Jul 29

Wednesday Writing Tip #130: “To” vs. “Two” vs. “Too”

For the love of grammar, please get this one right, folks!

For the love of grammar, please get this one right, folks!

When we type quickly, our fingers sometimes get spelling amnesia. That’s my theory, and I’m sticking two too to it.

Take the time to edit yourself, and remember the spellings you learned a long, long time ago:

  • To – most commonly a preposition (e.g., from here to there; east to west; pedal to the metal)
  • Two – a noun or an adjective, what one plus one equals
  • Too – an adverb, meaning “also” or “extremely”

Are there more subtleties to these words? Sure. But we’re not getting into those here. Just remember the basics, and please don’t just rely on spell-check. Spell-check isn’t always your friend.

Jul 22

Wednesday Writing Tip #129: Flesh Out vs. Flush Out

flushing out ideas

On the brink of genius, sometimes a kid just needs a little help getting the ideas out. (Flushing out brilliance? I don’t think so.)

If you’re trying to flush out an idea, are you trying to scare it out of hiding? Is that really what you mean? Maybe in some sort of complex psychotherapy that is beyond me, this makes sense, but I’m guessing that wasn’t what you were going for.

“To flush out” is an expression that originates in bird hunting. Perhaps dogs could help flush out the quail, to get them to leave their hiding spaces.

“To flesh out” means to give substance to. If you had a skeleton of an idea, you could flesh it out to give it weight.

Personally, I smile every time I see people writing that they are “flushing out” their thinking. Our ideas can be sly sometimes, I suppose. We have to get at them however we can. Who am I to judge?

Just make sure you know what you’re saying, folks.

Jul 15

Wednesday Writing Tip #128: Mute vs. Moot


Say it with me. “Moot. Moooooot.” (Does seeing the cow help?)

Make sure you know what you’re saying before you start arguing something is a “mute point.” Please. Let’s tackle this one for the sake of lawyers and grammarians everywhere.

If you’re looking for the term for when something isn’t relevant anymore, you’re looking for “moot.” If you’re looking for the term for silencing the tv, you’re looking for “mute.”

I see the rough logic in calling something a “mute point,” as in perhaps it’s not valuable because it’s so darn quiet and presumably unimportant. But that’s not the expression, folks. You might just be snickered at for using this phrase. And I’m not talking about lawyers. Grammarians have their rude days. Cows too actually (they have a great handle on this one, I think: “Mooooot.”)

Sure, there’s a lot going on in our lives, but using the correct words isn’t a moot point. At least when you’re not on mute. Right?

Jul 10

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There’s a difference in a first draft and a finely edited manuscript. Learn specific techniques and editing notes to apply to your writing from a professional editor whose clients have moved forward to acquire literary agents and hit Amazon best-seller lists.

Kris’s Master Class at the James River Writers Conference is filling fast, so register today!

Jul 08

Wednesday Writing Tip #127: Accept vs. Except

exceptional peacock

A peacock’s feathers are indeed exceptional. Oh, did I just throw you a curve ball?

The English language is full of exceptions that we have to accept. Should we dub them “acceptions” (exceptions that you have to accept even when they annoy you)? Okay, maybe I made that up, and maybe it’s not as clever as it was in my head. Let’s just stick to basics here.

There is a clear difference between “accept” and “except,” and it’s more than just the first two letters.

Accept (think “acceptance”) – a verb meaning “to consent to receive something” or “to come to see something as suitable/valid/right.”

Except (think “exception”) – a preposition meaning “not including” or “other than”; a verb meaning “to exclude” or “to omit.”

I’m pretty sure we know the difference on this one and just write too quickly sometimes. I’m pretty sure. That’s what I tell myself anyhow. You surely won’t make that mistake anymore, right?

Jul 01

Wednesday Writing Tip #126: Alot vs. A Lot vs. Allot

a lot of stripes

Zebras have a lot of stripes, but I don’t think a specific number is allotted to them.

