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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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lish1936
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby lish1936 » Thu Aug 15, 2013 6:23 pm

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.


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



I knew that one was iffy. Suppose I change it to read: My dog, Gunther, walked on his two hind legs, but the bow tie that hung around his neck made him even more discrete than all the other dogs.



Jan wrote: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.)




I was referring to the use of "in to" vs. into.

Ex.
Jan ran in to Cary on the soccer field and nearly knocked her over.

Jan ran into Cary on the soccer field and nearly knocked her over

Jan ran into Cary at the Supermarket, and was surprised to see her.

Which of the above is correct?

Thanks, again.

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

Postby glorybee » Thu Aug 15, 2013 6:39 pm

Lillian, I think I've really confused you with "discrete." It doesn't really mean "unusual" or "distinctive," like a dog in a bow tie. It's more like "separately identified."

Most cats can make four discrete vocalizations: purr, meow, growl, and hiss.
The kingdom of Elbonia had two discrete tribes--the Serendips and the Feckless.

Of your examples for 'into" and "in to," the second and third are correct, but the first is not.

Better? If not, let me know, and I'll try again.
Jan Ackerson

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

Postby Come forth » Thu Aug 15, 2013 7:04 pm

First of all I just want to say a really big thanks; what a great gift you give us by doing this. I didn't realize until I jumped onto this thread how helpful and enjoyable these lessons are. Thank you.

Feedback:

Myriad would always take me off course of course (pun intended) because for my 'brain freeze' when reading; it just don't read right. 'A myriad of butterflies' sounds right to me and 'Myriad of butterflies' sounds wrong. Better get some anti-thaw (can't help them puns) for my brain.

I was going to mention 'common usage' when I first started reading this post (living language and all that) but you and Steve have covered it so well. I do think that 'decimate' falls into this category and that most readers (especially younger ones; today's teenagers) would equate this with 'destroyed/did incredible damage to'. To be honest, proud little Grammar School boy that I was, it took me by surprise too (or is that two because it both surprised me and educated me or is it to because it took me to a new level).

Blond/blonde was a trip down memory lane. I had forgotten the feminine 'e' and discarded it over the years. Interestingly my spell checker is telling me it is incorrect; it accepts blond but not blonde. But of course 'blondies' (also incorrect according to my spell checker) are much more interesting for those of us with a sweet tooth and you'll never actually see a group of blondies walking down the street.

Enormity was also a surprise, but I think in the back of my mind I remember an English professor in Grammar School (I also remember a maths teacher and I now realize that I remember her because of her enormity) who once taught us that and used the same Hitler example that you did.

Okay, I've tried to include my homework threaded, mixed, salted and peppered through my post.

Blessings and many thanks, Graham.
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.

My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Thu Aug 15, 2013 7:11 pm

Come forth wrote:Myriad would always take me off course of course (pun intended) because for my 'brain freeze' when reading; it just don't read right. 'A myriad of butterflies' sounds right to me and 'Myriad of butterflies' sounds wrong. Better get some anti-thaw (can't help them puns) for my brain.


I had to double-check my original post to make sure I did it right after reading this comment. And I did--myriad doesn't need 'a' before it OR 'of' after it.

There are myriad ways to upset an editor; misusing 'myriad' is just one of them.
Jan Ackerson

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

Postby swfdoc1 » Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:20 pm

I’ve never thought of the myriad question before. Here is a link for Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. As you scroll down you will see an entry for “myriad” as a noun, including an interesting usage note, then an entry for “myriad” as an adjective.

Since I have not thought about this before, I’ll speculate out loud. Under the Merriam-Webster definitions, might it not be essential to include the word “a” to show whether one is using “myriad” as a noun or an adjective? Sometimes? Always?

However, this doesn’t explain “of.” but I think of other collective numbers: dozen, score. Think of these various constructions: “a dozen roses,” “three dozen roses,” “dozens of roses.” But is it “four score roses” or “four score of roses”? Also hundreds of thousands. Adding to the mix, “myriad” (as a noun) can mean either 10,000 (a collective number) or “a large number” (not a collective number), and that as an adjective it can mean “innumerable.”

It is possible that this is a case of a rule with exceptions? Or is it more like when a noun can have alternate regular and irregular plurals?
Steve
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby glorybee » Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:36 pm

Thanks, Steve!

I'm sure not going to argue with Merriam Webster.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby swfdoc1 » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:07 pm

glorybee wrote:Thanks, Steve!

