Editor Afloat

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Fast Grammar: Most Perfect? No.

An adjective, remember, is a word that describes a noun or pronoun. “His new car is blue.” “She’s a happy baby.” An absolute adjective is an adjective with a meaning that is generally not capable of being intensified or compared. Also known as a non-gradable adjective, these words convey their own limits. Words such as “perfect” or “dead” are absolute adjectives. Although “most perfect” is often heard in today’s conversational English, it is not technically correct. You cannot be “less dead” or “slightly married”. Your test answers are either “true” or “false”. Here is a list of words that generally stand as non-gradable adjectives:

  • absolute
  • adequate
  • alive
  • complete
  • dead
  • divorced
  • empty
  • entire
  • equal
  • essential
  • eternal
  • extraneous
  • false
  • fatal
  • final
  • finite
  • first
  • full
  • ideal
  • imperfect
  • impossible
  • incomplete
  • inevitable
  • infinite
  • known
  • last
  • main
  • married
  • minor
  • non-essential
  • not fatal
  • not ideal
  • not pregnant
  • not unique
  • not universal
  • perfect
  • possible
  • preferable
  • pregnant
  • principal
  • round (or other shape)
  • separated (marital status)
  • single (marital status)
  • sufficient
  • true
  • unanimous
  • unavoidable
  • unequal
  • unique
  • universal
  • unknown
  • whole
  • widowed

This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you the idea. Exception: Some adjectives such as “nearly” and “almost” can sometimes be used to demonstrate attainment of a near-absolute state.

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Impressions

“I can tell you’re a cowgirl by your boots.”

Black Western cowboy boots on a white background

Black Western cowboy boots (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Oh?” I looked down at my forgotten-brand-name work boots. They were slathered with a fresh coat of wet mud. The bottom half of my Gore-Tex gaiters were also filthy, with splatters of mud running all the way up to my knees where the gaiters ended.  I wear those to protect the legs of my jeans from becoming irreparably stained by the mud and general ranch-life abuse.

She continued, “I’m such a town-girl. I lease Griffin so I can ride him twice a week, but I don’t get involved with the chores out here. I would have tried very hard to find a way around the mud to put that horse out in the round corral. You just walked right through it. ”

I looked at Kathy’s boots and smiled. Her riding boots were frighteningly clean for someone who was standing in the middle of a barnyard in the pouring rain.

“I grew up in a barn,” was my reply. “I guess you get used to it after a while. I do change into my sneakers before I get in my pickup. Don’t like taking the mud home.”

Her assessment wasn’t unkind. It was based on what she knows of me. For the past year, Kathy has seen me two times a week. I am always handling a horse or mucking out stalls or feeding or doing some other chore. I dress the part; I do the work. In her mind, this makes me the real deal – a cowgirl.

I tell this story to point out that the way we speak, and for us writers, what we put down on paper – or the screen – for the whole world to see, whether we write short stories, blogs, poems, novels, whatever our specialty, our words make the impressions by which people decide if we’re the ‘real deal’ or not.  Taking the time to learn a few grammar and spelling rules (or learning to use a spell-checker) can turn a ho-hum script into a page-turner. I’m not saying you have to use two-dollar words at every turn, especially when a fifty-center will do, but if you want to write something extraordinary, then don’t sound ordinary. Most online dictionaries offer a listing of synonyms, as well. Look through that list, see if there isn’t a word that paints a better picture of the scene, emotion, or event you are attempting to portray. Writers are readers. Purposely skip the story-line in a few books and focus on the descriptions. Pick out the ones that made clear images in your mind and try to follow that path in your own writing. It’s a step to becoming a top-selling author – the “real deal”! 🙂

 


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Fast Grammar – try…

Here’s another quickie reminder for you! It’s a phrase that seems to be tripping up many of us in our writing lately. Once again, it’s not that we don’t know this, but rather, we’re just a bit lazy and perhaps not paying perfect attention to our sentence structure.

Consider this sentence: “Tomorrow, the boys are going to try and move the fallen tree.” The word and is a conjunction, which simply means it joins two thoughts, actions, or phrases together. Split in half, we have, “Tomorrow, the boys are going to try.” AND, “Tomorrow the boys are going to move the fallen tree.” Two separate and complete actions. The correct sentence should be, “Tomorrow, the boys are going to try to move the fallen tree.” All focus is on the effort of cleaning up the apparent mess.

Simple and fast! – get your Fast Grammar here. 🙂 Don’t forget to follow The Editor Afloat on Facebook too!


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One Word? Compound Word? Hyphen? ACK!

Choosing the correct word for the situation can sometimes be confusing. Hint: your dictionary makes a great source of reference here. 🙂

Let’s take a couple of farmers for example. Farmer John is out standing in his field. Sadly, the weather is extreme and he is about to keel over from exposure to the elements. Farmer Mary, on the other hand, is outstanding in her field. She is very proud of the fact that her favorite pig just won the title of Grand Champion at the local fair. Ah, the power of a keystroke.

