Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hobbit Trailer Is Here!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE The Hobbit. Even more than The Lord of the Rings. So I'm especially excited for this trailer and just have to share it.

Also, good news: even if the world does end in 2012, we'll still get to see The Hobbit! It comes out a week before. Whew.

Word Definition Wednesday: Conversazione

If you're not as much of a word nerd as I am, you may not keep up with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day series; it's ok, I've got your back—I'll alert you to any of the cool ones. Enter, today's word.
definition: a get-together with the specific purpose of discussing literature, science, and/or art 
as in 
Our book club is working with a local art gallery to set up a conversazione for Jane Austen enthusiasts over the Christmas holidays.
Another fantastic word! I love to come across a word that has such a specific meaning and has not been generalized to take in a hundred different definitions.* Sound smart (or stuck up?) the next time you hang out with friends and pull out this gem of a word.

*While its English meaning may be preserved as specific, its origins show that it is itself a manipulated meaning of another word: Italian's conversazione, which simply means conversation or interview.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

If it wasn't so long, I would quote this whole piece here. I highly recommend going to Marc and Angel Hack Life and reading them all...if you take them seriously (at least, the ones that pertain to you), 2012 could be a great year of changes!

A (short, abridged) taste:

  1. Stop spending time with the wrong people.
  2. Stop lying to yourself.
  3. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes.
  4. Stop being ungrateful.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Assholocracy: I'm spreading the word.

Geoffrey Pullum, over at Language Log, posted recently about the word assholocracy. I happen to agree, so I'm reposting it here, to show my support! Some background:
I had been talking to Calvin one day about the ghastly crew of obnoxious multi-millionaires who dominate the newspapers, and how they keep threatening to achieve success even in the political arena. Calvin pointed out to me both that we need a new political term for the concept of being ruled by such men, and that there already is such a term. We are living, he observed, in the age of the assholocracy.
His call to action (an excellent one, I might add, since it worked!):
Think about the phrase "President Trump". Or even just "presidential candidate hand-picked and endorsed by Trump". Doesn't it chill you to the bone? ... So get out there and prepare the lexicographical ground. With words, we can win. Without the words, we don't have the concepts: just as the Eskimos have many apposite words for . . . no, never mind that; bad example. Just push the word  assholocracy wherever you have influence is what I'm saying.
You can read his full proposition by visiting his post, The Assholocracy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Word Wednesdays: Galvanize


definition: to subject to an electric current, or, to excite as if by an electric shock

as in 

The news--so sudden, so expected--galvanized her in a way nothing else could have; it was time to act.

My husband keeps asking me to write a book...he's convinced it'll be a top seller and make us millions (isn't he sweet?). Today, I almost feel as if I could--with the stories of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Hunger Games swirling around my head and the excitement of heading home to see my family. Who knows?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

These are my "going out" pajamas.

I have been rebelling against this lately, but the lure of pajamas is so intense! Ah, the life of a freelancer...

via Passive Voice, via Indexed

Monday, December 12, 2011

Travel: A Quote (or Three)

Yes, I've been home a week and, yes, I'm still working on getting into the swing of things. So a few more easy (but enjoyable!) posts. Today celebrates travel by offering you a few quotes that I would agree with 100 percent. :)

- St. Augustine
- Mark Twain

I especially love the last one for the way it turns the idea of foreign in its head—you are as "foreign" to others as they are to you!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

La Dolce Vita

We're back!

Italy was amazing (obviously). We saw so much, ate so much, learned so much, WALKED so much—it's hard to believe we fit all we did in nine days! We were sad to leave—there was still so much to do!—but glad to be home. Chloe (our kitty) was very happy to see us. :)

Some pictures (yes, I took them all!):

Venice, Italy
Greve in Chianti in Tuscany
Florence, Italy
Rome, Italy

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Small Book, Big Story: Bronte Manuscript Discovered

A friend sent this to me, thinking I would enjoy the news—she was right! Interesting little article over at NPR talks about a recent discovery of a Bronte "manuscript"—or, a homemade magazine for her toy soldiers. It's estimated to auction off for over $400,000. A pic below and more info at NPR:

Charlotte Bronte's recently discovered manuscript contains more than 4,000 words painstakingly crammed onto 19 pages, each measuring approximately 35-by-61 millimeters.

Now, off to Italy! :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stylist's Literary Lists

Stumbled across these on my Google Reader; liked the idea so much, I decided to share on my blog.

Top 50 literary put-downs


Some of the quotes are:
  • The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me. - "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde
  • She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me. - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • He is simply a hole in the air. - The Lion and the Unicorn by George Orwell
  • All morons hate it when you call them a moron. - Catcher and the Rye by J. D. Salinger
See the whole list at Stylist and while you're there, check out some of their other literary lists:

What would you add to these lists? Or, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you read their titles? Comment below!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ciao, America—Boungiorno, Italy!

Next Thursday, on Thanksgiving, my husband and I will be making our way to Italy for a week that I've been waiting for, literally, since I was a kid (ask my friends, they'll tell you). When we get back, I'll have pictures like this:

Venice, Italy
Florence, Italy
Rome, Italy
Ok, so maybe I won't have a picture like the last one, since I don't have a fish-eye lens...yet. Anyway, I bring this up because the next two weeks will probably be sparse in posts. If I get the chance, I'll post from Italy, but...I'll be in Italy. Who wants to post about grammar there?? ;)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Reading: The Hunger Games

A friend told me that I would really enjoy this book—since a guilty pleasure of mine is the Twilight series—so she lent it to me. It's called The Hunger Games, it's been out since 2008, and the critics (including Stephen King and Stephenie Meyer) love it.

I read it in a single night, which means two things:
  1. It's a very easy read, written in common, everyday English without a lot of rhetoric devices, which tease the senses but slow down the reading.
  2. It has all the same qualities that make Twilight attractive—two guys, one (kinda stupid, yet determined) girl; a situation that is just unique enough that most of us don't feel as if it's the same old, same old; and a dark side. It is, however, less gushy with zero over-the-top adoration and more killing. Yes, definitely more killing.
I'll be the first to admit that I do enjoy "bad" books—as long as I'm entertained, I'll like it. So, don't expect this book to change your life, but if you're looking for something that will keep you warm on a wintery evening (because, you know, it gets SO COLD here in AZ), this is definitely the book for you.

It's the first in a three-part series and I'm still deciding if I want to wait until my friend finishes the second book or if I want to go get it from the library...decisions, decisions...

Oh, and—they're making it a movie. I showed the trailer to my husband and even he wants to see it, though he wasn't anxious to admit it. For your viewing pleasure:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Misplaced Modifiers: A Christmas Example

"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"

As a friend says, "let's be real here"—I'm a Christmas song addict. I could probably listen to Christmas music year-round, but would never inflict that much torture on my husband. So, Christmas is here again and all the faves are playing on my Pandora Christmas station, and "Let It Snow" starts to play. I'm wrapping Christmas presents that need to make it to Panama by Christmas, so my mind is able to wander and I start thinking about a line in this song that I've never quite figured out:

When we finally kiss goodnight,
How I'll hate going out in the storm!
But if you'll really hold me tight,
All the way home I'll be warm!*

 If this hypothetical you is going to hold the singer all the way to keep him/her warm, why are they kissing goodnight? Not kidding, I've wondered about this line for years and, yesterday, I finally figured it out!

Ladies and gents, meet the misplaced modifier.

What Is a Misplaced Modifier?

I'm glad you asked. A misplaced modifier is any sentence part—a word, a phrase, or a clause—that is incorrectly separated from the thing it modifies. Usually, as in the case of "Let It Snow," it muddles the meaning of the sentence.

In this case, the phrase "all the way home" seems to modify "but if you'll really hold me tight" when in fact it modifies "I'll be warm." However, placed in the middle of both sentences, listeners are unsure which it modifies.

How to Fix a Misplaced Modifier

That's easy—move it! Unless it is absolutely clear what a modifier is modifying, it should be as close as possible to the thing it modifies to avoid sentence meaning confusion. So, in our "Let It Snow" example, "all the way home" would be moved to follow "I'll be warm." 

Since I'm not a Grinch, we'll chalk up this misplaced modifier to a need to rhyme, but in your day-to-day writing, be sure to check for misplaced modifiers to help reduce confusion-causing clauses (like that alliteration?).

And, to abate any need to now rush to listen to Christmas music, here's Jessica Simpson singing "Let It Snow."


