March 27, 2012

Accept the Exceptions

It’s amusing to me that these words’ pronunciations are so similar that they are easily confused with each other, since they have nearly opposite meanings.

Accepting is receiving something, as in accepting a gift, or accepting a job. Even accepting someone else’s judgment, which can be construed as agreement, is still receiving their opinion, and making it your own.

Excepting is excluding something, as in the product has a satisfaction guarantee, with the following exceptions. It is a rejection of the guarantee in certain circumstances. If you invite everyone in your class to the party except John and Susan, you have excluded them, or rejected their presence at your party.

Remember the difference this way: Except, Exception, Excepting all contain the letters “ex”. When you have an ex-spouse, or ex-significant other, you have rejected their presence from your life.

Accept gifts presented to you, except those from really creepy strangers you don’t want to include in your life.


March 20, 2012

Which Comes First, the Period or the Quote?

It depends which side of the Atlantic you're on.

This is a question that is constantly getting me in hot water with my composition teachers. The answer is a simple one. It’s just that my teachers don’t like the answer I choose. It’s all right, though my choice of placement has gotten me a few squiggly red marks on my papers, it hasn’t yet cost me my “A”.

American usage demands that all punctuation go inside the quote mark, end of story, no argument allowed.

British usage allows for a little common sense and asks, what is being quoted? If the punctuation is part of what is being quoted, then the punctuation goes inside of the quote mark. However, if the punctuation is part of the larger sentence, and the quote just happens to be at the end of it, then the punctuation goes on the outside of the quote mark.

For example:

John Doe of ACME Pharmaceuticals said, “We are not releasing any waste materials into the river.” What John said is a complete sentence that ends with a period, so the period goes on the inside of the quote marks, since you are quoting the entire sentence.

According to John Doe of ACME Pharmaceuticals, the company is “not releasing any waste”. The words “not releasing any waste” are a direct quote, so they belong inside quotations marks, however they are not a full sentence, and they are not the end of the sentence John said, so the period does not belong on the inside of the quotation marks. However, they are at the end of the sentence I wrote about what John said, so the period belongs at the end of my sentence.


March 13, 2012

The Hoarding Horde

Here’s a fun pair of easily confused homonyms for you…

“Hoard” (as a noun) is a large collection of something. It is usually something of value, such as money or food, and is usually either hidden in a secret place or carefully guarded. “Hoard” (as a verb) is the act of creating a hoard.

“Horde” is also a large collection, but it is a collection of people or animals, usually with the inference that they are swarming and about to attack…a horde of mosquitoes came through the back yard, a horde of nomads suddenly appeared out of the desert.

Keep them separate by remembering that “Horde” and “people” both have an “e”, while “hoard” and “valuables” both have an “a”. During the potato famine, I’m certain that a horde of Irishmen hoarded potatoes.


March 06, 2012

Antecedents and Their Pronouns

Ooooh, big, scary words. Sometimes I just like using the five-dollar words, and other times, those are the only names for the things you want to talk about. Today it’s antecedents and pronouns.

Those of you who, like me, are mature enough to remember Schoolhouse Rock will recall that a pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun, because “saying all those nouns over and over can really wear you down”. I tried once to go an entire day without using pronouns, and found that I couldn’t make it ten minutes unless I counted the time I wasn’t speaking.

Antecedent is probably based on some Latin thing, and I’m not going to bother to look up the actual origins, but it means the word the pronoun is replacing. For the record, I had several books published before I even heard the word “antecedent” or learned its meaning.

The antecedent doesn’t even have to be in the same sentence, for example, “Sally went to the store. She bought bread, milk, and eggs.” “She” is the pronoun; it replaces the noun “Sally” in the second sentence. In this pair of sentences, there is no doubt that “she” means “Sally”. It would be redundant to say “Sally went to the store. Sally bought bread, milk, and eggs.”

The problems begin to arise when the antecedents are too far from their pronouns, or there are other ambiguities. For example, “Sally went to the store with Martha. She bought bread, milk, and eggs.” We can see that Sally is at the store. Martha is also at the store. However, Sally and Martha are both female names, so it is unclear which one of them bought the groceries. Sally is the subject of the first sentence, so the pronoun in the second sentence should refer back to her, but Martha’s name is closer to the pronoun, so there’s really no way to tell which one of them did the purchasing.

If the sentence becomes, “Sally went to the store with Thomas. She bought bread, milk, and eggs,” it is clear that Sally is doing the buying, because Thomas is male, therefore the pronoun belongs with the female name. However, if Sally goes to the store with Drew, we have a problem because there’s no way to tell if Drew is male or female.

When writing, be careful that your pronouns are near enough to your antecedents for your meaning to be clear. If the meaning is not clear, by all means, restate the antecedent rather than use the pronoun. It’s far better to be redundant and understood than have someone throw your writing down in exasperation because they don’t know who you are talking about.


March 01, 2012

Resolution Update

My resolutions for this year are to:

·Graduate from college.
·Write a new manuscript, something I haven't had time to do since I started college.
·Take a vacation someplace out of Arizona.
·Hug my daughter every day.
·Learn how to make book trailers and post them to YouTube.
How am I doing?

I'm still getting assignment grades that will lead to A's at the moment, but one of my classes is very close to sliding into B territory...every time I start to panic about that, I remind myself I need to pass these classes, not ace them. C is still a passing grade...panic averted. One class is an 8-week online class, which ends in about a week. My final paper, a 5-6 page essay, is due on Wednesday and I haven't begun the research for it yet.... This is going to be interesting, as it is one of the must-pass classes.

Writing the manuscript will have to wait until after graduation. I plan to fulfill this resolution in November as part of NaNoWriMo.
I have a sister getting married in California in June, and plan to celebrate graduation at Disneyland while I am there.

I am hugging my daughter every day...even on the day we had an argument that we both hated having. The hugs are helping.

The book trailers, like the manuscript, will have to wait until after graduation. Some days it feels like my whole life is waiting until after graduation, which I have started referring to as "A.G.".

All in all, I'm doing well; working on things in their proper order. Just as a side note, I am still working on knitting the sweater. It's a top-down raglan sweater that will have no seams when I'm finished. The rows are starting to get really long, and I am hoping that the row comes soon when I will split the arms off and just work on the body. (If you didn't understand that, it's because you've never knit one, and that's all right, I share the sweater details for my friends who do knit.) I have finished thirteen books with a collective page count of 4011 for pleasure reading this month. I have four pleasure books in progress. (One on my nightstand, one on my Nook, one on the Nook app on my phone, and one in that room of my home which my family refers to as "the reading room".)