I'm sure not going to argue with Merriam Webster.

But just remember, the point of Mirriam Webster’s usage note is that they disagree with a whole camp of people who think myriad should NOT be a noun.

This sort of looks like another example of language evolving and people fighting it. The interesting twist here is that (assuming Merriam Webster is right about the history), the people who are taking the word “myriad” in a new direction MISTAKENLY THINK they’re defending the old “proper” usage.

Since these issues always come down to the battle of the experts and/or the battle of the experts against the people, you may soon be proven right.

My point was not that Merriam Webster is right (in terms of what ought to be, although they probably are in terms of history), and it certainly wasn’t that you are wrong. My point was just “isn’t this adjective-noun explanation of the confusion interesting?” That’s just the kind of geek I am. :mrgreen:
Steve
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"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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

Postby glorybee » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:10 pm

Me, too.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby lish1936 » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:14 pm

glorybee wrote:Lillian, I think I've really confused you with "discrete." It doesn't really mean "unusual" or "distinctive," like a dog in a bow tie. It's more like "separately identified."

Most cats can make four discrete vocalizations: purr, meow, growl, and hiss.
The kingdom of Elbonia had two discrete tribes--the Serendips and the Feckless.

Of your examples for 'into" and "in to," the second and third are correct, but the first is not.

Better? If not, let me know, and I'll try again.



Okay, Jan, I think I got the 'discrete' meaning - distinct rather than distinctive.

Don't mean to beat a dead horse, but as per the "in to," is there any time that the two words are written separately?

Thanks,

Lillian
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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

Postby glorybee » Thu Aug 15, 2013 9:28 pm

lish1936 wrote:Don't mean to beat a dead horse, but as per the "in to," is there any time that the two words are written separately?


Lillian--yes, if the 'in' and the 'to' are used as two separate prepositions, or, as in this example, if the 'in' is a preposition and the 'to' is part of an infinitive.

Piper stood shyly in the bedroom doorway, and I invited her in to join me in my bed for a midnight story.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby lish1936 » Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:07 pm

:thankssign Jan. Not unnoticed is you continous patience, expertise, and wisdom in your responses.

Blessings,

Lillian
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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

Postby Shann » Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:35 pm

I'm going back to the myriad word. I have to tell you how funny it is that once someone mentions something, all of a sudden it seems like the thing mentioned is everywhere.

I had stated earlier that I really didn't think I used the word myriad very much, or ever and didn't see it used that often either. Well, guess which word has been popping up this week? I even saw it in the challenge and chuckled because the person using it used the words a and of. It still doesn't sound correct to me without those words, but I think that is because I think of it as a noun not an adj.

I guess this goes to show that writing and words can be totally fascinating, we always have the ability to broaden our horizons, and it is wonderful to see Jan back doing her thread. :thankssign
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby Vonnie » Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:03 am

Enjoy your lessons and am learning from them, thanks. In a past writers challenge I used the word hum in this sentence, "Hum, I didn't know that." Someone suggested I had used the wrong word and should have used "hmmm" or "ummm" to show hesitation. However, my dictionary said it could be used as an interjection of doubt, surprise or indecision. Did I use this word wrong? :?:

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

Postby glorybee » Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:10 am

Vonnie, I've never seen 'hum' used like that, and my preference would be for 'hmm.' But if your dictionary said that 'hum' was acceptable, then who am I to disagree? It's simply a matter of personal preference, and one of those times when writing is more art than science. No one right answer; carry on.
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Re: Jan's New Writing Lessons -- COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS

Postby RachelM » Fri Aug 16, 2013 1:50 am

Thank you so much for sharing these lessons, Jan. I'll be honest; I'm scared. It's disorienting to find out that a familiar word doesn't mean what I've always thought it did. I think that I'm most disturbed about enormity. The word brings an elephant to mind, and in my imagination, it doesn't look evil!

This feeling of fear is a good thing, though, and I feel motivated to study and familiarize myself with the rules of the English language. I started reading The Elements of Style tonight. Some things I already knew, other things suddenly make sense, and still others go right over my head.

Decimate is another word that really surprised me, and I'm sure that I have used discrete when I meant discreet. I am going to try to write two sentences for discreet/discrete because that is something that is definitely going to come up in the future.

Her dress, which cascaded to the floor, was elegant and discreet.

Even though every house in the subdivision was an exact replica of its neighbour, the houses were made discrete by their different coloured doors.

Thanks again, and I look forward to your next lesson!

~Rachel
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