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.

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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. 😉

 

You’re entitled to title

The Grammar Cop has a list of infractions most annoying. You’ve read most of them in this blog, everything from its vs. it’s to non-words irregardless and reoccurring. Another is the misuse of the word entitle.

Today on Facebook I read a post about a new song entitled ________. A song is titled. It isn’t entitled. If you write a book, you or your publisher title it. According to your contract with your publisher, you are entitled to royalties. You don’t entitle your book.

Writers confuse the words title and entitle because they don’t understand their meanings. To title means to give a name. One titles their songs, stories, pictures, etc. 


Entitle means give. You’re entitled to your opinion means you have a right to your point of view. 

Resist the slang. Use the words properly.

INFORMALLY SPEAKING

Remember my rant about “like” as a dialog tag? 

The following is not an example of a dialog tag and should never be used in writing (And I wish it was never used. Period!):

“She was like, ‘why am I here?’ and I’m like “you’re the bridesmaid. You have to help pick out the dress.’ And she’s like, ‘It’s your wedding. Pick what you want.’ and I’m like, ‘It’s your dress. I want your input.’ And she’s like, “Girl, it’s not as if I’ll ever wear it again. I have, like, a dozen bridesmaids’ dresses hanging in my closet now that I wore one time.’”

Yuck! I definitely don’t like reading this passage of dialog!

My advice works if you’re writing formal fiction or a business document, but what about chick lit? (Or any contemporary fiction aimed at the younger adult population?) Well, my friend, my advice is out the window. 

In fiction writing, you write what works. Stream of consciousness, first person, bad grammar, popular slang, whatever, as long as you do so intentionally.

The Grammar Cop may give you a warning, but she won’t cite you for a grammar infraction if said infraction fits the voice of your character or story.

However, if you want to write formal and proper dialog, please review my post from two years ago about dialog tags.

Are Reticent and Reluctant Synonyms?

Recent posts have been about misused and misunderstood words, inspired by the American Heritage Dictionaries* editors.Here’s another to add to your vocabulary: reticent and reluctant.

Are reticent and reluctant synonyms? Well…yes and no. Remember my rant about decimate? The term that technically refers to removing one/tenth of a given population has evolved in usage as a synonym for annihilate. Usage has confused the word reticent, too.

Reticent people are reserved, especially among strangers. They may be reluctant to talk about themselves, but that doesn’t make them reluctant in all things.

So don’t apply the adjective reticent when you mean reluctant. I am not reticent, but I’m reluctant to gamble large amounts of money in a casino.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention remiss, another word often confused with reluctant. Remiss means negligent or careless. If you’re remiss in your job duties, it may be because you’re reluctant to perform the work, but the two words aren’t synonymous. 

*Houghton Mifflin Books, 2004:100 words almost everyone confuses & misuses