Archive for 2011

NKOTB Cruise 2011

Posted by Jessica Jewett 112 Comments »
I wrote this blog with a fever of 101. Forgive me if some of it doesn’t flow well.

Truthfully, I don’t know where to begin with this blog. I debated on whether I should write it at all because people who weren’t there might accuse me of showing off when that isn’t my intention at all. My intention is to make people who weren’t there feel like they were part of the action along with the rest of us.

I arrived in Miami with Maryka (MMBoxy on twitter) two days before the cruise so we could have time to see Miami with Abbie (abbielicious613 on twitter). For the first cruise, I arrived the morning the ship was to leave and I didn’t get to see anything. It was too rushed. This time we stayed at the Intercontinental, which was a gorgeous hotel, and we had a room overlooking the Port of Miami (or was it Miami Port?). I’m not used to fancy hotels like that. I’m a Quality Inn, Motel 6 kind of girl when I travel for my Civil War reenacting. For you new readers, yes, I’m that kind of history geek who wears corsets and hoop skirts on weekends in the summertime. So the whole 1950s art deco vibe of Miami and South Beach was completely foreign to me. Abbie has been to Miami many times and she got a kick out of my jaw hitting the ground when I saw things like pink buildings or people shopping in bikini tops. I had my first experience with Cuban food too. It was amazing. Sex in my mouth! If you ever have the opportunity to eat real Cuban food, it is so good that it will change your entire perspective on food.

Here are some pictures of my days in Miami.

The view of the Port of Miami from my hotel room.
Me in my hotel room. Much better than Motel 6!
Me in my first Cuban restaurant. Note the tasty guy in the background.
My first taste of a fried plantain. Yummy!
I ordered shrimp cocktail as an appetizer.
This is grilled shrimp in … Cuban sauce? I can’t remember. Yummy!
The aftermath of Cuban dining for three people.
Hot and tired in front of a pretty pink building.

We got up very early the day of boarding the Destiny because I needed my hair washed. That seems like a trivial matter but I think it’s important to show how creative, inventive, loving and wonderful my friends are about my disability. I have something called Arthrogryposis (click the word to read about it). In basic terms, my body is like that of a quadriplegic. I can move and I can feel everything, so I’m not like Christopher Reeve. His quadriplegia was from an accident. Mine was caused by an unknown problem with my mother’s and father’s genetics. Normally I can’t get into a bath tub without a lot of help. Maryka came up with the idea of putting me in the wheelchair and tilting it back so that my head would be in the bath tub and we washed my hair that way. It was fast, it was easy and I had lilac scented hair in case I ran into Jon that day. He seems sensitive about smells so I usually choose perfumes and shampoos with care and I compulsively brush my teeth and chew minty things when I might see him. Silly, I know. I’m old-fashioned. A lady should smell like a lady, not a hobo or a five dollar hooker.

We got to the port early enough to see NKOTB arrive and board the ship. Jon spotted me and gave me a wave. The big news there was, “Yay, his hair is still long!” While we were waiting for the cabins to be ready, we decided to get some lunch. No sooner than we found a table, I looked at the stairs and the words, “Is that Jon?” fell out of my mouth. There he was, coming down for lunch too! Initially, I said I didn’t want to bother him but then he started hugging people in the food line. So I decided screw it, I’m going to say hi. I whipped my chair around the corner with Maryka trailing behind me and I think I almost hit Harley by accident (sorry Harley! I’m still getting used to this chair!). Jon saw me and pulled me into a good hug and said it was good to see me. We talked a little and I told him that he hasn’t seen my new chair yet, so he leaned over and started studying everything. I turned to the left like a model. I turned to the right like a model. He was fascinated and we talked about how I travel with a power chair. Then he was like, “You’re all ready. You’ve got your water shoes too.” I thought why is he commenting about my shoes until I saw at the beach party that we had the same shoes except mine had pink stripes and his had blue.

I told Jon that I wanted to get in the water on this cruise and he made this face. I know this face well. It’s the face someone makes when they think I can’t do something but they’re too polite to say so. Here’s the thing. I was iffy about getting in the water until Jon made that face. When he did that, something in me kicked into overdrive and I knew I had to prove it that I could do anything that he could do. I hate the face of doubt and I thoroughly enjoy proving people wrong. I especially hate it when Jon doubts me because it means he doesn’t think I can be just like everybody else. I can. I had to prove it to him.

