First of all we wish a happy 2011 to all our readers. Second, we compiled a list with our most popular posts in 2010, so that you can re-read your favorite ones and check if you missed any. Next Monday we’ll resume the writing tips, so stay tuned!
What Is Irony? (With Examples): Recently I was walking and talking with my co-worker, who happens to be a freelance writer and aspiring journalist. We were talking about the fact that our employers were providing us with a Thanksgiving lunch the day after Thanksgiving, and she said, “It’s so ironic!’’
“There’s” and “There are”: Contractions are supposed to be easy to say. For example, they’re for they are is easy to utter, but adding another re to there to create “there’re” produces a word difficult to pronounce.
English words Don’t (usually) End with “u”: The spelling “thru” has an entry in the tolerant Merriam-Webster that jumps to through.The OED has no entry for “thru,” although the spelling is listed along with many other historical variations in the through entry.
“Ma’am” and Regional Colonialism; Where I come from, children are taught that responding to grownups with a mere “yes” or “no” is impolite. “Yeah” is unforgivably rude. As a child I was taught to say “yes, sir, no, ma’am” and when I grew up, I continued to say it. When I lived in England, women whom I’d addressed as “ma’am” would sometimes smile and tell me that over there “ma’am” was reserved for the queen.
20 Computer Terms You Should Know: A great deal of jargon is used when talking about computers, and it’s surprising how often these terms are used incorrectly. Even published, successful novels sometimes do so. The following list provides an explanation of some of the more common computing terms you may come across or need to employ in your own writing.
“Fun, Funner, Funnest”?: The word fun probably originated as a dialect pronunciation of Middle English fon, which as an adjective meant “foolish” and as a noun meant “fool.” The Middle English verb fonnen meant “to be foolish, to be infatuated.”
16 Manuscript Format Guidelines: If you submit manuscripts to publishers or agents, you’ve probably come across the demand that you use “standard manuscript format” (or “SMF”) for your submissions. However, it isn’t always spelled out what this actually means.
Curbs and Sidewalks: In U.S. English, the word sidewalk refers to a paved footpath alongside a street or a road. The sidewalk is usually raised above the level of the road. The curb is a stone or concrete edging between the road and the sidewalk.
100 Writing Mistakes To Avoid – The Book: One of the fastest ways to improve your writing skills is to free yourself from the most common English mistakes: things like exchanging less with fewer, misspelling its as it’s, or placing commas where they are not supposed to be.
This Sink Needs Fixed: The expression is often associated with Pittsburgh and “a narrow band in the middle of the country extending from the east coast to Montana.” I grew up outside those regional boundaries and am quite used to hearing “The lawn needs mowed” and “This sink needs fixed.”
Taking and Bringing: Both bring and take have numerous meanings. One can, for example, take medicine, take the Fifth, take a liking to, take it on the chin, take a partner, take in a stray, take up for a friend, take out a date, and take an oath.
40 Twitter Hashtags for Writers: If you use Twitter, you’re probably already familiar with the idea of hashtags. These are simply a way of categorizing particular tweets by including within them a keyword prefixed with the hash or “pound” (#) symbol.
PIN Number: To keep your writing as clear and concise as possible, you should generally try to remove unnecessary words. Sometimes duplication is fine – for artistic effect, for example – but as a general rule, it’s best to say things in as few words as possible.
Corporate English: Thanks to reader Nick Corcodilos for sharing a link to an especially mind-numbing bit of English prose. I won’t publish the link he sent me, but I will give you an excerpt.
Book Titles from Shakespeare: When I was receiving my secondary education in a small Arkansas high school many years ago, every student was expected to study four Shakespeare plays before graduating.
The Letter “Z” Will Be Removed from the English Alphabet: Surprising as it sounds, it looks like the English alphabet will be losing one of its letters on June 1st. The announcement came from the English Language Central Commission (ELCC).
No Talent for Writing: Unless the questioner wants to become an oral storyteller and tell these great stories to a live audience, or record them as audiobooks, the answer has to be, “Yes, you’re stuck.” However, I suspect that the person asking the question has made some attempt to put stories into writing, but is unhappy with the result.
Post, Entry or Article?: My co-blogger and I have come across an interesting usage problem. We don’t know what to call what we write. It feels strange to refer to blog posts as “articles.” “Articles” sounds official, proper and very old media. “Posts” is the more common word, but it demeans the quality of the writing.
20 Movies Based on Shakespeare Plays: For me, April is Shakespeare’s month. I’ll be writing several Shakespeare-related posts this month, starting with Shakespeare in the movies.
Story Writing 101: Since prehistoric times, when tales were told around fires and painted on cave walls, stories have been an essential part of our human experience. But what exactly is a story – and how can you write a great one?
Don’t Be Burnt By “Inflammable”: In English, the in- prefix is often used to reverse the meaning of an adjective. Thus inactive is the opposite of active and inelegant is the opposite of elegant. So why isn’t inflammable the opposite of flammable?
Mankind, Humankind, and Gender: My views on gendered language are perhaps too loose to meet the more extreme requirements of political correctness. For example, I don’t see anything wrong with using the word mankind in the sense of “all human beings living on the earth.” As I understand the word, it comes from an Old English construct in which man means “person.”
30 Religious Terms You Should Know: When I was growing up in small town America, stories about religion were generally confined to the Saturday church pages in the local newspaper. Catholics and Jews were the most exotic religious practitioners in town, and “atheist” was a strong term of disapprobation.
“Completed Suicide”: My take is that, outside its valid use in medical literature, the expression “completed suicide” is being used as a euphemism by people who feel there’s more of a stigma attached to saying that someone “committed suicide.”