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WRITING: HOMONYMS–THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

WRITING:  HOMONYMS–THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY      June 21, 2017 Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different spellings, meanings, and purposes. In writing, they bring with them the good, the bad, and the ugly:   THE GOOD:     for rhyming, esp. when writing a poem THE BAD:         wrong word/wrong place/wrong time THE UGLY:       when people don’t care and don’t know the differences, and don’t check or correct their writing   For example, let’s look at “effect” vs. “affect,” which often cause confusion and trouble: “Effect” is a noun (What effect will this issue have on my job?) more often than it’s a verb (I will effect [produce] a solution to the problem today); “affect” is a verb (How will that problem affect my job?). Correct pronunciation helps to clarify spelling and usage: “ee-fect” (effect) vs. “uh-fect” (affect).   Remember: Using Spell Check while writing won’t catch homonym errors because the words sound alike. Two of the most-common homonym errors occur among the following groups of three:  to/two/too AND their/there/they’re. Writing the wrong word can result in embarrassment! When a contraction is involved, think about what it means. So, you’ll have to slow down a bit to think about meaning/intent and spelling while you write, and then you’ll have to proofread objectively and carefully. If you’re not sure, grab a dictionary and look it up.   Some other common homonyms:  are/our/hour, ball/bawl, bear/bare, beat/beet, been/bean/bin, board/bored, berry/bury, brake/break, chilly/chili, dear/deer, do/dew/doo, fairy/ferry, flee/flea, flower/flour, guest/guessed, hare/hair, him/hymn, hire/higher,  horse/hoarse, made/maid, merry/marry, might/mite, night/knight, no/know, new/knew, oar/ore, pain/pane, pair/pear/pare, peak/peek, peal/peel, rap/wrap, raise/rays, red/read, sore/soar, rain/rein/ reign,, sale/sail, steak/stake, see/sea, seen/scene, sell/cell, son/sun, scent/cent, steel/steal, so/sew, tail/tale, time/thyme, toe/tow, wait/weight, waste/waist, whale/wail, we/wee, whole/hole, wring/ring, you/yew.   Which homonyms are bad or ugly for you? What tricks do you have to keep certain ones good?   For more on homonyms, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym or https://www.abcteach.com/free/h/homonym_list_free.pdf. If you need additional help with spelling, grammar, or more, our low-cost online campus at www.writestyle.com may benefit you. Questions?  Comments?  Let me know through blog comments or via e-mail to writestyle@mindspring.com.   See you next...

WRITING: CORRECT PRONUNCIATION = CORRECT SPELLING

WRITING:  CORRECT PRONUNCIATION OFTEN LEADS TO CORRECT SPELLING (And, practice makes perfect!)                        June 14, 2017   Way back in the fourth grade, I placed third in the school’s spelling bee. A mere two-syllable word that I’d never heard before sent me packing. After the Bee was finished, I ran to my classroom and got a hug from my teacher, which gave me a little comfort. Which word took me out? “Adage.” Hear that heavy “d” sound in the middle? It’s heavy enough that I guessed in an extra “d,” which was one too many. As you can tell, heavy-sounding consonants, among many other potential difficulties, can cause uncertainty for spellers of any age.   What causes so many misspellings? Lack of spelling skills/knowledge AND/OR mispronouncing the word In a hurry/guessing/not consulting a dictionary Don’t care/don’t want to know   Here’s an example from an ad that I saw last week:  “Sterling Silver Jewellery Set.” In my opinion, “jewelry” is one of the top misspelled words of all time. My response: For most people, there’s no excuse. If you say it correctly (“joo-el”) and if you already know how to spell “jewel,” you CAN correctly spell “jewelry” (jewel + ry, “joo-el-ree”).   Many years ago I sometimes did small favors to ease the workload in another office. Whenever I did, a certain staff member there said with a grateful smile, “You’re a jewel.”   Practice saying the entire word, or start with the root word. In this case the root word is “jewel” (joo-el). Next, use it in a sentence: “You’re a jewel,” or one that you make up. I know this much: If you work in making, repairing, or selling jewelry, you’d better be able to pronounce it and spell it correctly.   Here’s my favorite, but also most-annoying, example of how mispronunciation can majorly mess up spelling. Some USA folks mispronounce names/words, especially if they’re from the South; although I might excuse or learn to tolerate their mispronunciation, I don’t excuse a misspelling of those names. Some of you blog fans are in other countries, and you might not know the names of many USA cities. So, if you were to hear a name pronounced as “Loo-vuhl,” would you know what that city is and how to spell it? Most likely, you would not. But, if I were to say “Loo-ee-vill,” how would you spell it? Everyone has heard of a King Louis, and everyone has heard “vill.” So, should the correct spelling be “Louisville”? Yes, you’re right!...

