Just Don’t Get a Ticket

As I was reading the other day, I came across the phrase speeded up.  By now you know my affinity for words and all things word related, so you’ll understand my reaction of sitting bolt upright.  Not only did the phrase not sound correct, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it used that way nor have I used it myself.  Naturally, this sent me to the laptop to check in with some of my favorite grammar websites.

As it turns out, neither sped nor speeded is more correct as they are both standard variations of the verb to speed.  In many old English reference books, the rule is that speeded works only in the past tense phrasal verb speeded up such as I had read.  What I found amusing is that I usually lean toward those archaic/dated words and phrases, but obviously not in this particular instance.

Today writers use what they think sounds best.  Speeded is often used without up whereas sped is used with up or alone.  Also, sped is more common than speeded these days which, according to some sites, makes it the safer choice.  In either case, be consistent when writing.

Quote vs. Quotation

Today’s The Weight of Words came about because I was looking up the proper usage of single and double quotes and came across a debate on the words quote versus quotation.  I wish I could find the original article as the author thereof was quite adamant about not using them interchangeably.  Articles I’ve found since have been a lot more lenient but no less informative.

I’m also featuring this today because I’m using it to launch Quotation Station.  It’s been on my mind for some time as I read books and perused the Internet to share quotations I came across that struck me as intelligent, wise, funny, poignant, relevant to writing, or any combination thereof.  My goal is to feature three posts a week, but I feel as if I’m leaving my followers hanging over the weekend.  Quotation Station will be a sincere handshake as we part company from Friday to Monday to relax from the hectic week.

Per Richard Nordquist writing for ThoughtCo.:

In formal English, quotation is a noun (as in “a quotation from Shakespeare”) and quote is a verb (“She likes to quote Shakespeare”).  However, in everyday speech and informal English, quote is often treated as a shortened form of quotation.

The noun quotation refers to a group of words taken from a text or speech and repeated by someone other than the original author or speaker.

  • direct quotation is a report of the exact words of an author or speaker. Direct quotations are placed inside quotation marks.
  • An indirect quotation is a paraphrase of someone else’s words:  it reports on what a person said without using his or her exact words.  Indirect quotations are not placed inside quotation marks.

The verb quote means to repeat a group of words originally written or spoken by another person. In informal speech and writing, quote is sometimes used as a shortened form of the noun quotation.

Nordquist, Richard. “What’s the Difference Between the Words “Quotation” and “Quote”?” ThoughtCo. N.p., 03 May 2017. Web.

For examples, usage notes, and practice enjoy reading the article in its entirety here:  “What’s the Difference Between the Words “Quotation” and “Quote”?

Be Sure About the Word You Choose, Friend

Today’s The Weight of Words is one I see botched on social media (between confident and confidant) and in writing (between confidant and confidante).  By now you probably think your eyes are playing tricks on you, so allow me to expound with definitions to assist with choosing the correct word.

Confident:

feeling or showing confidence in oneself; self-assured

                                He was a confident, assertive person.

feeling or showing certainty about something

She was confident she had made the correct decision.

Confidant:

a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to others

George trusted his brother as the perfect confidant since Ralph had never betrayed his secrets before.

Confidante:

a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to others

Did you notice there is no difference between the definitions of confidant without the E and with the E?  Here’s why:  strict grammarians reserve confidant for males and confidante for females.

This may not be a big issue in writing today where so many rules are often thrown to the wind, but for someone writing historical fiction, especially if the passage is a letter wherein the word is used, how much more realistic would it be to use the proper spelling of the word?  Besides, who wouldn’t want to expand their knowledge of words, definitions, and spellings with such useful tips as those provided above?

Now for the monkey wrench that is the English language:  the archaic definition of confident (spelled with an E) is confidant (spelled with an A, see above definition).  You gotta love second, third, and archaic definitions!  My advice is to stick with the first three so as not to confuse yourself.

