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Archive for the category “Common errors in writing”

#AtoZ, 2014: V is for Verb-less Sentences

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FR, Frag. Fragment, INC, Incomplete.logo 2.2

Remember sitting in English class in high school and the teacher returning your essay all marked up in red, with FR, INC, AWK, WW written in the margins? As a teacher, I wrote these symbols on student papers myself, and later when I worked for an editor of a small journal, he used these symbols on draft manuscripts submitted for publication.

(Okay, I laugh when I see AWK,  the symbol for an awkward sentence, because it conjures up this image in my demented imagination: a brightly colored parrot swinging on its perch in my office and yelling, “AWK, AWK, AWK.”)

Teachers follow the rules. Whether short or long, sentences must have two parts: a subject and a predicate. Writing gurus still argue about the definition of “sentence” (see Garner’s Modern American Usage, “Incomplete Sentences,”  for a discussion on this topic), but the most-commonly accepted definition of a sentence is similar to Webster’s: A sentence is…

a.  a word or group of words stating, asking, commanding, or exclaiming something;
b.  conventional unit of connected speech or writing, usually containing a subject and predicate;
c.  in writing, a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with an end mark: period, question mark exclamation mark, etc.

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Of course, not everyone agrees on the need to use complete sentences all the time. Bill Walsh, well-known commentator on writing and author of Lapsing into a Comma (2000) makes this comment about sentence fragments:

Only the most tin-eared, fuddy-duddy excuses for copy editors routinely convert every single fragment they see into a complete sentence.

Generally, teachers hold to the subject/predicate definition of sentences and hold students to it for good reason: student writing maturity hasn’t develop enough to know when and how to use fragments effectively.

But anyone who does a lot of reading soon discovers that writers use sentence fragments in their writing. Of course, they use fragments, not by accident as immature writers might, but deliberately to create impact.

Israeli writer Shammai Golan uses short, choppy sentences and fragments to convey the fear, shock, and disbelief of this mortally wounded young soldier

The Uzi’s a good weapon. Effective. For defense. For attack. In face-to-face-fighting. But today’s Friday. And SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESthere’s peace at the borders. And I’m only on watch over their road. They fired. Suddenly. Why’d they fire, suddenly? In war one fires. People get wounded. Killed. In the War of Independence. . . .

I’m breathing. With difficulty though. That’s because of the blood. I’m all wet. Maybe it suddenly rained. Sometimes it rains in September. Even before Yom Kippur. And I’m already damp. And flowing. All is flowing. And all is vanity. And you can never enter the same river twice. The Philosopher teacher. A great sage. . . .

And the leaves fall over my body.  Soft. Purple. Like the water under my belly. Soft. Warm. How long can one flow like this. An hour. Two. Three. . . .

—Shammai Golan, “Ten Centimeters of Dust” in Children of Israel, Children of Palestine: Our Own True Stories (Holliday, 1998

Golan stream of consciousness writing style effectively portrays the desperateness of this soldier’s situation. It is an example of how the mind might be thinking in this particular situation. Definitely not in complete sentences.

So, yes, there are rules for writing complete sentences, but good writers ignore these rules at times in order to develop their own style.

Verb-less and noun-less sentences (incomplete sentences) have other reasons for being, but most often they add bits and pieces of information to a previous sentence. Almost as an afterthought.

***

Miss Alister, of The Essence of a Thing, writes effective incomplete sentences reflecting an active mind thinking in true, not-always-linear fashion: The deciphering of V. The V Paragraph: Vernacular, 4/24/14.

Here’s more on kernel sentences from yours truly:

Janice Heck: K is for Kernel Sentences. Nouns and verbs control the world. 04/12/2013 (2013 AtoZ)

***

Your Turn: How do you use sentence fragments in your writing? Got an example?

***
Janice Hall Heck, retired educator, blogger, and nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

logo 2.2Oh Heck! Another Writing Quirk,  theme for the amazing 2014 A to Z Challenge, suggests ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that cramp our writing style.

Look for a list of posts for the #AtoZ, 2014 Challenge (Writing Quirks) here:  #AtoZ: Q is for Quirky Index and a Q Post Round-Up

tWITTER CATMeow for now.  =<^ !^>=

 

 

 

 

 

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#AtoZ: Q is for Quirky Index and a Q Post Round-Up

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Quirky Index to the #AtoZ, 2014:  Twenty-Six Writing Quirks written specifically for the 2014 AtoZ Challenge

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Week 1 (April 1-5)

#AtoZ, 2014: A is for Ampersands. Right or Wrong.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
#AtoZ, 2014: B is for BBQ and Buffalo Chips
#AtoZ, 2014: C is for Calendar Quirks
#AtoZ, 2014: D is for Deep-Fried Hyphens
#AtoZ, 2014: E is for Exclamations from High School

 

Week 2 (April 7-12)

#AtoZ, 2014: F is for Freshly Squeezed Adverbspub izzes..2
#AtoZ, 2014: G is for Gobs of Hyphens Used Correctly
#AtoZ, 2014: Hyperventilating on Hyphens
#AtoZ, 2014: I iz for Iz-zies, Ar-zies, Waz-zies, & Wer-zies
#AtoZ, 2014: J is for Jarfuls of Jam: Another Quirk?
#AtoZ, 2014: K is for Knights-Errant, Kit and Caboodle, and Kitty-cornered

photo credit: writerscafe.org

photo credit: writerscafe.org

 Week 3 (April 14-19)

Granddaughter Madelynn is equally loose-limbed, loose-jointed, and talented. Amazing granddaughters!

