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Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Tue Aug 13, 2013 6:23 pm

Colswann1 wrote:Jan, we from the UK spell lots of words differently to you in the USA. Quite often we use two consonants where you from the USA use one. I think we have a rule that if a vowel follows a word ending in a consonant then the word-ending consonant doubles up e.g. swimming, parallelled, etc.


Absolutely--and when I'm commenting on Challenge pieces (or editing) and it's apparent that the writer is using UK English, I don't comment on the spelling or on any usages that I know to be correct for that writer. I did it once -- I 'corrected' the spelling of 'chilli' -- and I hurt the feelings of the writer, and I felt terrible. I'd rather keep quiet than risk hurting someone by my correction--especially when I'm wrong.

This post isn't really about commonly misspelled words, at any rate, but on words that are used incorrectly (mostly with wrong meanings). However, we in the US also double consonants before adding prefixes. There are lots of other differences in UK/US spelling, but that's not one of them.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby Shann » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:00 pm

I was the one with whom you discussed nauseous and nauseated. (Of course there could be others) I will mention it if I notice it on a challenge because that is how I learned.

As for the UK spelling that can be difficult Just this week someone made a comment about a UK spelling and I left a comment after telling the author not to worry the judges were aware of the differences. I've heard many people say that they try to write to an American audience, even if they are from UK. That might be another good topic for you to undertake.

It is funny how some words bugs us and others don't. My biggest pet peeve is using I incorrectly. I think people used to say Me and Emily are going to the store. Then they were corrected by teachers and parents and now overcompensate and say She bought ice cream for Emily and I. (That's when I scream at the TV, book, or whatever and say it's for me! You wouldn't say She bought ice cream for I!!!!!) Oh and there's another topic--overusing exclamation points, ellipses, and other nefarious punctuation. (sorry I couldn't resist and I wanted to get back on topic about using words improperly, though depending on your state of mind, nefarious might fit.) :mrgreen:
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:31 pm

Shann wrote:I was the one with whom you discussed nauseous and nauseated.


Oh, that's funny! I have so many conversations about writing that I lose track of them.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby CatLin » Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:51 pm

As I'm reading the replies and trying to remember what I want to comment on, the news is on in the background and I hear and interviewee say, ".... I just felt nauseated when ...." :D I misuse that one a lot (not alot).

Steve, I love the questions you raised. When I was reading the correct definition and usage of these words, I wondered about the person reading if I were to use them. If the majority of the people think a word means almost the opposite of it's actual definition (decimate, for example), will they misunderstand your intent? A tenth of a city destroyed is quite different than a city flattened (which is what I picture when I hear a city is decimated), for example.


Brad, in conversation one evening, used the phrase, "For all intensive purposes..."

I said, "I think you mean 'for all intents and purposes."

"What?"

"It's not 'for all intensive purposes,' it's 'for all intents...and...purposes.' "

"No."

"Yes."

"Uh uh."

"Really."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Want me to Google it?"

"Yes."

And so I did. Guess who was right and who was humbled? :)
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby Colswann1 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:32 am

At one time, I used to use a check list when self editing my pieces for the Challenge. It included simply words to watch out for like: is and his, there and their, as and has, along with other things to check out. I knew about the different spellings for engaged couples, but not if they were both blond/blonde. Should I use blond or blonde if I am saying that the engaged couple are both blond(e)?
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:05 am

Good question, Colin. I don't think anyone would fault you if you just picked one of the spellings of 'blond/e' and went with it. On the other hand, if you really want to be correct, you could go with a synonym: Both Joe and his fiancee are fair-haired.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:06 am

Cat, I was going to include 'for all intensive purposes' in part 2, but you've covered it far more entertainingly than I would have!
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby Mike Newman » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:35 pm

Hey Jan,

Thank you for doing these, they are wonderful opportunities for me to learn. I appreciate it.

I was completely unaware of the true meanings of enormity and decimate. I did see, like a previous poster, that dictionaries are starting to give in to prevalent usages, especially in the case of decimate. That's interesting ... seeing the language evolve.

As for suggestions for upcoming topics, I still have POV and tense questions. What about a post heavily laden with examples of both? Or maybe my best bet is to just reply in those threads with my specific questions.

Anyway, thanks again Jan.


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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Wed Aug 14, 2013 7:41 pm

Mike, I'd love for you to pop over to the lesson I did last week on POV and ask any question that you may have on POV over there.

