Thursday, September 23, 2010

24 Things You Might Be Saying Wrong, Part 2

More tips to help your writing:

You almost never mean: Brother-in-laws, runner-ups, hole in ones, etc.

You almost always mean: Brothers-in-law, runners-up, holes in one, etc.

Why: Plurals of these compound nouns are formed by adding an s to the thing there's more than one of (brothers, not laws). Some exceptions: words ending in ful (mouthfuls) and phrases like cul-de-sacs.

You almost never mean: Try and

You almost always mean: Try to

Why: Try and try again, yes, but if you're planning to do something, use the infinitive form: "I'm going to try to run a marathon." Commenting on an online story about breakups, one woman wrote, "A guy I dated used to try and impress me with the choice of books he was reading." It's no surprise that the relationship didn't last.

You almost never mean: Different than

You almost always mean: Different from

Why: This isn't the biggest offense, but if you can easily substitute from for than (My mother's tomato sauce is different from my mother-in-law's), do it. Use than for comparisons: My mother's tomato sauce is better than my mother-in-law's.

You almost never mean: Beg the question

You almost always mean: Raise the question

Why: Correctly used, "begging the question" is like making a circular argument (I don't like you because you're so unlikable). But unless you're a philosophy professor, you shouldn't ever need this phrase. Stick to "raise the question."

You might say: More than

You can also say: Over

Why: The two are interchangeable when the sense is "Over 6,000 hats were sold." We like grammarian Bryan Garner's take on it: "The charge that over is inferior to more than is a baseless crotchet."

You almost never mean: Supposably

You almost always mean: Supposedly

Why: Supposably is, in fact, a word—it means "conceivably"—but not the one you want if you're trying to say "it's assumed," and certainly not the one you want if you're on a first date with an English major or a job interview with an English speaker.

You might say: All of

You probably mean: All

Why: Drop the of whenever you can, as Julia Roberts recently did, correctly: "Every little moment is amazing if you let yourself access it. I learn that all the time from my kids." But you need all of before a pronoun ("all of them") and before a possessive noun ("all of Julia's kids").

Final part next week.

Friday, September 17, 2010

24 Things You Might Be Saying Wrong, Part 1

The next few series of posts are not mine, but are credited to Reader’s Digest. Having trouble with the correct word in your writing? Then these may help:

You never mean: Could care less

You always mean: Couldn't care less

Why: You want to say you care so little already that you couldn't possibly care any less. When the Boston Celtics' Ray Allen said, "God could care less whether I can shoot a jump shot," we know he meant exactly the opposite because 1) God has other things on his mind, and 2) God is a Knicks fan.

You might say: Mano a mano

You might mean: Man-to-man

Why: You don't speak Spanish by adding vowels to the end of English words, as a columnist describing father–teenage son relationships seemed to think when he wrote, "Don't expect long, mano a mano talks." Mano a mano (literally, "hand to hand") originated with bullfighting and usually refers to a knock-down, drag-out direct confrontation.

You might say: Less

You might mean: Fewer

Why: In general, use fewer when you're specifying a number of countable things ("200 words or fewer"); reserve less for a mass ("less than half"). So when you're composing a tweet, do it in 140
characters or fewer, not less.

You never mean: Hone in

You always mean: Home in

Why: Like homing pigeons, we can be single-minded about finding our way to a point: "Scientists are homing in on the causes of cancer." Hone means "to sharpen": "The rookie spent the last three seasons honing his skills in the minor leagues." But it's easy to mishear m's and n's, which is probably what happened to the Virginia senator who said, "We've got to hone in on cost containment." If you're unsure, say "zero in" instead.

You might say: Bring

You might mean: Take

Why: The choice depends on your point of view. Use bring when you want to show motion toward you ("Bring the dog treats over here, please"). Use take to show motion in the opposite direction ("I have to take Rufus to the vet"). The rule gets confusing when the movement has nothing to do with you. In those cases, you can use either verb, depending on the context: "The assistant brought the shot to the vet" (the vet's point of view); "the assistant took the shot to the doctor" (the assistant's).

You might say: Who

You might mean: Whom

Why: It all depends. Do you need a subject or an object? A subject (who) is the actor of the sentence: "Who left the roller skates on the sidewalk?" An object (whom) is the acted-upon: "Whom are you calling?" Parents, hit the Mute button when Dora the Explorer shouts, "Who do we ask for help when we don't know which way to go?"

Part 2 next week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another Round Of Changes, Part 2

I was discussing changes last time and I left off with the move to the Osky radio station.

I hated radio sales. I vowed to never do something like that again because I hated having to depend on that kind of daily appointment schedule. By the end, I wasn’t really selling anything and I wanted to leave even before I was forced to resign.

