Top Ten Lists – Merriam-Webster Online

Looking for some fun words to add to your writing? Check out  these funny-sounding and interesting words:

Top Ten Lists – Merriam-Webster Online.

Here’s the first one:

#1: Bumfuzzle

Definition:

confuse; perplex; fluster

Example:

“Irish can bumfuzzle any team” – headline about the Notre Dame “Fighting Irish” football team,Chicago Tribune, October 27, 2002

About the Word:

Bumfuzzle may have begun asdumfound, which was then altered first into dumfoozle and then into bumfoozleDumfound (or dumbfound) remains a common word today, but bumfuzzle unfortunately is extremely rare.


Read more at http://www.merriam-webster.com/top-ten-lists/top-10-funny-sounding-and-interesting-words/bumfuzzle.html#vYx8Hr1GF9tUJB1V.99 

What are your favorite words? Come on, don’t be shy, you know you have a few that you love to use when you can!

Happy Writing!

Candace

Minimize, Don't Nominalize: Effective Writing Isn't Affected, Part 3

Image courtesy of 89studio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the last two posts on “Effective Writing,” I’ve covered a number of common errors I encounter when I edit and proofread. This week I’d like to discuss another affected writing style: nominalizations.

Nominalizations are nouns formed from other parts of speech, and they tend to make your writing “clunky” or “chewy.” Think about your own writing: do you find yourself using unnecessarily complex words to sound more “literary”? For example, is your writing “an amplification of a concept,” or does it amplify your idea? (See the difference?) Writing is more clear and direct when it relies on strong verbs to do the work.

Of course style enters into the equation, and nominalizations tend to be more accepted in academic writing than in other genres, but be careful not to overdo your use of nominalized phrases in your own writing. Here are some examples:

            There was considerable erosion of the beaches due to the hurricane.

            Our discussion concerned a tax increase.

            I am getting through my loss, and there is a beautiful life that still awaits me.

Here are more succinct ways to say the same things:

            The hurricane caused considerable beach erosion.

            We discussed a tax increase.

            I am adjusting to my loss, and a beautiful life is waiting.

In “The Opinionator” blog, Helen Sword writes about what she calls “zombie nouns”:

“Academics love [nominalizations]; so do lawyers, bureaucrats and business writers. I call them “zombie nouns” because they cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings:

“The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction.

“The sentence above contains no fewer than seven nominalizations, each formed from a verb or an adjective. Yet it fails to tell us who is doing what.

“When we eliminate or reanimate most of the zombie nouns (tendency becomes tend, abstraction becomes abstract) and add a human subject and some active verbs, the sentence springs back to life:

“Writers who overload their sentences with nominalizations tend to sound pompous and abstract.

“Only one zombie noun – the key word nominalizations – has been allowed to remain standing.

“A paragraph heavily populated by nominalizations will send your readers straight to sleep. Wake them up with vigorous, verb-driven sentences that are concrete, clearly structured, and blissfully zombie-free.”

You can easily fix these awkward sentences by asking yourself, “What is happening in the sentence?” In the example above, the writer is the subject—and notice that writer is absent from the awkward version.

As The Grammar Gang writes, “If the answer to this question cannot be found in the verb of your sentence but rather in one of its nouns, then you have some work to do.”

For more on common writing errors, check out my older blog posts–you’ll find lots of great info that will help you with self-editing!

Do you have any awkward writing pet peeves? I welcome your comments and examples—I’d love to use some in my next blog, so don’t be shy, please comment away! Or you can e-mail me privately at cyjohnson5580@gmail.com, and I promise to respect your privacy.

Happy Writing!

Candace

http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/gram_nominalization.html

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/23/zombie-nouns/

http://thegrammargang.blogspot.com/2009/04/style-tips-avoiding-over-nominalization.html

http://preciseedit.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/action-verbs-good-nominalizations-bad/

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/grammar-and-syntax/nominalization/

 

Effective Writing Isn’t Affected, Part II

Image courtesy of 89studio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome back to this series that highlights some of the common errors I encounter when I edit and proofread. This week I’ll tackle another affected writing style: those dreaded awkward sentences.

