2012/06/08/the-trouble-with-fanboys/

Posted on June 8, 2012 Posted by Bertha Perez

2012/06/08/the-trouble-with-fanboys/

The Trouble with FANBOYS

FANBOYS is a mnemonic device to help students remember that the coordinating conjunctions are for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so. It teaches that you should join two independent clauses with a comma and one of the FANBOYS. Neither of these things is true. …

Read the rest of my article on Visual Thesaurus.

 

    

 

About Erin Brenner

With a BA and an MA in English, Erin has been an editing professional for 15 years, working on a variety of media, especially online. Her niche is business/marketing and online. In addition, she has experience teaching editing to non-editors and coaching writers. In 2008, Erin was bitten by the social media bug…hard. Follow her on Twitter, @ebrenner, and get a daily vocabulary word, a link to the article of the day, and much more. You can also find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

This entry was posted in Usable Usage and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2012/06/08/the-trouble-with-fanboys/

Posted on June 8, 2012 Posted by Bertha Perez

2012/05/09/it-is-to-be-hoped-that-youll-agree/

It Is to Be Hoped That You’ll Agree

Last month, The AP Stylebook, the style guide for many American newspapers, finally gave up on restricting hopefully to its original meaning, “in a hopeful manner.” The stylebook now also allows hopefully to be as a sentence adverb meaning “it is hoped” or “it is to be hoped that.”

(Read my article on Visual Thesaurus.)

    

 

About Erin Brenner

With a BA and an MA in English, Erin has been an editing professional for 15 years, working on a variety of media, especially online. Her niche is business/marketing and online. In addition, she has experience teaching editing to non-editors and coaching writers. In 2008, Erin was bitten by the social media bug…hard. Follow her on Twitter, @ebrenner, and get a daily vocabulary word, a link to the article of the day, and much more. You can also find her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

This entry was posted in Usable Usage and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2012/05/09/it-is-to-be-hoped-that-youll-agree/

Posted on May 9, 2012 Posted by Bertha Perez

/2012/05/07/the-problem-of-careful-usage/

The Problem of Careful Usage

by Erin Brenner on May 7, 2012

Whenever I research a debatable usage point, I inevitably run across these words or something similar: careful usage. As in:

Stage 3: The form becomes commonplace even among many well-educated people, but it’s still avoided in careful usage.—Bryan Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage

The problem is that the phrase “careful usage” and its ilk don’t usually mean careful usage. They’re code that traditionalists (a.k.a. peevers, SNOOTs, errorists, pedants, etc.) use to pound us with rules that have no foundation in real-world usage. “Careful usage” usually means “usage that hasn’t accepted any changes in English since the 18th century when grammarians thought English would be much improved by becoming more like Latin.”

“Careful usage” does not have to mean you follow every one of Miss Thistlebottom’s made-up rules. Or E.B. White’s pronouncements. Or … Well, you get the idea.

It doesn’t mean that you take someone’s random, personal style choices and call them “good grammar.”

“Careful usage” means you look things up. You consider what the text is trying to say and how people currently use words—particularly those people you’re trying to reach. If they’re particular to the point of peevishness and think English should look like Latin, lacking the common sense to see that they are not at all alike, then by all means, follow nonsensical, random rules that don’t reflect how the majority of English speakers think and write. After all, it’s the message that’s important. Don’t rock the boat.

But if you’re not trying to placate the one percent, then don’t let the traditionlists’ “careful usage” throw you for a loop. Do your homework: Find out how the word or phrase in question is really being used and how your audience understands it. Then let the results guide your decisions.

Previous post:

Next post:

/2012/05/07/the-problem-of-careful-usage/

Posted on May 7, 2012 Posted by Bertha Perez

2011/11/30/writing-blogs-you-love-writing-books-you-hate/

Writing Blogs You Love, Writing Books You Hate

by Erin Brenner on November 30, 2011

Pick of the Week

We all have our favorite blogs about writing; some of mine are below. Nominate your favorite in Write to Done’s annual contest. You might even nominate The Writing Resource. “Nominate Your Favorite Writing Blog: 6th Annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest

More Articles Worth Your Time

Previous post:

Next post:

2011/11/30/writing-blogs-you-love-writing-books-you-hate/

Posted on November 30, 2011 Posted by Bertha Perez

/2011/11/18/fulsome/

Word Story: Fulsome

by Erin Brenner on November 18, 2011

Some words travel a winding path to their meanings, causing language users confusion over what they actually mean. A word whose definition or usage is so hotly contested that it never fails to draw attention to itself is called a skunked term. It may be that language users will resolve the problem over time, but until then, what’s a writer to do? Today, the story behind fulsome and what to do with this stinky term.

