Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Word Wednesdays: Fashion Words

A few days ago, I unsuspectingly leafed through a catalog I received in the mail from Boden. Let me tell you, it may now be one of my favorite clothing catalogs—the styles are so cute!

It also introduced me to a few clothing names that I was unfamiliar with and they are going to be our words today! Caveat: Boden is also really expensive, so there's very little chance that I'll ever end up owning anything from them—which also means that I'm not being compensated for referencing them in my post today. :)

Hand Knit GiletGilet


def.: a sleeveless jacket resembling a waistcoat or blouse; a vest

This would be perfect with a cute little belt! Boden has this adorable one for $138.




Fab Plimsolls
Plimsolls


def.: a light, rubber-soled canvas shoe, worn especially for sports


I didn't know these had a special name—I always call them Keds! Boden has this adorable version starting at $78.




Rainyday Mac
Mac


def.: a raincoat that has been waterproofed by spreading rubber on cotton; generally does not include lapels or belts

I LOVE cute raincoats and these totally fit the bill. Boden has a variety of patterns for $174.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

WHAT DO ALL CAPS MEAN IN A CONTRACT?

It's an exciting time for my husband and me. For the past, ohhhhh, six months or so, we've been looking for a new home, one that we can buy and call our own (read: paint and decorate and stay for more than a year!!).

On Sunday, we finally made a step forward and put money down and signed a contract with a local builder for our new home. We're so excited!!

An ALL CAPS Situation
Of course, being who I am, I went over the contract with a fine-tooth comb, highlighting anything I didn't understand or anything I wanted additional clarification on. For the most part, it was easy to read and easy to follow, but then we got to the last few pages and my eyes went berserk: FOR ALMOST THREE PAGES, EVERYTHING WAS WRITTEN IN COMPLETE CAPS!!

Any tech-savvy person knows that all caps, in today's communication world, means somebody is yelling at you. I can tell you, as much as I knew that the lawyers who wrote this contract were not yelling at me, it was still really hard to read it without a sense of extreme urgency—and after a few pages of that, you get pretty exhausted.

So Why the All Caps?
Then I was curious—why would you put all caps in a contract? Is it supposed to impart a sense of urgency? Of importance? Is it supposed to make you not want to read that part because it's hiding something that if you knew about it, you wouldn't sign the contract (yes, I can be paranoid sometimes)?

Come to find out, its purpose is just the opposite: the all-caps sections of documents are so to alert readers of an important section by being conspicuous—"the little guy" advocates want to ensure that important sections don't get scanned over because they are not pointed out.

If you ask me, it's counterproductive. They should reverse it, making the not-so-important parts be in all caps (that is, harder to read) and the important parts be in regular upper/lowercase fonts. But then, whoever takes the little guy's recommendations? ;)

Sources:
Ask Metafilter: "What do all capital letters in legal documents signify?"
TFL: "All Caps"
Quora: "Why do some parts of legel documents appear in all caps?"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Buzz Topic (Round 2): The Digital Age's Effect on Grammar

Continuing with the theme from my post "Is Texting Making People Dumber?" I'd like to direct your attention to a few other articles that have to do with language, the digital age, and the future.

Mike Periman wrote a delightfully humorous piece on the digital age's slaying of grammar (emphasis added):
[T]exting catastrophe alludes to the notion that we are retrogressing to a grunt-and-sign-driven linguistic syntax, characteristic of the earliest homo erectus exchanges. The digital age delights in the fancies of brain cell replacements referred to as “emoticons” or “smilies” in order to automatically replace an adjective or adverb with a pixilated face contorted into a corresponding “emotion.” Couple smilies with modern, grammatically incorrect text, and we are ultimately communicating like digital cavemen. 
In closing, I fear for the upcoming generations of online and wireless communicators. If you lose your grasp on grammar and the quest to further your intelligence, you will remain treading water in a sea of oblivion for the rest of your lives.
You are the future, young Padawans—don’t fill it with stupidity. 
In his article "Language Don't Mean Nothin' No More," Andrew Nemethy takes the degradation of language a step further and warns that if things continue as they are, we are headed for an Orwellian nightmare of a future:
[W]e have devolved into an utterancy of gibberish. I conceive an utterancy as a sort of fiefdom or failed state – of mind – of the deviously verbally lost.
Orwell drew a line tying misuse of language to misuse in society, education and politics, arguing when language loses meaning, it allows, indeed enables, mundane and pervasive deception.
In other words, people—language and grammar matter if you don't want to devolve into cavemen and serfs!

Want in on the debate? Leave a comment below or take my poll!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Inconvenient Incontinence: An Example of ESL Issues

I am fortunate to work with a very intelligent professor at a local university who sends me his articles and papers to edit and proofread before he submits them for publication. He has started sending me more and more pieces for a specific reason: English is not his first language and there are times when that inhibits what he is trying to say.

In a recent email exchange about a lost check, he ended his note by saying, very nicely:

Anyway I am sorry for any incontinence caused to you by that.

Now, in an email to his editor, that is of course nothing more than cause for a smile (and a blog post), but in  academic writing—and any writing intended for an audience, for that matter—such mistakes can be the difference between acceptance and mockery.

Anyone can make this type of error (see YouTube video), but ESL writers are particularly susceptible because their vocabulary is not as expansive or solid. It is always a good idea to have someone with a firm grasp on the language review your writing to check for errors such as these.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Editing Tip: Watch for Bias in Your Writing

Is there such a thing as unbiased writing?

No matter how careful a writer is at trying to be neutral, there will be some bias. Behind every piece, every story, every plot twist is a person with beliefs, passions, and motives—and these can never be truly erased from their writing. However, neither should they be. The biases make each document unique and present an opportunity for readers to see things from someone else's perspective.

The key is for writers to recognize their biases and readers to identify them so that each goes into the exchange with an understanding of what the biases are.

With that being said, writers should still be careful about how they present their biases.

Too much overt bias in your writing will hurt your reputation with your readers, causing them to doubt your ability to analyze the facts in an even semi-objective way. For readers, it doesn't matter how valid your point is—if it's drenched in biased language (particularly a bias they don't agree with), it won't get read.

The first step is identifying your bias.

Take a look at your writing and your motivations for writing. Admit what your bias is (for example, you love snakes or you hate banks) and read through your document to see if anything in it overtly screams this bias. Using our two examples, a bias in the first piece could be not correctly representing the dangers involved with owning a snake and a bias in the second could be using extreme and derogatory language in describing bank practices.

Next, rewrite the ideas presented, deleting or revising the bias.

Again going back to our examples:

  • Owning a precious pet snake is the absolute best decision a person could ever make—there are absolutely no downsides!
    becomes
    Owning a pet snake can be a great decision—it's absolutely the best one I've ever made!
  • That dirty, thieving bank completely shook me down and hung me out to dry—and all I wanted was to open a second checking account!
    becomes
    I was completely surprised at the behavior of my previous bank—the (what I thought would be simple) decision to open a second checking account turned into a fee and charges flurry of misinformation.
Notice how I deleted extreme words (precious, dirty, thieving), added in personal words to identify the bias (best decision I've ever made, I was completely surprised), and added more information to clarify a biased point (fees and charges).

Bias is not wrong. Just make sure you and your readers are able to recognize the bias for what it is and do your best to let the facts speak louder than your bias.

You can find more examples and types of bias at this article, "How to Use Bias in Your Writing."

Of course, bias is an oft-debated topic, so what do you think? Can writing ever be completely bias free?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Poll: Is Texting Making People Dumber?

I've noticed in my RSS Feed lately that the Internet is abuzz with a certain question: Is there a correlation between people's grammar in their texts and tweets and their intelligence levels?

