If I Was – or – If I Were? Grammar Lesson!

Right. So. As I’m editing a story tonight, I’ve come across a couple of times where I’ve had to scratch my head and say a sentence out loud. A lot. Why? I’m glad you asked (you didn’t but be a good hostage and pretend I’m important for a moment).

“…a strange foreigner of high birth who threw silver coins around as if he were allergic to them.”

This is one of the sentences in question. If you exchange “was” for “were” in this sentence, it still sounds right. Right? Sort of? And then when you start thinking it does sound correct, you start questioning that. Because “were” starts to sound more correct again.

Okay, maybe I’m the only one with brain damage and has trouble with this. However, I’ve seen this question often, and when Google can autocomplete my query perfectly when I go searching for the answer (remember, English classes were a long time ago for me), I feel better knowing that others have been in this situation.

All of the sites that I respect have the same answer, but since I like Grammar Girl the most, I’ll use hers:

“Believe it or not, verbs have moods just like you do. Yes, before the Internet and before emoticons, somebody already thought it was important to communicate moods. So, like many other languages, English has verbs with moods ranging from commanding to questioning and beyond. The mood of the verb “to be” when you use the phrase “I were” is called the subjunctive mood, and you use it for times when you’re talking about something that isn’t true or you’re being wishful.

This particular piece of confusing English badassery is known as “subjunctive verbs.” It’s badass because it always kicks my ass. Thankfully I have smart editors who, when not laughing at my attempts to relay an intelligible story, make giant, angry red slashes on my manuscripts (or, you know, uses the Track Changes feature in MS Word) when I fail this ongoing test. I’m also bad at using “that” instead of “who.”

There you go, young writers. And old writers like me who forgot most what what I learned in high school and college after banging my head on the desk too many times trying to come up with a plausible storyline that didn’t read like it was written in blue crayon.

PS: If you like Grammar Girl and want her tips to come up first, just make sure you always add “Grammar Girl” to your search. But you knew this already.

Fermi Paradox: Why haven’t we encountered life beyond Earth?

Just read a really interesting article about why humans have yet to encounter any life beyond our home planet: Fermi Paradox

“A really starry sky seems vast—but all we’re looking at is our very local neighborhood. On the very best nights, we can see up to about 2,500 stars (roughly one hundred-millionth of the stars in our galaxy), and almost all of them are less than 1,000 light years away from us (or 1% of the diameter of the Milky Way). “


“When confronted with the topic of stars and galaxies, a question that tantalizes most humans is, “Is there other intelligent life out there?” Let’s put some numbers to it (if you don’t like numbers, just read the bold)—

As many stars as there are in our galaxy (100 – 400 billion), there are roughly an equal number of galaxies in the observable universe—so for every star in the colossal Milky Way, there’s a whole galaxy out there. All together, that comes out to the typically quoted range of between 1022 and 1024 total stars, which means that for every grain of sand on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there.

The science world isn’t in total agreement about what percentage of those stars are “sun-like” (similar in size, temperature, and luminosity)—opinions typically range from 5% to 20%. Going with the most conservative side of that (5%), and the lower end for the number of total stars (1022), gives us 500 quintillion, or 500 billion billion sun-like stars.”

Read the rest here: Fermi Paradox

Chuck Wendig is as clueless as James Patterson and John Scalzi (and NYC publishing houses)

You know what’s not funny? That these three ignorant morons, along with Hachette, Mike Shatzkin, and some other dummy I can’t remember (but Joe Konrath will alert you to who it is) keep lying about Amazon and self-publishing. I could go into a rant, but I’ll just let Konrath do it instead, since he’s much better at it than me:


Trust me, there’s more. Just read a few entries below the Chuck Wendig thing on Konrath’s site, including how Stephen Colbert, a man I used to respect, opened his big, stupid mouth and spewed the same lies.

Basically, what it boils down to is this: None of these people believe Amazon should provide you with ebooks that cost less than $9.99, and they don’t believe you should read self-published ebooks. Since all self-pub ebooks are trash, according to them. I guess including the ones by Konrath, Eisler, HM Ward (who has turned down multiple multi-million dollar publishing contracts to keep self-pubbing), Elle Casey, Hugh Howey… I could go on, but I’m ranting, so I’ll quit.

They also believe that you, the reader, are too stupid to make good reading choices, and that it is their (publishing house’s) job to hand pick the literature that they believe is quality. Because, you know, they’ve never picked anything that wasn’t top quality. Because they never published 50 Shades of Gray, or whatever stupid fucking book Snooki from Jersey Shore has her name and face plastered on. I could go on forever here, as well.

Bottom line? Traditional publishing houses, and a lot of big name traditionally published authors believe readers are ignorant, stupid, and must be told what is good literature, and must patrol the literary world to make sure you don’t read anything they have vetted. Oh, and since they vetted it and it is guaranteed to be top quality literature, they want you to pay $10+ for ebooks (a lot of them costing as much if not more than the paper versions).