usingtherightwords

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As Opposed to “Engaged to be Divorced?”


Last night at a networking meeting, someone stood up and proudly announced that his daughter was “engaged to be married.”

That got me thinking. Is that necessary? Is anyone ever “engaged to be divorced?”

My dictionary has six definitions for engaged. The second one: “pledged to be married.” So, what he really said was, “My daughter is pledged to be married to be married.” Redundant.

Other definitions include “involved in activity”  and “greatly interested,” so I suppose he could have said that his daughter was “engaged in planning a wedding,” but he didn’t — and no one would.

A person also could say that he or she is “engaged in finding a job,” “engaged in driving a car” or “engaged in watching TV.” While that would be correct, why use more words? “I’m job-hunting,” “I’m driving” and “I’m watching TV” suffices.

The same goes with “I’m engaged.” It’s understood that you’re talking about marriage.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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April 10, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who is Tied with Whom?


The headline might imply this post is about using who vs. whom. It’s not, but I’ll still take the time: Use who when referring to a sentence’s subject and use whom when referring to a sentence’s object.

Now, with that out of the way …

The other day, I was listening to one of the many Beatles-themed radio shows. This particular one was about the 20 No. 1 songs the Beatles had in the U.S. Then the host said, “Mariah Carey is tied with Elvis for the second-most with 18.”

That got me thinking.

To tie means “to make or have an equal score in a contest.” That means the person who reached the score most recently is the one who is tied  with, or tied, the person who reached the score first.

Elvis Presley’s last No. 1 was “Suspicious Minds” in 1968 — before Mariah Carey was born. Carey’s first chart-topper was “Vision of Love” in 1990 — 13 years after Elvis died.

The host got it right.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Really Not That Difficult


My wife found this on Facebook. Don’t know where it came from or who to credit.

You’re — You are

Your — It belongs to you

They’re — They are

Their — It belongs to them

There — A place

We’re — We are

Were — Past tense of are

Where — A place

Then — A point in time

Than — A method of comparison

Two — The number 2

To — Indicates motion

Too — Also or excessively

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Say It! Say It!


From the “If You Only Heard What You Said” Dept.:

I often wonder why people string together certain words because those words they choose make no sense. Today’s case in point: “I was going to say.”

You know how you want to say something but you’re interrupted, and then when the speaker comes back to you, you begin with “I was going to say…”

Then you say it anyway. So, why not say “As I was about to say” or “I want to say”? Better yet, why not just say it?

I was going to say implies that you never got a chance to say it, as in “I was going to say before you cut me off” or something to that effect. But then you did say it, so you no longer were going to say it.

You said it.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Widow/Widower Redundancy


Hopefully, you’re neither a widow nor a widower. But chances are that if you are, you know which one you are: a widow is a woman whose husband has died, a widower a man whose wife has died.

But that’s not my point.

You also know that someone who has died is now called late, late being a synonym for death.

But that’s not my point, either.

My point is to not put these together: widow/widower of the late (name of person) is redundant.

Instead, say husband/wife of the late (name of person) or widow/widower of  (name of person).

Hopefully, this hasn’t been too painful, death being a painful subject.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

February 28, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Surprisingly, I Found This on the Internet


Stay on the Internet long enough and you’ll end up re-posting things. Sometimes, however, it bears repeating.

HOW TO WRITE GOOD

1. Always avoid alliteration.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. Avoid clichés like the plague (my personal favorite).

4. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

5. Be more or less specific.

6. Writes should never generalize (and they should check spelling).

Seven: Be consistent!

8. Don’t be redundant; don’t use any more words than you already find yourself needing to; it’s highly superfluous.

9. Who needs rhetorical questions?

10. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

Thanks to Martin C. for bringing this to my attention (and to whomever first wrote it).

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

 

February 25, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All in Agreeance, Ignore This


I joined a new networking group the other day. Before being voted in by the members, the group took care of its business and had to vote on some items. Once someone made a motion, the member in charge called for the vote thusly: “All in agreeance, say ‘Aye.’ ”

I had two to five minutes to talk about what I do and what I can do for the group. I mentioned the various types of writing and editing I can do, and I stressed that when I’m hired, I’ll ensure that grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax and tense will be correct. Then I promised that I’ll use words that are most effective in getting one’s story or message across to the target audience or demographic. And I’ll use real words, too, unlike agreeance. The correct word is agreement.