There are countless ways to construct awkward sentences, but let’s begin by focusing on three. A sentence can slip into awkward territory when:

  • It is wordy.
  • It is repetitive.
  • It contains a dangling modifier.

It is wordy: Too many unnecessary words and phrases do not add to the content or the meaning of the sentence, and phrases like in order to, due to the fact that, have the ability to, until such time as merely add to the problem. Try this one:

  • In my opinion, due of the fact that a situation of discrimination continues in the field of medicine, women have not at the present time achieved       equality with men, and in order to do so, they need to be increased in number.

How many other snoozers can this writer squeeze into one sentence?

Too many unnecessary phrases slow down your reader’s understanding (to say nothing of trying his or her patience). The solution? Try rewriting the sentence concisely:

  • Because of continuing discrimination in medicine, women have not yet achieved equality with men.

I challenge you to take your latest blog post, novel chapter, or magazine article and see if you can identify just one sentence that will improve if you delete a few of those unnecessary words.

It is repetitive: Saying the same thing two or three ways usually bores your reader. In The Bedford Handbook, Diana Hacker writes, “Writers often repeat themselves unnecessarily. Afraid, perhaps, that they won’t be heard the first time, they insist that a teacup is small in size or yellow in color; that married people should cooperate together; that a fact is not just a fact but a true fact. Such redundancies may seem at first to add emphasis. In reality they do just the opposite, for they divide the reader’s attention.

Here’s my example:

  • In this day and age, modern scientists are developing a new type of super-computer that will benefit mankind in innovative and important ways, both now and in the future.

Sadly, that sentence reads like something from a high-school science paper. You’re a professional writer! You can do better!

  • Modern scientists are developing a new super-computer that will benefit mankind in the future.

It Contains a Dangling Modifier: These are among my favorites when I’m editing because I usually get a good laugh as I imagine the scene. Join me in imagining this one:

  • Having arrived late for practice, a written excuse was needed.

Can’t you just envision that poor little written excuse running ran late for practice?

Neither can your reader. As Big Dog writes, “Sentences like these are funny—but that’s just the problem. Any time you draw attention to how you’ve said something instead of what you’ve said, your communication suffers. If you’re writing something important, and I stop to chuckle over a faulty construction, the overall effect is lost.”

A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence. A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept.

When you begin a sentence with a clause, be sure it actually modifies the subject:

  • Having arrived late for practice, the team captain needed a written excuse,

or even better:

  •  The team captain, who arrived late for practice, needed a written excuse.

Another common problem with dangling modifiers is the supposition that the reader understands who is performing the action. For example:

  •  Without knowing his name, it was difficult to introduce him.

Who didn’t know his name? This sentence says that “it” didn’t know his name. To revise, decide who was trying to introduce him. The revision might look something like this:

  • Because Maria did not know his name, it was difficult to introduce him.

The phrase is now a complete introductory clause; it does not modify any other part of the sentence, so is not considered “dangling.”

Readers: do you have any awkward writing pet peeves? I welcome your comments and examples—I’d love to use some in my next blog, so don’t be shy, please comment away! Or you can e-mail me privately at cyjohnson5580@gmail.com, and I promise to respect your privacy.

Happy Writing!

Candace

Next week: Part III: Nominalizations

How a Professional Editor Can Help You Get Published: Proofreading

proofreading
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This is the third installment of an occasional series about freelance editing services. I wrote previously about developmental editing and copyediting; this time I’ll share some thoughts on proofreading, the last of three vital steps in your editing process.

You’ve written your manuscript, you’ve self-edited, you’ve even hired a professional freelance editor to be sure everything is perfect. So if it’s perfect, why do you need to hire a proofreader?

As the author, you’ll receive a copy of the final page proofs (also called a galley) and are expected to review it for final corrections. If you are under contract with a traditional publisher, a professional proofreader is usually hired to check for errors in layout, grammar, syntax, punctuation, spelling, inconsistencies in style, cross-referencing of page numbers and other details in the manuscript, and to note any glaring errors. If you are self-publishing, you want to hire your own proofreader. Trust me, even if you were an A student in your college composition class, you want to hire a professional proofreader. Why?

