkily warn readers against reading the book. The fact that the author is an obvious pseudonym creates a blend of mystery, humor, and danger: kids must be brave to read this book!
If YOU choose to write in 2ND PERSON, keep the POV consistent. If you start with the pronoun YOU, don't switch to the nonspecific ONE or any other pronoun. This is because the reader interprets YOU as ME! If you use ONE, it could mean anyone at all and doesn't impart the same impact.
Thus ends my POV miniseries. To recap, I covered 3RD PERSON OMNISCIENT in Spoonful #45, 3RD PERSON LIMITED in Spoonful #46, and 1ST PERSON in Spoonful #47. Whether you write or wish to better comprehend what you read, understanding POV is critically important.
Thank you for reading and sharing A Spoonful of Grammar.
Laura Fineberg Cooper
My last spoonful ended with a teaser: what POV (Point-of-View) is most similar to 3rd Person Limited? Well, the answer is the topic of this week's Spoonful.
We learned in Spoonful #46 that the 3rd Person Limited POV uses a narrator who can only see into one character's inner thoughts. That POV is tricky because the narrator refers to that character by proper name and also by HE, SHE, and THEY.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that the 1st Person POV also centers on one character's inner thoughts. This time, however, that character visibly acts as the book's narrator by referring to themselves with I, ME, and MY. If the prior POV is the most challenging to discern, this POV is probably the easiest. It bears repeating that POV is determined by examining a book's narration. When characters talk through dialogue, they all refer to themselves as I.
What is the benefit of the 1st Person POV? When the narrator reveals his or her deepest inner thoughts and perceptions, readers can develop powerful connections to the character. The pitfall, however, is how to use this POV without starting every other sentence with the word I. The writer must also take care not to creep inside any other heads and only reveal what the narrator observes.
The 1st Person POV is also useful when switching narrators by chapter. In order for that to work well, the author must clearly differentiate between the alternating narrators. A great example of this is THE KANE CHRONICLES, by Rick Riordan, a trio of Egyptian Mythology-themed books featuring narrators (and siblings) Sadie and Carter. Each character is so well drawn, you can easily tell who's narrating even without their names as chapter headings.
The last POV in this miniseries will air next week. Can YOU figure out which one is missing? Stay tuned!
Laura Fineberg Cooper