Kinky Grammar

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As a teacher of literature and composition classes, as well as creative writing (non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama), I am sometimes attacked by Imposter Syndrome (What am I doing here? What do I have to teach anyone?).

As a writer, I know that the writing process is not completely straightforward. It requires input from the left side of the brain (supposedly the logical side) as well as the right side (supposedly the creative, intuitive side). As a writing teacher, I encourage students to keep journals of various kinds, including dream journals, and mine them for material.

The editing process involves imposing some order on the sometimes-incoherent messages from the inner Oracle. Some knowledge of grammar and punctuation is required, but students sometimes complain that traditional rulebooks on such things tend to be: 1. intimidating, 2. confusing, and 3. boring.

Would erotic writers be interested in an appropriate (i.e. inappropriate for the classroom) grammar workshop? At the Erotic Authors conference in Las Vegas in 2011, Shar Azade and I presented this event, complete with handouts to take away. It seemed to be a success.

Ever since then, I have considered writing an erotic guide to the parts of speech, sentence construction, verb conjugation, and the use of punctuation as accessories. It lends itself to being written in brief sections, so various charts and exercises in this Work-in-Progress litter the Documents on my home computer.

I offer for your consideration a discussion of two different but related verbs. You can’t afford not to make their acquaintance.


Two verbs that are often confused are “to lay” and “to lie.” Many people don’t even know they are not the same!

Here is a brief introduction:

Hello, I am TO LAY. I am a transitive verb, which means that I always have a direct object. To put it more bluntly, I am always Dominant. I need someone or something to work on.

I (to lay). O (object)

Here are some examples:

I lay a lace tablecloth on the table when I’m expecting company.

My assistant lays out the implements ahead of time.

My guests lay their clothing on the guest bed before presenting themselves for inspection.


I am TO LIE. I am intransitive, meaning that I perform actions alone. This really means I am a solitary masturbator. I don’t need anyone or anything.

I (to lie, a solitary verb). (I don’t need a thing.)

Here are some examples:

I lie down when I am tired.

My Bonnie lies over the ocean, and my love letters lie to her in her ebony chest with the lock.

What secrets lie in her heart?


Here is TO LAY conjugated in first-person singular:

I laid (simple past), I lay (simple present), I will lay (simple future).

I was laying (past progressive), I am laying (present progressive), I will be laying (future progressive)

I had laid (past perfect), I have laid (present perfect), I will have laid (future perfect).


Simple, right?

Now, here is the confusing part: “lay” can be used as a past-tense form of “to lie.”

Here is TO LIE conjugated in different tenses.

I lay (simple past), I lie (simple present), I will lie (simple future)

I was lying (past progressive), I am lying (present progressive), I will be lying (future progressive)

I had lain (past perfect), I have lain (present perfect), I will have lain (future perfect)


These examples should lay all the confusion to rest!

Speech Tags, Quotation Marks, and the Meaning of Life

One of the downsides of being an editor is the inability to ignore other writers’ errors. I can be reading a thrilling erotic tale or a gripping mystery, only to be suddenly kicked out of the fictional world by a spelling, grammar or punctuation error.

(If only my own mistakes stood out so clearly!)

Anyway, in my recent reading I’ve encountered a number of authors who seem somewhat confused about how to capitalize and punctuate dialogue. While this isn’t as important as getting the grammar right (in my opinion), this sort of error can be distracting. So I thought I’d do a quick post reviewing the rules.

Speech Tags

In order to correctly punctuate dialogue, you need to understand speech tags. A speech tag is a phrase that includes a subject plus a verb related to speaking: “said”, “asked”, “exclaimed”, “commented”, and so on. The object of a sentence with a speech tag is the dialogue content itself. In many cases, the subject and speech verb can be in either order, and it’s possible, though less common, for the tag to come before the dialogue content.

“You’re the hottest little tramp who’s walked into my store in a week,” said Herve, rubbing his hands together.

“Where were you on the night of the thirty first?” Sergeant Morgan asked.

Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream.”

In dialogue, speech tags serve two distinct functions. Most importantly, they identify which participant in a conversation is associated with a particular utterance. Without speech tags, dialogue can become confusing, especially if there are more than two people talking.

As a secondary function, speech tags can also convey information about the manner of speaking:

“You’re nothing but a slut,” Martin shouted.

“Please, Master – let me come,” she whimpered.

There are many speech verbs that can be used this way: “whispered”, “whined”, “blurted”, and so on. They do double duty by identifying the speaker while also giving the reader some clues about his or her emotions or state of mind.

Be careful, though. Some verbs that might seem similar to my examples are not in fact speech verbs, but writers sometimes punctuate them as if there were. For instance, “laughed”, “whistled”, “smirked”, etc. do not specify speech acts.

Also, it’s often desirable to opt for simpler, less conspicuous speech verbs (like “said”) and use actual action verbs to convey manner.

“You’re nothing but a slut.” Martin slammed his palm down on the table.

But that’s another post…

Quotation Marks

When you want to record what a character said, in his or her exact words, you must surround those words with opening and closing quotes. If you’re writing in U.S. or Canadian English, you use double quotes; British English uses single quotes.

“I’m forever true to the Red, White and Blue,” Jenna swore.

‘Give me a pint of your best bitter, Jake,’ ordered Detective Smythe.

If you need to put a quote inside another quote, you use the opposite type of punctuation.

“Who was it that said ‘even bad sex is good sex’?” asked Jeremy.

Putting the Two Together

If you don’t use speech tags, life is simple. You put your characters’ words inside the appropriate style of quotation marks, using the same punctuation you’d use for a normal sentence: full stop for a statement, question mark for a question, exclamation mark for an exclamation, and so on.

“I’d sure like to see what you have on under that dress.”

“Can you give me a hint?”

“Hot damn! You’re one hell of a looker!”

Things start to get messy (and writers start to make mistakes) when speech tags come into play, either before or after the direct quote. I see cases like this:

*** WRONG ***

Maribelle whispered “Meet me at the gazebo in twenty minutes.”

*** WRONG ***

“Meet me at the gazebo in twenty minutes.” Whispered Maribelle.

*** WRONG ***

“I’d sure like to see what you have on under that dress.” said Howie with a leer.

The rules are actually simple.

1. If the speech tag comes before the quotation, put a comma after the speech verb, then include the quotation, punctuated as you’d expect if it were standing alone.

2. If the speech tag comes after the quotation:

  1. If the quotation is a question or exclamation, punctuate the quotation as if it were standing alone. Do not capitalize the next word after the quotation marks (unless it’s a proper noun).
  2. If the quotation is a statement, end with a comma rather than a full stop as you would if it were standing alone. Do not capitalize the next word after the quotation marks (unless it’s a proper noun).

Examples of Each Rule

Rule 1:

Her Master declared, “You’re mine, pet.”

The vampire whispered, “Wouldn’t you like to live forever?”

Rule 2a:

“Wouldn’t you like to live forever?” whispered the vampire.

“Get your hands off her!” the guard shouted.

Rule 2b:

“You’re mine, pet,” her Master declared.

“I got your letter,” said Joyce.

That’s it. Easy!

I hope this is helpful. If not, you might want to check out this link.


However, they have a lot more rules than I do!

And feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Hot Chilli Erotica

Hot Chilli Erotica


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