Viewhound takes a look at how the grammar (or lack thereof) in texting is leading to a dumbing down of people in general. Emily Hoover at Flagler College's Gargoyle points out that some are forgetting grammar rules because of how much time they spend texting. And Linsay Cheney cringes (as I do) when she sees people Facebooking advice to "nip it in the butt." 

So I'm taking a poll: do you think people and their grammar are affected (essentially, made worse) by texting, tweeting, and Facebook?


Friday, August 19, 2011

Saucepans, Skillets, and Stockpots: What's the Difference?

Although this happened a few weeks ago, I haven't had a chance to use my kitchen's newest additions in a post until today.

These bad boys now reside in my cupboards (but more importantly, in my heart):

I got this Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless Steel 12-pc. Cookware Set for a great price on Amazon.com and am now embarking on the quest of learning what each one is for and how their purposes differ beyond using the short ones for cooking eggs and the tall ones for boiling water. So far, here's what I've learned.
  • Saucepans (1 & 2): a small, deep cooking pan with a handle;* generally used to heat liquid-based foods (for example, soup) or to reduce sauces
  • Skillets (3 & 4): frying pan;* used for pan-frying (cooking large food items quickly on both sides) and searing (browning just the surface of food items), generally with a coating of oil or fat
  • Sauté Pans (5): a skillet with higher sides used specifically to sauté food that has been cut into small pieces (to sauté is to cook in a small amount of oil or fat over high temperatures)
  • Stock Pots (6): a pot in which soup stock is prepared;* usually very big, it is used for anything that requires a lot of room: making stock, making large amounts of pasta or sauce, etc.
  • Steamer Inserts (7): used in combination with a saucepan, a steamer insert allows you to steam food items instead of cooking them in other ways
So there you have it! A brief definition of a few different pots and pans and what they're used for. Do you know of other types of pots and pans and how to use them? Please share!

*All definitions are from the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Grammar Tip: On vs. Upon

I recently worked on editing a book where the author consistently used upon where my natural inclination was to use on. So I did a little digging and discovered that...well, there isn't much out there on the difference.

The dictionary saved the day: MW explains that upon means on, with other definitions considered obsolete.

A few forums took it a step further and explained that upon is considered more formal than on and should be reserved for set expressions (once upon a time...) and more formal settings (legalese!).

In short, if you aren't telling a story and you aren't obsessed with your own intelligence, don't use upon. It doesn't make you sound smarter...it makes you sound stuck-up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Day in the Life of This Freelance Editor

I finished all of the work I had to do today and decided to spend an hour or so by the pool. I didn't get paid for it, but, boy, was it NICE. I love being a freelancer!


I just hope that I won't have to use this tonight:



Word Wednesdays: Saltation

noun


def.: the act of leaping or jumping around, of dancing


as in

The saltations of the very young show a distinct lack of inhibition that their elders often envy.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Help: Doing What Books Should Do

The Help has been getting a lot of attention. It's a book written by Kathryn Stockett that is also now a movie. For those of you completely unawares, it is the story of a white woman growing up in the South of the '60s and is her view of "the help"—the black women who worked, taught, struggled, triumphed in that time period. Apparently, it's a big hit—according to Amazon, it's the first single title to sell a million copies on Kindle. And USA Today rates the movie "a fine work all around."

I have a friend who is reading the book and she talked about how much she's learning about the time period from it, a statement I took at face value (meaning, that the book was a place to learn valid history in the guise of fiction). Then, however, I started taking notice of what other people were saying.

I'm not going to presume to have an opinion, either way (I haven't read the book or seen the movie). But I would like to say that the fact that it has gotten so many people talking is in and of itself a good thing. Whether you hate what the story tells and implies—or you love it—you're talking about it with people who have different perspectives, learning and seeing things you might have missed on your own. And that is the beginning to any change.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How cool is this bookcase?!

I found it on Crate & Barrel, so it's not cheap—but it's so pretty!!