Fulsome

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, the adjective fulsome means “excessively flattering or insincerely earnest,” “disgusting or offensive,” or “copious or abundant.”

Fulsome dates to the 1200s, when its components (ful + som) gave it the meaning “abundant, full,” says the Online Etymology Dictionary. By the mid-1300s, it had come to mean “plump, well-fed.” It morphed again in the 1600s to mean “overgrown, overfed” and “offensive to taste or good manners,” a meaning it retains today.

In 1828, Noah Webster listed the only definition of fulsome in his dictionary as “disgusting or offensive,” while The Oxford English Dictionary listed “excessively flattering” as the only current definition in 1897—dating it to 1663—labeling the others as obsolete.

Yet somewhere along the line, the original neutral meaning came back.

By the 1940s and 1950s, says Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (MWDEU), there was an outcry against using fulsome to mean “abundant.” Usage mavens began urging the “disgusting or offensive” use, some mistakenly referring to it as its traditional sense. But language speakers haven’t listened.

Within the first 20 results on search for fulsome on the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), we get three uses of the “excessively flattering” meaning, two uses of the “offensive” meaning, and 12 uses of the “abundant” meaning.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell in context which meaning is intended, though the “abundant” meaning is usually clear. Garner’s Modern American Usage notes that the “abundant” meaning is at stage 4 of its Language Chance Index: “The form becomes virtually universal but is opposed on cogent grounds by a few linguistic stalwarts.” Even so, Garner’s prefers the “offensive” meaning and notes that the term is probably skunked. It advises avoiding the term at best and being extremely clear in the desired meaning at worst. MWDEU is in rare agreement with Garner’s because of the possible misunderstanding of the term and the probable firestorm from its use.

My guess is that in a generation or three, fulsome will be full accepted and understood as meaning “abundant,” whether or not the other meanings stick around. Until then, however, the wise writer should avoid the word when possible and should be crystal clear about the intended meaning when it must be used.

What definition do you have for fulsome? Do you receive criticism for it? Share your word story in the comments section!

Previous post:

Next post:

/2011/11/18/fulsome/

Posted on November 28, 2011 Posted by Bertha Perez

2010/11/17/vocab-builder-joyces-ulysses/

Vocab Builder: Joyce’s Ulysses

by Erin Brenner on November 17, 2010

I found a wonderful new podcast recently: re: Joyce. Literary author Frank Delaney is deconstructing James Joyce’s Ulysses, word by word. Delaney reads a bit of the text and then unlocks all manner of literary references. It’s delicious. This week, some of the vocabulary from the first few pages of Ulysses and the podcast.

Vulgar: crude; of the common people
Martello tower: short, round tower made of stone and located near the shore
Tonsure: to shave the head of a monk or priest
Kinch: slip-knot; in old Irish slang, the child of a convict or tramp
Corpuscle: an unattached body cell

You can get the Vocab Builder every weekday by following me on Twitter.

Previous post:

Next post:

2010/11/17/vocab-builder-joyces-ulysses/

Posted on November 17, 2011 Posted by Bertha Perez

2011/11/16/get-help-with-the-writing-process/

Get Help With the Writing Process

by Erin Brenner on November 16, 2011

Getting your work written and into print can be a long, hard process. These articles can help you navigate the way.

Get Started

4 Ways Inspiration Helps You Beat Writer’s Block”: Use science to break your writer’s block. (Writer’s Digest)

Revise Your Work

How to Gain Perspective on Your Work”: It’s time to revise. Here’s how to go about it. (Writer’s Digest)

Prepare for Editing

11 Resources to Make Editing Your Novel Easier”: Whether you’re sending your manuscript to a professional editor or a publisher, self-editing can make the process smoother. Check out these resources. (Publetariat)

Get Readers’ Attention

4 Things to Do After Writing a Blog Post to Increase View”: You’ve put your work and creativity into your blog post. Now get it the attention it deserves. (Ragan.com)

When Shouting Loudly Isn’t Enough”: Anyone and everyone is shouting about their book. Get readers’ attention by doing something different. (The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing)

What kind of writing advice do you look for? Let me know in the comments section below.

Previous post:

Next post:

2011/11/16/get-help-with-the-writing-process/

Posted on November 16, 2011 Posted by Bertha Perez

2011/11/11/the-plagiarism-of-secrets/

The Plagiarism of “Secrets”

by Erin Brenner on November 11, 2011

Earlier this week, Little, Brown pulled one of its Mulholland books off the shelves and is issuing refunds to those who bought the book. Released last week, Assassin of Secrets by Q. R. Markham (Quentin Rowan), was recalled by the publisher because it was found to have liberally plagiarized several previously published spy mystery novels, including some of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.

