Yet Another Pet Peeve

rogersgeorge on February 20th, 2018

Today’s pet peeve is misuse of “literally.”

When you use “literally,” you’re supposed to mean something like “actual,” “real,” or “in truth.” You’re not supposed to mean “nearly,” figuratively,” or “sort of.” So Jeremy plays a trick on us here by managing to use “literally” literally, not figuratively, Sara’s first opinion notwithstanding.

Zits - 01/21/2018

The rule: “literally” doesn’t mean “figuratively” or “almost.”

By the way, you should literally write those thank-you notes.

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Indicative or Subjunctive?

rogersgeorge on February 16th, 2018

At the risk of being repetitious, here’s another example of the difference between the indicative and the subjunctive.

Here’s the rule: The subjunctive is contrary to reality. Not true; hypothetical, if you will. With the indicative, you are presumably describing reality, in other words, the truth.

Dustin - 01/20/2018

Dustin’s friend is not good with words, so the subjunctive, “were better” is correct. Too bad he didn’t get the girl.

Headlines are NOT Expository Writing!

rogersgeorge on February 14th, 2018

The  point of a headline is to get someone to read what follows, so the more sensational, the better. I could take about any headline nowadays: newspaper, magazine article, or on-line item for an example. Expository writing has the goal of explaining as plainly and accurately as possible. So here’s an example of a headline appropriate for the day:

Mallard Fillmore - 02/11/2018

I leave it as an exercise for the reader to re-write a headline as a piece of good old plain exposition. Post some in the comments.

Some Thoughts About the Singular They

rogersgeorge on February 10th, 2018

I touched on the singular they in the past, and I recommend you follow the link if you don’t know what the singular they is. Today I ran into a usage of it that jumped out at me a little, so I thought I’d share.

First, look at the conversation in the third panel of Scott Meyer’s Basic Instructions:

Since we’re talking about spouses here, the issue of “his” or “hers” being the right word is a little stronger than it would be in a lot of other contexts. On one hand, in this context he’s talking about his wife. And on the other hand, he wants to make his statement tactfully general. And on the third hand, Scott is somewhat constrained for space, so “their” fits better than “his or her.”

Now look at panel three’s heading. Same problems. Scott doesn’t have much room, and he doesn’t know whether your spouse is male of female. So even though the topic is spouses, which is reasonably gender related, which would make “his or her” appropriate, he chose “their.”

Writing can get tricky sometimes, eh?

How Not to do Tech Writing

rogersgeorge on February 8th, 2018

I dare say this Boomerangs comic speaks for itself…

Do I need to belabor the point? Tech writing should be so plain and clear that you don’t notice the writing! Send for that five critical techniques for good writing document I mention in the column on the right if you don’t believe me, or if you want some good advice.