None of us can be experts at everything, and no matter how well written a manuscript is, we all make mistakes—even professional editors and proofreaders do! Heck, I’ll admit that I’ve sent out e-mails I’ve checked and rechecked, and when the reply came back, sure enough, I noticed I’d typed “your” instead of “you.” It happens. Consequently, I have every blog proofread before I post it, because I’m just like you—I want my work to be as professional as possible.

As The Proofreading Girl puts it, “Arguably, the best reason to hire a professional proofreader is that typos, grammar gaffes and spelling errors, once printed or published, are immortal. Would you want a proofreading fiasco like one of these real-world examples to be your legacy?” Her examples include: “McDonald’s Drive Thru” and “Boy’s Department,” obvious mistakes that a professional proofreader would have caught.

Don’t let mistakes like these be your calling card! #writetip #proofreading #amediting Click To Tweet

Don’t let mistakes like these be your calling card! Even if you’re on a tight budget, hire a professional editor and a professional proofreader if you are serious about your writing. If there’s a will, there’s a way—don’t just depend on your software’s spell and grammar checkers and think “that’s good enough,” because it isn’t. Again, from The Proofreading Girl: “Realistically, it’s common for even good writers to struggle with pesky pronouns (who or whom?), apostrophes (its or it’s?), homophones (principle or principal?), and hyphens (well deserved or well-deserved?). It doesn’t help that programs like Microsoft Word’s Spelling and Grammar Check can actually make things worse rather than better. While these features are helpful in certain capacities, they are not nearly as accurate or as skillful as a good proofreader. So, if the document is important, chances are that you should hire one.”

A professional proofreader is your last line of defense before your book, blog, magazine article, or proposal greets the world, so invest in yourself and your professional reputation by hiring one before you say “Print!”

–Candace

Pass the Passive Writing, Please!

I thought I was a pretty good writer when I was in college. I probably was, at least as far as making my argument was concerned. But unfortunately, I didn’t learn until after I graduated that I was guilty of a common writing error: I overused passive writing because I thought it sounded “literary.”

Boy, was I wrong! Yet I had plenty of company, and I can even point to a couple of good reasons why it happened and why writers continue to overwrite using the passive voice.

Let me explain. In the active voice, the subject performs the action; in passive writing, the subject receives the action. It’s that simple. For example:

Active voice: Candace wrote a new blog about passive writing.

Passive voice: A new blog about passive writing was written by Candace.

In passive writing, the subject might even disappear from the sentence, like this:

A new blog about passive writing was written and posted.

In most cases, you want to emphasize the subject that does the action (active voice); in the passive voice, the subject receives the action. And because passive writing is often wordier than active writing, writers should always be looking for ways to craft a cleaner, more concise sentence.

While it is preferable to use an active voice most of the time, there is a time and place for passive writing. Daily Writing Tips puts it this way: “Passive writing is common in scientific papers because it lets the writers avoid using the words I or we, to avoid saying where their ideas came from That’s why some teachers think that passive voice sounds more educated. Usually, though, it’s simply less definite . . . but in the real world, when they have something to say, even scientists don’t have the luxury of not being definite.” And in A Writer’s Reference, author Diane Hacker writes,

“The passive voice is appropriate if you wish to emphasize the receiver of the action or to minimize the importance of the actor.”

Passive writing is tricky, though, and something you should work to avoid in most cases. Absolutewrite.com offers:

“It takes time and practice to eliminate such problems as expository dialogue and passive writing from your work. But the payoff for your hard work      and diligence will be a smoother style and a heightened ability to create remarkable stories.”

That sounds like a goal worth pursuing! So don’t try to sound “literary” or “educated” by overusing the passive voice when you write. If your grammar checker flags a passive sentence, take a careful look to be sure you’ve written it that way for a good reason. If not, it’s time for a revision.

A final word: in the classic Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, author Patricia T. O’Connor writes, “If you have something to say, be direct about it. As in geometry, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” That’s good advice for all of us, so the next time you self-edit, say it the way you mean it and work to construct your sentences so they are direct and active.

—Candace

Next week: Avoiding Awkward Sentences