“W” for WWWWW&H

LetterWWhat?! Am I writing gibberish now? No. WWWWW&H stands for What, Where, When, Why, Who and How. This is one of the first things I learnt when studying to become a journalist. It is a great formula for a reporter doing an interview because it poses all the basic queries that you need to answer for the reader. You cannot always get all the answers, but this formula covers the basics. Let’s say there is an event happening that you need to cover. The first thing you must answer is what is the event and what is it about. If it is something that the public can attend, then you need to know where it is and when — date and time. You then need to know why the event is being held — it might be raising funds for a worthy cause such as a cycling marathon raising funds for cancer research. You need to know who is involved and who can attend. The last question relates to how it is being organised, how you can get there etc.

You might think you are not a journalist, but you are a writer. These same questions can be posed in a short story or longer work. The reader still needs to know what the story is about, who the characters are; where, or the setting of the story; when, or the time period the story is set in; why characters behave the way they do; and how the characters and story develops to its ultimate climax and resolution.

For example, the fairytale story of Hansel and Gretel is about a boy and girl who wander off into the woods and discover a house made of gingerbread. They start eating the gingerbread off the house until a witch catches them and wants to fatten them up and eat them. They overcome the witch and throw her in the oven before escaping. Hansel and Gretel are the who of the story, and the description above outlines what happened.  The setting — the where — is the woods and the gingerbread house. The time — when — is generally during the day, although no actual month or year is stipulated that I can recall. The why or reason they run into trouble is because they had wandered off into the woods on their own and the witch caught them because  they started eating her gingerbread house. How it all happens is the actual storyline of them wandering through the woods and encountering the gingerbread house.

So, if you have to construct a story or write an actual account of something that happened, then remember the WWWWW&H formula to help you answer the questions the reader will want answered.

*If you need help in editing and proofing your work, why not send me a request. My website is http://paulvanderloos.wix.com/editor

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“V” is for verbs

LetterVVerbs similar to vowels. They the gate between all the other words. Without them, sentences such as these first three quite sense. 

See what I did there? I left out the verbs. You could probably follow the first two sentences, but the last would be rather ambiguous. Let’s put them back in: Verbs are similar to vowels. They are the gate between all the other words (letters). Without them, sentences such as these first three don’t quite make sense. 

At school, you learn that nouns are naming words and verbs are doing words — the words that describe the action. You learn that in a sentence there is a subject, a verb, and an object. For example, Joanne walked her dog.  Joanne is the subject. She is the one who is ‘doing’ something. Walked, of course, is the verb or the action, while her dog is the object of that action.

Now, let’s complicate things a little. What if we extend the sentence like so: Joanne left the house to walk her dog. The subject remains the same but the verb and object have changed. The verb is now left and the object is the house. The reason she left the house is to walk her dog. The verb walk has been linked with to to create an infinite form of the verb. It is no longer fully active although the intention of Joanne to leave the house is to walk her dog. However, as I have discovered much to my surprise, not all infinitives are formed with ‘to’. When other verb helpers are linked with the verb, these form ‘bare infinitives’. For example, Joanne couldn’t leave the house to walk her dog because it was raining. The inclusion of couldn’t with the basic verb forms a bare infinitive. (Is your head hurting yet? Mine is!). The bare infinitive (without ‘to’) is used after the auxiliaries shall, should, will, would, may, might, do, did, can, could, must, need and dare

The tense (present, past, future) affects the form of the verb. Let’s go back to the first example and use the three tenses:

  • Joanne walks her dog. (present);  Joanne is walking her dog. (present continuous)
  • Joanne walked her dog. (past);  Joanne was walking her dog. (past continuous)
  • Joanne will walk her dog. (future);  Joanne will be walking her dog. (future continuous)

(Take something for that headache!)

And this is just the beginning of the story about verbs. There are verb phrases, verbal nouns, phrasal verbs, irregular verbs, transitive and intransitive verbs. But before our headaches get much worse, just remember the basic premise to a verb — the thing you learned when you were a youngster at school: that a verb is a doing word. We can all be fine writers without understanding all the terminology and forms. After a while, it becomes intuitive. And anything that you are doubtful about can be referred to English usage guides such as the one I used to throw all these terms at you — The Cambridge Guide to English Usage (Pam Peters). It’s a useful reference book if you are serious about writing. Of course, there are a number of other useful grammar guides that you can also refer to, and Google can help you out too. The site http://www.englishgrammar.org/bare-infinitive/ assisted me in this blog post.

If you would like a little help in editing and proofing your writing assignments, fiction or non fiction efforts, then check out my website http://paulvanderloos.wix.com/editor