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.

Friday, October 7, 2011

How to Write Temperature Degrees

It is finally cooling down in this dry state of Arizona. I've had my windows open for the past three days and have been loving every minute of it! Sixty-three degree Celsius* weather is where it's AT.

In honor of the changing temperatures, today's post will give you a quick guide on how to handle writing temperatures in different kinds of writing.

Writing Temperatures in Informal Writing

If you're not following a style guide and there's no need to stick to anything besides the basest of grammar rules...why are you even reading this? ;)

No, but really, in informal writing, you're welcome to write out numbers or use numerals, use a degree symbol (°) or spell it out, and abbreviate, spell out, or leave out Celsius and Fahrenheit. If you do choose to include them, Celsius and Fahrenheit (and their abbreviations, C and F, respectively) should still be capitalized.

Keyboard Shortcuts for the Degree Symbol

Mac: Option + Shift + 8 = °
PC: Alt + 0176 = °

Writing Temperatures in Academic Writing**

When writing for scientific pieces, use a numeral, the degree sign, and the abbreviation, with no spaces between any of the items:

17°C, 17°F

When writing something nontechnical (which is everything that is not scientific or mathematical), spell them out:

seventeen degrees Celsius, seventeen degrees Fahrenheit

Temperatures in AP Style

To shake things up, AP style suggests always using numerals for temperature, but to also always spell out the word "degrees."

Until next week, enjoy the cooling weather! I'll leave you with a picture from my parents' trip (as promised), where we're enjoying the seventy-degree weather in the Grand Canyon. If you've never been, you should go.

*As a friend has so kindly pointed out, 63°C is actually pretty unpleasant. It should read 63°F.

**This I confirmed in my trusty Chicago Manual of Style, v. 15. Interestingly, it suggests also verifying this information in AMA if your material is "highly technical."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Buzz Topic: Texting Is...Not So Dumb?

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may remember me posing the question, "Is Texting Making People Dumber?" I followed it up with other people's opinions on texting, the digital age, and the general state of grammar. So when I saw this article, I couldn't help but post it as well.

An Australian study reported in The Queensland Times suggests that texting actually helps students' grammar:
A recent study of 10 to 12-year-old Australian children found that regular use of text lingo (textisms) had a positive effect on spelling ability.
"It's just another form of literacy that this generation has become very adept and skilled at."
Perhaps as interesting is the very first comment underneath:
What a load of cods wallop!

This is indeed a topic that will not be closed any time soon...