Category Archives: Grammar Help

6 words that have lost meaning

I have been considering the degradation of words recently.I know words are constantly evolving, but it seems to me that more often than not, they become degraded and lose their meaning.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Let’s take SWEAR WORDS as an example.

When I was growing up, some words that are now considered normal, (and I use them myself on occasion) were definite no-nos, and had I used them I would have been in serious trouble. Words such a damn or b*&&er. (just in case the gremlins in the internet have decided it’s still a bad word.)

The words that are now thought of a swear words, I didn’t know. I never heard them. Such words as the F word and the C word have become commonplace, if what I hear in the street is anything to go by.

These words have become degraded. They are no longer as ‘bad’ as they once were.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

This has happened to other words, too. The one that immediately jumps to mind is AWESOME. Things are no longer just ‘good’ or even ‘excellent’. They have to be ‘awesome’. Do things commonly described as such really fill the speaker with awe? I doubt it.

Image by StanWilliamsPhoto from Pixabay

The next word we’re hearing a lot these days. That word is HERO. We hear it applied to all and sundry. According to dictionary.com, a hero is “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.” Not everybody who is simply performing acts of human decency.

Image by teotea from Pixabay

ICONIC is another word that has become degraded. Everything now sseems to be ‘iconic’. Originally an icon was a religious portrait to aid worship. It can also be the depiction of a victorious athlete, soldier, or a sovereign.

Image by Daga_Roszkowska from Pixabay

Here’s one we were told not to use, when we were in school. NICE.
Once it meant fastidious or scrupulous. Now it just apples to anything that give a bit of pleasure.
A nice garden. She’s a nice person.

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

Finally, here’s one that can often be left out of sentences. (Writers take note.) It has degraded so much that it is now almost meaningless. That word is ACTUALLY.
Originally it meant something unexpected. Now it’s often only an interjection.

I hope you enjoyed reading these words. This was not what I originally set off to write. I was going to make a list of confused words I’ve come across recently. That will be another post for another day.

Are there any words that you’ve noticed being degraded? If so, add them to the comments in the comments box.

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Using Verbs part 1

Before I get going with the verbs, I am puzzled. This, I suppose is a throwback to previously when I did nouns. I also mentioned it in that treatise, too, but it’s beginning to bug me.

So many pieces of writing I see nowadays, that mention our beautiful planet, fail to give it a capital letter. Why? It’s name is a PROPER noun. Proper nouns begin with a CAPITAL LETTER.

I haven’t noticed people writing Mars, Venus, Jupiter, the Asteroids, etc, and not capitalising the first letter, so why don’t people, and people who should know better, too, not treat our own home in the same way?

Writers and other supposedly educated people do it. One writer I read recently (who claimed an editor in the acknowledgements) occasionally used a capital, and sometimes didn’t. (What was the editor doing?)

It’s Earth, folks, if you’re talking about the planet, and earth if you’re talking about the ground or soil.

OK, that’s done, so let’s begin on the problem of verbs.

I propose to do 2 posts on this as there are 2 main problems people have.

 Every verb has to agree with its subject. Yes, you know that. I know you know that. But why can’t people get it every time.

The worst is ‘there’s. This is short for ‘there is’, so we cannot say ‘There’s three of them.’ Yet I hear it all the time, and even see it in writing.

 Then there’s another one I mentioned in the last post. Agreement with a collective noun. Collective nouns are SINGULAR.

How many governments does a country have? One? Yes, only one, and so it’s singular. To say ‘the Government are planning to look into this problem.’ is WRONG.

The same goes for ‘team’, ‘herd’, ‘flock’, ‘peloton’ (if you’re a cyclist) All singular. ‘The team are..’? wrong. ‘The flock are…’? wrong.

 Finally, some people make the verb agree with something that’s not actually its subject.

e.g. One of the girls ARE going to come with us.


Here, the verb is referring to ‘one’ and not ‘girls’, so it should be:

One of the girls IS going to come with us.

I’m sure you can think of many more examples.

I know I’m not as brilliant at doing these grammar posts as some others, but I hope to be able to help a few people.

It also helps me get things that annoy me off my chest!
If you think this will help others, please feel free to reblog and I would be grateful for any link back to my site.

