If you’ve read more than about three articles on this site, you know that I promulgate expository writing, writing designed to convey information so readers absorb the information effortlessly. (Promulgate means to set forth or teach publicly, but you knew that, right?)
Sometimes idioms and figures of speech can be taken literally, and this generally doesn’t promote understanding. Here’s a Gasoline Alley; the first two rows give a humorous take on this danger.
(The last row repeats a joke that has to be more than 50 years old, but I digress.)
Rule of thumb: When you explain something, be direct and literal.
A related situation is when you write something that will or might be translated. Idioms and figures of speech are notorious for causing problems in other languages. This goes both ways, so be careful when you read something translated into English. Google “badly translated into English” to find some humorous examples, but this can be a serious problem if the writing is about a serious subject. So be careful.
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Here are some sentences I found, all written by professionals, all on line, that contain mistakes or bad writing. Can you identify the things that need fixing or improving? I’m pretty sure that I have mentioned each type of mistake at least once before in The Writing Rag. I’ll make you a deal—you might win ten bucks!
Send me an email at email@example.com listing your answers. I’ll use PayPal to send ten dollars to the email address of the first person who answers them all correctly. You have to give the reason why you answered the way you did for number 10.
Only about four people ever read this blog, so your odds are pretty good! I promise not to collect the addresses or use them for anything.
- “The technology,” he wrote, “is not limited to only aviation.”
- Best known of the two is Enrico Fermi, the Italian intellectual giant who escaped from fascist Italy to America after winning a Nobel Prize for his research in nuclear physics.
- On February 23, 1997, NBC broadcast the film in its three-and-a-half-hour entirety, uncut and uninterrupted by commercials, as per Spielberg’s request.
- Who do you think you match with?
- 1856 The Republican Party holds it’s first national meeting. (© Ducksters. I wasn’t going to embarrass them, but they put a copyright symbol on it. Used without permission)
- It is now hoped that the system could be combined with the use of pheromones that lampreys use to attract mates.
- This weed includes the most vitamin A than all green leafy vegetables, which prevents cancer, and is abundant in Omega-3 fatty acids, so it effectively prevents heart diseases and stroke.
- It is more cost-effective by only utilizing more expensive authentication when warranted by the risk.
- It’s easier to implement than you may have thought.
- Sensitive personal data including cookies, API keys, and passwords has been leaked by web optimization giant Cloudflare.
- So, the Rangers are based out of Igloolik.
- So what does a potential new state of matter for the rest of us?
- Indiana law explicitly forbids government employees such as the Governor to conduct politics on state accounts, so it’s credible to argue Pence had no other options.
- “The Church and State owes them all an apology,” she said.
- It stands in stark contrast with a pair of current cartoons by fairly mainstream conservative cartoonists that mock Democrats for being obsessed with the Russian connections.
- It was about 3 or 4 feet long, looked like a long piece of linguine (same color, similar width), except if you looked a little carefully, it was actually comprised of connected rhomboid like sections. [this one has two goofs, not counting that the 3 and 4 should be spelled out. Find both.]
- While China is beginning to assemble its own tunnel-boring machines, it still relies on critical, foreign-made components that its own industries can’t manufacture on its own. [first word should be “Although” or “Whereas,” but I’m looking for a different goof.]
- Clicking Refresh Catalog in the catalog, updates the usage information.
- The amount of tabs you have open at any one time has a direct impact on the performance of Chrome, as well as how much RAM the application consumes.
- Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with.
There you have it! Good luck!
Everybody knows that quotation marks are for when you want to show that you’re exactly duplicating what someone said (or wrote).
I hope everybody knows that you don’t put quotation marks unnecessarily on grocery store signs and restaurant bulletin boards. Those illiterate quotation marks positively curdle my blood. I’ve been known to get out my handkerchief and erase them. Well, once, maybe, on a dry erase board. Usually I’m too polite, but that misuse still makes me cringe. Here (shudder) are two egregious examples of this profanation of English:
I got them by googling images for “grocery store quotation marks.” Go look yourself if you want to spend some time cringing at the ones I didn’t pick.
But these horrors are related to a legitimate use of quotation marks—when you want to make a tongue-in-cheek apology for something, to call attention to it, to indicate that you really mean something like its opposite. Today I learned the name for this kind of quotation mark. I’ll let the person who showed me the name tell you:
One of the two classes I’m teaching this term is our sophomore-level “modern physics” class, which richly deserves its scare quotes.
Thank you, Chad Orzel, contributor to Forbes in an article titled “Why Do We Spend So Much Time Teaching Historical Physics?”
Oh yes, that’s another use for quotation marks: to identify written works that are parts of other written works, such as articles in a magazine.
Here is the lead sentence of a two-part article written by someone I generally respect. His material is thoroughly researched and clearly explained. However, I think he’s being a little too editorial here, pushing the boundary of meaning for effect rather than to convey information. At least he’s honest enough to describe in advance how he’s redefining the word.
I encounter so many myths and misunderstandings about rising sea level, in effect lies.
The article goes on to explain and correct some common misunderstandings. But to be a lie, a misstatement has to be deliberate and have the intent to deceive. Since he doesn’t name names, I don’t think he’s justified in calling them lies. I think most people who hold these incorrect positions are uninformed or misinformed, with no intention to deceive. In fact, that’s pretty much what he says as he redefines the word.
Unlike most things, time flows in only one direction. Physicists say that all the equations of quantum dynamics, and many other things, work both forward and backwards. Think of the commutative rule in high school math: 3×4=4×3 and 2y=x is the same as x=2y. But time goes only forward. Keep this in mind when you write about time. Here’s an example of the National Oceanography Centre doing it backwards.
How has the ocean changes since the Miocene?
Okay, first, the typo in the headline. Should be “changed.” Have I ever mentioned that you should proofread??? Harrumpf.
Now look at that from-to construction in the text (emphasis mine). “From” is where you start, “to” is where you’re going. They have it backwards! Sounds like an exciting adventure, though!