Another Writer gets Comprise right

rogersgeorge on October 30th, 2017

“Comprise” is frequently treated as a fancy (read pretentious) synonym for “compose,” particularly in the circumlocution “is comprised of.” Ick. Don’t ever say (or write) that.

So when I see someone do it right, the sentence is worth mentioning. It’s from This Day in History for October 25:

The work of Picasso, which comprises more than 50,000 paintings, drawings, engravings, sculptures, and ceramics produced over 80 years, is described in a series of overlapping periods.

Here’s the rule: One comprises many, many compose one. In this case, one (work) comprises 50,000 works of art.

I try to include an illustration of some sort in these posts, so here’s me killing two birds with one stone: Pictures of Picasso himself, painted by Picasso himself.I’m not particularly a fan of Picasso’s work—I rather prefer the Pre-Raphaelites myself—but there you have it.

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Why Can’t We Say “Ain’t”?

rogersgeorge on October 28th, 2017

This Speed Bump comic reminds me of the joke: There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary, and those who don’t. You know, of course, that 10 is binary for “two,” right?

When I was a kid, the conventional wisdom was that people tended to be good at (or like) math or language, but not both. I think it’s kind of true, but I’ve met a lot of exceptions, including myself.

But this comic also reminds me of a problem we have in English. (ahem) We ain’t got a good contraction for “am not.” I remember my sixth-grade teacher telling us that if we wanted to ask “ain’t I?” we should say “am I not?” It sounded strange to me, but I’ve gotten used to it.

“Ain’t” is a perfectly good word, but I’m afraid it’ll never escape its low class roots. Of course you can still use the word—just say you’re being just a wee bit folksy.

Another Curmudgeon!

rogersgeorge on October 18th, 2017

His name is Brian Patrick Byrne and he wrote an article about a NASA-sponsored computer game that he says is riddled with errors, both of fact and of English. He seems to be correct. If you’re interested in mistakes in video games, go read the article. It’s not bad, (though once he used “within” when just “in” would have been fine). Here’s a quote:

Cosmic Quest teaches players bad math about the size of solar arrays, and gives false instructions for an important process used to make fuel and water in space. It also screws up the name of a vital chemical element needed to power NASA spacecraft. Among the game’s typos are misspellings of the words “analyze” and “oxide,” and confusing the verb “affect” for the noun “effect.”

As a writer and editor, I think these are pretty serious errors, even if they occur only once each. NASA has the excuse that an outside company did the development, and I’m certainly glad it’s not a real NASA project. Here’s a screen shot, by the way. I put the pointer under the misspelled word, but you probably didn’t need the assistance, did you?

A Quick Book Review

rogersgeorge on October 12th, 2017

If you’re looking for something to get me for Christmas, this book would be perfect.

It’s The Lexicon of Comicana, by Mort Walker, the writer of Beetle Bailey. Here’s the cover:

Amazon’s blurb can’t be beat, so I’ll just quote it:

Written as a satire on the comic devices cartoonists use, the book quickly became a textbook for art students. Walker researched cartoons around the world to collect this international set of cartoon symbols. The names he invented for them now appear in dictionaries.

Like or Such As?

rogersgeorge on September 30th, 2017

The difference between “like” and “such as” is subtle, and they are often used interchangeably in informal English. But if you are writing technical material, such as a résumé or a set of complicated instructions, it pays to use the correct expression.

“Like” means “similar to, but not exact.”

“Such as” means “here’s an actual example.”

If you want to give your readers a general idea from which they can derive a pattern, use “like.” For example, you could write “…vehicular transportation like a dune buggy. Something that can handle rough terrain.”

But if you need to refer to something specific, use “such as.” So you might write  “…you need a real truck, such as a Chevy S-10.” (An S-10 is a real truck, right?)

Don’t say “I write explanations like step-by-step instructions.” Do you write instructions or don’t you? If you do, use “such as.” With a comma after the “as.”

No comic for this one. Harrumpf.