After I pointed out the error, they still voted me in. But while I waited outside for the vote to be completed, I checked dictionary.com to see if agreeance was a word — and there it was. But its definition was, “agreement.” It also said the word was now rarely used and gave what it called a “word story” about how the word traces back to 16th century and was most popular in the 18th-19th centuries before falling into disuse.

The note continued, “(M)odern writers who recoin the term seem to like how it sounds, even though it adds nothing in meaning to its workhorse counterpart, agreement. … So while there is no rule preventing the formation agree  + -ance,  the coinage may sound quaint or pretentious to some people.”

Dictionary.com, it should be mentioned, is based on the Random House dictionary. I checked agreeance in my Merriam-Webster dictionary and didn’t find an entry. Neither did I find one in the Cambridge dictionary or in the Oxford dictionary, which calls itself “the definitive record of the English language.”

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

 

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Variety” (or is it “Varieties) is the Apple of My Eye


I love LinkedIn. Not only can you find jobs, you can find blog posts if you look carefully enough.

In one of my groups, a person asked which is correct: “Two hundred varieties of apple trees” or “Two hundred varieties of apple tree?”

As of this writing, 269 comments have been posted. Not that I’ve read all of them, but the majority seem to think tree is correct. Those that teach foreign languages think it’s trees because that’s the way it is in the foreign language.

My research tells me the correct usage can be found in the Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. It defines variety as “a number or collection of different things or people,” and gives as examples “The talks covered a wide/great variety of topics,” “The company sells a variety of gardening products,” “They broke up for a variety of reasons,”  “The conference attracts a wide variety of people,” and “He has a variety of health problems.”

All include plural objects (italics added).

However, some say that if the speaker refers to the object as a single class or genus, then saying “varieties of apple tree” would be correct. I’m not the grammar expert, so I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is I have used the singular object for years, and I might just be wrong.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

July 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yo! Don’t Use “Yo” as a Pronoun


I recently read on the National Public Radio website an article about how Baltimore middle- and high-school students in Baltimore used the interjection yo! as a gender-neutral pronoun.

The examples given in the article sound grammatically incorrect: “Yo handin’ out papers” to mean “The teacher is handing out papers.” Also, “Peep, you!” means “Look at him/her.”

To me, both examples demonstrate how our language often devolves. Yo sounds a great deal like a bastardization of the pronoun you, as in the incorrect sentence  You handin’ out papers and the grammatically correct  Look, you! albeit with the slang peep instead of the proper verb look.

Perhaps my opinion would differ if the sentences these grade-schoolers uttered were grammatically correct. But probably not because Yo is handing out papers (which would be correct if yo was third person) sounds like the speaker uses the wrong form of the verb to be (you is instead of the correct you are).

It’s confusing, and there’s nothing wrong with gender-specific pronouns.

So, yo! Use the right words!

Until next time!

Thanks to Isaac B. for bringing the article to my attention.

leebarnathan.com

 

May 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Learning a Redundancy in the Comics


I love the comics. One of my favorite strips is “Jump Start.” In the April 2 strip, the character Joe Cobb, a police officer. speaks to his mother, a grammar nut,  about gun control.

Joe’s mother asks where does he stand on gun control, to which Joe replies, “Funny, Marcy (Joe’s wife) asked me the exact same question yesterday.”

Then Joe says, “I’d like to discuss the topic with you, Mom, but please don’t interrupt me every two second correcting my grammar!”

He is responding to his mother’s comment, “Exact same is redundant.”

This is a pair of words I and countless others have used together, and it appears correct because it appears exact is an adverb modifying the adjective same.

But in checking the dictionary, exact is not an adverb. It’s a verb or adjective.

Exactly is the adverb.

So, exact same is redundant; exactly the same is correct.

And this is exactly so.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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