Words and Phrases Used Incorrectly

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It’s funny how we say things that we’ve heard all of our lives, but don’t give it much thought as to the meaning of the phrase. Listed below are several of these cases in point. How many of these do you say wrong?

I could care less VS I couldn’t care less

What you think it means: “I couldn’t care less.”

What it actually means: You actually do care.

It begs the question

Would you think it means: To ask or raise a question

What it actually means: To use an argument that assumes as proved the very thing one is trying to prove.

Let’s table this

What you think it means: To discuss something later

What it actually means: In the United States, it means what you think it does. But it means the exact opposite — “let’s discuss this right now” — in most of the rest of the English-speaking world.

I did a 360VS I did a 180

What you think it means: Completely changing your opinion.

What it actually means: Your opinion changed, but then changed back to your original opinion.

PIN numberVS just PIN

What you think it means: A non-repetitive way to refer to your personal identification number

What it actually means: That you’re being redundant. Especially when you use your PIN number at the ATM machine.

Lion’s share

What you think it means: The greatest of multiple shares

What it actually means: The phrase originally comes from an Aesop’s Fable in which the lion took all — not the largest — of the shares.

I am nauseous.VS I am nauseated.

What you think it means: I have a sick feeling in my stomach.

What it actually means: “I make other people sick,” the correct term would have been “I am nauseated.”

Here are some words that you’ll see used incorrectly on a daily basis.

Irregardless

People think it means: Regardless.

Actually means: nothing.

Peruse

People think it means: To skim over or browse something.

Actually means: Almost the opposite of that.

Peruse means “to read with thoroughness or care.” If you peruse a book, you leave no page unturned. This makes sense when you consider the Middle English per use, meaning “to wear out or use up.”

Ironic

People think it means: Any kind of amusing coincidence.

Actually means: An outcome that is the opposite of what you’d expect.

Pristine

People think it means: “Spotless” or “as good as new.”

Actually means: “Ancient, primeval; in a state virtually unchanged from the original.”

Nonplussed

People think it means: Unperturbed, not worried.

Actually means: Utterly perplexed or confused. It comes from the Latin non plus (a state in which nothing more can be done).

Bemused

People think it means: Mildly amused.

Actually means: Bewildered or confused.

Enormity

People think it means: Enormous.

Actually means: Outrageous or heinous on a grand scale.

Plethora

People think it means: A lot of something.

Actually means: Too much of something, an over-abundance.

redundant

People think it means: useless or unable to perform its function Actually means: an excess of something, that something is “surplus to requirements” and no longer needed, or that it is obsolete.

Here are some confusing combinations:

your/you’re

Your means “belonging to you.”
You’re is a contraction of “you are.”

Whose/Who’s

Whose is an interrogative or relative pronoun.

Who’s is a contraction for “who is”.

Who/Whom

Use who when it is the subject of the sentence,                                                               whom when it is the object. Replace the word “who/whom” with “he/him.” If “he” is correct, “who” is correct. If “him” is correct, “whom” is correct.

To/too/two

To indicates direction.
Too means “also.”
Two is the number after one but before three.

Their/there/they’re

Their is a possessive meaning “belonging to them.”
There indicates position.
They’re is a contraction of “they are.”

That/Which

that is specific,                                                                                  whereas which is general.

than/then

Than is used when you’re making a comparison between two or more things.                 Then is used to indicate that something happens after something else, often with a cause-and-effect relationship. Also use after “if” clauses.

Sight/Site/Cite

Sight involves your eyes being able to see.                                                                    Site is a location.                                                                                      Cite is to give credit for a source

Sit/Set

When used as a verb, to set means “to place” or “to adjust to a value”,                                     whereas to sit means, “to be seated”.

Roll/role

A roll is:

a small piece of bread                                                                                             a piece of paper that has been turned into a tube                                                                             a verb meaning “to turn (paper) into a tube”                                                                                a verb meaning “to turn over and over”                                                                                a list of people in a group

A role is a part in a play or the function you perform in a certain group.

Piece/peace/peas

A piece is a portion or fragment of something.                                                            Peace is the opposite of war.                                                                                        Peas are small green vegetables.

Past/passed

Past is an adjective meaning “before now.” It is also a noun meaning “the time before now.”