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HOMONYMS

When I was at school, many, many moons ago, we learned about homonyms. These are words that sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings. We were given lists of hthem and told to write a sentence containing each and showing what it means. Some of them are very tricky, and often catch people out. Yes, even writers!

A recent spate of these in a variety of places has prompted me to write this little post to try to help. So here we go!

Wet/Whet.
We all know the first of these. It’s what happens in the rain. We get WET. But the second? WHET is to sharpen something. Hence a WHETSTONE, which is something used to sharpen knives, daggers, swords scissors, etc. It does not need to be wetted before use as it’s not a WETSTONE. When I was little, I thought that’s what it was and pictured people sharpening their knives with a bucket of water by their sides to keep the stone wet.
So we WHET our appetite, we don’t WET it.

Examples.

Davrael sat by his horse WHETTING his knife before the battle.

As we sat down to our meal, the waiter brought a small savoury to WHET our appetites.

When the dragonet plunged into the water, they all got WET.

Peek/Peak

This is one I’ve mentioned before, but I make no excuse for doing it again. I see it spelled wrongly far too often.

Peek. This is a quick, or sometimes sneaky look at something. Many authors will give a sneak PEEK at a chapter of their new book.

Peak. The top of something, often a mountain.

Examples

Thadora PEEKED around the corner to make sure there were no guards visible before venturing into the alley.

The climbers were exhausted by the time they reached the PEAK of the mountain.

I think that the fact that Peek is often written after Sneak that causes the problem.

Poured/Pored

Pour. To run in a steady stream, or, of rain, to fall heavily.

Pore (verb). To be absorbed in reading or studying something.

Examples.

When we went to catch the bus it was POURING with rain.
Or
The barman POURED a measure of whisky into the glass.

In order to pass the test to leave his apprenticeship behind, Carthinal PORED over the magic texts.

Pore (noun) a small hole, often in tissue, such as skin or plant tissues, or even in rock.

Poor Needy, destitute, penniless, lacking money.

Examples.

He had runs so hard he was sweating through every PORE.

Under the leaves, plant have small PORES called stomata.

The woman was so POOR that she could barely afford to eat, and her clothes were ragged.

And one I had never thought about, but I came across only the other day on a notice for a lost cat.

Spade/spayed

Spade An implement for digging.

Spayed the neutering of a female animal (usually cat or dog) by surgically removing the ovaries.

(the sign said ‘Lost Cat, Black and white, called Shadow, spade…’ I had a picture of said cat digging the garden!

Examples

The ground was so hard after so little rain that I nearly broke my SPADE when trying to dig it.

There are so many unwanted cats in the district that all cat owners are requested to have their animals SPAYED.

I hope this has made it a bit clearer.

Please leave your comments in the comments box. I like to hear what you think.

Collective Nouns

 

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A lot of things have been irritating me in people’s use of the English Language, but recently it seems the fact that a collective noun is singular has disappeared.

One I hear frequently, being a fan of Manchester United, is in one of their songs.

‘U-N-I-T-E-D United are the team for me.’

Now we would not say, ‘some team’, or ‘those team’. We would be aware that ‘team’ is singular in those cases, so why, in this one case, does ‘team’ suddenly become plural?
Is it one team, or several? No, it’s one team, so it’s singular.

Similarly ‘Crowd’. ‘The crowd are…’ is now commonplace. ‘The crowd are cheering.’ Again, we would not say ‘Those crowd’ or ‘Some crowd’ We’re talking about one crowd, so it’s singular.

I can understand it in some instances where there is a plural noun involved, as in ‘A crowd of people’, but it’s still the crowd we’re referring to.
‘The crowd of people was making its way toward the exit.’

We often get ‘The flock of sheep are…’ instead of ‘The flock of sheep is…’.

‘The bunch of flowers John gave Mary is beautiful.’ not ‘The bunch of flowers John gave Mary are beautiful.’
Just remember that if you wouldn’t say ‘some bunch,’ or ‘some crowd,’ you use the singular verb. It’s not the individual flowers we’re referring to here, but the bunch. One bunch, Singular.

Please save my sanity and be careful when you come across a collective noun and decide whether or not you should use the plural. Chances are, you shouldn’t.

10 words and phrases you should never use

 

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1. Obviously. This word is one that is unnecessary. If something is obvious, it does not need stating.
2. So. Lots of people open sentences with ‘so’. It usually has no meaning and is just a filler word. Someone asks a question ‘Why did you go to see Jason yesterday?’ , and the response is ‘So. I haven’t seen him for ages and wondered if he’s all right.’
3. Very unique. Unique means there is only one of it. Adding ‘very’ is meaningless. As is adding other qualifiers.
4. Just. Unless you are talking about the judicial system, ‘just’ is another filler word. We often say ‘I was just going to do it.’ Don’t write it.
5. Very. You should try to find stronger word. Don’t say ‘very big’ use ‘enormous’. ‘Huge,’ etc. The English language, thanks to the way it’s developed, is rich in synonyms.
6. Awesome. This word is greatly overused. It actually means something that fills you with awe, not just something that’s pretty good.
7. Nice. This is something I was taught at school, many centuries ago. OK, maybe not quite that long, but a long time ago anyway. Don’t use ‘nice’. Choose a stronger, more interesting word.
8. Really. Similar to ‘Very’. ‘A really nice cake’ (Look, I used 2 of these words in 1 sentence!) Choose a stronger word.
9. Irregardless. This is NOT a word. The word is ‘regardless’.
10. Try and… Try and actually means you will try, and you will do it. If you succeed, you don’t need to try. If you try, you will nor necessarily succeed. Use ‘Try to…’ instead.

Punctuationg Dialogue

Today I’m going to talk about punctuating dialogue.
First of all, let me begin by defining some terms. I find writers, like many other professions, use their jargon so often they forget that new people may not know them. So here goes.
1. Tags. These are the words used to indicate who is speaking. They are things like ‘he said’, ‘Judith whispered’ and the like.
2. Beats, These are words telling you what someone is doing. e.g. Fred paced to the window. ‘Are you sure she said that?’ he asked.
Here, ‘Fred paced to the window’ is a beat.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, lets continue with our punctuation.

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I admit that when I started writing, I was unsure about this. I did not know what punctuation to put after the speech and after the tag. I learned by reading books and other writers’ blogs. Not a bad way to learn. In fact, a very good way to learn.
The first thing I should note is that US English and British English use quotation marks the opposite way round from each other. As I am British, I use British English, and the dialogue in my books is the British Standard.
In British English, we use single quotation marks for direct speech and double quotation marks for speech quoted within that speech. (Not very good English there. I apologise.)
Mary said, ‘Jaqui, go and see who rang the doorbell.’
and,
Jaqui said, ‘It’s John. He said, “I’ve come to return the book you lent me.” Do you want to see him?’
In American English it’s the other way round. The above would look like this:
Mary said, “Jaqui, go and see who rang the doorbell.”
and
Jaqui said, “It’s John. He said, ‘I’ve come to return the book you lent me.’ Do you want to see him?”
The quotes, either British or US go round direct speech only. If it is indirect, then there are no quotes.
This would be wrong.
‘John said that he came ‘to return the book you lent him’.
Whenever we write ‘he said’. ‘she whispered’, etc, we always separate it from the quote using commas. See the above examples.
Now should the punctuation be inside or outside the quotation marks? That depends on whether it is part of the quotation or not, Here are some examples.
‘How can he return a book’, said Mary, ‘when I never lent him one?’
‘Said Mary’ interrupts the sentence she is saying, which is, ‘How can he return a book when I never lent him one?’ The comma goes outside the quotation marks.
But if the quotation mark is part of what is being said, then it goes inside.
John said, ‘Did you not lend me this book then?’
The question mark is part of John’s speech so it goes inside the quotation marks. If it was a full stop (period if you are in the USA) then, as it ends John’s speech, it would go inside as well.

John said, ‘I’m sure I borrowed it from you.’

The punctuation goes outside the quotation marks if it is not part of the quoted material.

Now, if you have a beat, then that is completely separate.
Susan walked to the window and looked out. ‘Tell John to come in and bring the book up.’
There is a full stop (period) after the beat and not a comma because it is a separate action. I would say that we only put a comma after or before a tag, not a beat.
That’s enough for now, Hope I’ve not confused you.
Please feel free to make a comment of any kind.