The cabin was fabulous. It was a wheelchair accessible cabin and I could even get into the bathroom, which is a luxury for me when I travel. Carnival really knows what they’re doing when it comes to passengers in wheelchairs. Here are some pictures of the cabin before we went to the Sail Away Party.

Me watching NKTV in my cabin.
Sissy busted me watching NKTV all paparazzi style!

When we got out to the lido deck for the Sail Away Party, we found out that there was a roped off area to the side of the pools but still involved with the crowds for wheelchairs. I don’t know who’s idea it was but THANK YOU if you’re reading my little blog. There were too many instances on the first cruise in which I was pushed, shoved and trampled by overzealous fans but I felt well-protected on this cruise. The spot roped off for us was watched by security, it was safe, yet we could still be part of the festivities. My cruise experience was so much better because of the roped off space where I could go to feel safe. There were only a few girls who tried to invade in order to pounce on one of the guys but we kicked them out whenever they tried to climb over wheelchairs. We were not looking for extra perks. We were simply looking to be protected from the mobs because we can’t defend ourselves. It was accomplished. By and large, the fans were respectful and understood that we needed space. I want everybody to know how grateful I am that the majority of people were understanding and patient with disabled cruisers.

Here are some pictures of my view of the Sail Away Party.

Me in the disabled section.
This is one of my best friends, Sissy, who is SissyHand on twitter.
This is another one of my best friends, Maryka, who is MMBoxy on twitter.
My dark Knights.
My dark Knights with a side of Wood.
Somebody’s been working out. Hashtag, just sayin’.
Knight pecks, McIntyre arms and Wahlberg essence.
Praise the Jord.
Does he know how adorkable he is?
Look over here! Don’t make me flash you!

As soon as the guys came down into the crowd, we had the opportunity to say hello. I remember Jordan came down, went to me for a good Knight hug and we chatted a little. We have had this issue for the last two years, whether it’s bashfulness or something else, of not being able to get past, “Hi, how are you?” So while he was hugging me and talking in my ear, we did the usual, “Hi, how are you?” and then he paused and I felt him smirk against my cheek. He then said, “Are you having a good time?” I said, “Yeah, are you?” and he said, “Yep, I am.” He pulled away smiling. We finally got past our awkward foot shuffling and glancing. I pretty much love Jordan endlessly. He still intimidates me though. He represents that ideal beautiful man that I could never hope to call my own. Pictures of my Jordan encounter.

Omfg, he’s coming down the stairs!
Moobs. I love moobs.
Way to get right in front of me! That’s why I was giggling. He’s adorable.

Donnie came down my stairwell too. He moves very fast but he stopped for us and asked us how we were doing and such things like that. Donnie always kisses my forehead. I see him being more sexual with other fans but he’s never been sexual with me. I’m okay with that. I find aggressive men to be a little scary. I’m not used to it. Donnie seems to intuitively know how to approach me. Pictures of us.

Yay! It’s Donnie!
I love this man. My heart bursts.

After the Sail Away Party, we went to dinner and then got ready for 80s night. So here’s the thing. I live with gay men. I had a big obnoxious headband that I was going to wear but a week before the cruise, one of my gays was playing with my hair things and walked off with it. I didn’t really do 80s night other than a side ponytail and a ton of makeup. A selection of pictures.

This is our game show front row posse. Me, Di (di181 on twitter), Sissy and Abbie. Some of my best friends.
80s fabulocity with Sissy, me and Eliza (elizap77 on twitter).

Sissy got video of us at the game show before it started. She was trying to get me to sing. I’m like Jon. I won’t sing unless someone is singing with me. Abbie came to my rescue. Take a look.

The seats I had for the shows were amazing. We even ended up seated with Abbie, Di, Katy and Irma, who were not even on our floor. It was beautiful serendipity! The game show was hilarious. When Jon had to suck M&Ms through a straw or whatever it was, I yelled, “I can do that!” He used his hand to hold onto the straw. Amateur! Although he did manage to suck M&Ms while having a mint or something in his mouth at the same time. He was rather proud of himself but I yelled that I could do that too. Hahaha! I use my mouth every day instead of my hands. I could have won that dare! Here are some pictures. Yes, I requested Jon’s booty. Sorry. It’s just so…. well, you know.

More epic.
The hair! The hair! I will weep if he cuts it.
My favorite men on the planet.
*facepalm* Joseph…
*grab grab grab grab*
Even sideways I’m a booty girl. Sorry Jon.
Those glasses are kind of gay. 🙂
I think this was Jon knowing the answer of what a pleasure place or something was. Kinky bastid.
I don’t think this needs a caption. It’s exactly what it looks like. Ha!
His marshmallow has magical balloon popping powers.
He speaks! Speak again, bright angel!
I don’t know who’s purse this was but Donnie and Jon stole her smokes and lipgloss. Ha!

After the game show, I went out to the lido deck for the 80s party. I was pretty much praying to the 80s gods beforehand that Jon would follow my advice about the big hair, the vest, the rolled jeans, the loafers, etc. I was fully prepared to chase him down and knock him over if he didn’t wear a vest. When they came out and he was wearing exactly what I wanted, I screamed so loud that my voice broke and hasn’t fully recovered yet. And then they busted out the old choreography! We need to go to video for this one.

Awesome, right? I also got a little Joe time on 80s night. He was on his way upstairs, locked eyes with me, came back down and said, “Hey baby,” as he pulled me into a hug. Then he went around and hugged everyone else in the wheelchair section.

Hey baby.

The next day was the beach party at Half Moon Cay. This was the day I was most nervous about because my chair does not do sand and I was terrified of being left behind. Much to my surprise, I was given priority on the tenders so I was one of the first people off the ship that morning after the crew and stuff. People from Rose Tours were very helpful and explained everything very well so that there was no confusion and we were safely transported. There was a brick path all the way from the tender to the pirate ship where the beach party was held and wheelchairs were put up on the pirate ship not far from the DJ. We saw the concert and games from the back but I would rather do that than be stuck out in the sand. Several people passed out from the heat. It was no joke out there.

I have heard people complaining that the concert wasn’t really a concert. It is what it is and can’t be changed now but I would never want to see our guys put on a full show in that heat when people were passing out while doing much less activity. I understand the desire to see them perform but I find it a little ridiculous to make them put on a full show and pass out too. They are performers but they are human beings too and they were all exhausted before they even got to the cruise. I do think that a beach concert was not the greatest idea but the theaters on the ship were not big enough for all of us and they were too exhausted to put on multiple shows along with everything else. They’re not robots. Like Abbie said, “I was on a boat with New Kids on the Block. I have no complaints.”

Since I was marooned on the pirate ship, I expected no time with the guys. I was more concerned with not becoming another victim of heat stroke. They were taking breaks inside the pirate ship though and Donnie came over to the wheelchairs to see how we were doing. He kissed me on the forehead and asked how I was and I asked how he was. He talked about how tired he was and I kind of chastised him for not taking better care of himself. As always, he smiled and turned the conversation back to me. I said, “You look good today even though you’re tired,” and he looked me over and said, “YOU look good.” Yeah. I blushed.

My view of the concert. I watched it through the guys’ eyes.
Donnie talking to me.
You can see me to the right of Jordan’s leg!
I can’t believe I showed this much skin to Donnie and Jon. *blushes*
Sissy doing her best Kim Kardashian.
My sweet Sissy and Maryka.

Donnie even made a point of squirting the wheelchair section with the water gun. He knew how hot everybody was. They all knew. Before the concert, Jon apparently spotted Sissy from inside the pirate ship bar and told his bodyguard to hold on a minute. He sneaked up behind me and played with my hair like he was playing a piano. I thought it was Sissy but I turned around to be greeted by Jon’s sweet smile. I asked how he was doing and his response was not about himself but concern for everybody baking on the beach. He was more concerned about the cruisers than himself. As he was leaving, he bent over so I could kiss him and then he went out to do the show. Later there were beads tossed into the crowd and Di told me that Jon was aiming for cleavage and laughing, which I couldn’t see because I was behind the stage. He walked over to the back of the stage to throw me some beads and Sissy in her pretty pink bikini yelled, “Jon!” and jiggled her boobs at him like it was Mardi Gras. It was hilarious! By the way, Jon, your beads melted on me and turned my skin bright orange.

