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?