Passed is a past-participle form of the verb “to pass” meaning “to give” or “to move”.

Some people also use it euphemistically for death; My father has passed.

More/most

More should be used when comparing exactly two things. For example: You have more ice cream than Martha.

Most should be used when comparing more than two things. For example: Sandy has the most ice cream in the room.

lay/lie

Lay means you have to lay an object.                                                                    Lie means that it does not take an object; it is something a person does.                                    However; lay is also the past-tense form of lie.                                                                  The past-tense form of lay however is laid.

Isle/aisle

An isle is a small island in a string of small islands.                                                           An Aisle is corridor through which one may pass from one place to another.

Imply/infer

Something is implied if it is a suggestion intended by the person speaking,                        A conclusion is inferred if it is reached by the person listening.

Its/it’s

Unlike most possessives, its does not contain an apostrophe.

But with its/it’s you need to remember that an apostrophe often replaces a letter. If the word is it’s, ask, “What letter has been removed?” The letter i from it is has been replaced by the apostrophe.

Hoard/horde

A hoard is a store or accumulation of things.                                                             A horde is a large group of people.

Historic/historical

historic describes an event of importance—one that shaped history or is likely to do so. Historical merely describes something that happened in the past.

Hangar/hanger

The airplane is in the hangar; the coat is on the hanger.

Hang

To hang something or someone in the present tense, one uses the same form. In the past, however, pictures are hung and criminals are hanged.

Good/well

well is an adverb; He did that well.                                                                  good is an adjective; That was a good dinner.

Farther/further

Both these words mean “more far.” Farther means “more far” in terms that can be measured.

Further refers to more abstract differences, like the difference between two people’s points of view.

Emigration/immigration

Emigration is the process of leaving a country;                                                         immigration is the process of arriving in a country.

Disinterested/uninterested

To be disinterested in something means to not be biased about something.                               To be uninterested means to not be interested in or intrigued by something.

Desert/dessert

A desert is a dry sandy place.                                                                        Dessert is the sweet stuff you generally eat after a meal.

Disburse/disperse

Disburse means “to give out”, especially money.                                                   Disperse means “to scatter”.

Diffuse/defuse

To diffuse is to disperse randomly, whereas to defuse is to remove the fuse from a bomb, or in general to render a situation less dangerous.

Diffuse can also be used as an adjective, meaning, “not concentrated”.

Dawn/sunrise

Dawn is frequently used to mean “sunrise”, but technically it means the twilight period immediately before sunrise.

Assure/ensure/insure

To assure is to intend to give the listener confidence,                                           to ensure is to make certain of,                                                                  and to insure is to purchase insurance.

Altar/alter

An altar is a table or stand upon which religious ceremonies are performed.                    Alter means “to change”

Acute/chronic

Acute means “sharp”, as an acute illness is one that rapidly worsens and reaches a crisis.          A chronic illness may also be a severe one, but it is long-lasting or lingering.

Affect/effect

Affect is a verb meaning “to influence” or “to cause change in.”

Effect is a noun meaning “the result or outcome.”

Accept/except

Accept is a verb meaning “to agree to” or “to adapt to”

Except is a preposition or conjunction meaning roughly “unless” or “if not.”

How to Design and Plan a Character Using a Character Design Template

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Recently I posted a blog about designing characters for your stories. I’ve always loved designing things. Whether it was decorating the interior of my homes, designing then planting gardens, writing lesson units for my students or devising a world and filling it with characters, it has always fascinated me.

As I designed and thought about the characters for my current series, Seraphym Wars, I wondered what kind of people they were. Even my Majikals have personalities and appearances, so I had to discover who they were as well. In fact, I have several animals with distinct personalities and appearances for which I had to plan out.

In order to keep all of this straight throughout the books I devised a master spreadsheet, which I showed a picture of. I keep a copy of each spreadsheet in a massive binder as well as folders in my computer. Speaking of several copies, it is wise to keep and update several copies of EVERYTHING you create. You should keep:

  • hard copy
  • memory stick to carry with you, that way you can access all of your information from anywhere
  • buy a separate hard drive that automatically backs up everything on your computer
  • files on your computer

I even have an old hp computer that I keep my entire writing folder on in addition to all of the research, pictures, etc that are related. But I may be paranoid after having two computers crash on me and losing everything, including baby pictures for two of my kids.