Word Refiner Extraordinaire

One of the best parts of an author platform is making new connections that turn into friends.  Such was the case with fellow word nerd, Mark Schultz, of Word Refiner.  The Weight of Words, found in my Writing Toolbox, is all about the complexities of words.  I believe this is what caught Mark’s eye and started the conversation between us.  With that being said, it just made sense to feature Mark and Word Refiner on my blog.  Without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce Mark Schultz and his homonym-sniffing sidekick, Grizz.

Hello and welcome!  Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I have been married for over forty years to my wife (she is a keeper).  We have three kids, girl-boy-girl, who are now ‘adulting’ quite well, and three beautiful granddaughters who we love and see frequently.

What has your experience been?

I am a journeyman sheet metal worker and a journeyman HVAC service technician.  I work outdoors a great deal and love it most of the time.  I had nearly twenty years of experience in retail before I launched into construction.  I like helping people.

Did your work experience lead to the creation of Word Refiner?

No, but my love of reading led me in that direction.  I have been a super reader all of my life.  Reading is one of my favorite things to do.  During my college years, I worked as a proofreader for a firm of consulting engineers, proofing specifications and contract documents.  This was in the dark ages before the Internet, before computers, cell phones, and calculators.  The new exciting thing was correction paper for a typewriter.  That is the only experience in the industry.  But I was alerted to the fact that I was really good at finding all types of spelling errors, including homonyms, typographical errors, missing words, misplaced words, and multiple words.  I was better at it than everyone else in the department.

How did you develop your passion for words/spelling?

I read some books, then I read some more books, and more books, and … you get the idea.  I have read many thousands of books in my life.  In college or at work I had three books I was reading at the same time:  one for home, one on the bus, and one at school or work.  I read very widely as a boy and an adult.  I was very bored growing up on a small, non-working farm.  I had only my younger sisters and baby brother to play with.  I devoured encyclopedias and spent many happy hours in a twenty pound dictionary.  Relatives sent me books for birthdays and holidays.  I read my parents magazines and loved Reader’s Digest.  I read very widely and loved every minute of it, no matter how many times I had to go to the dictionary.  I also checked many books out of the school and public library.

So, you’re an avid reader?   What do you enjoy reading?

At the moment, I am in the middle of Paul Cude’s Bentwhistle the Dragon, Volume One, in between book reviews.  I am reading this for fun and have found it quite enjoyable.  My favorite genres are sci-fi and fantasy, but I have come to appreciate good writing in whatever genre.  I have read some great cozy murders, historical fiction, and romantic stories.

When did you decide to create Word Refiner?

Many years ago, a friend was writing a book.  He sent me his tenth draft.  It was typewritten and double-spaced.  He liked my suggestions a lot, and I proofed for him for many years after that.  I started looking for other authors and found it very hard to meet them.  I had the concept in mind for a long time, but could not connect with very many authors.  I advertised on Craig’s List for several years with a little bit of success.  I found it really hard to connect with authors on Facebook and some other social media portals.  When I looked into Twitter, I realized I had struck pay dirt.

How does a client contact you?

I can be contacted on Twitter of course: @wordrefiner.  I can also be reached at my website: Word Refiner, and by email: wordrefiner@yahoo.com.

How does Word Refiner work?  What is the process?

While it is detailed on my website, here are the basics. I offer a free evaluation of a manuscript whether fiction or nonfiction.  My skill is in spelling, so I tell a client that I can provide the best value after all the editing and rewriting is done.  When the client thinks the book is ready to be published, I should be the last set of fresh eyes.  I ask for a section from the middle of the book, two to three thousand words.  I go through it and provide the estimate based on the density of errors in the sample.  My pricing is based on word count and starts at $3.00 per thousand words; as the number of errors increases, so does my price.  If we agree on the project, they send me the entire book in a format compatible with MS Word 2013.

What does a client receive from you?