Granddaughter Madelynn

#AtoZ, 2014: L is for Lose and Loose, Loosey-goosey, and LOL
#AtoZ, 2014: M is for Mahjong, Majiang, Mah-jongg, Mahjongg, or Mah jongg
#AtoZ, 2014: N is for Neither–Nor, but not Humpty Dumpty
#AtoZ, 2014: Oh, On Top (Weekly Photo Challenge) and O Writing Posts
#AtoZ, 2014: P is for Photo Blog and On Top Again
#AtoZ, 2014: Q is for Quirk Index and Q Round-Up

Week 4 What’s next? (April 21-26)

#AtoZ, 2014: R is for Resent or Re-sent? Hyphen Hysterics
#AtoZ, 2014, S is for #Cee’s Photo: S is for Shadows… and Shakespeare Sayings
#AtoZ, 2014: S is for From Cee’s to Shiny Cee’s
#AtoZ, 2014: T is for Totally Twitter: Follow, Autofollow, or Not
#AtoZ, 2014: U is for Unfinished, Underdeveloped, Unprintable Posts
#AtoZ, 2014: V is for Verb-less Sentences
#AtoZ, 2014: W is for Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

Week 5  (April 28-30)

#AtoZ, 2014: X is for X. Is It Better to Be Safe Or Sorry
#AtoZ, 2014: Y is for Yadda, Yadda, Yadda and Yakety-yak
#AtoZ, 2014: Z is for Zero the Hero in a Repeat Performance

May A to Z Wrap-up Posts

1. #AtoZ, 2014: Bonus Wrap-up: Writers I Met on the AtoZ Highway
2.
#AtoZ Wrap-Up Post 2: A to Z Reflections and Five More Writers
Q Posts from other bloggers:

Eclectic Odds n Sods: Quirky A-Z: Vintage & Emotions
Hanna Plummer, Q is for Quote
Terribly Write: Guess what’s not a question
Basil Rene, Life as an Anomaly: Quietly Question Everything
MJ Wright: Writing only looks easy. But it can be learned.

***

Your turn: What writing quirks or interesting words do you find in writing?

***
Janice Hall Heck, retired educator, blogger, and nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

logo 2.2Oh Heck! Another Writing Quirk,  theme for the amazing 2014 A to Z Challenge, suggests ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that cramp our writing style.

=<^;^>=

#AtoZ: N is for Neither–Nor, but not Humpty Dumpty

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What do the following people and one organization have in common? logo 2.2

Humpty Dumpty
Shakespeare
the biblical writer Paul
Benjamin Franklin
Jack London
United States Postal Service

Give up? They all have a fondness for using the neither–nor construction in their writing.

The neither–nor construction looks like this:

Neither Humpty Dumpty nor Jack London live in Florida.

Neither–nor can be an effective construction in writing, but watch out for a few writing quirks that go with it. I’ll point these near the end of the post. But first, let’s check in with Humpty Dumpty and see what he has to say.

Humpty Dumpty

Illustration by John Tenniel from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Illustration by John Tenniel from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

In Through the Looking-Glass (Lewis Carroll, 1871), Humpty Dumpty and Alice have a “nice knock-down argument” about “unbirthdays” and about what the word “glory”  means. When Alice challenges Humpty on his definition of glory, Humpty says this:

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.”

Humpty does seem rather brash and dogmatic, but I kinda like his idea of unbirthdays. More unbirthdays, more presents!

Shakespeare

Shakespeare uses several neither–nor constructions in his works. In Hamlet, He says this:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend…”

I originally thought this was a biblical injunction and was surprised to see that the quote actually came from Shakespeare.

 Benjamin Franklin

The old man with a key on a kite in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm had a lot to say about life. You can find many of his witticisms and proverbs in his annual Almanacs. Here’s a sample:

Be neither silly, nor cunning, but wise. Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1734.

Jack London, The Call of the Wild

When I was a teacher, I loved reading the Call of the Wild with my students. London’s flow of language is superb; you can find good classic sentences throughout his writing.  In 1897, thieves steal Buck, a spoiled and sheltered family dog, half St. Bernard and half Scotch shepherd, from his homestead in California and ship him, drugged into a stupor, to Seattle. There a “man in a red sweater” unmercilessly beats Buck into submission in preparation for being trained as a sled dog for mushers seeking their fortune in the seductive Yukon gold. These few sentences describe a bit of the incredibly harsh life Buck has the misfortune to fall into.

