Beware of non-words

Grammar Cop has cited writers in the past for using words that aren’t words. Irregardless is one, although it’s widely used and accepted (much to Grammar Cop’s dismay). Reoccur is another. Neither is a real word, but writers use irregardless and reoccur instead of regardless and recur.

Here’s another. Unthaw. The word is  thaw.  Unthaw isn’t a real word. If it were, it would be a synonym for freeze. Supposeably isn’t a word, either. Supposedly is.

Watch out for those pesky non-standard words. When in doubt, check a reliable dictionary.

It’s Unprofessional

It’s a little thing, but it disturbs me. Why why why can’t otherwise educated people spell the possessive form of it correctly? THERE IS NO APOSTROPHE! This morning, I received an emailed health bulletin to which I subscribe touting the benefits of a particular mineral. When I reached the last paragraphs, I read:
it’s amazing benefits…

It’s a little thing, but it isn’t a typo. It’s a spelling error. Why send out professional letters or print promotional material if you can’t spell correctly? It makes the issuer appear unprofessional. The fact that many readers accept or ignore the spelling error is particularly disturbing.

Grammar Cop is citing this offender. I now worry what other areas of the company’s output is sloppy or suspect. Before you comment that Grammar Cop is a nut job, please know that this isn’t the first offense for this publication. Everyone is entitled to a second chance, but I’ve seen it repeatedly.

ITS is the possessive form. IT’S is a contraction.

End of rant.

Dangling Participles?

Writers, do your editors red-mark you for dangling participles? Or do you have a grammar cop critique partner who cites you for a dangler? Have no fear. Grammar Cop is here.

First, know what is meant by participle. A participle is a verb behaving as an adjective…sort of. For example, in the sentence Sensing that she was stressed, I kept my mouth shut, the phrase Sensing that she was stressed modifies the pronoun and serves as an adjective. Yet the phrase also reveals the “why” of the subject’s behavior, serving as an adverb. Regardless of the participle’s label, it modifies the subject of the sentence. That’s crucial for writers to remember when self-editing.

The trouble arises when the participle doesn’t modify the subject. It’s left dangling. For example, Sensing she was stressed, a hush fell over the room.  Seems absurd, right? The room can’t sense her feelings of stress. The people in the room might, if the writer is using third-person omniscient point of view.

My pet peeve is the participle growing up. Be careful or you might commit a gaffe like Growing up, my parents didn’t know where our next meal would come from. or Growing up, there was no remote control for the television. Growing up is a dangling participle in either example. The subject of the sentence is not modified by the participle.

Participles are useful when applied correctly. Just don’t let yours dangle.

It’s not that difficult!

Grammar Cop has been on hiatus, but now she’s back and on a familiar rant. Apostrophes! Stop using apostrophes incorrectly. It isn’t that difficult. 

Do NOT use apostrophes for pronoun possessives: hers, his, yours, ours, theirs, its. 

Do NOT use apostrophes (except in cases of acronyms) for plural: ATMs or ATM’s 

It’s is a contraction of it and is. Its is the possessive of it. It’s not that difficult!

Rant over.

Flout and Flaunt

Two verbs writers occasionally confuse are flout and flaunt. They may look similar, but they aren’t synonyms.

Flaunt means to show off.  She flaunted her wealth by driving her Mercedes convertible everywhere.

Flout means to scorn or show contempt. She flouted the traffic laws with her excessive speeding. (Flout can be used also as a noun meaning scornful insult, but I’ve seen only Shakespeare do it.)

Next time you’re tempted to write She flouted her wealth, be sure you mean she scorned it. Otherwise, change to She flaunted her wealth.

Happy writing!

Are you tryptophantastic?

Dictionaries are updated almost daily now, and I find the new words fascinating. For instance, tryptophantastic. Spelling checkers underline it, yet it’s an acceptable adjective meaning contentedly drowsy or sleepy, particularly after eating turkey. I know this feeling!

As an RVer, I’ve long struggled with the correct spelling of motor home. Or is it motorhome? I’ve seen it both ways. As it turns out, motorhome is now acceptable as a compound word. Great news for dealers and manufacturers who’ve spelled it as one word for years, right?

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Now if the Lexicographers of the English language will accept bakeware as a compound word, I’ll be happy. Why is cookware acceptable and  bakeware not? I’ll check again tomorrow. 😉