Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully and all other characters are the property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox Television. I make no money from this site. I merely promote a more harmonious world, in which people are free to conjugate and parse with confidence. But no, really - I don't expect any recognition. Knowing that I have contributed to the greater good is reward enough.
The Fox lawyers might consider that sites such as this one give them free advertising and good public relations. But I doubt that they will consider these things - so please don't alert them to the existence of this page.
Denial of infallibility:
I ain't no grammar expert.
I had to look most of this stuff up in Strunk and White.
I make typos when I'm posting or E-mailing quickly.
Be lenient on me.
Some really basic words that you
simply must know how to use.
People will actually flinch if they see you make mistakes with these words.
You don't want to write flinchfic, do you?
A1. Correct spellings:
Misspell the names and you lose your audience.
A2. May as well hit the secondary players, too:
Eddie V-A-N B-L-U-N-D-H-T
Father (Fr.) M-c-C-U-E
And it's Federal Bureau of Investigation (it's a bureaucracy and Blevins is a bureaucrat!) and the acronym is FBI .
(All spellings taken from the official X-Files site.
Blame the big guys for any lack of continuity.)
B. Their is the possessive of "they."
They're is a contraction of "they are."
There is a location.
The victims' bodies are not with their heads. They're over there.
You're is a contraction of "you
Your is the possessive of "you."
"You're going to be all right, Scully. But your mother is calling Father McCue, just in case."
D. It's is a contraction of "it is."
Its is a possessive pronoun, and like "his," "hers" and "ours," doesn't require an apostrophe.
It's not a man. It's a mutant. Its home is the sewer, its origin a mystery.
E. Who's is a contraction of "who is."
Whose is the possessive form of "who."
"Who's going to fill out the 302 on this one? Whose turn is it?"
For additional assistance, click here.
F. Isle is where Gilligan lives.
Aisle is in a church.
While they were shipwrecked on the desert isle, Skinner and Scully contemplated walking down the aisle (if there had been one, of course). But there was always the memory of Mulder in Scully's mind - and of Krycek in Skinner's.
G1. Breathe is a verb.
Breath is a noun.
"Breathe," Mulder said. His breath caught in his throat as Scully coughed and then opened her eyes.
G2. The same rule applies to "bathe" (verb) and "bath" (noun).
Scully was concerned, and yet strangely excited, to find Mulder shivering in the bath. She had never seen him naked and conscious as the same time. Well, OK, maybe this didn't count as fully conscious - he was in shock again - but it was pretty close. Scully went to find a blanket while her partner continued to bathe in hot water.
H. Two is the number.
Too means "also."
To is a preposition.
"I have two sons. I had two daughters, too - but I lost one to a shooting."
I. Alot is never, ever correct as a single word.
A lot is the opposite of "a little." You don't write "alittle," do you?
A lot of toads fell from the sky.
J. No means "no."
Know means "to be aware of."
Now is a time.
"No. I don't know how my son could be alive if his head has been cut off. May I leave now? "
K. Lose (with a 'z' sound on the 's') is what happens when you don't win.
Loose (with an 's' sound) means "not tight."
Frohike was going to lose the bet. Fox Mulder's snow pants were not too loose on Dana Scully, after all.
L. Choose is present tense. (Hear that "oo" sound in there?)
Chose is past tense. (Long "o" sound.)
"Yesterday, on that bridge, I had to choose between you and Samantha. And I chose you."
M. No excuses on this one.
Quiet has two syllables, and you know what it means, and it's not the same as quite.
"It's quiet out here. Too quiet. I'm quite willing to bet a duck will fly down and scare us."
N. A part is a piece of something.
Apart is separated.
"You'll always be a part of me, Mulder. We'll never be apart."
O. Summery means "like summer."
Summary means "a shortened version of events."
was such a
day outside that Mulder wished he could be at the beach,
mooning and schmooping over Scully, instead of typing
for the next day's disciplinary hearing.
P. Could have and could've are good .
Could of is bad.
(Ditto with would and should.)
"How strange," Mulder thought, reading the fanfic. "Scully would never say 'could of.' Not even in an internal monologue."
Q. Waste is refuse, debris, an unwanted by-product.
A waist is a narrowing in the abdomen, just above the hips.
Scully stumbled through the ashen
waste that was
the office. She put her arms around Mulder's waist
and waited for him to return the embrace. She thought,
"I would never put my arms around Mulder's
R. Something that happened at an earlier time is in the past.
Passed means "moved by" or "earned a passing grade in."
Mulder passed the exit for Bond Mill Road, off the 95. He sighed as a memory flickered through his mind. The days of clones and miracle healers were all in the past, now. At least he had passed his driver's test.