Before that however, I joined the American Taekwondo Association and wow, talk about changes. I excelled and advanced and thoroughly enjoyed every change of rank and certification. ATA has been a constant throughout all the years of changes. The friendships I’ve made are priceless.

A series of jobs took me up to 1996 when I gained employment at the local newspaper. The stint lasted all but three years and when it was through, I regretted the change and still do to this day. I won’t go into details, except to say, if I had to do it over…

So, my night position has been a constant now for eleven long years. Nothing much changes here. I worked the night shift in Osky until the motel was sold, then just shifted fifteen miles west to the same position.

During this time, I’ve watched family members experience change. In careers, in marital status, in children.

I changed apartments in 2002 and found myself watching the revolving door of tenants, all of whom have been very interesting. Refer back to previous blogs about my neighbors for details.

In regards to my writing, I had written stories for many years, during the boring hours at the Kewanee radio station, off and on throughout the succeeding years and have spent countless hours during the nights shift scribbling untold numbers of pages of words. When I met Mike Manno, another change occurred. I became involved in writers’ critique groups. Refining and honing my writing skills, learning from mistakes, being hampered by rejection after rejection from agents and publishing houses, including, ahem, Echelon Press. But part of the wonderful changes was I met so many interesting people and started new friendships.

2009 brought another marvelous change as, after the Killer Nashville conference, Echelon Press accepted two of my books and after ten months, I have release dates for them both. Night Shadows is due out January 15, 2011 and Beta is scheduled for July 15, 2011. The upcoming changes are more travel time and appointments and speaking engagements and promotion and promotion and marketing and more marketing. These changes are anticipated, being planned, and I’m aching to get to them.

No change on the job front and that worries me a bit.

The location change for the taekwondo club was forced upon me and, once again, I wasn’t able to control the outcome. In one sense, I was, but in reality, the change had to come sooner or later.

Yes, I’m scared. I don’t know what to expect and I really don’t know what to do. There are several possibilities and I need to make time to think them through. I’m not as scared as I would be if I were to suddenly pack up and move to another city or state. I’ve been scared because for awhile, I didn’t have another place to go. I had a deadline that was fast approaching and I faced rejection after rejection on possible locations. Even though I managed to procure some space, I still have options out there waiting, and like I mentioned in the last post, with a little luck…

I do not like change. I’m set in my ways and I take awhile before I do something different. I don’t enjoy change being forced upon me.

I just try to make the best of it when it inevitably happens.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Another Round of Changes, Part 1

No, this is not a political post against our President, so all you liberals reading this just relax. I’m talking about changes in my life, current and upcoming.

By the time this is uploaded, Brayton’s Black Belt Academy, my taekwondo club, will have moved to a new facility. Since I took over the club back in 2003, we’ve been conducting classes at the local Y. I won’t go into all of the problems experienced throughout the last seven years-almost from day one-suffice it to say, I didn’t understand a lot of the lack of communications between several parties. But, no need to rehash trouble and promote ill will. This is about change.

Anyway, beginning September, 2010, the club changes locations and with a little luck, a little organization, a little student support, a little promotion, the club will reach new heights.

I admit, I’m scared. I’ve never liked change in the sense where I wasn’t allowed to think through matters, couldn’t control the outcome, or else didn’t have enough time to prepare myself. I don’t like to jump into anything too quickly, although there are exceptions.

I remember when my family moved from the Quad Cities to Danville. I’d had friends in East Moline, attended a fairly decent school, and suddenly I was stuck in small town Iowa. The school was smaller, the faces unfamiliar, the culture different from the urban setting I was used to. I had never known any other meaning of the word ‘combine’ except when two or more things are mixed. We had corn/bean fields behind and to the west of the house. I could ride my bicycle from one end of town to the other in fewer than five minutes. My graduating class in 1984 consisted of only thirty students.

But, I came to enjoy Danville. I cherish my classmates and miss the old two story house I called home for fifteen years. When I started attending Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, it was the first time away from home. I had responsibilities to further education and the changes were taken in stride because I was ready for them.

A big change came when I moved out on my own when I took a job in Kewanee, the self-proclaimed, ‘Hog Capital of the World.’ Almost two years at a radio station and had the boss not demoted me back to afternoons, I would have stayed longer.

Back home in Danville another major change was getting ready to happen. My parents were trying to decide to move to south-central Iowa because Dad had been hired at another bank. I was totally against the move. Danville was home, no matter where I was. But, I wasn’t in control of the situation and the writing was on the wall. I was cynical about the new town, and didn’t like the fact it was so far away from Danville. About the time my parents moved to Centerville, I took a sales job in Oskaloosa. Even though I hated the old house being sold, the move for mom and dad was the right thing for them and I don’t begrudge that. I still miss Danville a little.

Osky brought several changes throughout the years. New jobs every so often, a new apartment, new opportunities, new acquaintances.

I’ll discuss some of those changes next time.