They apparently have this whole new collection of pretty bookcases:

Anyways, that's my eye candy for the day. :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Love Quotes: In Honor of Our Anniversary

August 14th, this Sunday, is my husband and my second anniversary. We're trying to make it a tradition that, instead of getting gifts, we get each other a mini-vacation. This year, we're going to Gold Canyon, AZ, an hour outside of the city:


I'm so excited!! And besides, it's not like we'd get anything cool with the anniversary gifts by year or anything.

In honor of marriage and anniversaries and love in general, a few quotes:
Love is no assignment for cowards. ~Ovid
Love is a feeling, Marriage is a contract, and a Relationship is work. ~Lori Gordon 
Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs. ~Chrissy - age 6
 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Homonyms Happen: Bases & Basis

This is a fun one, today. The definitions of these words are related (they have the same origin), so that can add an extra dash of confusion into the already confusing world of homonyms.

Bases: more than one base
  --> Base: the main component; the bottom foundation

Basis: the foundation; the main component

The difference is just one you'll have to remember: base is generally more literal (dirt with a clay base) and basis is generally more figurative (the basis of the argument).

For kicks and giggles, you can add into the mix the plural form of basis, which is spelled the same way as the plural form of base: bases. Words that become plural by changing -is to -es, however, tend to be pronounced differently (emphasis, ellipsis, etc.).

More than one base: bay-sehs

More than one basis: bay-sees


Please forgive the cooking talk (dash of confusion; add to the mix)—I'm in the middle of editing a cookbook and it looks as if it may be rubbing off on my writing! :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Word Wednesdays: Antithesis

noun


def.: two contrasting ideas placed in close proximity to make a point*

as in

Some people are so exceptionally good at using antitheses to emphasize their point that it is nearly impossible to not be swept away by their ideas.

Writers (and speakers) have many tools available to them that help articulate ideas in a clear, concise, and appealing way for their audience. An antithesis is one of these tools. If you want to use an antithesis, keep one thing in mind:
  • The contrasting ideas must be balanced. That means they need to contain about the same number of words, they need to use the same tense (past, present, infinitive, gerund, etc.), and they need to be opposites.

For Example
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong, on the moon

Notice the opposites: small/giant, step/leap, man/mankind
Notice the word count: 6/5
Notice the balance: one something for someone (and repeat)

For Example
"We have found ourselves rich in goods, but ragged in spirit; reaching with magnificent precision for the moon, but falling into raucous discord on earth." - Richard Nixon, inaugural address

Notice the opposites: rich/ragged & goods/spirit; reaching/falling, precision/discord, & moon/earth
Notice the word count: 3/3, 6/7
Notice the balance: rich/ragged, but reaching/falling

Leaders have been using this rhetorical trick for hundreds of years. Join the leaders and impress everyone you know: use antitheses!

*Antithesis is also the word used to describe the second, contrasting idea; for example: his opinion of the movie is the antithesis of mine. See more at Merriam-Webster.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Way to Live By

Be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.
Mark 4: 24-25, The Message

A few reasons why I posted this Bible verse today:
  • Even if you are not a Christian, isn't that a great way to live (science agrees!)?
  • As American Christians, I think sometimes we get too caught up in the American part of our Christianity. If you ask me, this doesn't sound much like capitalism.
  • Stinginess (greed) has indeed affected us as a nation—spending more on ourselves than we have (credit), being unwilling to give more to others (higher taxes), and cutting corners (and therefore quality) to keep more for ourselves at the expense of others all come to mind.
Go do something for someone else today. You'll benefit, too! :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Great Gatsby: Intentional Writing (a Quote)

I am (re)reading The Great Gatsby because I haven't made it to the library lately. It never fails that the older I get the more I appreciate great books and am able to pinpoint what makes them great. For F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, it is his intentional writing. Let me give you an example:
I was walking along from one place to another half on the sidewalks and half on the lawns. I was happier on the lawns because I had on shoes from England with rubber nobs on the soles that bit into the soft ground. I had on a new plaid skirt also that blew a little in the wind and whenever this happened the red, white and blue banners in front of all the houses stretched out stiff and said tut-tut-tut-tut in a disapproving way.
I absolutely love the way he turns the completely normal fluttering of banners into something more, painting a picture so much more vividly than if he had simply described the scene using the typical "it was windy" or "all the houses had banners." He was intentional about going beyond, about surprising the reader, about doing more.