I use the commenting feature in Word; I do not make any changes in the book.  There is a sample of what that looks like on my website:  Learn More.  If I find a weird formatting error, such as a line cut off in the middle and moved down, I will fix that for continuity reasons.  Otherwise, I believe in a hands-off approach.  I want the author to be able to see exactly what they wrote and consider my suggestions.  If any particular suggestion is not liked, then no harm is done.  While I am not a full editor, I do offer suggestions for readability, plot points, and technical details where warranted.  Many authors have been very grateful for my suggestions.  I know a little about a lot of things.  I am a super reader and the Hyper-speller. I know my strengths and don’t stray too far from that sweet spot.  When I send the book back, I have changed the name of the file.  I keep the original file as received for safety purposes.

Do you specialize in one type of book:  fiction or non-fiction?   Do you work on promotional materials, programs, brochures?

I can do all of the above and more.  My specialty is words.  If it has words I can read, I am there.  I am also cognizant of the differences that can exist in British English and Australian English.  I have clients in many parts of the world.

Can you tell us some of the titles you’ve worked on?

I have worked on quite a few books.  The full list is at Books We Have Refined.  I would like to mention the books of one of my favorite authors, Diane Munier: Darnay Road, Deep In The Heart of Me, Finding My Thunder, and most recently, Bayah and the Ex-con.  The first three were done post-publication.

Any favorite words?

My favorite group of homonyms is rite, write, right, and wright.  It is the longest group of homonyms I know.  I would love to find more of equal or greater length.  I also heard a phrase on a BBC production: “insalubrious morass” was a bit of dialog and stuck in my ear.  I relished the sound of it and feel in my mouth.  It means an unhealthy, swampy area.

Word(s) you see misspelled most often?

From and Form come to mind first.  Their, there, and they’re are also very common.  There are so many homonyms that can be mixed up, and typos are created so easily.  I know because my fingers are pretty sloppy on the keyboard.

Is Word Refiner your dream job?

Yes!  Getting paid to read books is my dream job!

How do you see Word Refiner growing?

I am one person; I have not found anyone that can do what I do for the price I charge.  My rates are very reasonable.

So this is a solo operation?

It is the three of us:  me, myself, and I.  Let’s not forget Grizz.  Call it 1 ½.

Is there any truth to the rumor that Grizz has 51% controlling interest in the business?

I have defeated his proxy attempts a couple of times now.  I am not sure he has given up.

Three for the Price of One

In a previous post, I said how I’m a big fan of second and third definitions.  Turns out, I’m a fan of first definitions and spellings, too!  This is probably what prompted a friend to refer to me as a word nerd, a truth I readily admitted and took as a compliment.

With that being said, today’s The Weight of Words deals with poor, pour, and pore.  I tripped up on this one myself when I typed the phrase “poured over a book.”  My internal editor waved her red flag, and the word nerd in me saw an opportunity to share some knowledge.

Definitions and sample sentences for pour include:

(especially of a liquid) flow rapidly in a steady stream

“rain poured off the roof”

cause (a liquid) to flow from a container in a steady stream by holding the container at an angle

“she poured a little milk into a glass”

prepare and serve (a drink)

“he poured a cup of coffee”

Clearly, based on these definitions, one does not pour over a book.

Definitions and sample sentences for pore include:

a minute opening in a surface, especially the skin or integument of an organism, through which gases, liquids, or microscopic particles can pass

“wash your face to keep your pores clean”

be absorbed in the reading or study of

“Kathleen spent hours poring over cookbooks”

archaic

think intently; ponder

“when he has thought and pored on it”

And there is it, the second definition of pore is the one I wanted.  As a sidebar, don’t you just love the archaic, third definition.  What a great word to include in historical writing.

Even though I found the correct spelling for my sentence, the word nerd in me is including poor just to clear up any confusion.  Consider this one a freebie.

Definitions and sample sentences for poor include:

lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society

“people who were too poor to afford a telephone”

worse than is usual, expected, or desirable; of a low or inferior standard or quality

“her work was poor”

Say What?