Monday, November 14, 2011

Quote: Diamonds are Coal

I was going to do a post on homonyms today, but came across this in the process and had to post. Check out the blog's other post-it note cutenesses at Things We Forget.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How to Write Percentages

I was editing a document that talked about percentages the other day and realized that I had made an assumption about the rules for percents—that is, that they are the same as the rules for temperatures (which I covered in How to Write Temperature Degrees).

So I hurriedly did some digging and discovered—bum ba dum!—my assumption was accurate! Or, at least, accurate enough that if you can remember and apply one, you can remember and apply both without anyone besides the Grammar Nazis criticizing your work.

Percentages in Informal Writing

Anything goes in informal writing—just remember to be consistent. Choose the symbol (%) or choose to write it out (percent)—choose numbers or choose numerals—and stick with it. My trusty MLA Style Guide points out, however:
Note that percent is not interchangeable with the noun percentage (1 percent is a very small percentage). Note also that no space appears between the numeral and the symbol %.

Percent Symbol Keyboard Shortcut

The powers that be consider the percent symbol relevant enough to our daily lives that it is on the keyboard and doesn't require a special shortcut. On most keyboards, you'll just need to push shift + 5.

Percentages in Formal Writing

The biggest difference here between writing temperatures and writing percentages is that there is one less sub-rule to remember for percentages.

The Numeral
Percentages are always in numerals, whether using the percent symbol or writing out the word, and whether in scientific material or in nontechnical material.
He loves her 9 percent of the time. 
Women think about problems 90% more often than men do.

The Percent Symbol
The percent symbol is always used in scientific material and can be used in nontechnical material if it talks a lot about percentages.
The monkey shares 95% of its DNA with gorillas. 
Sears is having a 50% off everything sale, Dillards is having a 33% off everything sale, but JC Penney is having a 75% off everything sale! 
According to a recent survey, 19 percent of Americans give over $100 a year to charitable organizations.

Percentages in AP Style

Once again, AP style must do its own thing. Percentages in AP style are always in numerals and percent is always spelled out.
The coach told the reporters, "Our team is giving 110 percent!" 
Genes dictate about 70 percent of an individual's personality.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's the difference between i.e. and e.g.?

Why am I talking about i.e. and e.g.?

I was at a networking event this past Monday—for women only, go women!—and was presented with a handout. The editor in me can never be shut down, so I made corrections as I read through it—the most obvious one being to change "i.e." to "e.g."

Someone sitting next to me noticed the change and commented that she had no idea they were used differently. At this point, the whole table was in on the conversation and I learned that none of them knew the difference! So, to explain.

There is a difference between i.e. and e.g.!

Abbreviation for
id est
exempli gratia
that is
for example

Things to keep in mind when using i.e. and e.g.

  • These are considered integrated into English enough that they do not need to be italicized.
    • I like to eat everything—i.e., everything except frog legs.
    • He will eat anything—e.g., he's eaten cow intestines, chicken feet, and frog legs!
  • They always take a comma following; if grammar rules dictate a comma before, they take a comme before as well.
    • He likes her a lot, i.e., he says he likes her a lot.
    • That company has done a lot of good; e.g., they've raised money for parks and have started a food shelter in at least three different cities.

How to remember the difference between i.e. and e.g.

Here's how I remember the difference; perhaps it'll work for you too!
  • The phrase "that is"—i.e.—contains "is," which starts with "i," just like i.e. does.
  • The phrase "for example"—e.g.—contains the sound "eg" (at the beginning of example), which is what e.g. would sound like if you sounded it out.
They may be stretches, but they work for me! Of course, I am a little odd.... :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rhetoric in Writing: A Definition

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know that I started out on Tumblr. Every once in a while, I repost here a post from my Tumblr because I want to revisit a topic. Today's post is a revisit to the definition of rhetoric, because I'd like to introduce a few other tools for rhetoric. So, from my Tumblr:

What is Rhetoric?

The definition of the word rhetoric as it is—unfortunately—commonly used today is speech that is empty, grandiose, or insincere. Check out Merriam-Webster’s definition; this negative connotation of the word doesn’t appear until definition 2, clarification B, as an also! 

The main definition (the one that I am intending) is “the art of speaking or writing effectively.”

It is simply the ability to—the art of—sharing exactly what you want to in a way that people understand perfectly.

Now, isn’t that beautiful?

Stay tuned for examples of rhetorical devices!

Want more now? Check out "The Art of Rhetoric" by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quotes: The Old Editor Says

I really enjoyed John McIntyre's post on You Don't Say today. Check it out to get the full picture, but here are a few of my favorites.
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." 10-word lead. What've you got that needs more?
If you can’t tell me in one sentence what your story says, you don’t know what your story says.
When you have to trim an article to fit, take out the dumbest stuff first.
And, of course:
Be suspicious of all one-sentence injunctions about writing and editing. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Word Wednesdays: Onomatopoeia

My mother-in-law is in town this week, so rather than create my own Word Wednesday, I'm going to borrow Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day—onomatopoeia! Besides, I love this word, so it's a perfect fit.

It goes on to give you a "Did you know?":
"Onomatopoeia" came into English via Late Latin and ultimately traces back to Greek "onoma," meaning "name," and "poiein," meaning "to make." ("Onoma" can be found in such terms as "onomastics," which refers to the study of proper names and their origins, while "poiein" gave us such words as "poem" and "poet.") English speakers have only used the word "onomatopoeia" since the mid-1500s, but people have been creating words from the sounds heard around them for much longer. In fact, the presence of so many imitative words in language spawned the linguistic Bowwow Theory, which postulates that language originated in imitation of natural sounds.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Celebrity Chimes In: "Twitter Erodes English"

At the risk of beating this topic to death, I found it interesting how more and more people are weighing in on the side of Twitter is evil:
 “This could be viewed as regrettable, as there are some great descriptive words that are being lost and these words would make our everyday language much more colourful and fun if we were to use them.
“But it’s only natural that with people trying to fit as much information in 140 characters that words are getting shortened and are even becoming redundant as a result.”
Ralph Fiennes thinks Twitter (and other things, as explained in this article) is working against the language. What do you think?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Homonyms Happen: Flour and Flower

Today's homonym is more for the ESL readers, since the difference between flour and flower is hammered into native speakers' brains from the time we're old enough to read. Yet, it's a good reminder for all—and an opportunity to post a pretty picture! :)

flour: a product made from finely ground wheat; or, a similar substance made from other finely ground items, such as almonds, coconut, and barley

flower: the part of a plant that normally bears the reproductive organs; generally, has brightly colored petals

I've got no tips to remember the difference on this, unfortunately. It's one of those things you'll actually have to remember.

Flowers in the Grand Canyon!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Robot Language Dragon

So, I was going through my Google Reader updates and ran across this; very interesting in terms of language and technology developments, but my absolute favorite thing about it is its headline:

Even now, I laugh every time I read it. To read the article itself (which is also very good), go to Engadget.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Poll Time! Do Grammar Errors in Songs Bother You?

As crazy as it sounds, my Pandora radio stations have started slipping in Christmas music! I love Christmas music, but it's still a little early. I will inundate myself with it once December comes, and more than a month of the stuff is a little overwhelming.

But it got me thinking: do you avoid certain songs or genres because of the language and grammar (or lack thereof) in it? So, it's poll time!

For those of you who have never noticed, check out this list of 20 Songs with Really Bad Grammar. It's out there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I'm often behind the times in what's hot. I read Harry Potter, but not until the seventh book came out. I read Twilight, but again, not until the first movie came out. I'm fine with that—I don't need to be on the cusp of what's awesome in the book world.

That being said, I was wandering the library a few days ago, looking for something to read, and came upon The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I had, of course, heard of it and knew that it had even been made into a movie. So, I got it.

Three days later...I'm finished with it because I couldn't put it down. It's not for the squeamish (but how much is, these days?). I wouldn't say that the writing was amazing. I wouldn't say the storyline was flawless. I wouldn't even say that the ending(s) surprised me. I would say, it kept me wanting to know what happened next. That is, after all, the ultimate goal for an author. So, kudos to Larsson. I'm headed to Redbox to get the movie and to the library to get the next in the series.

In short, I've joined the following.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Word Wednesday: Autological


definition: a word that describes itself

as in

Using autological words—for example, English, unhyphenated, and descriptive—is one way to apply rhetoric in your writing, but it is not always an effective way.