We left Half Moon Cay after the games because we had been there since the morning. We were hot, thoroughly baked, exhausted, etc. Dinner in the dining room never happened that night because we all went to bed until it was time for the toga/pajama party that night. I chose to forego the toga so I could wear the jersey that Jon gave me for my 28th birthday. It was long on him but it was basically a dress on me. It went past my knees. I never felt so small in my life. Sissy was too sick to come out that night so Maryka and I went by ourselves. We basically all know what the toga party was like with the introductions and the Roman names like Anus the Great and Climaximus. I don’t have pictures of that night yet! Oh well!

The next day was the day that we were docked at Nassau. We were so worn out that we decided not to get off the ship, especially since we had already seen Nassau before. Our only plan was to eat, drink, and be merry by the pool. We set up deck chairs off to the side of the pool and laid out for quite a while. At one point, Sissy got up and waded into the water. I looked at the pool and remembered the look of doubt in Jon’s eyes on the first day and I thought to myself, “If I don’t do this now, I’m never going to do it.” I’m really afraid of water and I chickened out about getting in the ocean but I decided I needed to put my big girl panties on and get in the pool. It Maryka, Sissy, Michelle, Diane, Chris and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few but they picked up my deck chair and took it to the pool and from there, they transferred me into the water.

About two minutes later, Sissy started jumping up and down and waving her arms and yelling. I was like what the hell is she doing? Later she told me that she was yelling, “Donnie! Jessica’s in the pool!” and his face became stunned. All the sudden Donnie’s head pops up over the pool wall and his face spread into a massive smile. He was like, “Look at you swimming around! How does it feel?” He was so excited that I was in the pool that he climbed over the wall and sat on the edge with me for a few minutes. There were four people holding onto me because the ship was rocking and he was just sitting there smiling and watching us. Finally he took a sip of his wine and said, “You guys are so fucking cool.” We chatted a little more and I told him that I told Jon in the food line on the first day that I was going to swim and he made a worried face like he didn’t believe I could do it and Donnie and Earl were both like, “We’re gonna tell him all about this. He’ll know.” Then we took some pictures with me in the pool and Donnie sitting on the edge. He moved on and I got out of the pool. I thought that was my one big Donnie encounter. That was enough really. I expected nothing more. Here are some pictures. I don’t have all of them yet but you get the idea.

Lounge lizard.
In the pool right before Donnie arrived.
He was so happy!
The pool wore me out.

That night at the deck party, Donnie came down the stairs to hug and kiss the people in the disabled section and as he passed me on the way, he caressed my cheek and winked. I watched him walk around talking to everybody else and I stood out of the way because there were people who hadn’t met him yet. On his way back to the stairs, he stopped, touched me very gently, kissed my face and said, “I’m so proud of you.” He walked away and it started to sink in and I started crying. People in my family don’t offer praise of that nature very much. I’m used to being very tough but Donnie taking off his sunglasses, looking at me like I was important to him and saying those words made me totally crumble. It took a good ten minutes to pull myself back together again. Here are some pictures of pink night.

This is my Abbie. She’s a crusader for Komen, the homeless, and anyone in need.
Pink glow.
My beautiful Sissy.
Meet Jon’s herd of hobbits. Katy, Di, Sissy and me. We’re tiny and feisty.

I have to say that pink night really was magical. I don’t think Danny expected such a huge show of support because he got emotional. He said that it was the best birthday of his life. Everybody sang, danced and drank until the wee hours of the morning. I saw Abbie tear up several times because she does a lot of work with Komen and it was all more than anybody ever expected. People docked on the ship next to us were even up on their decks partying and dancing to our music. It was unforgettable.

The next day was the photo op and as soon as I came into the room, Jon didn’t even say hi before he was grinning and trying to say, “I heard you went swimming yesterday.” His voice was completely gone and he was rubbing his throat trying to talk to me. All five of them were clearly …. I don’t know what the right word is …. touched? emotional? moved? that I managed to get in the pool. I was kind of taken aback by it but even big tough Earl was talking to me about it and being protective of me at the deck parties. Every time he walked by, he smiled and stroked my cheek. Even that Johnny guy was doing it too. I didn’t know me getting in the pool would make that kind of impression on them. Maybe it was me looking so relieved that I could get in the pool without freaking out. I don’t know. I truthfully didn’t expect people to react the way they did. I wasn’t looking for attention or anything. I was just trying to overcome my fears and Donnie happened to show up and help me through it. My only regret is that Jon wasn’t there to see it since – to borrow a Southern expression – he was the one who lit a fire under my butt.

