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Besting the Demon of Style: A Tale of Adventure, Valiance and Virtue

I would like to share a tale with all of you, the brave authors of, that has been passed down from the editors of old. This story involves a young man named Sir Antecedent and his noble steed Predicus.

I would like to share a tale with all of you, the brave authors of, that has been passed down from the editors of old. This story involves a young man named Sir Antecedent and his noble steed Predicus. Our journey begins years ago when the beast Comma Splice and the dragon Appositive still battled endlessly into the night, when the homophones grazed peacefully in the fields of ellipses, and when the serial comma was still acceptable. (Like what I did there? Please don’t mention that I just used a sentence fragment or how this entire bit is within parentheses. I’m breaking the fourth wall. Okay, let’s get back to the point. See how distracting it is when parenthetical material takes over? Great! I’ve completely forgotten what I was talking about, and I'm sure you have too…)

Sir Antecedent was given a task by King Critique: He was to travel across the land and rescue Princess Superlative from the clutches of the evil witch Protasis, who resided in the Apodosis Mountains. All the while, he had to fight against the sinister stylistic traps that Protasis had set along the way.

Shortly after setting out, he arrived at—the Swamp of—Unnecessary Dashes. The mischievous—and foul smelling—dash goblins lived there—they would simply—pop out of—nowhere—and distract Antecedent from his mission. The goblins found it funny—to separate clauses, words—or sentences—from the subject matter—and then trap Antecedent in a dash-filled bog of confusion—and despair. The only way that—Antecedent—was able to conquer them was by proclaiming that—dashes were not replacements for commas—nor were they to be used at—random.

“They simply indicate a break in thought!” he said. “You must not bombard the reader with a sea of dashes!” The goblins were taken aback by his speech, for no one had challenged their faulty logic before. They retreated in fear, and the dashes that filled the swamp fell apart and sank into the grimy depths. Antecedent was victorious, now able to traverse the mire and continue on.

As he exited the swamp, he entered a field of crisp, green grass. Antecedent allowed Predicus to graze for a short while. Shortly after the magnificent horse had finished his snack, the two made their way to the ghastly Woods of Endless Sentences but not before passing through the nightmarish Valley of Passivity.

It was here that countless men had lost their will, given up hope and faded into nothingness. Antecedent knew that he needed to be as active as possible in order to best the passive voices that echoed throughout the valley.

Antecedent gathered his courage and soldiered on through the valley. For the first few yards, nothing happened. Feeling silly that he had been so worried about a simple valley, he dropped his guard and took in the view. Predicus slowed down, sensing the peaceful tranquility that had come over his master. The same feeling was coming over the stallion. “Oh no…” thought Antecedent. “The passivity is taking over.”

“Predicus! We are being overcome with sleepiness. It is the passive voice that is doing this to us! We are being surrounded by its subtle whisper. What are we going to be doing? We should be fighting it!”

The ground was laid onto by Predicus. He was feeling very tired and lazy. He had no motivation to keep him going forward. The same entrancing thoughts were being fought by Antecedent.

“No, Predicus! You have been taken over by the passive voice! Get up! You cannot be letting yourself to be consumed by its lure! You will be slowed down by it, and you will be made content with remaining lifeless and inactive! Good writing relies on active voice to move the reader along in a way that is engaging. With active voice, the subject directly carries out the action. The action is not ‘being carried out’ by the subject. Do you understand, Predicus? You must fight!”

The stallion lifted his head. He listened to the active voice of Antecedent, and it gave him strength to move. He got up off the ground, standing tall and full of life. Predicus remembered their mission, and he knew that they had to make haste and move along. Antecedent rejoiced and hopped onto his steed’s back. They galloped on as the passivity retreated back into the shadows of the valley. They had conquered the lassitude with the utmost valiance.

Antecedent could feel a knot forming in the pit of his stomach as he and Predicus reached the Forest of Endless Sentences. He feared these woods most of all, for very few men ever returned from them with their sanity intact. 

“It is wise, Predicus, to block out the sounds you hear in these woods. They are known to drive a man mad. There is no end in sight once an endless sentence makes itself known to a passerby. Let’s try and best this forest as quickly as possible. I’m getting chills just thinking about what lies ahead.”

Just then, they heard a noise. It seemed to be a cracking noise; it was similar to the snapping of a branch.

“Did you hear that, Predicus?”

The stallion nodded. They were not alone.

Suddenly, a horrifying entity appeared before them. It was a monstrous, endless sentence. It stretched out in a spiral form. It was as if it was attempting to suck Antecedent and Predicus into a vortex.

The sentence spoke:

“You will never escape the clutches of my grappling words, which stick to you like pine needles in the bed of an evergreen forest that has many evergreen trees growing high into the sky, and you will remain here forever trapped within my words and conjunctions that need not be here because you could easily separate me into smaller sentences to improve the flow of the text, but you will not do that because I am intimidating and ever-growing, and I am adorned with subordinating conjunctions as well, and they are sucking you deeper into my pit of despair; I may be using correct grammar, but you cannot escape me because I go on forever, and ever, and ever…and ever…”

“ENOUGH!” Antecedent shouted. He was too cunning for this beast.

“I will not be pulled down into a maelstrom of unnecessary words. I will slice, dice and separate you into smaller sentences, and you will lose your power.”

And that is exactly what he did. He struck the sentence with the Sword of Clauses. The sentence broke apart. The spiral disassembled, and the light of the sun poured through the canopy of trees above. The knight and his steed rode off into the sunset, and they saw the Apodosis Mountains ahead. Their journey was finally coming to an end.

The Apodosis Mountains were covered with ice. The winds that blew from the north and through the mountain range sent unsettling chills up Antecedent’s spine. It was here that he had to leave Predicus, for the poor horse would not make the journey through the frigid, labyrinthine tundra. 

As Antecedent parted with his beloved companion, he felt a sense of loneliness overcome him. He was on his own. The deafening sounds of the harsh gales thundered throughout the mountains as he traversed the torturous path. He scaled the highest mountain, and he crept down into the deep chasm that held the palace of the witch Protasis. He cautiously approached the castle. He could see through the blizzard that there were no guards present. 

As he stood before the castle, he could no longer hear the winds of the mountains. It was silent. He reached for the gate.

Suddenly, a soft, haunting voice came from within the walls of the castle.

“If you open the gate…”

Antecedent waited for the consequent of the sentence. Nothing came. 

“I’m sorry. What was that?” he asked.

“When you enter this palace…”

Antecedent stood confused and, frankly, irritated. He traveled a long distance and overcame many grammatical obstacles. He had no time for games.

“Why do you speak in prepositional phrase?”

“If that is what you believe…”

Then, Antecedent realized what was going on. He was dealing with the witch Protasis, and in grammar, the Protasis is the subordinate clause in a conditional sentence. She was speaking to him in fragments. His only option was to finish her sentences.

“How do I get into your castle?”

“If you wave your hand in front of the lock three times…”

“…then I will open the gate?”

Antecedent waved his hand like the witch said, and the gate opened. He moved vigilantly forward. 

Inside the castle, several pillars of ice lined the entryway. They seemed to lead to a blue, glowing light at the end of the hall. Antecedent made his way into the light.
It was in this room that he found, at last, Princess Superlative. She was trapped within a binding set of curly brackets, and she was suspended high above the floor, unconscious. At the end of the room, by a large frozen window, Protasis stood with a sinister grin etched across her face. 

Protasis spoke:

“If you think you can defeat me…”

Antecedent came back at her with the apodosis. 

“…then I am correct.”

“If you do not complete five sentences before the brackets holding the princess break…”

“…then nothing will happen. I will save the princess regardless of your empty threats.”

“If you believe that the breaking of the brackets will not send the princess into the pool of ice in the floor…”

“…then my beliefs are valid. Your fragmented and cryptic warnings have no power over me.”

“When I create a wall of ice to shield myself from you…”

“…then I will break it down with the Sword of Clauses. Then, I will fuse you with the Apodosis Mountains. You will be part of a complete sentence.”

“If you finish the last sentence…”

“…then I have won.”

Antecedent drew his sword and rushed at the witch. She called upon her wall of ice, but the sword sliced through with ease. By taming the endless sentence from the forest, Antecedent powered his sword with much more energy than Protasis had anticipated. He struck her and, in doing so, fused her fragmented soul with the mountains. She was trapped within the icy walls of her own castle. 

The brackets shattered, and Antecedent rushed to Princess Superlative, catching her before she fell into the pool of ice. She awoke, and she hugged him tightly, happy to finally be free of the witch’s grasp.

“I am so thankful that you have come to save me! I was having the worst nightmares! I think she put some sort of shouting spell on me! I can’t stop yelling!”

Antecedent knew what was wrong with the princess.

“You seem to be cursed with exclamatory language. It’s intimidating and unnecessary. You know that you can get your point across by using simple punctuation such as a period. Exclamation points are only to be used to express extreme emphasis. There is no need for that now. You are safe.”

The princess stood up and felt the curse lift from her body.

“Thank you, brave knight.”

Now victorious, Antecedent and the princess made their way back down through the mountains. They eventually reached Predicus, who was waiting patiently for his master to return. After mounting Predicus, they rode back through the land to the castle of King Critique.

Well, I’m sure you know the rest of the story. Antecedent brought the princess back to the castle safely, and the king rejoiced. Princess Superlative thanked Antecedent with a medal of honor and a kiss. The entire kingdom could hear the satisfactory roar of the dragon Appositive in the distance. Peace was finally restored. This brings our little story to its end. 

Each of you can master your own style like Antecedent did, and you can use certain grammatical rules to your advantage when crafting your own writing. You may not be a knight, and you may not have a trusty steed to get you from the introduction to the conclusion, but by knowing when certain stylistic choices add to your content, you can master the world of the page with a mighty pen.

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