Today’s The Weight of Words focuses on words I’ve encountered while reading. Although I haven’t used them in my writing, I want to share them because 1.) There may come a day when I do use them, and 2.) They are too interesting to pass up. At first glance, you’ll probably think I’ve lost my mind when I tell you the words I want to share are diaper, peculiar, and buss. And no, that last one is not misspelled.

I had to visit the dictionary myself on the first one, and I almost laughed aloud when I read it in a novel about Italian architecture and art. Obviously, it had nothing to do with a garment worn by babies. This fact further spurred my interest because I am a huge fan of second and third definitions. Sure enough, whether used as a noun or verb, the second definition of diaper has to do with a repeating geometric pattern.

And then there is the word peculiar. Most people can’t seem to get past the first definition of strange, odd, or unusual. One place they love to show their knowledge of the word is in the verse from the KJV version of Deuteronomy 14:2 which states, “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”

Then for less than kind reasons, they support their so-called command of English by pointing out Jewish holy days and traditions. News flash: every culture has events that may seem odd until you understand them. I suggest allowing your fingers to tiptoe down to the second definition of peculiar, which means belonging exclusively to, and you’ll see how much more sense Deuteronomy 14:2 makes especially when you consider the Jews’ history with El Shaddai.

So, let’s finish this post with a little buss ride! Bad joke, I know, but what a great word to use in your writing especially if you write historical fiction. I had to dig a little the first time I went looking for this word. I even asked a friend who reads classical literature extensively, but she couldn’t tell me either. Nothing came up right away, however, Google has caught up to our needs in the couple of years that have passed since I first sought a definition. This archaic, informal word can be used as a noun meaning a kiss or a verb meaning to kiss.

While You’re At It…

Some days I honestly do not know how foreigners learn English. If I as an English-speaking American (Brits, please hold your snarky comments) find it quirky, what must someone from Pakistan, Thailand, or Ethiopia think?

Take today’s The Weight of Words for example: a while versus awhile. My favorite grammar sources agree with what I’m about to present, however, there are a couple that disagree. I’m siding with the majority on this one because one has to draw the line somewhere, and in most cases, rules really are for the writer’s benefit.

When describing a time, which is a noun, use a while. How do you know it’s a noun? The article a before while is the tip off. Also, if you can replace a while with another article/noun combination such as a week, then you should be using the two-word combo of a and while.

I’ve been here a while

I’ve been here a week.

As for awhile, it’s used as an adverb and means for a time. To know if the single word is the choice for your sentence, try replacing it with another adverb.

Go rest awhile.

Go rest quietly.

Think you got it? Good, let’s make it confusing, because what is English if not confusing? Try rephrasing Go rest awhile by replacing the adverb with a prepositional phrase. Now you need the noun again because an adverb cannot be the object of a preposition.

Go rest awhile. (The adverb modifies the verb.)

Go rest for a while. (The article and noun are the object of the preposition.)

In short, an easy way to remember is to use a while when you need a noun and awhile when you need an adverb. Remember to test your sentence with other nouns (a week, a day) and adverbs (temporarily, silently) to determine which is correct at the moment.

One Little Letter Makes All the Difference

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1950s:  Businessman with worried expression.  (Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Today’s The Weight of Words is one I’ve seen popping up with some frequency on Facebook. I’m sure it was a simple error in typing and not a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge that led to the misuse of then when what the person really meant was than. But just in case, let’s revisit exactly when, how, and where one would use then and than.

When considering which word to use, remember then, mainly an adverb, deals with the element of time. Think what comes next or after and apply then to the sequence of events. It can also be used in Ifthen constructions. Don’t forget using then as a noun meaning that time (fifth example) and as an adjective meaning at that time (sixth example).

EXAMPLES:

I’ll mow the grass and then I’ll play golf.

We watched television and then we went to bed.

She made dinner and then her family ate it.

If you don’t complete your chores, then you aren’t going to your friend’s house.

I wanted lunch at 11:30, but then was not a good time.