The only bad part about the cruise was the mess that was D-Dub’s Back Rub. There were only 250 available seats and hundreds of people showed up hoping to get wristbands. People started to get violent and the mob shoved their way forward. I was almost trampled. I don’t understand why people have to push and shove and get violent when it’s obvious that they’re not going to get inside without a wristband. I started to go into a panic attack and I was pulled out of the line along with my friend Amy (AmesDancesInATL on twitter) who had a very serious panic attack. If people had been patient and orderly, no one would have gotten hurt. I kept saying, “It’s only a show! Relax!” I got inside though and they put me in the front off to the side with Johnny and Kevin. I didn’t get rubbed by the Dub but I truthfully don’t think Donnie feels like he can be “that way” with me. He’s different toward me. It’s a softer kindness, not an aggressive flirtation. I’m okay with that.

Can I just say how beautiful it was to witness Danny’s acoustic performance? I didn’t really have much exposure to his music before but let me tell you – everybody that I could see had tears streaming down their faces. We gave Danny a standing ovation after his first song and even he got emotional. Abbie cried through the whole thing and I was okay until I tried to understand her feelings. I thought to myself, “What if it was Jon?” Yeah. I would have been a front row weepy mess if Jon did any kind of solo performing. I understood Abbie then and I got very choked up too.

This is a lovely man with a deep heart.
Joseph in his bird cage.

Red carpet night was my favorite night. I had a carefully chosen dress that was green and glittery, which reminded me of a mermaid. I have a thing for mermaids. My friends call me Ariel because I have long Disney red hair like her. I kept telling my friends all day that I was dying to get a picture with Jon in his tuxedo. I’m a believer that if you put your wishes out into the universe, they’ll come true, so I articulated that wish several times throughout the day. They came out looking tasty as usual and Jon saw me and waved.

It wasn’t long before he gave a signal that he was going to come downstairs and I plowed over Sissy and Maryka to get to the bottom of the stairs before that space got swamped. I was determined to see that man up close in his tux! He came right to me and pulled me into a hug and a kiss. The first thing he wanted to know was if I went swimming that day and I said no because my body was just so worn out and I had a pressure sore on the back of my leg. We talked a little more and I was afraid he was going to leave so I said, “Can I please, please, please get a picture with you?” He smiled big and said, “Yes, yes, yes!” and we squished up together for our picture. Problem! Sissy’s camera was stuck on zoom! Jon took the camera from Sissy and started pushing all the buttons. Finally, he was like, “Your camera’s broken!” Maryka came to the rescue and took a picture with her camera, which I don’t have yet. I kissed him again and he was trying to get around to other people but it was really crowded. He grabbed my chair and climbed over my lap and started laughing. I didn’t hear all of it but he made a joke about falling in my lap, jamming the joystick, spinning around and throwing me into the hot tub. That really tickled him. I kept trying to back out of his way so he could see other people and I squished Sissy in the process. Sorry Sissy. Jon is a lot bigger than me and I didn’t want him to trip on me. He talked to us a little more before he went back upstairs. I was happy as a clam that I got my Jon tuxedo time and I went to bed after that. Here are some pictures.

My best friends, Sissy and Maryka.
Someone got us all paparazzi style!
*whispers* He’s touching me. *dead*
The “your camera’s broken!” zoomed in picture. Maryka has the other picture. Don’t look at me. I’m awful.
Jon talking to me. I’m a hobbit. You can’t see me.
I think he was talking to another fan and glanced at me so a picture was snapped.
More paparazzi action.
He’s messing with Sissy’s camera.
Jon talking to a lovely fan in the disabled section.

I’m home now. What can I say about this cruise? It was a four-day party, but really, it was so much more than that to me. I bonded with Donnie and Jon in wonderful ways and I became so much closer to my friends. Nobody made me feel like “that girl in a wheelchair” and that was the best gift. True, I probably overdid it because I developed a pressure sore on the back of my thigh, I’m so sunburned that I can’t wear shorts right now, and somebody gave me some kind of virus because I have a fever and terrible congestion, but would I do it all again? Absolutely. The entire cruise was worth it just to bond with my friends and have Donnie and Jon be so thrilled that I overcame my fear of water to swim. This cruise was so much more emotional than my first cruise. We have a bond as fans with NKOTB that cannot be broken. I’m convinced that no other band on the planet cares about their fans as much as Donnie, Jon, Jordan, Danny and Joe do. There were several times when I just wanted to hug each of them and say, “You have such a bright, beautiful soul.” I will never forget my time with these guys. They have made me experience life in ways that I never could have imagined. I don’t know if I will ever be able to return the favor but I hope they know how much I love them.

