No full-sized lesson this week—we leave for vacation soon, and I’m still sorting out several personal and family issues. But I’ve been keeping a card file on possible “Quick Takes”, which don’t take me long to write and which don’t require homework on your part. So here are three mini-lessons—enjoy, and mark your calendars for April 12, when I’ll have the next real class.
1. Take a look at the following sentence—do you see anything wrong with it?That cat is definitely staring at me
, I thought to myself.
Did you find it? Avoid using the phrase “I thought to myself”. Who else could you think to? This is better:That cat is definitely staring at me
, I thought.
OR…since you’ve got it in italics anyway, get rid of the tag altogether. You’ve just saved yourself two (or four) words. Now--go feed the cat.
2. Here’s another one for you—what’s the problem with the following sentence?Hold on, because I’m about to literally knock your socks off.
It’s the word “literally”, which means “really, actually, truly”. If I literally
knock your socks off, your feet will be chilly soon.
What I meant was “figuratively”, which means “symbolically, metaphorically”. But people don’t say... Hold on, because I’m about to figuratively knock your socks off.
…unless they’re even nerdier about words than I am, and truly insufferable to be around. Just leave out the literally
There’s a blog about the misuse of “literally” here
3. One more sentence for you to evaluate:I was about to drowned my sorrows in a vat of dark chocolate
Caught it right away, didn’t you? Everyone knows that milk
chocolate is the solution to sorrows.
No, I’m kidding…it’s that word drowned
. I see (and hear) it used incorrectly all the time. The present tense is drown
That’s it for now—see you in three weeks. Feel free to respond here--I'll be in occasionally until Thursday, and then a few times while we're on vacation.
In the meantime, read
like a writer