“Alot” isn’t a word, people. Just save your writing dignity (and the headaches of the grammar-picky) and add a space in there. It’s not that hard. Look, I just did it. There I did it a few more times. Wow. I’m awesome at this.

Okay, I digress…

If you like something bunches, you like it a lot. Two words. A lot.

Allot is indeed a word, meaning to give or to allocate a share of something, but I’m still pretty sure that’s not the one you’re misspelling.

Unless it’s a hashtag, put that space in there, folks. We’ll all be the better for it. #Grammarrocks #alot

Jun 24

Wednesday Writing Tip #125: Inquire vs. Enquire

Some inquiries are indeed more formal than others.

Some inquiries are indeed more formal than others.

Inquiring minds want to know: is there a difference between “inquire” and “enquire”? A difference in “inquiry” and “enquiry”? Which one flows of your tongue… or… should I say… keyboard?

If you’re looking for a subtle distinction, there is one (ooh, a teaser…), but in almost all cases, the words are interchangeable. The biggest difference is that “inquire” and “inquiry” are more common in the U.S. and “enquire” and “enquiry” are more common in British English.

To some across the pond, “to enquire” means to ask more generally, and “to inquire” has more of a link to a formal investigation of some sort; however, if you’re Stateside, I wouldn’t really worry about this. Stick to “inquire” and “inquiry” for all uses, and you’ll be just fine.

Jun 17

Wednesday Writing Tip #124: There vs. They’re vs. Their

There, there, dear reader, don’t be distraught by the spelling of “there,” “their,” or “they’re” anymore. This has to be the most confused set of words in the English language. Social media would practically shut down if posts with this typo were denied. Am I exaggerating? Maybe. But just a little bit.

Quick review:

Donuts there their they're

They’re eating their donuts over there.

  • There – A place (e.g., I want to go there). Hint: you’ll find the word “here” inside of “there.” Both of these words are places. If you can swap out “here” for “there” in your sentence, you need this t-h-e-r-e form.
  • They’re – A contraction meaning “they are.” Why do contractions continue to baffle us? The world will never know.
  • Their – A possessive pronoun (e.g. That was their dog). Hint: you’ll find the word “heir” inside of “their.” And an heir has lots of stuff to possess, right?

You’ll remember now, won’t you? Please? Don’t make me appeal to the social media powers that be. I hear grammarians have some pull. Maybe. I tell myself. (sigh) Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 10

Wednesday Writing Tip #123: Affect vs. Effect

If twins were named Cara and Sara, you'd probably be similarly confused.

If twins were named Cara and Sara, you’d probably be similarly confused.

Words that sound similar and look similar are kind of like twins. At first glance, they seem like duplicates, but in the end, a lot of people will be annoyed if you confuse them. Time to stop insulting words, people! Are you using “affect” and “effect” correctly?

In most situations, “affect” is a verb with “influence” being a close synonym. For example, “Quick communications online have affected people’s writing habits.”

In most situations, “effect” is a noun with “result” being a close synonym. For example, “One effect of quick communications online is a proliferation of casual, incorrect writing.”

When you affect something, there is an effect.

However, the English language is never that simple—if you even call this description simple. Affect and effect also have other forms, which add confusion. Nine times out of ten, though, follow the above guide, and you’ll be all set. Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 03

Wednesday Writing Tip #122: Lose vs. Loose

Writing tip lose looseSure, we can be loose with our grammar sometimes, but we shouldn’t lose it all together. This is admittedly tricky sometimes when logical pronunciations don’t follow certain spelling rules, but we have to take a moment, ponder what we mean to say, and get it right.

For example, “loose” is the opposite of tight. We hear that “oo” sound like in “caboose,” so this is a logical spelling. The problem comes with “lose,” which, of course, is the opposite of win. It’s not a rhyme for “hose” or “rose.” It also has the “oo” sound, but without the double “o.”

Lose vs. Loose comes down to just remembering the difference. Just take a moment when you’re writing these two. Loose interpretations of spelling tend to lose their meaning.

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