My mother took this picture the day I got home. My dog came running outside to greet me like I had been gone for a year and I crawled straight into bed. Daisy always tilts her head when I watch videos of Jon on YouTube. She’s a little Jon girl, so I put the beads he gave me on her.

I love you, Jon. I love you, Donnie. I’ll see you at Fenway and we’ll hug it out. It’s my one and only meet and greet for this tour, so y’all better love up on me while you can. I already miss Maryka, Sissy, Abbie, Di, Katy, Chris, Michelle, and so forth like I miss family. When I think of everything they did to make me feel included in everything for the cruise, it makes my heart explode with love. I know Donnie and Jon aren’t my friends but I love them like they are, whether that’s right or wrong. They encourage me to stretch myself and try new things even though they might not be aware of it. My hope is that I can show up at concerts and events and be a calming, positive influence on them. There is so much drama and they work so hard. I just want to help them like they help me.

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>How to write a novel: part 5

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Writers can sometimes be the worst procrastinators. Why do today what you can do tomorrow, right? But in order the sharpen your writing skills, it’s important to keep writing. It is a craft and you must keep at it in order to hone your skills. It’s important to establish some writing discipline.

Set up a writing schedule. Determine how many hours a day you want to write. Two hours? Three? Four? Also determine what time of day is best for you to write. Do what works best for your schedule. If you have work and/or have family responsibilities, maybe the early morning hours will be right for you. Or perhaps the late evening is the best time to get your creative juices going.

Write every day. Try to write as much as you can. This can be a paragraph or even just a sentence a day. This will keep you in the rhythm of writing. Even if you don’t feel like writing (there’s that old procrastination kicking in), jot down something in your notebook or journal. Usually, when you force yourself to write, the creative juices start kicking in and you become inspired. Never wait for the muse to get you started; you’ll be waiting a long time.

If you’re working on a particular project–a short story or book, for instance–set up a mental note about what you want to have completed by a certain time. You might, for instance, want to write a chapter a day. Or you might want to complete a certain amount of pages within a week. Determine what works best for your pace and try to achieve that goal. Don’t kick yourself, though, if you don’t meet your goals. Just try to do the best you can and keep that project moving.

Keep a calendar. This will give you something to look at directly to see how far you’ve come on your project and how far you need to go. You might also want to schedule your writing hours into your schedule book as well.

Keep a journal. Journal writing is also a great way to develop writing disciplines. Sketch something in your journal at least once a day. Write about your observations, feelings, or whatever strikes your fancy. You can even write your grocery list. Just as long as you write something and you are sticking to a routine.

Join a writing workshop. Workshops are great in that they allow writers to focus on their writing once a week and to complete projects for the following week. They also put you in a community of writers. Writing is such a lonely activity, so being in a community of writers gives you a chance to share ideas, gain inspiration, and create a network of similarly inspired friends.

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>How to write a novel: part 4

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The most common grammar mistakes can sink an otherwise excellent manuscript with a potential publisher. People need to be very diligent about learning and relearning the rules in the English language. The more polished your manuscript is, the more likely a publisher will be to take interest. The story can be expertly crafted and the characters can be incredibly compelling, but if you don’t seem to care enough to edit for basic errors before submitting it, a publisher will not give you the time of day.

So what I’m going to do here is illustrate some very common errors found in manuscripts and how to correct them.


Incorrect: “Let them eat cake.” Said Marie Antoinette.
Correct: “Let them eat cake,” said Marie Antoinette.

The reason why dialogue and dialogue tags are separated by a comma in a continuous sentence is because they form a complete sentence together in most cases. In the incorrect line, Said Marie Antoinette., is a sentence fragment. If it was reversed, you would be writing: Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake.” You would not write: Marie Antoinette said. “Let them eat cake.” That doesn’t make sense. Therefore, the incorrect version is a sentence fragment and the correct version is a complete sentence. If you aren’t sure, try removing the quotation marks.


