Archive for August 2006
Okay people, here’s the thing:
“Definately” isn’t a word.
The next time you feel the urge to guess at it, remind yourself of the existence of certain things like finite numbers, definitive versions, the concept of infinity, definite evidence, finite verbs, and definitive proof, which definitely do not contain the letter “a.”
Blogged with Flock
I was reminded yesterday of the vagaries of English and how much I pity anyone who attempts to learn it as a second language. To, too, two. Its, it’s. Your, you’re. Multiple pronunciations of the same letter combinations, as in the title of this post. English is a marvelous, expressive language — but, thanks to the many cultural sources from which it obtains new words, it offers a bewildering and sometimes seemingly random assortment of spellings and sounds.
I’m currently working on a book whose author speaks (first) Dutch, (second) French, and (third) English. He has a wonderful grasp of English; and, in an example in his book, he introduced me to something I’d never heard of: Shavian.
Posthumously funded by and named after Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, the Shavian alphabet (also known as Shaw alphabet) was conceived as a way to provide a simple, phonetic orthography for the English language to replace the difficulties of the conventional spelling. Shaw set two main criteria for the new alphabet: that it should be phonetic, with as great as possible a 1:1 correspondence between letters and sounds; and that it should be distinct from the Latin alphabet so as to avoid the impression that the new spellings were simply “misspellings”.
What a superb idea: a phonetic alphabet that would yield something akin to “thuh tuhff cawft az hee plowd thuh doh” (only written in much prettier, vaguely Elvish characters; here’s an example) and would thus save us from our maddening tangle of spellings and pronunciations.
1. When citing references in text, the parenthetical reference should be outside of the period (after) the sentence to which it belongs, unless the reference itself it explicitly referred to in the sentence in question. That is to say, the parenthetical reference should be in the “no-man’s land” between the sentence it is referencing and the following sentence. For example,
“This is a sentence. (Ferguson 2004)” is correct;
“This is a sentence (Ferguson 2004).” isn’t.
Keep in mind that this is occasionally a stylistic issue and may be treated differently in other countries.
2. This is a common mistake, even more common than the myself mistake: Full sentences cannot be connected by commas. They must be connected with a period, a semicolon, a colon, or a conjunction (”and,” “but,” “or,” etc.). For example, take the sentence, “We got out of the car, we walked to the store,” which is incorrect. There are four options for quick fixes:
- Period: We got out of the car. We walked to the store.
- Semicolon: We got out of the car; we walked to the store.
- Colon: We got out of the car: We walked to the store.
- Conjunction: We got out of the car, and we walked to the store. (or, We got out of the car, but we walked to the store.)
All of these examples are grammatically correct sentences and properly link two complete sentences together.
3. Following up on the third example above: When a colon is followed by a complete sentence, the leading word must be capitalized (such as in this very sentence!); when it is followed by a phrase or a list of words, it must be lowercase. The use of colons vary widely and there are many, many uses for them, including but not limited to linking two sentences together that have an effectual or direct relationship, for example; introducing a list; or formally “introducing” the sentence or idea that follows it. For example,
“I discovered something yesterday: There’s a difference between ‘afterward’ and ‘afterword.’” is correct.
“I discovered something yesterday: there’s a difference between ‘afterward’ and ‘afterword.’” isn’t.
“I went to the store to get some things: lettuce, parsley, and sage.” is correct.
“I went to the store to get some things: Lettuce, parsley, and sage.” isn’t.
Small, yes, but significant, and annoying when incorrect! Note, too, that the same rule doesn’t apply with semicolons; the leading word in the following sentence or phrase should always be lowercase, regardless of whether it’s a complete sentence (such as in this very sentence!).Gr
I’m slightly embarrassed to say I’ve never consciously realized that there is a difference between “afterword” and “afterward” (or “afterwards”). I wonder how many times I’ve confused these words (probably not terribly many, since, not having written
many any books anything containing epilogues, I’ve had little occasion to throw “afterword” around).
afterword, n. A passage added at the end of a book, etc., as an epilogue or the like.
afterward, adv. Of time: In time following, subsequently.
afterwards, adv. At a later time, subsequently.
[from the Oxford English Dictionary]
I recently wrote regarding the proper use of “myself” and its emerging widespread misuse. I’ve recently come across a few others who share similar gripes. Here are their attempts: