The Truth You Don’t Need

 

Have you ever read the expression “in sooth” in a fantasy novel or perhaps in something by Shakespeare?

Antonio, in Shakespeare’s  Merchant of Venice uses that expression:

“In sooth I know not why I am so sad.

It wearies me; you say it wearies you.”

Translation:

“To tell the truth, I don’t know why I’m so sad.

It tires me; you say you’re tired of it, too.”

Shakespeare died 505 years ago, so you can imagine that the English language of the late 1500s was quite different from what it is today.

“Sooth” is one of those archaic words that we simply don’t use anymore – except perhaps in a fantasy novel based on times so long ago, where the author uses old English terms to lend authenticity to a world of his or her own creation.

So why do I mention “sooth”? It’s because I see it misused in modern English when the author really meant to say “soothe” (to calm or make one feel better).

First, let’s get the pronunciation right. The old-fashioned term for truth is “sooth” and it rhymes with “truth.” That should make it easy to remember.

In sooth, she is long in the tooth. (It truth, she’s old.)

“Soothe” has a softer “th” sound and rhymes with “smooth.” I know that’s not helpful for the spelling but the meaning is similar.

I’ll speak softly to her and soothe her as I smooth out her wrinkled forehead.

Now you will also be able to guess what a soothsayer is. It is someone who tells the truth, but in days of old, the term was used for people who foretold the future (and people assumed he told the truth).

 

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Here are some other troublesome words that change meaning when “e” is added.

Breath, breathe

We can feel out of breath, or take a big breath, but when the air is coming in and out of our lungs, we breathe.

 

Envelop, envelope

The letter goes inside an envelope (rhymes with cantelope). But when something is wrapped up, like in someone’s arms, we envelop it. Envelop rhymes with develop.

The large woman can envelop her child in a hug.

The cavalry’s job was to envelop the group of archers.

 

Loath, loathe

Loath is the adjective. Loathe is the verb.

I was loath to do the dishes because I loathe that job.

*** I might point out that while we might still use the word loathe, it would be rare to hear someone say they are loath to do something.

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I see the above words misused very often when I’m copy-editing. If you are aware of the differences in these similar words, you will misuse them less often.

An easy way to check for these words is to use “Find” in your Word file, and type in the word you are searching for. Then check to see if you have the right word in each case.

A little tip: if you type in the word without the “e,” all the ones with “e” will also show up.

For example: Type in breath and all cases of breath will come up as well as all cases of breathe, and then you can check them all at once.

 

 

 

Lay or Lie

This is a repeat of a post from three years ago, so apologies to those who have seen it, but maybe it won’t hurt to have a refresher.

You wouldn’t believe how often, as a copy-editor, I see “lay” and “lie” misused.

Do you have trouble knowing the correct form of lay or lie to use in your writing?

Why not copy and paste this chart? Print it out either with your printer or by hand, onto a piece of paper that you can keep handy by your desk for a quick reference.

A quick version of how “lie” and “lay” are used with the pronoun “I.”

To Lie (down)

I lie (present)

I lay (preterite)

I have lain (present perfect)

I am lying (present continuous)

To Lay (to set an object down)

I lay (present)

I laid (preterite)

I have laid (present perfect)

I am laying (present continuous)

To Lie (tell an untruth)

I lie (present)

I lied (preterite)

I have lied (present perfect)

I am lying (present continuous)

Good work! Now have a cookie.

Horrors in Time for Halloween

I’ve told you how I feel about seeing and hearing “regard(s),” amount,” and “less” misused. After I opened the door to discuss those horrors, I noticed many more horrifying misuses lurking in the back of the writing closet.

When these words somehow make it into published writing, I shudder as if a tarantula crept across the page of my book. I groan as if a skeleton had snuggled up beside me as I read. I moan helplessly as the careless author is vampiring my blood for as long as it takes for me to read the book.

Without a clove of garlic handy, I’m at the author’s mercy if he/she has not hired a copy-editor to clean up the freaky expressions that set any reader’s teeth on edge.

Here are some of the latest horrors I’ve come across.

“Have to” is often used to mean “must,” especially in dialogue. When we say these words, the “v” sounds like “f.” It sounds like “hafto,” but for heaven’s sake, please don’t spell it like that. It is still two words (“have to”).

A similar situation happens with “supposed to” and “used to.” The correct form is not “suppose to,” “suppost to,” or even “s’post to.” Neither is it “use to,” or “useto.”

Another common mistake that makes me prickle is the use of “of” when “have” is meant. Here are some examples of what I mean:

Could of, should of, would of — these are meant to be could have, should have, would have.

While we’re at it, let’s throw in “gonna,” kinda,” “gimme,” and “wanna.” These should say “going to,” “kind of,” “give me,” and “want to.” Yes, in dialogue you may want to write “gonna,” “kinda,” “gimme,” and “wanna,” if that’s how the characters are speaking. Do it if you must, but only in dialogue.

Don’t laugh! Adult authors have published books containing these travesties of writing. These expressions live in published works even outside the borders of Transylvania.

Two Misuses That Drive me Crazy

Regard/Regards

This one drives me crazy.

Two of the main uses for this word are when it means “about” and when it means “greetings.”

You can correctly say, “I haven’t seen your aunt for a long time. Please give her my regards.” (Notice the “s” on the end of the “regards”?) Used in this way, it means to tell someone that you are thinking of them.

When you are referring to some topic, you can correctly say, “With regard to (the topic)…” or you can say, “Regarding (the topic) ….” But you should NEVER say, “With regards to (the topic)…” unless you are asking someone to say hi to the topic or to give the topic your greetings.

Several news anchor people on CTV News regularly say, “With regards to …” when they mean, “With regard to….” The anchor person says, “With regards to the rioters…” and I immediately roll my eyes, groan, and say, “Yes, please give the rioters my regards too, while you’re at it.”

Many people make this mistake in word usage, and that is not so bad in personal speech or in emails or private communications, but I draw the line at publishing. By that, I mean anything that you write for the public to read. I include signs in the grocery store that tell you the price of broccoli, peppers, and cauliflower, for example. They are not brocolli, pepers, and callaflower.

Especially, if you are publishing a program on TV, it is your duty to use the correct form. Otherwise we would soon have news anchors reading the news with all sorts of bad grammar habits. (I fear it may be too late already).

While I’m ranting about news anchors and their mistakes, here is another one that I hear frequently.

Amount/number, less/fewer

This one drives me almost as crazy.

News Anchor: “The amount of people who came to the meeting was overwhelming.”

Me: “So about how many pounds of people would you say were there? Three thousand pounds? Four?”

It should be the number of people.

News Anchor: “There were less people at the meeting this year.”

Me: “Oh? About how many pounds less would you say?”

It should be fewer people, not less people.

If the quantity is something you can count individually, you say, the number of people or fewer people.

If those people were just so much hamburger all in a lump, you could say, “The amount of hamburger  was overwhelming,” and “There was less hamburger at the meeting.”

Amount and less are words used for measuring something that could be a mass or something that could be weighed as a whole (if necessary).

Now I’m shaking in my boots that I’ve made a typo in this post. After all, I’m publishing it, and to the best of my ability, it should be correct. I should probably hire a copy-editor.

Apostrophes – Commas in the Air

Common mistakes I see when copy-editing

Apostrophes

Many people confuse the purpose of apostrophes in their writing. So when should you use an apostrophe? 

Apostrophes have two separate uses. One is for showing ownership, as in the cat’s whiskers. The other is to show that one or more letters have been taken out (contractions).

Often, I see apostrophes in words that are meant to be plural, but not possessive.

e.g. The photo’s look great.

It should say: The photos look great.

Sometimes, people use apostrophes with pronouns.

e.g.  her’s, it’s, our’s, their’s, who’s, your’s — these are all WRONG if you’re trying to show ownership. They should be written: hers, its, ours, theirs, whose, yours.

Some of the words can be confusing.

e.g. Let’s means let us, but if you meant to say that someone allows you do do something, it should be, “She lets me go to the movies.”  

Who’s means who is, but if you meant to ask who owns something, you would say, “Whose dog it that?”

And the most troublesome of all … it’s or its.

It’s means it is, but if you are attaching ownership, you would say, “The dog should pay attention to its master.”

There was a time when the general rule was to use apostrophes to show possession for people and animals (the dog’s fur, the lady’s hat), but to use “of” for inanimate things (the hood of the jacket, the eye of the needle), but this is now being disregarded in many cases. It seems to me that it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to “the car’s windshield” or “the book’s cover.”

One of the most common errors I see is the use of an apostrophe  with decades.

e.g. The  Beetles were popular in the 1960s. There should be NO apostrophe.

But if you shorten the decades to refer to the ’60s. This apostrophe is correct because it shows that something has been left out — in this case,  the 19. Be sure that the apostrophe is turned to face the same direction as a comma (not as at the beginning of a quotation).

Placement: The apostrophe comes after the word that has the ownership. If it is a singular noun, then you would put the apostrophe after that noun. If it is a plural noun, then put the apostrophe after the end of that word.

e.g. This is the dog’s collar.

These are the two dogs’ collars.

The use of apostrophes is more complex than one page  can do justice to, but consider this a beginner’s list of basic helpful hints.

Run-on Sentences

pen

Do you strive to be a good writer? Do you have trouble recognizing  a correct sentence? Are you guilty of writing run-on sentences? Here are some ways to solve this problem.

One of the most common mistakes beginning writers make is to use run-on sentences. When two complete thoughts are stuck together as one sentence, quite often it is a run-on sentence, and is grammatically incorrect. For a copy editor, a piece of writing that is full of run-on sentences can be a nightmare to work through.

Very often, the two parts of the run-on sentence are related, most likely talking about the same idea. The red and green highlighting shows the two sentences that have been put together to make one run-on (incorrect) sentence.

(Run-on) My house is at the end of the block no other houses are beyond mine.

The simplest way to correct this would be to make two sentences.

My house is at the end of the block. No other houses are beyond mine.

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(Run-on) She was only fourteen years old no wonder she was vulnerable.

She was only fourteen years old. No wonder she was vulnerable.

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(Run-on) I shopped in the rain today I got drenched.

I shopped in the rain today. I got drenched.

Here are other options:

1. I shopped in the rain today, and got drenched.

2. I shopped in the rain today; I got drenched.

3. I shopped in the rain today; therefore, I got drenched.

4. Because I shopped in the rain today, I got drenched.

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Since you have so many options, please use one of them instead of jamming two complete thoughts into one sentence without the proper conjunctions or punctuation. The simplest way to fix a run-on sentence is with a period and capital letter, but as you can see, there are other alternatives. Leaving it as a run-on sentence is not one of them.

copyediting1

For information about copy editing services, please go to my website at

www.anneli-purchase.com

How We Speak

How we speak tells our listeners a lot about us. We don’t need to sound like Wikipedia, but if we sound as if we are uneducated others tend to judge us accordingly.

I find it annoying when a person has purposely taken up the habit of using bad grammar. This usually affects how the person  is perceived  by others, and makes a negative impression.  I see  little advantage to this, unless the poor speaker is desperate to be “one of the boys” (or girls). Perhaps I’m misjudging the reason for that kind of speech, but in some cases I have seen and heard, this seems to fit.

The kind of language I’m talking about is not so much the sentences with the *F* word thrown in  before every noun and verb in the sentence, but rather something more common — using the wrong tense of see, come, say, go, and several other verbs.

Also notice the insecure use of “this” instead of “a” or “the,” with the sentences going higher in pitch at the end so they sound like a question.

Here is an example of a conversation with the errors marked in red:

Me and my buddy seen this ad in the paper? We rented an upstairs room in this boarding house? The first day I gets up early because I hears this noise downstairs? I come down the stairs in a hurry and I seen this guy? He’s leaving the house with this black bag in his hand?

I would’ve went after him, but I never seen which way he went. So I says to my buddy, “Hey buddy! I just seen this burglar take off with this black bag.”

“Oh, that’s just the guy that’s renting the downstairs room. Probably going to school. I think he’s in college.”

“Hmpf! Good thing we got our jobs. We don’t need no grammar lessons. I could’ve went  to college  but I seen the Help Wanted sign. Don’t need no grammar.”

“But your job is to be a reporter. You need good English for that.”

“Naaahhh! I’ll just get Anneli to copy-edit my work for me.”