Here was neither peace, nor rest, nor a moment’s safety. All was confusion and action, and every moment life and limb were in peril. There was imperative need to be constantly alert, for these dogs and men were not town dogs and men. They were savages, all of them, who knew no law but the law of club and fang.” Chapter 2, The Call of the Wild

London used the construction, neither–nor–nor. Bryan Garner in Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009), calls the use of multiple nors in sentences “unfastidious constructions.” He suggests that it is incorrect to use neither–nor with only two elements. With three elements, the sentence should read like this: “They considered neither x, y, nor z.” But we do see examples with multiple nors used nicely by various writers. Good writers know when to break the rules.

United States Post Office, Neither–nor–nor–nor

You have probably heard this quote a number of times. It is from an inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City .

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Paul, the Biblical Writer

Paul uses neither and multiple nors in his belief statement:

38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39, King James Version

This is a powerful statement of the depth of his beliefs. The multiple nors make this an emphatic statement.

Quirks with neither–nor. Watch out!

1.  Verb Agreement: the second item determines the verb structure.

Use a singular verb when the items in the list are singular, and also when the first item is plural but the second item is singular.

Neither the cat nor the dog sleeps on my bed.
Neither the cats nor the dog sleeps on my bed.

Use a plural verb when both items are plural, and when the first item is singular but the second item is plural.

Neither the cats nor the dogs sleep on my bed.
Neither the cat nor the dogs sleep on my bed.

Occasionally, a sentence construction may sound awkward using these rules. If so, try reversing the order of the items.

2. Parallel Structure

Parallel structure means keeping both items named in the neither-nor construction from the same part of speech. This can get quirky in longer sentences.

nouns:  Neither the cat nor the dog sleeps on my bed.
pronouns: Neither You nor I can complain.
adjectives:  Be neither silly nor cunning.
verbs: I will neither call you nor speak to you anymore.
adverbs: …neither more nor less
gerunds: Neither crying nor pouting will get you more birthday presents.

This applies to phrases as well.

Neither calling me names nor yelling at me will make me change my mind.

3. Sentence beginning. You may use neither as the first word in a sentence.

Neither the cat nor the dog sleeps on my bed.

4. Use the correct subject pronoun with neither-nor. Subject pronouns are I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they.

Neither he nor I was willing to take the risk of getting caught by the police.
Neither she nor I have good singing voices.
Neither she nor he wants to eat lunch now.
Neither we nor they are going to the party.
Neither you nor they have enough money for pizza.

5. Neither-or (no n) is an incorrect construction. Do not use it. Look for the either–or construction in a future post.

***

Now here’s a clever example from my husband.

Neither the Dallas Cowboys nor the Cleveland Indians will win the coveted Stanley Cup; however, the Philadelphia Flyers have a good chance of winning it.

Any sports fan will know the absurdity of this comparison. The Dallas Cowboys play football, the Cleveland Indians play baseball, and the Philadelphia Flyers play hockey. Only the Flyers, a hockey team, have the potential to win the Stanley Cup, the ultimate prize in hockey.

Still, I appreciate his helpful suggestions.

***

Your turn: What writing quirks or interesting words do you find in writing?

***
Janice Hall Heck, retired educator, blogger, and nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

logo 2.2Oh Heck! Another Writing Quirk,  theme for the amazing 2014 A to Z Challenge, suggests ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that cramp our writing style.

=<^;^>=

 

#AtoZ: L is for Lose and Loose, Loosey-goosey, and LOL

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Oh Heck! More Writing Quirks.

Writers confuse lose and loose on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites where posting mistakes is common practice. This next heart-broken person on Facebook misspelled lose on purpose, or at least I hope he or she did.

I hurt u bcoz i dnt wanna loose u (Facebook Page)

1. Lose is a verb and only a verb. It has one o.

Meaning: To experience a loss of something either by accident, inattention, or negligence.

You lose things…

**  your money
**  your purse
**  your cat or dog
**  your zebra
**  some weight
**  your temper
**  your patience
**  your way
**  your head

If you lose your dog, put an ad in the paper.
If you lose your wallet, report it to the police.
If you lose your zebra, call the local zoo.
If you lose weight, buy new clothes.
If you lose your dog, put an ad in the paper.

LIsa doesn't want to lose her teacup Yorkie so she always uses a leash when she walks her.

Lisa doesn’t want to lose her Teacup Yorkie so she uses a leash when they go for a walk.

Ways to remember spelling of lose.

Make up sentences with words that have similar spelling.

**  You snooze, you lose, but lose the extra o.
** “Loose laces lose races.”  (Edgar H. Schuster, Breaking the Rules: Liberating Writers Through Innovative Grammar Instruction, Heinemann, 2003)
**  Lose is like nose, rose, hose, and pose. These words don’t rhyme with lose, but they all have one o.