Several commentators have wondered how this could have happened. Shouldn’t someone in the review or editing process who read the book have been familiar enough with the genre to spot Markham’s deception?

Given the state of the traditional publishing industry, perhaps we know why the problem remained hidden until readers pointed it out.

The website Reluctant Habits did an excellent job of demonstrating the breadth of plagiarism evident in the book. Edward Champion found 33 instances of plagiarism in just the first 35 pages. That’s almost one stolen idea per page! For example:

Markham, page 13: “The boxy, sprawling Munitions Building which sat near the Washington Monument and quietly served as I-Division’s base of operations was a study in monotony. Endless corridors connecting to endless corridors. Walls a shade of green common to bad cheese and fruit. Forests of oak desks separated down the middle by rows of tall columns, like concrete redwoods, each with a number designating a particular work space.”

Taken from Bamford [James Bamford’s Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency], page 1: “In June 1930, the boxy, sprawling Munitions Building, near the Washington Monument, was a study in monotony. Endless corridors connecting to endless corridors. Walls a shade of green common to bad cheese and fruit. Forests of oak desks separated down the middle by rows of tall columns, like concrete redwoods, each with a number designating a particular work space.”

What intrigues me is a lengthy comment on Reluctant Habits from a Dr. Edwin Poole. Poole doesn’t think Markham did anything wrong. Plagiarism is a fallacy, he claims. He writes:

Isn’t the idea of the total originality of a work of art supposed to be one of the worst fallacies of romanticism? How can any spy novel, or any other type of genre novel, be totally original? …. Isn’t the mere re-use of English words previously used by others a form of plagiarism?

Which brings us to the central question: what is plagiarism?

According to The American Heritage Dictionary, to plagiarize is “to reproduce or otherwise use (the words, ideas, or other work of another) as one’s own or without attribution”; “to present another’s words or ideas as one’s own or without attribution.”

Anyone who compares even a couple of the quotes from Markham’s book to their original sources can see that Markham didn’t just use the same English words in a similar order that another author did; he took other authors’ ideas and their specific expressions of them and presented them as his own.

We’re not talking about the same plot being reinvented. I believe it was Aristotle who said there are no original stories left; they’ve all been told (someone please correct me if I’ve confused my ancient philosophers). But the key word is reinvented. Good writers can take a story told for millennia and write it as they see it, bringing their unique take to the story, creating a new work of art.

That’s not what Markham did. He presented other writers’ ideas as his own. He lied. Other authors did the work of creating characters, settings, and events. Markham doesn’t make you experience the story in his book; the original writers did. Markham simply edited those ideas to fit them together.

Poole claims it’s all about money. You can steal all you want if you pay for it, he says. Here, he’s almost right. It is all about money, at least in this case. But if you pay for the right to republish someone else’s work, you’re not stealing. You’re sharing the benefit you get from using someone else’s work with that person.

You can write whatever you want. You can copy the works of Shakespeare, James Joyce, or any other author, published or not, to your heart’s content. The moment you claim someone else’s works as your own, however, you are stealing. You’re benefiting from someone else’s work. And in our society, you can’t do that without sharing the benefit you gain. The benefit doesn’t have to be in terms of dollars and cents. It could be a good grade, the admiration of the person you make this claim to, or something else.

It’s one thing to be influenced by other writers’ works. To create a similar, yet distinct, style of telling a story. It’s another thing to copy down someone else’s ideas, word for word, and claim them as your own.

Poole asks, “How many plagiarized sentences are allowed in a book of fiction? Of history? Of humor? Is there an exact formula? Or is it merely guesswork? Is one copied sentence sufficient to ban a book? Or five? Or fifty?”

How would you answer him? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Previous post:

Next post:

2011/11/11/the-plagiarism-of-secrets/

Posted on November 11, 2011 Posted by Bertha Perez

2011/11/09/on-account-of-my-peeve/

Previous post:

Next post:

2011/11/09/on-account-of-my-peeve/

Posted on November 9, 2011 Posted by Bertha Perez

2011/11/04/results-not-typical-and-other-stories/

Results Not Typical and Other Stories

by Erin Brenner on November 4, 2011

Whether you need inspiration, writing advice, marketing ideas, or a reason to self-publish, there’s a story here for you.

Pick of the Week

More Articles Worth Your Time

Previous post:

Next post: