Words on Writing: T


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tense

A verb attribute that locates the action in time: past (Bob shoveled), present (Bob shovels), future (Bob will shovel). Verb-tense variations, with their sundry participles and auxiliaries, require the use of words like pluperfect, which I leave to you to sort out.

Compare aspect, mood, voice. See also auxiliary.

they, singular

See singular they.

tone

See voice.

topic sentence

A sentence that summarizes a paragraph’s main idea. Not every paragraph has a topic sentence. Those that do typically start with it. Sometimes, for dramatic effect, a paragraph builds to a topic sentence at the end. (For examples of this type of topic sentence, see the chapter “The Last Word” in Word Up!)

to-verb

See infinitive.

transitive and intransitive verbs

These two verb types are best defined side-by-side.

Transitive verb: A verb that has a direct object; the verb transfers action to a noun (trans = “across”). For example, in The mail carrier bought some fur-lined boots, the verb bought is a transitive verb, and boots is its direct object (the noun to which it transfers action).

Intransitive verb: A verb that has no direct object. In The mail fell onto the ground, the verb fell is intransitive; ground is not a direct object of the verb but an object of the preposition onto.

Some verbs can play either a transitive or an intransitive role. The verb fell, for example, is intransitive in The mail fell onto the ground (no direct object) and transitive in The mail carrier is going to fell that tree (direct object = tree).

A-Z page

This is not a list of all words about writing—you’d be scrolling all day. These definitions evolved while I was writing Word Up! I enjoyed what I learned and wanted to share it.

Get the full glossary and more in the book: Word Up! How to Write Powerful Sentences and Paragraphs (And Everything You Build from Them)

Last modified: December 14, 2012

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