2. Loose is most frequently used as an adjective, but it can also be a verb, an adverb, and even part of a noun.

Loose as an adjective

 Meaning: free from restraint, not firmly fastened, not tight or compact.

Clothing can be loose when you lose weight:
**  Loose dress
**  Loose pants
**  Loose shoes
**  Loose belt
**  Loose hat
**  Loose shirt
**  Loose skirt
**  Loose blouse

Loose dogs prowl the neighborhood.
The shingles on the roof are loose.
A loose curtain rod might fall.

Compound words with loose    

**  loose-leaf notebook
**  loose-limbed
**  loose-tongued…talking too much
**  loose-jointed

Isabelle, my granddaughter, is loose-jointed and can perform amazing feats.

Isabelle, my loose-jointed and loose-limbed granddaughter, can perform amazing feats in gymnastics competitions.

Granddaughter Madelynn is equally loose-limbed, loose-jointed, and talented. Amazing granddaughters!

Granddaughter Madelynn is equally loose-limbed, loose-jointed, and talented. Amazing granddaughters!

Loose can be a verb. to unfasten, untie.  loose, loosen,

**  break loose
**  get loose
**  let loose
**  set loose

Your Dalmatian will get loose if you do not tie him up tightly.
Loosen the ties on your shoes when your feet hurt.

Loose can become an adverb: loosely

**     Loosely pack the strawberries in boxes so they won’t get crushed.

Loose can be part of a noun or noun phrase

**  loose-strife or loose strife…purple flowers
**  loose smut…diseases of cereal grasses
**  loose ends…unfinished details on a job or project
**  loose lips  “loose lips sink ships”
**  loose cannon…someone whose words or actions can be dangerous to others. Someone with unpredictable behavior.

The manager of the project was fired because he did not finish up the loose ends.

Ways to remember the spelling of loose:

Make lists of rhyming words. Make silly sentences and notice the unique features of the words in the sentences.

**      loose, goose, moose, noose,  papoose, caboose

A goose, a moose, and a papoose all have two eyes and two o’s.
The loose goose, the loose moose, and the papoose all jumped on the caboose.
Look! Two o’s in loose, goose, moose, noose, papoose, and caboose.


3. Loosey-goosey

You won’t find loosey-goosey as a word in Garner’s Modern American Usage, The American Heritage Dictionary, or Webster’s New World Dicionary. You can find loosey-goosey on the Internet at Wiktionary.org    

Loosey-goosey means visibly relaxed, not tense. Laid-back. Casual attitude (sometimes too casual).  “Loose as a goose.”

Loosey-goosey chased the moosey-moosey.


 4. LOL. Acronym for Laugh Out Loud. You won’t find LOL in Webster’s New World Dictionary, GarnerModern American Usage, or the American Heritage Dictionary, but you will find it here on WIKIPEDIA online.

WIKIPEDIA says that LOL is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. By the way, if you don’t LOL, you can always lol, which is more like a soft laugh. It’s a bit stronger than the smiley emoticon.

The WIKIPEDIA article posts the standard warning to students that using Internet slang,  silly acronyms, emoticons in written assignments will not excite teachers or future bosses.

But now, you can LOL when you view this video of a dog who loses his head when he is let loose in a heap of leaves. Don’t miss this.

See the hilarious video here: LOL.

Here’s another take on lose/loose and nine other words that need attention: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling

***

Your turn: What quirky errors or interesting words do you find in writing?

***
Janice Hall Heck, retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

Oh Heck! Another Quirky Writing Error, theme for the 2014 A to Z Challenge, suggests ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that cramp our writing style.

=<^;^>=

 

 

 

#AtoZ: K is for Knights-Errant, Kit and Caboodle, and Kitty-cornered

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Oh Heck! Another Writing Quirk: odd and amusing words that start with the letter K.

You find the most interesting things while browsing through grammar and usage guides. (Okay, stop laughing. It’s what I do when I’m stuck for ideas.)

Now that you’re hysterical laughing spell is over (that was a bit rude, you know), I’ll get on with my meanderings through K words.

First of all, ever since my last post in which I mentioned that a knight-errant had bashed in my door to save me from further wordmongering about plural nouns, I’ve been wondering what a knight-errant actually does or did.

photo credit: gathering.wizards.com

photo credit: gathering.wizards.com

Turns out a knight-errant (or knights-errant when he is with his buddies) wanders around in search of adventures and challenges to prove his chivalry (bravery, courtesy, honesty, and gallantry towards women). He is given to adventurous or quixotic conduct, that is, he pursues unreachable, impractical goals. He is idealistic rather than practical. Most often, a knight-errant saves a damsel in distress from dragons or other evil beings.

mm

mm

Hmmm. I guess saving writers from wordmongering is challenge that would definitely be rewarding.