WRITING: USING PLURALS & POSSESSIVES

WRITING:  USING PLURALS & POSSESSIVES Writing can involve making words plural and possessive. It really is not as hard as you may think. The key = “think.” Please pause to recall the simple rules that you learned in grade school and consult a dictionary or grammar book for how to handle situations that are truly difficult.   A word is made plural ordinarily by adding to its end an “s” (store → stores) or “es” (thorax → thoraxes). If a word already ends in an “s” you’ll probably have to make it plural by adding “es”: masses, summons. More on this in an upcoming post.   A word or a proper noun/name is made possessive (possessing something) ordinarily by adding to its end either an apostrophe and “s” (or just an apostrophe, in certain situations). Right now, we’ll just look at simple usage. When thinking about possession, think with “of” and “belonging to” in the equation. Alan’s book = the book of Alan, the book belonging to Alan. Example:   The store’s sign [the sign belonging to the store) says the sale will end on Friday.   If you cannot reason through a sentence in this way, then you’ll know that its subject is not possessive and that you should NOT add an apostrophe.   Related, when a word has an “s” on its end, don’t throw an apostrophe in front of or behind the “s” for the heck of it. Here’s an example:   Incorrect:  The purse is her’s.  The car is his’. Correction: The purse is hers.  The car is his.   I’ve also seen various incorrect versions for plural possessives, which we’ll address later. Incorrect or haphazard use of apostrophes tends to push grammarians/editors like me toward high blood pressure or insanity. So, please think before you use them.   Many more tips for grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, and proofreading, and more info about writing, books, and such will reach your inbox as time goes on. As I always say, Accuracy = Credibility! On the other hand, if someone you know needs a full-scale reminder or to start from scratch, Writestyle’s online courses for only $99 each could be the perfect remedy. We’re here to help! And, if you like “Dancing with the Stars,” you might want to read my blog on that, too.   Stay tuned!...

WRITING with SEMINAL SEMICOLONS: Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?

  WRITING with SEMINAL SEMICOLONS: Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?   Life is all about relationships.  People have relationships with other people, creatures, and things; with music and dance, books, words and punctuation in writing. Relationships and writing are crucial in life.  Specifically, we even have a relationship with the semicolon, that mid-line dot with a comma curved beneath it like one half of a spooning couple.   Like it or not, the semicolon is a useful and necessary punctuation mark to use in our writing.  An occasional person, even an academic, thinks it should be eliminated from our options and our culture.  But, eliminating the semicolon shouldn’t and can’t be done.  Why?  The semicolon connects and clarifies relationships, those things we can’t live normally without.   I recently read a well-written article by a business consultant.  Surprising to me, he used all periods instead of connecting related thoughts with semicolons.  Doing that made his writing a bit choppy with many short sentences (complete thoughts, also known as independent clauses) and left a few question marks on my mind.  Although he used “relationship” a few times, he seemed to have a relationship problem with the semicolon.  Please consider the following two paragraphs and then my redo of affected sentences in italics.   First paragraph: “After the show, reconnect as promised in a timely manner. Offer something of value related to the conversation you had with someone. What you offer does not have to be tied to your product or service. It needs to be relevant to the prospect or customer. They’ll remember that a lot longer than anything else.”   He offers facts and helpful tips.  Question: What in that paragraph does “It needs to be relevant to the prospect or customer” relate to?  It does not relate directly to the first sentence.  It relates somewhat to the second sentence and to the last.  But, it relates directly to and connects completely and logically with the third sentence; it finishes the third sentence, explaining what is not required and what to do.   So, my recommendation employs the strong semicolon to connect the two related independent clauses:  “What you offer does not have to be tied to your product or service; it needs to be relevant to the prospect or customer.”  The connection could also include a transitional word (underscored):  “What you offer does not have to be tied to your product or service; however, it needs to be relevant to the prospect or customer.”   Second paragraph: “And,...

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