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WRITING: Are We Almost There? July 6, 2017

WRITING:  Are We Almost There?                                          July 6, 2017   Are “almost” and “nearly” interchangeable in writing and speaking? I don’t think I ever heard anyone say “nearly” when I was growing up. Instead, as far as I can recall, everyone said “almost.” Of course, down the line in my education I learned about its similarity to “almost.” I must admit it: “Almost” is the first word I think of whenever I’m mentioning not quite getting there. To many of us their definitions are identical. So, are they interchangeable? Most of the time. The differences seem to come regionally and in people’s educational levels and social standing. “Nearly” seems to be more sophisticated. Using one versus the other really is not a big deal, though. You can take it from here.   Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus.    ...

WRITING: THE RIGHT WORD CLARIFIES

WRITING:  THE RIGHT WORD CLARIFIES                               June 30, 2017 . . . And, Interchangeability Doesn’t Always Work   Can the following words be used interchangeably in writing? Because                      Since                            As In most cases I say no, but I encourage you to decide after considering (a) examples of usage and (b) the fact that at times only a particular word can convey utmost clarity in both writing and speaking. A certain sentence from Writestyle’s Grammar course can make you think hard about this: [Because/Since/As] Ann was fired, I’ve been doing her work. Which word is correct to open the sentence? Let’s see how each affects the sentence and its meaning. Because:  Refers ideally to reasoning and/or consequence:  Because I was fired [Event #1], I have no money to pay the rent [Event #2]. “Because” seems to hint at a direct relationship between the two events; at times, it could or could not be a direct relationship.  “Because” would be clear and correct in the following sentence: “Because Ann was fired, I have to do her work.” Since:  Refers ideally and most clearly to the passage of time:  I’ve had no appetite or energy since Dad died. At the same time, many people often say things like, “Since [Because] I’m sick, you can go in my place.” Is that wrong? Technically, no; but, as you, too, can tell, it isn’t as clear. As:  Often refers ideally to an event AS it was happening:  A customer showed up just as I was locking the store for the night.  As I looked at the photo, I realized how much Joe looks like Dad. Note that in those last two examples, you could use “while” instead of “as” because both indicate an event in motion. In recent years, “as” has often been used incorrectly to indicate reasoning/consequence, which sets my teeth on edge, to say the least. It’s annoyingly wrong and unclear: As I was done, I went home. Clear correction: Because [reasoning] I was done [finished], I went home. When you consider the above explanations and examples, you likely can understand that communications are truly clear when “because,” “since,” and “as” are used for their respective purposes. Ideally, they should not be used interchangeably, especially when clarity could be questioned. Many people use them interchangeably and some educators accept the practice, which can cause confusion regarding the intent of some sentences. Thinking of your readers and establishing clarity for them is such a courtesy that prevents confusion and saves time. In the...

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!...

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