Anyway, someone suggested that I post my master template for planning characters. Here is the best I could figure out how to post. Hopefully this will be helpful.

Before compiling the character information, it is helpful to know what options are available. Hence I designed a Character Design Planner:

After you’ve decided what traits, etc. everyone has it is time to track it all on an organizer spreadsheet:

How to Figure Out What a Reader Wants in a Story or Book

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What writer wouldn’t love sitting inside a reader’s head as they read a book, whether it is the writer’s or another’s? I would relish knowing what thoughts occur to a reader as they progress through the novel. Are the characters intriguing or boring? Are there too many characters or too few? Is the setting over described or too vague? Should the plot be pimped to make it more interesting or is it already all over the place? Where does the reader fit into the writing of a novel?

Unfortunately, we can’t sit inside a reader’s brain. But we can ask readers what they like and don’t when they read. And we can tell via sales whether a book lives up to a reader’s expectations. But while being written, is there some way a writer can try to zero-in on ways a reader reads?

After giving this some thought and investigation, I came up with the following list:

  1. According to reader desires, a good novel contains these elements, in this order:

Story-must be interesting

Characters-must have dimension

Theme-must be current

Atmosphere/setting-must seem genuine to story and genre

  1. Characters are the reason readers read. If the characters are boring or flat a reader will put the book down and pick up another with interesting, intriguing characters.

The main character must want something specific. Strong desire of a goal defines a strong character.

The main character must do something within the story. If all of the plot situations ‘happen’ to the character a reader gets bored. Sometimes the character must instigate the situation.

  1. Humor helps any story and readers love it. You don’t have to create a comedy, just insert some humor, especially where it’s not expected.
  1. Lastly, style is not nearly as important to a reader as it might be to a writer. The days of ‘purple prose’ are gone. Today’s readers want quickly flowing story with little narration and less description. Don’t eliminate either completely, just be judicious.

Finding the Title of your Short Story, Novella or Novel

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Finding the title of your short story, novella or novel can be frustrating and difficult. It took me several months of trying to finally arrive at the title Seraphym Wars. There are certain guidelines that help and bloggers have suggestions all the time. So I’m going to throw in my two-cent’s worth.

  1. Look at titles from your genre in the bookstore and online (Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com). Jot down your favorites.
  1. Keep it short and simple – one to three words works best. You may use a subtitle, but it’s not a requirement.
  1. Create a list of as many titles as you can think of that relate to your story’s theme, genre, characters, plot, setting (especially if you world-built). Use a thesaurus.
  1. Survey family and friends to choose their favorite three titles from your list. Narrow the list and resurvey until you have about five to choose from.
  1. Make sure it relates to the genre of your story.
  1. Use the title in conversation. Create a title page. How does it look and sound? If you don’t like it, change it. (I went through about four titles)
  1. Create a mock-up book jacket. Place the title on the spine and front. How does it look? Try this with the other four until you find one that displays well.
  1. Try using this link but don’t rely completely on it; use your own judgment. http://www.lulu.com/titlescorer/index.php (mine got a ‘22.9% chance of being a bestselling title!’ Which was the highest ANY of my suggestions got.)

What are some of the best titles you’ve come up with for stories?

What are some you came up with but didn’t use because they didn’t fit at the time?

How to Write Politically Correct

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I received this an an Email recently and thought the lesson in writing too good to pass up.  Besides, it’s funny.

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher in  southern California , was doing some personal  work on her own family tree. She discovered Congressman Harry Reid’s great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor.

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on
the gallows in  Montana  territory:

On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: ‘Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.’

So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle.

Harry  Reid:


Believe it or not,  Harry Reid’s staff sent back the following  biographical sketch for her genealogy
research:

“Remus Reid was a  famous cowboy in the Montana Territory . His business empire grew to include acquisition of  valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings  with the Montana railroad.

Beginning in 1883, he  devoted several years of his life to government  service, finally taking leave to resume his  dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a  key player in a vital investigation run by the  renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away  during an important civic function held in his  honor when the platform upon which he was  standing collapsed.”

NOW, THAT’s how it’s done, folks!