I'll do a lesson soon on tenses.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby yarra » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:15 am

Hi Jan,
Interesting to note the commonly misused words. As Colin mentioned (above) there are some regional differences in spellings of words. We in Australia are tied more closely to the British spelling, but the American spelling is creeping in (to some people's annoyance - it all depends on your point of view! ) There used to be a program on TV here in which a professor of the English language or of grammar had a segment where she talked about the origins of words and the way language has changed. Sometimes what we would think was incorrect was considered correct a couple of hundred years ago.
eg. It grates today to hear people say 'aksed' when they mean 'asked' but apparently the former was originally more correct.
One word that I think is misused a lot is 'humbled'. People who win awards, or presidencies or are chosen as leaders often say 'I am humbled to be given this honour (Australian spelling)' or similar. I think they should be saying 'I'm proud to be given this honour,' or 'I'm honoured....'.
What do you think about the use of 'humbled' in this way?
I'm eager to read your response and will pore over it! Thanks, Ellen

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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:36 am

Ellen, I'd never really thought about using "humbled" when accepting an award or hono(u)r. My initial thought is that the honoree is being gracious, and when they're saying "I'm humbled," they're saying something like "There were many others nominated for this award, and they are certainly as deserving as I am, if not more so."

It's also probably quite true that people who say they are humbled aren't really feeling gracious at all, but that it's the expected thing to say.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby Colswann1 » Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:42 am

This article appeared in my paper this very day - because I don't know how to transfer it in full, I'll type a few relevant bits.

Dictionary is rewritten - literally!

It is a word that has been misused by so many that its definition has been changed - literally. The Oxford English Dictionary has revealed that it has included the erroneous use of the word 'literally' after the usage became popular.

The dictionary states the definition as 'in a literal way or sense' but adds that, informally, it can be 'used for emphasis rather than actually true' such as 'we were literally killing ourselves laughing'.

............................ blah, blah, blah - middle bit.

Miss McPherson said: Our job is to describe the language people are using. The only reason this sense is included is because people are using it this way.

'Words have changed their meaning ever since the first word was uttered. Meat used to mean all food but now its sense has narrowed.'
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:03 pm

Colin, this is one that I'm not ready to give up on yet--thanks for posting it! I'm willing to concede for words like nauseous/nauseated because they're quite similar in meaning--but re-writing the dictionary so that 'literally' means its exact opposite is just plain wrong. I wonder why they didn't consult me...
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby lish1936 » Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:31 pm

Jan,
Such wonderful examples of misused words, and ones that I'm probably guilty of misusing without realizing it. I'm writing several of them (the ones that surprised me the most), so that I may solidify them in my head. :D

A raging fire swept through the block and decimated most of the neighborhood. Would the reader then understand ten buildings were gone?

The enormity of the rapist's actions overwhelmed the entire community, and caused a run-on for additional door locks at the local hardware store.

This word is especially challenging because it's a synonym and easy for me to confuse the two.
My dog, Gunther, walked on his two hind legs, but the bow tie that hung around his neck made him even more discrete. Does that make sense?

Marly anxiously peered around the curtain, not knowing whether she would find Pete dead or alive.

Now for the questions. :-) I'm having a hard time writing a sentence with the proper use of the word disinterested. I think it's because in my head disinterested and uninterested have the same meaning. Could you please write a sentence using both of these words?

Also, what is the proper way to use "into" and "in to," or is there no such distinction?

Thanks, and ever grateful for this lesson.

Lillian
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:56 pm

lish1936 wrote:
A raging fire swept through the block and decimated most of the neighborhood. Would the reader then understand ten buildings were gone?


Only if there were originally 100 buildings in the neighborhood, since to decimate is to destroy one-tenth. So it's really problematic to write "...decimated most of..." since one-tenth is NOT most of anything. You could write "A raging fire swept through the block and decimated the neighborhood." The reader should understand that a tenth of the neighborhood was burned. However, I should note that this is a usage that is disappearing, and that many dictionaries now accept 'destroyed' as a definition for 'decimated.'

lish1936 wrote:The enormity of the rapists actions overwhelmed the entire community.


This would be correct, with an apostrophe in rapist's.

lish1936 wrote:This word is especially challenging because it's a synonym and easy for me to confuse the two.
My dog, Gunther, walked on his two hind legs, but the bow tie that hung around his neck made him even more discrete. Does that make sense?


I'm afraid I'm not really following this one. Try again, please?

lish1936 wrote:Marly anxiously peered around the curtain, not knowing whether she would find Pete dead or alive.


This works for me.

lish1936 wrote:Now for the questions. :-) I'm having a hard time writing a sentence with the proper use of the word disinterested. I think it's because in my head disinterested and uninterested have the same meaning. Could you please write a sentence using both of these words?


The writing contest will be judged by a disinterested (unbiased, fair, not influenced) reader who is familiar with short stories. She likes to read romance and history, but she is uninterested (bored) in science fiction or fantasy.

lish1936 wrote:Also, what is the proper way to use "into" and "in to," or is there no such distinction?


Jan ran into the ocean. (She was on the beach before she got there.)
Jan ran in the ocean. (She was already there, and she saw a shark, and she started running.)

lish1936 wrote:Thanks, and ever grateful for this lesson.

Lillian


You're welcome!
Jan Ackerson

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