Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the category “Grammar and Usage”

Removing Grammar from My Life

I’m downsizing my grammar book collection, or at least trying to.  Tough job. I have so many favorites. How can I heartlessly toss these treasures in a box for a yard sale? No. Some simply cannot go.

Last night I picked up Essays of E. B. WhiteEssays by E.B.White (Harper Perennial, 1977 edition. Original copyright 1934). White is known for Charlotte’s Web, a book about a pig, a spider, and a young girl–a favorite with children everywhere. White is also known for his writings in the New Yorker and Harper’s magazine.

In one essay, White describes his own attempts to discard some of the accumulated miscellany gathered in his lifetime.  But one book, he decides, he can’t possibly disown is The Elements of Style,  the much favored, much challenged book Strunk and Whiteby William Strunk, Jr.

In 1919, E.B. White took an English class at Cornell University with Strunk as the teacher. Elements of Style was on the required reading list.

Years later, (1957) E.B. White was asked to revise of The Elements, but after time spent working on it, he decided that “I discovered that for all my fine talk, I was no match for the parts of speech…[and] I felt uneasy at posing as an expert on rhetoric, when the truth is I write by ear, always with difficulty and seldom with any exact notion of what is taking place under the hood.”

Those reservations notwithstanding, White did revise Strunk’s original work. And, of course, that work has been revised again and again and is still a best seller on Amazon.

Downsizing my grammar book collection forces me to pick up old favorites and riffle through their pages and even smell a bit of their mustiness. With a sigh, Essays and Elements both go into a box to be donated to the library for its book sale. If I get nostalgic for these oldies, I will visit them on Amazon. I am sure they will be there for years to come.

Janice Hall Heck is coauthor of  Triumph Over Terror, a book writtencropped-final-front-cover-triumph-over-terror-foreword-white-2.jpg with Bob Ossler Chaplain.  Look for more information at http://www.bobosslerchaplain.com and http://www.triumphoverterror.com

 bookfest finalist

Cee’s Odd Ball Photos: Unka Bill’s Flower Beds

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 11

My brother Bill (Unka Bill to the kids) is an odd ball really interesting guy, but sometimes he gets a little mixed up. When he hears the term “flower bed,” this is what he thinks:

Brother Bill's Flower Bed

Brother Bill’s Flower Bed

Then again, here’s another oddity in his yard:

Fresh corn on a spike for those pesky squirrels. Come and get it! We put this cob or corn out and went back into the house. Fifteem minutes later we checked back, and all we saw was a bare cob and not a squirrel in sight.

A picnic table for squirrels?

Now really. Who puts out a picnic table for squirrels? That is a bit odd unusual don’t you think?


And let’s not stop with the picnic table. Here’s Unka Bill’s special squirrel feeding station.

At our house, we chase the bird-seed-stealing squirrels away from the feeders, but not Unka Bill. He puts fresh corn (bought at the Summerville Flowertown Festival) out on a mini-picnic table posted up on a tree for those pesky squirrels.

Fresh corn on a spike for those pesky squirrels! Really odd!

I personally witnessed this odd behavior event. He put this cob of corn (previously promised for our dinner, mind you!) up on his fancy-schmancy squirrel feeder and went back into the house. Fifteen minutes later, he checked back, and all he saw was a bare cob and not a squirrel in sight. Ungrateful little fellas. They didn’t even stop to say thank-you or clean up their mess.

Oh well, they made Brother Bill happy. Sister-in-law Patty just rolled her eyes.


By the way, you can see pictures of the Summerville Flowertown Festival here in my Quirky Grammar series (from the 2014 A to Z Challenge). There really are some street-fair pictures in these two posts.

1.   D is for Deep-Fried Hyphens
2.   F is for Freshly Squeezed Adverbs

Okay, I admit that it’s a bit odd to talk about grammar at an outdoor, sunny-day-in-April street fair, but what the heck? I have already confessed to being a Grammar Geek, so you can’t label me as odd. Or can you?


Cee’s Featured Odd Ball Photos for Week 10 (last week). Enjoy! 022714-odd-ball

Oh Danny Boy

Ritva’s Art

To Breathe Is to Write

Travel Tales Of Life

Janice Hall Heck, retired educator, blogger, wannabe photographer, 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.




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).


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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