*****

Have you heard people speaking like this? Why do you think they do it, when they know it’s not good English?

Clauses other than Santa

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An independent clause is a group of words with a noun or pronoun as a subject and a verb as a predicate. We have been calling it a sentence. When two clauses are put together and linked, they become a compound sentence (basically, two sentences in one).

Eg.

The bell rang to end the last session.

We left the school.

The bell rang to end the last session, and we left the school.

Each clause could stand independently.

We also have subordinate clauses. They do not stand independently. They still have a subject and a predicate, but because they start with words such as when,  which, that, and as, they are dependent (or subordinate) to another clause.

Here are examples of subordinate clauses and independent clauses. You’ll see that the blue ones could stand alone.

As we climbed higher up the mountain, the weather became worse.

When my dog sees a cat, she wants to chase it.

She called for help which was the sensible thing to do.

We also have clauses which act as other parts of speech. Some groups of words act as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

Here are some examples where noun clauses act as:

a subject: That I am old is easy to see.

a direct object: Emma knows which bowl is hers.

a predicate noun: The answer is whatever you want it to be.

Adjectival clauses:

That is the dish that ran off with the spoon.

Adverbial clauses:

The show ended when the rain began to pour onto the stage.

I suppose you could call these other little clauses Santa’s Helpers. He’s the big Claus and these are all the little clauses.

Sentences with Objects

You know about the simple sentence (subject and predicate). Now we will add another element, a direct object (marked in blue).

The man wrote a letter.

The man (subject/noun) wrote (predicate/verb) a letter (direct object/noun).

The letter is the receiver of the action and answers the question “What?”

(What did the man write?)

Now we can add an indirect object (marked in red), which will answer the question “To whom?” or “For whom?”

Here are some other examples of direct objects (in blue) and indirect objects (in red).

The man wrote his girlfriend a letter.

He gave his guests the tour.

He bought his love a ring.

She paid him ten dollars.

Sometimes we want to say the same thing in a different way. By using a prepositional phrase (a group of words beginning with a preposition) we can substitute it for the indirect object by putting the phrase after the direct object. The prepositional phrase is marked in green.

“The man wrote his girlfriend a letter” becomes “The man wrote a letter to his girlfriend.”

“She paid him ten dollars” becomes “She paid ten dollars to him.”

“He bought his love a ring” becomes “He bought a ring for his love.”

You can recognize a prepositional phrase by the prepositions at the beginning.

Some prepositions are:

To, for, with, after, without, in, by, beside, among, when, at, over, beyond, through (and many others).

So there you are — direct objects, indirect objects, and prepositional phrases. You can add these to your list of “parts of speech.”

Passive Verbs

Here are three sentence patterns. It is the third one that I’d like to talk about most today.

  1. We met this one in the previous post, basically the subject and the verb. We can add modifiers to make it more interesting.

The wintery sky changed dramatically.

  1. The subject, verb, and a direct object.

The dog bit his master.

  1. The subject and a passive voice verb (a verb that does not take a direct object. In fact, if we use sentence #2 as an example, the former object (the master) becomes the subject and the former subject (the dog) becomes the object. The passive verb tells us that something has been done to the subject.

Examples:

The master was bitten by the dog.

The house was built by the carpenter.

The car was driven by Anneli.

***Note that the passive voice (as in the examples above) is not usually the preferred choice for writers of novels. The active voice makes for much better drama. Consider these two ways of writing:

Passive:

The Corolla was driven up the new highway by Marlie. A bear was seen by her. The car was being parked at the side of the road by Marlie. The camera was picked up by her shaking hands. Just then, she was charged by the bear.

Active:

Marlie drove up the Corolla up the new highway. She saw a bear. Marlie parked the car at the side of the road. Her shaking hands picked up the camera. Just then, the bear charged her.

Conclusion:

The passive voice works well in some cases, and has its uses, but for the most part, the active verb form is better. In some cases, the passive verb form is best.

For example, we use the passive verb if something happened to someone but we don’t know who did it:

My neighbour was robbed.

The pedestrian was knocked over.

The money was taken.

Take care to check your verb forms and only use the passive form if it is called for. Needless use of the passive verb form takes the punch out of your writing.