Words, Words, Words.

Bread and butter

February 14, 2010
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My shiny new editing website is up and running, www.esledit.org.

“Writing in English isn’t always easy even for native speakers. It is a complex language, with more exceptions to the rules than rules themselves. Whether you are writing an application essay, a term paper, a thesis or a journal article, you want your writing to clearly express your thoughts. Grammar mistakes and structural flaws distract the reader, bring down your grade and diminish professional credibility. My mission is to help you express yourself in perfect English that allows your ideas to shine.”


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Freelance humor

November 15, 2009
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A new find: A clever cartoonist, writer and blogger.  http://www.inkygirl.com

Cartoon, "Misplaced Apostrophe" by Inky Girl

Sadly, I can relate to Dan.


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The Fantastic Imagination

August 3, 2009
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George MacDonald, in his essay The Fantastic Imagination, describes with amazing poetry the power of words, in a phantastic* paragraph in which the words of explanation do just what they are explained to do.

“‘But words are not music; words at least are meant and fitted to carry a precise meaning!’

“It is very seldom indeed that they carry the exact meaning of any user of them! And if they can be so used as to convey definite meaning, it does not follow that they ought never to carry anything else. Words are live things that may be variously employed to various ends. They can convey a scientific fact, or throw a shadow of her child’s dream on the heart of a mother. They are things to put together like the pieces of dissected map, or to arrange like the notes on a stave. Is the music in them to go for nothing? It can hardly help the definiteness of a meaning: is it therefore to be disregarded? They have length, and breadth, and outline: have they nothing to do with depth? Have they only to describe, never to impress? Has nothing any claim to their use but definite? The cause of a child’s tears may be altogether undefinable: has the mother therefore no antidote for his vague misery? That may be strong in colour which has no evident outline. A fairtytale, a sonata, a gathering storm, a limitless night, seizes you and sweeps you away: do you begin at once to wrestle with it and ask whence its power over you, whither it is carrying you? The law of each is in the mind of its composer; that law makes one man feel this way, another man feel that way. To one the sonata is a world of odour and beauty, to another of soothing only and sweetness. To one, the cloudy rendezvous is a wild dance, with a terror at its heart; to another, a majestic march of heavenly hosts, with Truth in their centre pointing their course, but as yet restraining her voice. The greatest forces lie in the region of the uncomprehended.”

*Phantastes is a faerie tale by MacDonald


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The globe pontificates

June 13, 2009
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There was a little article in Ideas section of this Sunday’s Boston Globe, complaining about people who insist on grammatical correctness.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/06/07/thou_shalt_not_worry_about_it/

I agree with them that language changes over time, that use determines meaning and that language is fluid. I also agree that a lot of the people complaining don’t know what they’re talking about (like the people who, when you ask, “Do you want to go out with Tom and me?” insist that you should have said, “Tom and I.” I isn’t inherently more correct, it depends on whether it’s the subject of the sentence or an object).

What I disagree with, however, is their general sentiment of, “get over it” or, as the title of the article puts it, “Thou shalt not worry about it.” Just because good grammar is a complicated pursuit, doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile one. A desire to implement and enforce rules may be the driving force of some grammarians, but there are those of us who are interested in the rules as a means to an end. What is that end? Why, first and foremost, communication. If everyone uses whichever words and word order he or she chooses, a lot more people are going to die in easily avoidable accidents, because “Look out for that tree branch!” means something different to the speaker then to the listener. If a husband’s response to, “Do you love I?” is, “What?” then not only the marriage but the propagation of the species is at stake. Communication is difficult enough without throwing away all language rules. Just look at what happened at the tower of Babel.

Communication, then, is paramount, but the true lovers of language are not interested only in clarity, but in beauty. In Elements of Style White tries to get at the bottom of the power of Thomas Paine’s phrase, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” (My favorite alternate phrasing that White suggests: “Trying times these are, soulwise.”) There is a poetry in the simple act of communication that language can either embody and express or inhibit. Any grammarian worth her salt is concerned not simply with following the rules, nor only with communicating clearly, but also with pushing language to the peaks of eloquence, power and beauty of which it is capable.


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The Elements of Style, Illustrated

April 12, 2009
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This was my very favorite grammar book before Maria Kalman got a hold of it, and now it is my very favorite illustrated grammar book.

Maria Kalman’s website.

Some of the best illustrations, followed by the grammar rules they are illustrating:

"Well, Susan, this is a fine mess you are in."

"Well, Susan, this is a fine mess you are in."

“A name or a title in an address is parenthetic.”

~

Somebody else's umbrella

Somebody else's umbrella

“The pronominal possessives hers, its, theirs, yours, and ours have no apostrophe.  Indefinite pronouns, however, use the apostrophe to show possession.”

~

"His first thought on getting out of bed—if he had any thought at all–was to get back in again."

"His first thought on getting out of bed—if he had any thought at all–was to get back in again."

“Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary.”

~

"None of us is perfect."

"None of us is perfect."

“With none, use the singular verb when the word means “no one” or “not one.”

I also appreciate how Kalman’s color scheme goes quite well with my wordpress theme.


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Stat! ~ Second in my series of phrases I greatly enjoy.

April 11, 2009
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Stat, the instruction yelled out by doctors, means right away, immediately. It is an abbreviation of the Latin word statim.

A very important related phrase: subsiste sermonem statim, which means, “Stop speaking immediately!”


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Lorem Ipsum ~ First in my series of phrases I greatly enjoy.

April 11, 2009
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A slew of meaningless Latin, what could be better?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.


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Humpty Dumpty raises a good question

April 11, 2009
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`When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

`The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’

humptydumpty-s


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    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "Which is to be master? That is all."

    Polonius: What do you read, my lord?

    Hamlet: Words, words, words.

    Words are live things that may be variously employed to various ends. ~George MacDonald

    About Jessica and Proofwriting

    I am a freelance writer and editor. Ever since I can remember I've been fascinated by language: Its power, its nuance, its rules, and the exceptions to the rules. This blog is a place to share my fascination and to connect with other language lovers.

    If you are looking for an editor for your article, paper, grant proposal, novel manuscript or anything else, click here for more information about hiring me.

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