S. A steak is a cut of meat.
A stake is either a wooden dagger or an interest in a venture, especially a monetary interest.
Mulder was involved in a high-stakes poker game with the Texan sheriff. Scully sat chewing her steak. She wondered if she'd get the death penalty for driving a stake through her partner's chest. Probably not. A jury of her peers would understand. If she had any peers.
T. Advice is a noun with an "s" sound. It can be given or taken.
Advise is a verb with a "z" sound.
Skinner had advised Mulder to avoid dealing with the bad-ass bunch of old guys. If only had taken his own advice, he wouldn't be cleaning up blood and bees right now.
U. Than is used for comparison .
Then is used for a variety of purposes, but not for comparison.
He was taller than Mulder was. He
walked more briskly than Mulder did. His
eyes were hazeler than Mulder's eyes. But
then Scully looked into those eyes, and realized
that they would never see her as truly as Mulder's did. "If only he
were Mulder," she thought, "then I could
release my tension."
You're forgiven more easily for being confused about these words.
But people will still be very disappointed if you use them incorrectly.
A. Both less and fewer are opposites of "more." However, they are not interchangeable.
is used to describe things you cannot
Fewer is the only correct word that should be used to describe countable things.
Mulder has less faith, hair, soda, and blood.
Krycek has fewer friends, chances, cans of soda, and arms.
Diet Coke has fewer calories than Classic Coke.
B. Lie means to recline or be situated.
Lay means to put or place.
"Lie down on the futon, Mulder. I'll lay a blanket over you, so you don't go into shock."
But you see, it all gets very confusing, because while Mulder can lie on the futon when he's sick, it's also possible that he'll fall into a coma, in which case Skinner will have to lay him on the futon. (Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm trying to teach grammar here!)
Confusion is further compounded by the fact that there is crossover in the past tense and past participle forms of the verbs.
Mulder lies down. He is lying down. Yesterday he lay down. He has lain down in the past.
Scully lays the blanket over him. She is laying the blanket over him. Yesterday she laid the blanket over him. She has laid the blanket over him in the past.
I'll admit, it's crazy. But it's your job to know it.
C. Affect is usually the word you want if it's a verb.
Effect is usually the word you want if it's a noun.
"How did the Pfaster case affect you? Did it have a major effect on your relationship with Agent Scully?"
D. Discreet means "private, reserved."
Discrete means "entirely separate."
Mulder had learned to be discreet about his videos. His life with Scully and his other life were discrete entities.
E. Accept means "to take willingly."
Except as a preposition means "with the exclusion of."
(Except as a verb means "to exclude.")
Scully had learned to accept all of Mulder's quirks - except his video collection.
F. That and which are not interchangeable.
Here's a rule that's easy to follow: after a
comma, which indicates a pause, use "which."
The farm, which appeared abandoned , actually housed a strange cult that was populated by the alien Amish.
A bunch of other words that are
(They're used correctly in the sample sentences below.)
Mulder knew that Skinner was a man of principle, but he wondered whether Scully's health was the man's principal motivation.
It didn't faze Mulder when Scully came home
wearing another man's shirt and tattoo. He knew that it was just a
phase his partner was going through.
The fungus on the mountain peak piqued Scully's
interest, so she took a peek.
Come on, Mulder. It's very
common for teenagers to lick frogs.
His stomach muscles were taut and lean as he
taught Krycek how to apply the sunscreen. He
was glad that Krycek did not taunt him.
They simply could not find the crater in the Antarctic. Not a single
scientist caught sight of the
site. Still, Mulder
cited the incident in his report.
Skinner lay prostrate on the ground. He
had never before given any thought to his
Mulder was so close, finally, but Scully knew they had only a
minute. She sighed. How many other nights
had they spent like this, dressed in formal attire, listening to chamber
music and swaying hip to hip?
Scully's minute feet fell into the familiar
steps of the minuet.
Mulder took stock of his situation. All his clothes had gone down river.
He was nearly bare. He was stuck
in the forest with Scully. Night was falling. He decided to grin
and bear it.
Throw the brake, Mulder! If we don't
brake that train, you're going to
break into a million pieces when it explodes!
"It's easy to be chaste," Frohike thought.
"If you're not being chased."
"That was a vile thing you did," Scully
said icily. "Keeping my ova in that vial in
your freezer without telling me... that was a vile
As if on cue, the clones formed a
queue and marched into the machine-gun fire.
Mulder was excited as he
exited the burning house.
"Have some dessert, Dana," Pendrell said as
he licked the icing off the spatula. "Your partner's not coming
back from that boxcar in the desert."
"Please," Krycek begged.
"Please, not the chicken wire again!"
But no one heard his pleas; he was alone
in the gulag.
Spender shuttered the windows and
pleasure at the feel of Diana's hands on his back.