One of the cool tools a WordPress blogger can access is the ability to take reader polls. One might wish to query a cross section of readers if you are receiving lots of unhappy mail. Responses from a cross-section of readers, however, just might be helpful on an important topic.

How do you know when to use two ordinary words, when to turn them into a compound word or hyphenate? The easiest method is to read the sentence and think about the meaning of it each way. If it is awkward as two words or paints a completely different picture, then maybe you need to put the two words together. Some words just don’t go well together; it’s called “letter collision”. In that case you will most likely want to use a hyphen. You might wonder what the heck a “deice” was. But, “de-ice”, makes perfect sense.

Don’t forget to follow Author Kristen Hope Mazzola’s publishing adventure as she is about to unveil her debut novel, “Crashing Back Down”. Currently being edited is Anna Ellis’ first romance novel, “Husbands and Wives”. Check out both of these talented writers and don’t forget editing services are available from The Editor Afloat for anything from one-page résumés to full-length novels.


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A Nickel’s Worth of Lewis and Clark

Corps of Discovery Monument, Jefferson City, M...

Corps of Discovery Monument, Jefferson City, MO (cropped for detail) (Photo credit: don j schulte @ oxherder arts)

I am an intrepid fan of Captains Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery. I have read their journals and enjoy visiting the many places where their travels took them. In case those names don’t ring any bells, they are the explorers who left Saint Louis in 1803 in search of a “Northwest Passage” for ships. President Jefferson, who had recently acquired the Louisiana Purchase was eager to find routes for commerce from coast to coast. Trouble was, not much was known about the western half of what would become all United States territory. But back to the journals…  The hardest part of reading the journals for me was not the length, but rather the spelling. Or lack thereof. Noah Webster did not publish the first edition of An American Dictionary of the English Language until 1828. There was no standardization of grammar or spelling for Lewis and Clark to follow. It shows. Every reference Clark made to the Sioux Indian tribe, he misspelled. When Lewis and Clark, canoeing down the Columbia River popped out into the estuary, they mistakenly believed they had finally reached the Pacific Ocean. “Ocian in view! O! The Joy!” is the entry Captain Clark logged on November 7, 1805. As part of the bicentennial commemoration, the United States produced a tribute nickel in 2005. On the reverse side of the coin is a beach scene with the inscription from the journal entry, but they corrected the spelling error. Probably a good thing for me because it would take me decades to edit all those nickels!


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Help Wanted

I was sent a link to some job offers yesterday by a friend who thought I might be interested in them. The ads, that is, not the jobs. These offers were listed, ironically, under Proofreaders Needed. No kidding! (These are actual quotes, I couldn’t make this stuff up! Names have been redacted for privacy purposes.)

[Company Name] reguraly does business with multiple Federal Agencies. Most Federal Agencies require, for security purposes, that all employees are U.S. citizens…

Okay, I’m scared. These people are contracted by our government? Yikes! Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon (c. 1633 – 1685) believed that a low code of morals was necessarily followed by a corresponding degradation in literature. Or maybe it’s the other way around?

Don’t want to work for the Feds? How about this one?

Those seeking permeate employment please do not apply.
Monday-Friday from 8:00-5:00. Candidate will need to have
knowledge of AP style guide and Chicago style…

I would never apply just because I have no clue how to be a ‘permeate’ employee.  In the first example, a spell-checker would have saved the day. The error in the second example wouldn’t have shown up in the spell-checker results. That mistake is purely, wrong word, wrong place. Takes that ol’ “second set of eyes” to catch a word that doesn’t belong. When writing a piece, put the words all down and then walk away for a day or two. Returning to your project fresh will help you catch this type of error.

The Editor Afloat is on Facebook and Twitter too. Happy writing!


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Yes, Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel?

Billboard

Billboard on highway with misspelled word.

Sure, but just how many do you need? I am certain there is only one “a” in survivable. I must pass this billboard every day on my way home from town. The message is somber but encouraging. By God’s grace I am not afflicted by cancer or any other devastating condition but your billboard is killing me. As I approach that section of highway, the battle in my mind mounts with apprehension. Do not look! Do not look! Do not look! But it’s of no use. I look up and there is that extra “a”. It jumps out, taunting me. It dances and cavorts, gambols and frolics, daring me to notice. I search the other motorists’ faces. No one sees it! I have a nearly uncontrollable urge to stop my car in the middle of the highway and force drivers to acknowledge the mischievous letter. Am I the only one who knows, like a long-ago Shatner, teetering on the edge of The Twilight Zone and insanity? That. Thing. Was. Out. There. Finally I pass the spot where the towering billboard springs up out of the roadside pasture and I’m free once again, the only thing left of the errant “a” is its mockery seared in my memory.

Effective advertising leaves a brand impression, not frustration. Is there a publically displayed error somewhere that pushes your button? Share them with us, please, and pictures too if you have them!

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