Here are a few interesting tidbits in my quixotic journey through K.

kit and caboodle

A kit, I know, is a small fox or a kitten. Ah, but that is definition #3, in my American Heritage Dictionary.

The first definition of kit is: a container, such as a bag, valise, or knapsack for holding a collection of items. Examples: shaving kit, survival kit, travel kit, or some other collection of items or people, a crowd.

English soldiers in the late 1700s, so the story goes, carried their possessions in a kit as they moved about the country for military activities.

But caboodle? That’s not so clear. Turns out that the original word might have been boodle (English for a collection of people), or maybe bottel (Old English for bunch or bundle), or even boedel (Dutch, meaning property).

Kit and caboodle now means the whole thing, the whole ball of wax, the whole shebang…maybe like carrying all your things in a back-pack around Europe like you did when you were in college. (Those were the days!)

kitty-cornered,  catty-cornered, cater-cornered, catawampus, cattywampus

I used to walk kitty-cornered across my college campus many years ago so I wouldn’t be late for my first class. I think it was Ancient History, but that’s really ancient history now. Who wanted to walk the long way around on the college-defined path? And Kitties are not dumb either. They know that the shortest walk through a mouse-laden field is to go kitty-cornered, or on a diagonal path from corner to corner.

The original word was possibly the French word for quarter, meaning four, or four-cornered. It could also have been from old Middle English when the phrase was catre-cornered, adapted from the Latin quattuor.

As words do, cater evolved into catty (catty-cornered), then to kitty (kitty-cornered).

Then bring the term to the good ole South in the U.S of A, and you get these variations: catawampus and cattywampus.

William Morris jokes, “Down in Tennesee a college professor of mathematics was once heard to say: ‘You might call a rhombus a catawampus square.'” Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins.

Supposedly, according to Morris, plantation owners in the South warned their slaves that bloodthirsty catawampus cats lurked out in the woods at night ready to pounce on anything that moved and hungry enough to eat a human. Instead of running away, the slaves shivered in fear in their dark cabins listening to the catawampus howl out in the woods.

Old words have interesting stories!

The correct spelling, by the way, is cater-corner or cater-cornered, but no one will have a hissy fit if you spell it kitty-cornered. They will know what you mean.

Personally, my kitty friends and I prefer kitty-cornered: meaning one kitty on each corner of the bed.

photo credit: olbroad.com

photo credit: olbroad.com

So, The Knight of La Mancha, our favorite knight-errant, took his kit and caboodle and left on a quixotic journey, riding cater-cornered off into the sunset across the vast countryside looking for dragons to slay and distressed maidens to rescue. Oh, how noble.

photo credit: writerscafe.org

photo credit: writerscafe.org

Your turn: What quirky errors or interesting words do you find in writing?

***
Janice Hall Heck, retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

Oh Heck! Another Quirky Writing Error, theme for the 2014 A to Z Challenge, suggests ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that stifle our writing.

=<^;^>=

Oh, just one last piece of advice from my kitty friends:

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PS. Here’s a post to check: The Childlike Author Feels Quixotic

 

 

#AtoZ, 2014: J is for Jarfuls of Jam: Another Quirk?

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Oh Heck! Another Quirky Writing Error: Plurals on compound words ending in -ful.

Plurals on words can be tricky, what with words ending in -f, -ff, -fe, -o, s, x, ch, sh, -z, and sometimes -y. Then along come the compound nouns, and not to mention irregular plurals. Uh, oh. I’m starting to hyperventilate again.

Most often you simply add an -s or -es to the end of the noun:

*  birthdays
*  turtles
*  mousetraps
*  eyelashes
*  wineglasses
*  hatboxes

Sometimes you have to change the word ending:

*  quiz/quizzes
*  wife/wives
*  knife/knives
*  copy/copies

But when you come to compound nouns, sometimes you add the -s on the main part of the noun.  (*pant, pant, pant)

*  mothers-in-law
*  ladies-in-waiting
*  rights-of-way
*  editors in chief/editors-in-chief (you see it both ways in style guides)
*  knights-errant (Wait! I hear one knight-errant arriving at my door to rescue me from this flighty wordmongering.)

Then there are the words that end in -ful. For those words, you add the -s at the end of the word.

*  jarful/jarfuls
*  spoonful/spoonfuls

***

When I was a little girl, I loved coming home from school on days when Mom was making strawberry jam. She would cook up the strawberries with sugar and water and a pink foam would rise to the top of the pot when the berries came to a gentle boil. We kids would beg for a spoonful of the pink foam for a tasty snack. Yummie.

Then she would fill the jars with the delicious sweet jam to save for the winter ahead, but she would always save out a jarful for us for breakfast. The rest of the jars went down into the cool cellar as our hedge against a long strawberry-deprived winter.

Mom would save one fresh jarful of jam for breakfast.

Mom would save one fresh jarful of jam for breakfast.