Scully inferred that Mulder had been drinking.
When she asked him about it, he demanded to know what she was
Because Mulder didn't defuse the bomb in time, the perfume factory blew up. As the scent of CK One diffused through the air, the thick crowd scattered and became diffuse.
Punctuation is not optional!
Sentences begin with a
capital letter and end with some form of
That rule is not open to interpretation!
Do you understand?
The apostrophe is not used for making the plural. It's used for showing ownership
and for making contractions.
The crickets are on the chairs. The agent's crickets are on the chairs. Sometimes, if both Mulder and Scully own them, they are the agents' crickets.
The official "ellipsis"
(...) consists of three dots in a row. At
the end of a sentence, however, a period added to the three dots may make
four dots total. Generally, though, three dots is the most you'll need,
because of the way an ellipsis is used.
Scully sat back and counted the number of times she'd been abducted. There was Duane Barry, and Donnie Pfaster, and that Unruhe guy, and...
You really shouldn't use too many exclamation marks! That habit is the punctuational equivalent of crying wolf ! You can't be excited all the time!
said, "that when you're writing dialogue,
you have to follow very clear rules of
"Yes," said Mulder, nodding appreciatively at his partner, who was not only beautiful (with her ice-blue eyes and auburn locks), but also aware of the importance of making each and every summary report a grammatical fortress, able to withstand the scrutinizing eyes of Section Chief Cassidy. "And don't you also have to start a new paragraph every time you introduce a new speaker?"
"Of course. Otherwise it gets too confusing to the reader."
There was only Dana. She was his
There was only Dana; she was his life.
There was only Dana, and she was his life.
but is never
There was only Dana, she was his life.
A semicolon is used when you want to connect two short, related, complete sentences into one longer sentence. A comma may be used also - but it does not replace a semicolon, and usually requires the insertion of a conjunction such as "and" or "but."
If you want to use parentheses (and who doesn't?), punctuate the phrase inside the parentheses as if it stood alone - but leave off end punctuation except for question marks and exclamation points. Punctuate the surrounding sentence as it would be punctuated without the parenthetical phrase.
Mulder stood by the cringing, finger-flicking form of Donnie Pfaster (the bastard!), waiting for the local police to complete the arrest. He thought of Scully's open vulnerability (the tears, the shaking) and wished that he could get her out of here.
*%9%*So what are you saying,
Mulder?*%9%* Scully questioned.
*%9%*That these women in the midwest were killed
by an Internet sociopath? That someone was so angered by computer
gibberish that she drained the blood from anyone who dared to use
Spell-Checkers Aren't Proofreaders
The following examples are from actual fanfic.
(No names. Forgive me for collecting these. It's a hobby.)
The kiss, at first, is gentile, but suddenly we reach
the point in
which neither of us can hold back our emotions.
Lying on his couch with a cold sweat, Mulder was in no shape to get the phone.
He let it ring until it stopped, and then threw up into a bowel beside his couch.
She is careful about her emotions, dolling them out in teaspoons rather than bowels.
I... posted my very first vinigrette
Without a word, the yogurt splattered on the
(OK, so that one isn't a spelling error, but it's fun.)
Grammar and spelling count.
In formal writing, they are statements of effort. They express how much a writer cares about her work. Posting a sloppy story is like going to a job interview in sweatpants and a dirty t-shirt. If the writer doesn't care enough to put in a few hours of editing time, what is there to sell the reader on the story?
Grammar rules exist to serve the purpose of clarity. Every writer should know the rules if she expects to be understood. But a good writer also knows how to ignore the rules when it serves her purpose. That's called "style." When done effectively, active rule-violation gives an author her "voice." It produces an emotional reaction in the reader. It transcends grammar-snarking.
This is not an excuse for the lazy. A writer can't carelessly misuse words and then expect her readers to believe that the misuse was part of her stylistic intent. It is always clear whether an author is pushing the envelope of creativity or just not bothering to check for mistakes.
And be warned...
A writer who chooses to violate standard rules of grammar and spelling for
dramatic effect (by ignoring capitalization, say, or substituting numbers
4 words) risks jarring her audience out of the narrative. Such stylistic
devices can help a purposeful, skilled author establish tone and voice. They
can also seem precious and self-important in the hands of a less-skilled
author (who will often seem to be editorializing, in some cryptic way, by
refusing to follow the rules). If there is no clear authorial
purpose for stylistic mutations - if the mutations do not somehow
further the plot or theme of a story - then they can safely be removed, and
Many thanks to the army of beta-nit-pickers!
I will revise this page as I have time, so feel free to deluge me with snarks.
(I am trying, though, to make this fanfic-centric, so I may leave out
particularly advanced lessons, or mistakes that aren't common).