My then sister-in-law stays in touch with me since the divorce.

 

Than, a conjunction, is used when comparing things. Think instead or rather. A choice may be involved.

EXAMPLES:

I’d rather play golf than mow the grass.

We prefer watching television than going to bed.

She’d opt for dining out rather than making dinner for the family.

 

Also keep in mind than has no one-word synonyms whereas then has many synonyms that can be used as replacements except in Ifthen constructions where then is usually required when paired with if.

None For You!

none-for-youIn an effort to stave off the dumbing down of the English language, today’s The Weight of Words focuses on the versatile word none.

None can have a plural sense as in not any as well as a singular sense, not a single one. When followed by of, you need to assess the object of the preposition (the noun in the of phrase). If the object of the preposition is singular, then a singular verb is in order. If the object of the preposition is plural, one has some flexibility with verb choice. Mostly, but not always, you will use the plural verb.

For example:

None of the cake was eaten. (Cake is singular, so use a singular verb.)

None of the puppies were sleeping. (Puppies is plural, so use a plural verb. However, with English, that ever-fickle mistress, when none denotes not a single one, it is also correct to say, “None of the puppies was sleeping.”)

Confused yet?

When writing your sentence, remember there is an implied noun that answers the question, “None of what?” Again, if that noun is singular, none requires a singular verb. If that noun is plural, it is up to you as the writer and the sense you are trying to convey in your sentence that determines whether or not none requires a singular verb or a plural verb.

For example:

None was eaten. (None of the cake was eaten.)

None were sleeping. (None of the puppies were sleeping. But you as the writer may prefer was as in, “Not a single one of the puppies was sleeping.”)

Somewhere along the way, the myth that none is solely singular appeared. Not only is this incorrect based on what I presented above, but it’s up to you, dear writer, to decide if your context is singular or plural. Now you have the information required to defend your choice.

Read This Quickly

read-this-quicklyIn junior high school I had a wonderful English teacher who I remember for her out-of-the-box red hair and amazing blue eyes. I don’t believe colored contacts had been invented yet, so despite the hair, she gets a ten for those eyes.

There are actually many great things I remember about her, except her name, and one of those things is how and when to use –ly when writing and speaking. Mrs. What’s Her Name always used the example of “I feel badly,” and then she would pretend to touch stuff on her desk as if she’d been on a three-day drunk. It was hilarious, and it got the point across.

So, today’s The Weight of Words is devoted to Mrs. Boy I Wish I Could Remember Her Name and what a little –ly can do, or not do, for your writing.

Let’s start at that point when you’re wondering whether or not to add an –ly to your word by taking a moment to refresh on adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns. They may come before the word they describe: “That is an adorable kitten.” Adjectives may also follow the word they describe: “That kitten is adorable.” Adverbs modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. If an adverb answers how and can have an –ly attached to it, place it there.

Examples:

She walks quickly.

We sang poorly.

He moves fast.

But wait, you say…there’s no –ly on fast in that last sentence. You are correct: Fast may be either an adjective or an adverb. In this example, fast answers how she thinks. Besides, there is no such word as fastly.

As for comparing, don’t drop the –ly, simply add more or less to your sentence.

Example:

Earl speaks more loudly than Joe.

Now for a tricky rule courtesy of our peculiar English grammar: if the verb is one of these four senses—taste, smell, look, feel—don’t ask how. Instead, ask if the sense verb is used actively. If so, attach the –ly. If the sense verb is not used actively, which is more common, don’t attach –ly.

Examples:

Perfume smells sweet. Does perfume actively smell with a nose? No, so no –ly.

The dog looked angry. Is the dog actively looking with its eyes? No, only its appearance is being described. So, no –ly.

She feels bad about the news. She is not feeling with fingers, so no –ly.

She feels badly since burning her fingers. She feels with her fingers here, so the adverb (–ly form) is used.

That last ridiculous sentence is in honor of Mrs. If Only I Could Remember Her Name.

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