Mom lined the jarfuls of the jam on the kitchen cabinet. When she heard the lids "pop," she knew the vacuum seal had set.

Mom lined the jars of home-made jam on the kitchen cabinet to cool. When she heard the lids “pop,” she knew the vacuum seal had set.

Now the question is, with nine kids in the family, how many spoonfuls of strawberry pink foam did Mom need?

  • nine spoonfuls of pink foam from the jam?
  • nine spoons full of pink foam from the jam?

Do you see the subtle difference?.

  • Because Mom had nine children, she needed nine spoons full of jam to make them happy. (Nine spoons filled one time each.)
  • On another day, she made strawberry pancakes, and the recipe called for nine spoonfuls of jam. (The same spoon filled nine times with jam.)

We know from Mary Poppins that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, but how many spoonfuls of pink strawberry jam foam does it take to make nine scruffy farm kids happy? A lot!

Here’s the rule:

When a word ends in -ful, make it plural by adding an s to the end of the word.

Garner’s Modern American Usage, by Bryan A. Garner, lists 26 words with a -ful suffix. You can find the majority of these in a good dictionary.  I must admit I had to think for a few minutes to make up some sentences that didn’t sound weird. (I used the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language to check these words.)

*  armful/armfuls
*  bagful/bagfuls
*  barrelful/barrelfuls
*  basketful/basketfuls
*  bottleful/bottlefuls
*  bucketful/bucketfuls
*  cupful/cupfuls
*  eyeful/eyefuls
*  forkful/forkfuls
*  glassful/glassfuls
*  handful/handfuls
*  jarful/jarfuls
*  lapful/lapfuls
*  lungful/lungfuls
*  mouthful/mouthfuls
*  pailful/pailfuls
*  plateful/platefuls
*  pocketful/pocketfuls
*  potful/potfuls
*  roomful/roomfuls
*  scoopful/scoopfuls
*  shovelful/shovelfuls
*  spoonful/spoonfuls
*  tableful/tablefuls
*  tablespoonful/tablespoonfuls
*  teaspoonful/teaspoonfuls
*  tubful/tubfuls

I did find another to add to the list…

*  teacupful/teacupsful

Of course, then I got carried away and started making up non-dictionary words with -ful.

*  bowlful/bowlfuls of kitty Friskies
*  houseful/housefuls of antique furniture
*  lapful/lapfuls of kittens
*  gallipotful/gallipotfuls of medicine
*  sinkful/sinkfuls of dirty dishes
*  garageful/garagefuls of junk
*  stomachful/stomachfuls of tamales
*  casket/casketsful (*snort, snort)

How about a cauldronful of alligators to make a nice stew for the witches? Photo taken at Grounds for Sculpture, Trenton, NJ

How about a cauldronful of alligators to make a nice stew for the witches?
Photo taken at Grounds for Sculpture, Trenton, NJ

Yeech. One could go on and on with these words, though, I admit, some seem a bit far-fetched.

Take a deep breath now. We’re done! *sigh

***
Janice Hall Heck, retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

Oh Heck! Another Quirky Writing Error, theme for the 2014 A to Z Challenge, suggests ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that stifle our writing.

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#AtoZ, 2014: I iz for Iz-zies, Ar-zies, Waz-zies, & Wer-zies

Oh Heck! Another Quirky Writing Error:  Too many iz-zies, ar-zies, waz-zies, and wer-zies

Iz-zies?    Ar-zies?    Waz-zies?     Wer-zies?

What?

Funny thing, as I twerked through the Internet to see what might turn up for iz-zies, up popped izzing, a term coined by Paul Grice to explain Aristotelian philosophy.

katemi-plaque-aristotle-c3d5

Now I know, for sure, that great minds think alike. Of course, izzing is not Aristotle’s original word, but hey, izzing is a translation/interpretation, and that’s close enough to my iz-zies to make a connection of some kind.

Now don’t ask me how Aristotle/Grice define izzing because it’s almost beyond my comprehension. I can only figure that it has something to do with philosophic/linguistic logic. So much for my connection with Aristotle and my claim to fame by association. Nice try though, don’t you think?

Wait! I found another Izze online: The Izze Beverage Company in Boulder, Colorado, produces a carbonated juice drink called Izze. Izzes, sold in Starbucks, Whole Foods, and other stores with some snob appeal stores of distinction, appeal to the non-cola crowd. Hmm. A strawberry basil Izze sounds good right about now. (Its spelling mimics my iz-zies.)

Now, here’s the truth: I only meant to invent a unique spelling for that pesky word “is” to make this post a bit more interesting. But I needed more than iz-zies; I needed ar-zies, waz-zies, and wer-zies to represent those ubiquitous is, are, was, and were that show up so often in our writing.

Iz-zies, and her buddies, ar-zies,  waz-zies, and wer-zies cause trouble for writers because they flagrantly insert themselves in writing pieces seemingly willy-nilly. They trash our writing, clog it up with extra words, and bore our readers into oblivion.