There, their, they’re. These words are used incorrectly all the time. Even though they are pronounced virtually the same, they mean different things and are NOT interchangeable! There is a term of location as in “over there”. Their is a term of plural possession as in “their stiletto heels”. They’re is a contraction of they are as in “they’re gorgeous”. Can you see the difference?

Your vs you’re. This one is very simple and I find it maddening that more people don’t understand it. Let me make it very simple. You’re is a contraction of you are and should ONLY be used in sentences in which you mean to say something like, “You are a moron.” Your is a possessive word and should ONLY be used in sentences in which you mean to say something like, “You’re a moron and your brain must be lacking a few cells.” There you go. Very simple.

Affect vs effect. Like above, these two words are pronounced virtually the same but they mean different things and are NOT interchangeable! In the majority of cases, affect is paired with a verb (an action word like going, walking, strutting), while effect is paired with a noun (a person, place or thing). Effect basically means a result of something. So you could say, “She put twinkle lights in her back yard and the effect was stunning.” Affect, on the other hand, means a feeling. So you could say, “The movie affected her heart and mind.”


And etc. Etc. is short for the Latin et cetera which means literally “and so forth.” Therefore, when you say “and etc.” you’re really saying “and and so forth.” This is clearly redundant. Just say “etc” (or preferably “et cetera”). (It may help you to remember that “etc” was once abbreviated &c.)

ATM Machine. The letters ATM stand for “Automated Teller Machine.” Therefore, when you say “ATM Machine” you’re really saying “Automated Teller Machine Machine.” This is obviously redundant. Just say “I’m going to the ATM.”

PIN Number. PIN stands for Personal Identification Number. Therefore you’re saying “Personal Identification Number Number.” Again, redundant. Just say “I need my PIN.”

HIV Virus. Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Are you sensing a trend?

SAT Test. Scholastic Achievement Test. You get the picture.

Comma Splice

A comma splice is the incorrect use of a comma to connect two independent clauses. (Recall that an independent clause is a phrase that is grammatically and conceptually complete: that is, it can stand on its own as a sentence.) To correct the comma splice, you can: replace the comma with a period, forming two sentences; replace the comma with a semicolon; join the two clauses with a conjunction such as “and,” “because,” “but,” etc.

Incorrect: I like Xena, she is very sexy.
Correct: I like Xena. She is very sexy.
Correct: I like Xena; she is very sexy.
Correct: I like Xena, because she is very sexy.

Dangling Participles

A participle is a verb-form that ends in -ing. It is called “dangling” when it doesn’t agree with its subject. “While walking down the road, a tree caught Xena’s attention.” The subject of the sentence is “a tree,” but it is not the tree that is doing the walking, therefore the participle “walking” is dangling. To correct the sentence, write: “While walking down the road, Xena noticed a tree.” OR: “A tree caught Xena’s attention as she walked down the road.” Remember that not all words that end in -ing are participles (e.g. thing) and some participles are gerunds depending on context. (A gerund is a participle that is functioning as a noun, e.g. “My favorite activity is sleeping.”)

Ending a Sentence with a Preposition

Contrary to popular belief, there is no agreement on this one among English professionals. In general, especially if your audience is strict about rules, don’t end a sentence with a preposition. Prepositions are little words that indicate position and such: with, at, by, from, etc. In general a preposition should come before (“pre”-position) the noun it modifies. So you should change: “That’s the warrior I must talk to” to “That’s the warrior to whom I must talk.” However, if too many “to whom”s and “of which”s are making your writing unnecessarily clumsy, go ahead and end with the preposition, especially in informal writing. Remember the famous example (credited to Winston Churchill) that goes: “This is the kind of thing up with which I will not put!”

Split Infinitives

An infinitive is the form of a verb that begins with “to.” (This problem does not exist in any other language of which I’m aware, since infinitives are single words in every language but English.) Splitting an infinitive means placing another word or words between the “to” and the infinitive. This is considered bad by purists, but, like the sentence-ending preposition, it’s mostly a matter of style.

Incorrect: Xena seems to always win a fight.
Correct: Xena always seems to win a fight.

Some semi-purists say it is okay if only one adverb separates the “to” from the infinitive: “To boldly go where no one has gone before.” As with the sentence-ending preposition, though, don’t worry too much about this. Especially if the split infinitive makes your sentence clearer or more graceful, go ahead and use it.

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