Friday, September 19, 2008

Knowledge Is Power

I'm back! And it's Friday! Life and work have been crazy, but I'm ready to get back into the full swing of this here blog.

When I write longhand, I'm a huge fan of the ampersand. I use it liberally in almost all situations that call for the word "and."

The ampersand (&) is actually a stylized version of the Latin word et, which means "and."

This is just another example of how important Latin is to English today.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tip of the Week

Let's talk about scare quotes. Here's what CMS says:

7.58 "Scare quotes." Quotation marks are often used to alert readers that a term is used in a nonstandard, ironic, or other special sense. . . . Like any such device, scare quotes lose their force and irritate readers if overused.

Oh, how true.

Wait, I need to geek-out for a moment: I love how CMS puts the term in quotes. Hilarious.

Many authors use scare quotes as a form of emphasis. Do not do this. It makes no sense when you buckle down and take a long, hard look at it. Consider:

"Forensic" material can help establish a criminal's guilt.

Obviously, forensic is an important word in this sentence, and the author would like to stress it as such. Perhaps this is a potential vocabulary word. This may seem like a good idea, but this is how the current sentence reads:

So-called forensic material can help establish a criminal's guilt.

Unless this sentence is from a book entitled Forensic Science Isn't Real: 101 Conspiracy Theories, we need to adhere to the notion that forensics is a branch of science. I wouldn't say,

"Genetics" is the reason I have blonde hair.

If I don't believe in genetics, this sentence is dead-on; and it would be a great addition to my book DNA, the Hidden Truth: Scientists Broke Up My Family.

Try using boldface or italics to stress important words in your text—but make sure to be consistent!

And remember, don't overuse scare quotes. Think about that really sarcastic friend you have, the person you can't say anything to without a scathing comment zinging back in return. (If you lack this friend, just think about Chandler from Friends.) When you overuse scare quotes, you become that friend. In written form. You and I may lack the courage to hang up on our annoying friend, but a reader can always put down a book.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tip of the Week

Better late than never, right?!

All the rain and flooding (and power outages) has me thinking about major storms.

When writing about a named storm, such as Hurricane Andrew, always use the pronoun it instead of a gender-specific pronoun.

Even though the storm in my area knocked out my power around 5 a.m., I doubt we'll get a chance to name it. Bummer.

Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., 8.83.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Knowledge Is Power

This week has been crazy busy. I actually had plenty more to say than my silence on this blog would lead you to believe. Anyway, I took this morning off (lovely), and am now sitting on my patio enjoying an olive and feta salad with flatbread for lunch.

This afternoon I'll be working on my first-ever print pub queries. Ever since I began freelance writing, I've only worked on web content. I'm curious about the print world, so I'm going to dive in. (Just to let you know, it's taken me two years of freelance writing to just "dive in.")

I promise not all of my Friday trivia bits will revolve around word definitions, but I love discovering new words that have to do with writing or editorial work. It tickles my funny bone.


Main Entry:
Medieval Latin, from Greek anastrophē, literally, turning back, from anastrephein to turn back, from ana- + strephein to turn
circa 1550

: inversion of the usual syntactical order of words for rhetorical effect — compare hysteron proteron

It's interesting because I never knew there was a word for messed up syntax, and now I do!

Next time I'm reviewing a manuscript I can query the author on his or her anastrophe. Hee.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Tip of the Week

Always use the present tense when writing about literature and art.

This is a handy tip for students, teachers, writers and editors of educational materials, and book reviewers.

Even though a lot of literature is narrated in the past tense, writers must use present tense when writing about literature.


Books, poetry, sculptures, paintings--they all exist in the present, despite the fact that they were created in the past. Anything that was created eons ago, but has remained part of our culture is to be written about in the present tense.

For example:

Daisy is the object of Gatsby's obsession.


Daisy was the object of Gatsby's obsession.

The same logic follows when talking about an author's use or method in creating the work:

Shakespeare creates an intimacy between Iago and the audience.


Shakespeare created an intimacy between Iago and the audience.

Initially, you may have to think about your use of tense as you write, especially if you are using quotations from the subject within your work. But don't worry, eventually it will become second nature.

Playing by the Rules

There's some disappointment over at Deb Ng's blog about the amount of job ads being flagged on Craigslist today. The assumption is that these jobs are being flagged to discourage competition amongst writers. It's extremely similar to the disappearing reviews at Barnes and Noble.

This got me thinking about some authors I've worked with in the past. There was one author who insisted that blue jeans was a singular noun. She wanted the sentence to read, "Blue jeans is casual wear." I suggested adding "A pair of . . ." to the beginning of the sentence, or changing is to are. She refused. I then countered with Webster to prove that the term blue jeans is a plural noun. She said, "Well, Merriam-Webster is wrong, and so are you!"

It's so easy to lash out, to disregard the rules. But the most hilarious part about this nonsense is that these people flagging ads to hinder a competitive writer or deleting reviews to help an author—we're all in the same business! We are all in the business of the written word; a business that, arguably, has the most widely-accepted rules regarding how we do what we do. The same people in cyberspace who adhere to the rules of spelling, grammar, structure, and syntax to procure a writing job can't be bothered to adhere to the rules of polite society.

It's much too easy to be a bad person on the Internet; no one really knows you, so who cares if you do something ethically wrong?

Well, I care. Especially when doing so goes against the very foundation of what you're doing it for. Language is built upon rules. The rules can be bent (as most rules have been made to be), but you can't disregard them. You can't spell a word any way you want, and you can't behave any way you want.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Knowledge Is Power

When it comes to Friday afternoons, I'm typically too tired to think.

Plus, I really like useless trivia.

The final word given at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in 1999 was logorrhea. Logorrhea means "excessive and often incoherent talkativeness or wordiness

Too bad the final word wasn't irony. Ha.

Firefox believes that logorrhea is spelled incorrectly. The suggestions include gonorrheal, gonorrheas, and gonorrhea. I don't know if I can keep using an Internet browser with such a dirty mind. Shame, Firefox! Also, I don't think I knew gonorrhea had a plural form before Firefox suggested it. How would that even work?