Isn't this a great word? I'm not sure it has much practical use, though, beyond making you sound smart to your friends. You can find lists of autological words at Autological Words, Wiktionary, and Wordnik.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

En Dashes, Em Dashes, & Hyphens: What's the Difference?

The Em Dash

Last week we tackled the en dash, explaining what it looks like and what it's used for. Today, we're going to look at the em dash. And, when I talk about loving the dash, this is the one I'm talking about!

What it's called: em dash
What it looks like: — (the length of a typewriter's m)
What it's for:

  • To set off clauses and phrases, in a similar fashion as commas and parentheses
    • He loved her—or so she thought.
    • He loved her—he told her so everyday—and she would marry him no matter the cost.
    • He loved everything about her—looks, brains, and heart—and couldn't wait to marry her.
  • To set off a subject or subjects from its pronoun sentence
    • Apples and pears—those are the only fruit she likes.
    • Yarn, dryer sheets, and shoe laces—such are the items my cat has tried to eat.
  • To indicate a sudden break in the flow of the main sentence
    • Can they—would they dare—choose her as the next president?
    • "Let's go—oh, I don't know—to the beach!" she pleaded.
  • To set of clauses and phrases that have punctuation in them
    • I just finished my last final—hurray!—and am now going to celebrate in style.
    • Larry—do you know him?—is coming over for dinner.

Shortcuts on your keyboard for the em dash

  • Mac: Shift + Option + Dash
  • PC: Alt + 0151
Since an em dash can be used in a similar way as can commas and parentheses, an obvious question would be, "When should I use commas or parentheses or em dashes?" Good question! I will answer that in a later post.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wish Us Luck!

Tomorrow my husband and I are going to run the Intel Arizona 5k to support United Way. I'd be much more excited about this if it didn't start at 6 a.m., but if I do it under 40 minutes, I'll be happy.

Have a stupendous weekend, everyone!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

En Dashes, Em Dashes, & Hyphens: What's the Difference?

The En Dash

I'm a dash lover. I get my kicks from using dashes instead of commas—sometimes almost to my writing's detriment. Have you ever noticed how your word processing program will automatically switch a hyphen into a dash, depending on where you've placed it? That's because dashes of different lengths are used for different purposes. There's only three of them, so it's pretty easy to remember, and we're going to tackle the en dash today.

What it's called: en dash
What it looks like:   (the length of a typewriter's n)
What it's for: 

  • To connect numbers, signifying "up to and including"
    • See chapters 18–22.
    • The vote was unanimous, 52–0.
    • The meeting is tonight, 5 p.m.–8 p.m.
    • Mr. Sooziki (1898–1998) saw a lot of things change during his life.
  • In place of a hyphen in a compound adjective
    • Many republicans bemoan the post–Ronald Reagan years.
    • Pre–Cold War priorities were vastly different than those during the Cold War.
    • I will never understand non–French toast lovers.
    • Will continued anti–gay rights movements overturn the marriage laws in the few states that have them?

Shortcuts on your keyboard for the en dash

  • Mac:  Option + Dash
  • PC: Alt + 0159
If you'd like, check out the post on em dashes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Homonyms: Ensure, Insure, & Assure

Once again I have come across in my editing an example of a misused group of words that are almost homonyms rather than definitive homonyms; they deserve a post, though, as they can be easily confused.

Ensure: to guarantee; to make certain

Insure: to provide or obtain insurance on something

Assure: to give confidence to; to convince

Allow Me to Illustrate

If your friend is heartbroken because her douchey boyfriend dumped her (again), you assure her that things will get better.

But, if you are secretly in love with your friend, you will do everything you can to ensure that her happiness is restored, even if it means giving her ex a beat down.

If you go through with the beat down, you had better hope he doesn't try to sue, as there is no way to insure yourself against that lawsuit!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Expandable Stories

I made tea.
by Joe  >

Yawning, I boiled the kettle. Then I made myself nice, hot cup of tea.
by Joe  >

Came across this at The Digital Reader and thought it was so neat that I had to share.
As he points out, I’m not sure it has any practical purposes (except for teachers?), but as a word geek, I think it’s fun to play around with!
The original, illustrates-what-it-is sentence can be found here (or, see above for the original and about six clicks in). To make your own, go here.