How to correct two simple wordprocessing errors.

There are two things that I want to tell you today. they are things that annoy me somewhat when I come across them. the first is how to create superscripts and subscripts.
So often I read 25C or H2O. They are both wrong. The Celcius scale is measured in degrees. and the formula for water needs the dropped 2 or it means, if it means anything, one atom of hydrogen and two of oxygen Which is an impossibility anyway.
This is a very simple thing to rectify. Simply click on ‘format’ on the toolbar and click on Font.
You will get the following window opening.

Capture

Check the superscript or subscript box, whichever you want and click OK. Then type what you want to be super- or subscripted. Go back to Format, Font and uncheck the bod. Click OK and you’re ready to go.

Unfortunately, WordPress does not recognise the superscript nor the subscript, and when I copied this into WordPress, it came out without these corrections. I had to remove the corrected words.

 

 

The other thing that irritates me when reading is when there is an apostrophe at the beginning of a word. (such as ’till, an abbreviation of until) So often, this comes out as ‘till, which is. of course a quotation mark and not an apostrophe. (A quotation mark that is not closed, either.)
In order to prevent this, it is very simple. You can fool Word into thinking it’s an apostrophe in the middle of a word by not pressing the space bar until after you’ve typed the two words.
EG. Wait here’till I arrive.

Then you simply go back and put in the space. Word will then keep the apostrophe the right way round.

Wait here ’till I arrive.

Both quite simple really, but are usually done wrongly, either because the writer knows no better, or through ignorance of the means to correct it.

Looking Closer at the Semi-colon Used in Lists

Here are some thoughts on the semicolon. I found these ideas very interesting, especially to clarify things in lists.

Diana Tibert

During the writers’ meeting on Tuesday, we discussed the use of semi-colons in a list following a colon. The published historian in the group, an academic professor who knows a great deal about grammar, punctuation and writing in general, brought it up.

In professional academic papers, the rule is that a semi-colon, not the comma, must separate a list of items when preceded by a colon.

For example: The settlers of the area came from many countries: Germany; Switzerland; Poland and Spain.

FREE KINDLE READ:
Shadows in the Stone

However, I have not encountered semi-colons used in this manner, so when I came home, I started to dig. It was difficult finding rules online, so I referred to my trusty handbook The Bare Essentials by Sarah Norton and Brian Green.

It recommended the use of semi-colons in complicated lists. The sentence they used as an example was: A few…

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Some tautological sayings

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Tautology is using words that mean the same thing in a sentence, that do not add anything further. An example is ‘widow woman’. I am going to talk about some tautological things that people say and write today.

So let’s begin.

 I heard someone on the radio talk about a ‘small, little…’ Can you have anything little that’s not small? I have heard this on several occasions. Never, though, a ‘large, big…’ that I can remember.
‘Reverse back’ is another one frequently heard. Have you ever seen anyone reverse forwards? I haven’t.
‘Repeat again.’ Now this one can be used, but only if the thing has been said (or done) at least twice. Repeat means to do it again. The ‘again’ is in the word itself.
 One that irritates me, and is very frequently used these days is ‘Various different…’ Have you ever come across things that varied but were the same?
‘Fall down’, although frequently used in everyday life, is none the less tautological. You can’t ‘fall up’, so the ‘down’ is unnecessary. This is one that writers should watch out for.
Close proximity. If it’s in proximity, it’s close!
 Necessary requirement. If it’s not necessary, it’s not a requirement.
PIN number. Since PIN stands for Personal Identification Number, saying PIN number is saying ‘personal identification number number.’
 We see, in advertising, ‘Your Free Gift’ Well, if it’s not free, it’s not a gift, and if it’s a gift, then obviously it’s free.
Thought to myself. Writers beware. Unless telepathic, you can only think to yourself. Telepaths are a very rare commodity, I think.
 Finally, one heard on a snooker programme. The graphic showed a circular spot where the player wanted the cue ball to end up, and the commentator mentioned a ’round circle.’ Anyone know any circles that are not round?

I would love to hear any others you can think of. I know there are so many. Please add comments in the comments box.