My edition's preface says this about Fitzgerald:
Fitzgerald was not the playboy of American literature, although certain fans like to think that he was an irresponsible writer. He was an alcoholic—as were other major American writers—but he was a serious writer and a hard worker. He did not scribble The Great Gatsby drunk. The novel had a three-year process of evolution, and Fitzgerald tested his material in the short stories that preceded The Great Gatsby...The novel developed through layers of drafts and achieved its ultimate brilliance when Fitzgerald revised and rewrote it in the galley proofs. At the stage when most authors are finished with their work he was still perfecting The Great Gatsby.
And this is very obvious in its intentional depiction of events, people, and places. Gotta love good writing. :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Grammar Tip: Setup or Set Up?

Quick post today! My cousin is in town so I'm taking her to explore the Phoenix area...we're going to check out Matt's Big Breakfast for the first time. I'm pretty psyched.

In grammar news, I've come across this little confusion a lot recently, so I thought I'd try to clear it up.


Setup is a noun.

Set up is a verb.



For example: The setup of the display case took forever to set up.

To help remember this, setup is one word, not two, and it's used to describe one thing or idea. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Word Wednesdays: Colposinquanonia

noun


def.: estimating a woman's beauty based on her chest


as in

When I read the definition of this word, I immediately thought of Barney from How I Met Your Mother. He is the quintessential colposinquanonia, as evidenced in this clip:


I was doubtful at first that this was a real word; however, Heal English listed its Greek origins and I verified the meaning of the Greek words. My friends, I do believe this is legit.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Compromise:" What's in the Debt Deal?

All they've done is push the decision making further into the future so they don't have to deal with it now by making "concessions" that leave neither side happy. I had always thought compromise was a positive word, where both parties agreed to give up certain demands, while retaining others, in order to come to one agreed-on conclusion. Gail Chaddock, at Christian Science Monitor, highlights why such an unsatisfying deal took so freakin' long: ideological pledges.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

Monday, August 1, 2011

Run-On Sentences: A Real-Life Example

We're all familiar with run-on sentences and their easy fixes:

The cat ate the mouse it turned out to be a bomb.

becomes

The cat ate the mouse, but it turned out to be a bomb.

Simple stuff, right? But here's a real-life example from a manuscript I recently edited that's a more common sight—long, convoluted clauses joined together haphazardly.
SNP can also incorporate the actual resources of these different supply chain domains into the supply planning runthese resources can be constrained (i.e. set to finite planning) and can serve to restrict the orders which are created by the supply plan, not only based upon supply planning constraints, but also by these other constraints.
This "sentence" has at least three separate ideas that—although related—would be much easier to follow if they were also separate sentences.
SNP can also incorporate the actual resources of these different supply chain domains into the supply planning run. These resources can be constrained (i.e., set to finite planning) and can serve to restrict orders. The supply plan creates these orders based not only on supply planning constraints, but also by these other constraints.
Notice that I also needed to do a little rewording of the last sentence to make it stand alone. But this doesn't have to be the end of it—now that you have clearer, shorter sentences you can continue manipulating them:
  • Rearrange the ideas in the sentences for greater clarity.
  • Identify and delete unnecessary or excessive phrases and clauses (notice how the last sentence doesn't make that much sense as is).
  • Reconnect sentences appropriately.
When run-on sentences aren't as obvious as the cat example, read the sentence out loud; while your eye may not be able to tell, your ear is much better at detecting when a sentence should end and another should start. Also, not being able to follow the idea easily from beginning to end is a sign that you need to break the sentence down into smaller chunks.