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Effective usage, without the affectations

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Oh boy, it’s time for another “homophone” lesson, this time regarding the never-ending battle between “effect” and “affect.” I would have saved this, if I hadn’t noticed (Horrors! In the Christian Science Monitor?) the following sentence, regarding tropical-storm-now-Hurricane Isaac and its possible positive side-effects:

“It could also add needed water to the river systems that drain into the Mississippi. And by adding moisture to the air, the storm may also set the stage for more rain in the future in some drought-effected areas.” 

Quickly now, where is the error here? Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

Time’s up, although you should know just from the topic of today’s blog: it should read “drought-affected areas” . . . as in “areas affected by drought.” (A small case might be made that this was an attempt by the journalist or typesetter to call those areas “drought-effected” because they were in a sense “created or produced by the effects of the drought” . . . I’m not buyin’ it!)

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More homophones diverging

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I guess it’s time to talk about more of those “soundalike” words that people continue to confuse; in the game of phonics and such, they’re called “homophones.” Let’s begin with one I just encountered (used wrongly, and by a published writer) in a Facebook post:

Peak vs. peek: If I want to say something or someone has ducked behind the sofa, or some other object, and is now lifting her head just up to eye-level, I’d say that person was “peeking up from behind the sofa.”

If I wanted to describe the action as reaching its highest point, I’d say the person was “peaking at the top of her ascent.”

The two words sound the same, but they mean entirely different things, and are just as incorrect as using “you’re” as a possessive, or “your” as the substitute for “you are.”

And now to the next item . . .

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What about ‘myself”?

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Let’s play with another old bugaboo today. This one’s related to the “between you and …” confusion I dealt with pretty extensively in a previous entry. This time, though, I want to address the tendency to use “myself” where “me” is the logical spot. How shall I put this simply? . . . You should not!

The gaffe to which I’m referring is the use of this reflexive pronoun where it just doesn’t need to be. For example, folks nowadays may refer to their own opinions this way:

“As for myself, I prefer spicy foods.”

It’s perfectly fine to use “me” in these cases; in fact, it’s more properly correct:

“As for me, I prefer spicy foods.”

(You could also say: “Personally, I prefer spicy foods.” A real stickler might point out the redundancy of saying “as for me” or “personally” . . . and then “I.” We’ll let that one go for now. . . .)

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Contra-punctual rhythms (part 2):

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This entry addresses hyphens—no, not the ones at the end of a line of type trying to look “justified” (now there’s a loaded word if there ever was one), the ones that make a person with a touch of dyslexia go absolutely mad trying to put the letters into some sensible order—I mean the ones used in compound words and modifiers, and where you don’t know whether to make it two words, a single one, one with a hyphen in the middle . . . or just go find another bloody word! I think I’ll call it … Hyphenavigation!

There’s really no hard-and-fast rule here. Some say that whenever you have a two-word phrase modifying the next word (usually two adjectives before a noun) you should hyphenate the modifiers (e.g., “bright-red sky,” “high-school student“ or “mid-level manager”).

On the other hand, there are those who reserve this treatment for those situations where—well, without a hyphen the sentence is just ambiguous.

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A light-hearted entry

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I saw this one a while back, and when it appeared on Facebook I just had to pass it along:

The use of the term “Grammar Nazi” is a bit unfortunate, but if it helps educate even one person, I think it will have been worth it!

Which side of the Big Ditch?

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Since the 2012 Summer Olympics are now winding down in London town, perhaps it’s time for a little lesson on comparative grammatical conventions. Not everyone knows this, but there are number of things that America and Great Britain do NOT have in common, even in the language they purportedly share.

For one example, the convention for quotation marks used with punctuation is quite different: in American stylebooks, the quote-mark at the end of a sentence comes after the period, as well as after a comma. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Big Ditch, Englanders and others will hold the punctuation until the end of the quote, including its closing quotation-mark.  So we get this structure:

“I asked him politely to please shut up,” said the businessman. (American)

“I asked him politely to please shut up”, said the businessman. (British)

Nobody has ever been able to explain to me why the more awkward-looking American construction ever got that way; however, every stylebook or grammarian will tell you the same thing: the comma or period goes before the end- quote mark.

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Close encounters of the . . . nicer kind

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I got my first connection with an existing blog about words and our “native tongue” . . . Seems like only fair to share the link:

Terribly Write

As you can see, the proprietor of said site has roughly as wacked a sense of humor and punsterhood as I do, if not moreso. It turns out (near as I can tell) she’s a former Yahoo! Editor, and has for the most part focused her guns on the many slipups and errors that show up on that page’s news stories, using them as examples of what is so prevalent everywhere else.

Anyway, I’m still working on a new post of my own, but thought maybe my few readers might like a look at the work of someone who’s been at this a while. (Not that I haven’t; long before I started this little blog, I was editing and writing somewhere or other—why when you were still just a . . .  SPUTTER! MUMBLE! . . . )

See ya again soon . . .

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