These four spindly muscled verbs strong-arm mightier verbs and pull them down to the mats by clobbering them with extra words and that dreaded -ing word ending. Iz-zies, ar-zies, waz-zies, and wer-zies also drag in that much maligned passive voice, a crime strongly chastised by grammar geeks know-it-alls, grammar snobs elite editors.

Oh Heck! I caught iz-zies, ar-zies,  waz-zies, and wer-zies in my own writing. See these examples from my first draft of this post and see how I massacred them in the final draft.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGuidelines:

  1. Count your iz-zies, ar-zies, waz-zies, and wer-zies  in your writing. (is, are, was, were)
  2. Count your -ing endings. (That’s a clue to weak verb use.)
  3. Replace iz-zies, ar-zies,  waz-zies, and wer-zies with more vigorous verbs.

Action:

1. Drop the iz-zie (is) entirely and get more oomph in your writing.

Version 1.   Is iz-zie really a word?  What about waz-zies?
Version 2.  Iz-zies? Ar-zies? Waz-zies? Wer-zies? What?

2. Change (or remove) the verb tense. Bonus: get rid of the -ing at the same time!

Version 1.  I was thinking I could glam on to Aristotle’s fame with my own iz-zies…
Version 2.  So much for my connection with Aristotle.
Version 3. So much for my connection with Aristotle and my claim to fame by association.

3. Rearrange sentence word order.

Version 1. The second Izze that I found on Internet was a carbonated juice drink produced by the Izze Beverage Company in Boulder, Colorado.
Version 2. The Izze Beverage Company of Boulder, Colorado produces a carbonated juice drink called Izze.
Version 3. But wait! I found another Izze online: The Izze Beverage Company in Boulder, Colorado, produces a carbonated juice drink called Izze.

4. Use appositives, a parenthetical word or phrase that gives information about the preceding noun, as a means to replace an iz-zie. (Appositives: A parenthetical phrase that explains a noun in the sentence. It is the whole phrase between the commas. Appositives can easily be removed, as in: Use Appositives as a means to replace an iz-zie.)

Version 1. Izzies are sold in Starbucks, Whole Foods, and other stores with some snob appeal stores of distinction.
Version 2. Izzies, sold in Starbucks, Whole Foods, and other stores of distinction, seem to have mass appeal.
Version 3. Izzies, sold in Starbucks, Whole Foods, and other stores with some snob appeal of distinction, appeal to the non-cola crowd.

5. Reword your sentences. Remove extra words. Remove -ing endings.

Version 1. Count your iz-zies and waz-zies and remove them by replacing them with stronger verbs.
Version 2. Reduce iz-zies and waz-zies by replacing them with stronger verbs.
Version 3. Replace iz-zies and waz-zies with stronger verbs.

Notice how each version of the above sentence got shorter and tighter?

Version 1. Of course, the truth is that I only meant to invent a funny spelling for the little word “is”…
Version 2. Now, here’s the truth: I only meant to invent a unique spelling for that pesky word “is”…

6. Use iz-zies, ar-zies,  waz-zies, or wer-zies, at times, just to keep things simple. You don’t necessarily want to use a complex word when a simpler one will do the job.

Example: Of course, izzing is not Aristotle’s original word, but hey, izzing is a translation/interpretation…

Improve your writing by simply watching out for these little critters that sneak into your writing when you aren’t looking.

***

Your turn: What quirky errors do you find in writing? Which ones annoy you the most?

aristotle quote

***
Janice Hall Heck, retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

Oh Heck! Another Quirky Writing Error, theme for the 2014 A to Z Challenge, suggests ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that stifle our writing.

=<^;^>=

 

A to Z Challenge, 2014: G is for Gobs of Hyphens Used Correctly

 

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Oh Heck! More Quirky Writing Errors

What do writers and brown bears have in common?

I could probably come up with some good analogies, but the truth is that I found gobs of hyphenated words in two different articles (one a blog post on writing, the other a newspaper article about brown bears) and wanted to share them in this post. See my previous articles about hyphenated words here:

D is for Deep-Fried Hyphens

F is for Freshly Squeezed Adverbs

Phrasal adjectives that need a hyphen

attention-getting commercial
cost-prohibitive place
front-row seat
high-definition webcam
mate-swapping brown bears
multi-published, bestselling authors
recently-discovered secret
post-deadline catatonic stupor
in-person conference
pre-conference panic attack
worst-case scenario

Jami Gold, “Insights from Bestselling Authors”  (blog post)

Even in the worst-case scenario, where we’re receiving rejections because we’re not yet “good enough,” we can study writing craft and change our fate.

Several multi-published, bestselling authors let me pick their brains and shared great advice (including Christie, Mary, Calista Fox, Erin Quinn, Morgan Kearns, and Jennifer Ashley).

“Famed Katmai National Park (Alaska) brown bears ready for season 2” by Mark Thiessen, Associated Press, The Press of Atlantic City, July, 2013.

