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Homophonic divergence

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Another personal favorite part of this words-realm has to do with hearing words and writing them down as they sound. One of my many ways of keeping the bills paid (or within reach) involves the scoring of standardized tests, from all over the country and from school-grade levels ranging from third grade well into high school (I try to make a practice of avoiding terms like “9th” through “12th” as grades, referring to high-schoolers; the less treadmill an “education” is, the better). One of the fun parts of those gigs is reading papers with creative spellings, where some kid knows a word (and often even uses it properly), but has never knowingly seen it in print, so it can take one of us “readers” several moments to decipher the intentions from the context.

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The pause that refreshes

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OK, today I’ve gotta jump in about ellipses and m-dashes (and while we’re at it, how about parentheses?) . . . [or brackets?] . . .

I’m frankly getting a bit tired of reading things online, no matter what the topic, and finding a virtual forest of “m-dashes” in every paragraph. That’s what they call the double-length “bar” (looks like a hyphen with a thyroid problem) so many people seem to think goes… well, pretty much anywhere you want it to in a paragraph.

I know that the “style guides” today are claiming there’s only that one way to punctuate this, whether it’s   a digression, a pause, an interruption in a dialogue — or anything else that breaks the flow! Most seem to claim this can only be a “—” (that m-dash thing). As for me, I think each form of visual punctuation (since none of this affects the grammar all that much) has its place:

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How can an editor help?

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Okay, I’ve got at least a few of you hooked up now, wondering what will next flow onto this blog-page. It’s time for a little pitch — no, not a heavy one,  just the subtle type. Today, I want to address the purpose of finding an editor, if you’re thinking about trying to write something for publication.

Generally speaking, there are at least four ways an editor can help:

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More or less, or…?

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Here’s a little lesson about differences—in quantity and quality. When you have an excess of something, you always have more of it; when it is diminished, though, there are two terms to describe the situation.

If you’re referring to a quality (love, admiration, respect, etc.) or a similar abstract entity, something that can’t really be quantified, you do indeed have less of it as it reduces or wears away. You can love less, admire less, or have less respect for someone. Something can also be of less importance than something else.

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How does he know this stuff?

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Some of you might be wondering by now where the heck I come up with these topics and entries. Some of it’s pretty obvious, but some …???

Well, I do declare these are mostly coming off the top of my head as I tackle the topic at hand. However, I will also confess to having several favorite sources I consult (whether for clarification or just amusement), when I’m pondering what to address next in these blog-entries.

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Contra-punctual rhythms, part 1

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Here’s the first of a series on punctuation (not necessarily appearing one right after the other). Let’s call this one high (school) colonics

I almost never used to see this, but over the last decade or so, I run across a steady stream… of semicolons (;) being used where a colon (:) should belong.

[Meanwhile, I advise watching out when you’re writing in Word, and try to put a single typed character in parentheses; before I went back to fix it, that one had been turned into a danged smiley J!]

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Do your openings fare well?

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Here’s one that doesn’t really bother me when I see it in print, since it is not technically a grammatical error. However, when I see it happen in a manuscript I’m editing, I’m more likely than not going to Comment on it to the author, and suggest alternatives to make the prose a bit better. I refer to the tendency of far too many writers to end a sentence, and then essentially tack another piece onto it, beginning the new sentence with “and,” “but” or “so” (and yes, before I get any farther, my apologies to both Jackson Browne and Michael Johnson for that execrable wordplay in the title …).

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