A high-definition webcam captures a brown bear as it climbs on top of Brooks Falls for a better angle at salmon swimming upstream in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. (photo caption)

Stars snarling at each other, mate-swapping dominant males posturing and establishing their territory.”

Katmai is a cost-prohibitive place to visit…

The new (web) camera is at eye-level of the bears…

Here are more compound adjectives (phrasal adjectives) I gathered from today’s newspaper:

four-level appeals
year-end numbers
Grammy-award-winning singer
non-security-related problems
in-store sales
high-end groceries
anti-freedom crowd
same-sex marriage
inner-city neighborhoods
long-term lease
solar-panel array
post-traumatic stress
tax-rate increase
world-class education
tax-lien sales
Twitter-like network

More examples of adverbs ending in -ly that do not need a hyphen

frequently asked questions
freshly made pastas
gently used items
randomly generated questions
highly regarded citizen

Examples of adverbs not ending in -ly that need hyphens

little-known facts
well-qualified buyers
low-paying jobs
hard-earned money
less-educated workers
best-known writer

Here’s a final thought from the Oxford University Press style manual

“If you take hyphens seriously, you will surely go mad.”

Your turn: What quirky errors do you find in writing? Which ones annoy you the most?

**
Janice Hall Heck is a retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ.

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A to Z Challenge, 2014: E is for Extra Exclamation Ecstasy

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910Oh Heck! Another Quirky Writing Error

When I was in high school so many long years ago, my girlfriends and I loved to dot the letter -i- with little circles or hearts as an expression of our creativity and independence. The boys thought we were just being show-offs and teased us, but we just laughed at them and their own sloppy writing.

Another fad was to use an excess of exclamation points at ends of sentences in love notes, letters, essays, and reports, or other homework assignments.

Sally loves Johnny!!         Sally loves Harry!!!        Sally loves Joey!!!!   

Sally loves Sam!!!!!

Cute, but oh so high school. Definitely not cute in adult writing.

Here’s the rule:

An exclamation point at the end of a sentence indicates strong emotions or high volume. It can also be used at the end of ironic statements. The Chicago Manual of Style states that exclamation points should be used sparingly to be effective.

F. Scott Fitzgerald reportedly disliked exclamation points and urged writers to cut them out of their writing. “An exclamation mark,” he supposedly said, “is like laughing at your own joke.”

Genevieve Graham, in a blog post on entitled “Hurray a Blog about Excess Exclamation Points. How Exciting!” suggested that the ultimate function of an exclamation mark is “to provide an editor with one more thing to delete or replace.”

However, if you really want to be cutesy on special occasions, here’s a font you can use

Your turn: What quirky errors do you find in writing? Which ones annoy you the most?
Janice Hall Heck is a retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ.

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A to Z Challenge, 2014: D is for Deep-fried Hyphens

atoz [2014] - BANNER - 910

Oh Heck! Another Quirky Writing Error

Hyphens can be troublesome little pipsqueaks. You see them used incorrectly just about as often as you see them used correctly.

Today I went down to the 42nd Annual Flowertown Festival in Summerville, South Carolina, a street fair that covered many blocks on Main Street and much of downtown Azalea Park. The gorgeous azaleas, already in full bloom, filled the park with pinks, lavenders, and whites. Showy dogwoods displayed their white flowers. Beautiful flowers and beautiful weather. Perfect for the festival.

summerille festStreet vendors lined the streets and park pathways: arts and crafts, ornamental garden décor and wooden outdoor furniture, flowers and veggies, jellies and sauces, doggie leashes and outfits, gourmet foods and hand-made soaps, and much more. Food vendors claimed their share of the festival real estate, too.

And among the usual hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken-on-a-stick food vendors, I found the following items for sale: deep fried Oreos, deep fried Twinkies, deep fried Snickers, deep fried peaches, and deep fried apple fries (all minus a required hyphen).

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Being a picky editor, I cringed about the spelling/usage, but I still ate a deep-fried Oreo, snickering all the while about the lack of hyphen.

Here’s the rule.

In a multi-word adjective (phrasal adjectives), when each word by itself does not describe the noun, you must use a hyphen.

These high-calorie yummies are neither “deep Oreos” nor “fried Oreos,” but “deep-fried Oreos” (Oreo cookies that have been submersed in hot oil and fried). Therefore the multi-word adjective should have a hyphen: you need both deep and fried together to describe this yucky incredible treat.

Obviously, rules for hyphens do not apply at street festivals, county fairs, zoos, and other food-filled outdoor activities!

Here’s the corrected, but definitely unhealthy menu:

deep-fried Oreos
deep-fried Twinkies
deep-fried Snickers
deep-fried peaches
deep-fried apple fries..

Here’s to your health!

Your turn:  What quirky errors do you find in writing? Which ones annoy you the most?
Janice Hall Heck is a retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ.

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