The Adventures of Pinocchio * Word Tripper

Italian writer Carlo Collodi wrote the children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio in 1883. Pinocchio was a wooden puppet who wanted to become a real boy. Despite the efforts of his trusty conscience, The Talking Cricket, he kept lying and wasn’t conscious of his actions.

Much like The Talking Cricket, let this week’s Word Tripper be your guide to the difference between conscious and conscience.

pinocchio-wt

Image Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinocchio#/media/File:Pinocchio.jpg & http://www.florencewithguide.com/blog/happy-birthday-pinocchio/

Conscience, conscious – “Conscience,” a noun, is part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions being morally right or wrong. “Conscious,” an adjective, describes being awake and able to understand what’s happening around you (a fact or feeling).

“I was highly conscious of my inability to pocket the wad of twenty-dollar bills I’d found. I knew my conscience wouldn’t allow me to keep this money.” – Bobbie Bookhout

Breaking Down * Word Tripper

Things break down. Muscles atrophy from lack of use, cars won’t start from lack of maintenance, and houses get messy due to lack of cleaning. Sometimes life just doesn’t go the way you plan and the entropy of everyday living can take its toll on a person’s body and mind.

Here’s help in making sure your lexicon doesn’t break down. This week’s Word Tripper highlights the differences between atrophy and entropy.

atrophy-entropy2Image Sources: http://www.hughston.com/hha/a_14_2_3.htm & http://socratic.org/questions/can-you-give-an-example-of-a-system-with-high-entropy-and-one-with-low-entropy

Atrophy, entropy – “Atrophy,” a noun and a verb, refers to a gradual loss or wasting away physically or psychologically. It can also refer to poor development. “Entropy,” a noun, is the degree of disorder or uncertainty in a system. In a technical sense, it’s the gradual breakdown of energy and matter. In casual usage, entropy refers to the disintegration or disorganization of any situation.

“The teenager’s muscles started to atrophy from lying in bed too long. His room, scattered with clothes, shoes, and books, showed a degree of entropy from being neglected.”

Envelope vs. Envelop – Word Tripper

by Barbara McNichol

The U.S. Postal Service processes 6,050 mail pieces every second, employs more than 8 million people, and is part of a $1.3 trillion mailing industry that envelops most of the known world.

This WT pair, envelop and envelope, differ by just one letter but are different parts of speech and have distinct meanings.

mail-truck

Overloaded mail truck used by a mail contract carrier in Cody, Wyoming
Image Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/567946202984427537/

Envelop, envelope – “Envelop,” a transitive verb, means to completely cover, enclose, or surround someone or something. “Envelope,” a noun, is a flat container that covers a letter or other object, often for mailing or delivery. It also refers to a set of performance or conventionally accepted limits.

“Let me envelop you in the warm, fuzzy envelope of my love.” – Gary Michael

“She pushed the envelope of her endurance by running an extra mile.”

Enveloped by the stacks of papers he had to grade, he felt overwhelmed.”

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Please suggest your own Word Trippers here.

Whack Extraneous Phrases in Your Writing

In their classic book The Elements of Style, Strunk and White called word clutter “the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood out of Whack wordinesswords.”

You can start by eliminating extraneous phrases that clutter your writing. But which phrases can be “whacked”?

Consider taking out these extra phrases whenever you can:

  • “is intended to, meant to, designed to” e.g., He gives a workshop that is designed to teach writing skills. Better: He gives a workshop that teaches writing skills.
  • “it is all about”; “the fact of the matter is”; “the fact that”; “it’s important to remember that” e.g., The fact of the matter is that it’s unwise to go out carousing. Better: It’s unwise to go out carousing.
  • “in regard to” e.g., Seek additional websites in regard to your industry. Better: Seek additional websites in your industry.
  • “is going to” e.g., He is going to be a key contributor. Better: He will be a key contributor.
  • “in order to” e.g., Add key words in order to describe the new position. Better: Add key words to describe the new position.
  • “there is” and “there will be” e.g., There will be many managers attending the meeting. Better: Many managers will attend the meeting.
  • “the reason why is that . . .” A simple “because” will suffice.
  • “at this time” . . . Now!

To reinforce this, take something you wrote and circle any of these extraneous phrases. Challenge yourself to rework or remove them altogether. You may choose to keep some in, but at least you’ve asked the question: “Do I really need this phrase?” (You don’t need “really” here.)

Keep this list handy. What would you add to it? Comment here.

Best of Word Trippers 2014

by Barbara McNichol

If you don’t subscribe to my ezine Word Tripper of the Week, you’re missing out on a regular opportunity to sharpen your word use skills. You’ll find easy explanations of confusng word pairings such as “accept vs. except” and “affect vs. effect.”

Last year’s Word Trippers ezine included the pairs that follow, but that’s only a start! For the complete “Best of 2014” List, email me at editor@BarbaraMcNichol.com and I’ll send you the full PDF list of 25 pesky pairings featured in 2014.

Abstruse, obtuse – “Abstruse” means hard to understand, complex, or highly abstract. It stems from a Latin word meaning concealed or hidden and typically describes texts or arguments. “Obtuse” describes someone who is (or seems to be, based on behavior) not sharp in thinking, perception, or feeling; it can also refer to a remark, argument, or object that is dull or blunt.

“The teacher lost his students’ attention while describing abstruse philosophical topics to his class. He was too obtuse to notice their lack of participation.”

***

Afflict, inflict – Both words mean to cause pain, suffering, distress, or discomfort. “Afflict” with the preposition “with” usually describes an illness or condition. “Inflict” with the preposition “on” concentrates on the force with which the pain, suffering, distress, or discomfort is administered.

“He did not intend to inflict shame on his friend with his calloused remark. It would later afflict him with a deep sense of remorse.”

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Anticipate, predict – “Anticipate” means to think of something that could happen in the future; to expect or look ahead to something with pleasure. “Predict” means to declare or indicate in advance; to foretell based on observation, experience, or scientific reason.

“It’s easy to predict the youngsters will have a tough time sleeping as they anticipate their trip to Disneyland.”

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Archetype, prototype – Derived from the Latin term “typus” meaning image, the nouns “archetype” and “prototype” both relate to an original pattern or model. Each prefix establishes the distinction. “Arch” refers to the most accomplished or high ranking of something; “proto” primarily refers to a standard configuration, or an initial model or version of something. Thus, “archetype” has come to mean an ideal example while “prototype” is an unrefined version of something that’s expected to evolve.

“With her perfect GPA, inspiring extracurricular activity, and impressive athletic accomplishments, she’s the archetype of a great student and possibly a prototype for a successful entrepreneur.”

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Request the whole list with Best of Word Trippers in subject line. When you do, I’ll automatically subscribe you to the bimonthly ezine so you won’t miss out in the future. Enjoy!

Then tell me which ones were most helpful or most surprising to you. Comment here.

P.S.You can order the print version of Word Trippers 2nd edition by clicking on this link. http://bit.ly/WordTrippers

2016 – A Great Year for Writing Your Nonfiction Book

by Barbara McNichol

Did you develop a plan or even start crafting your book in 2016?

If so, congratulations! If not, you have a clean slate in this new year—a fresh opportunity to share your expertise with the world!

Look at 2016 as a fresh start to attract more opportunities and build more connections through the increased exposure a book gives you.  As you do, go for these eight Book-Writing Resolutions to help fulfill your dream of being an author—and all that it brings you—in this wonderful new year.

1. I will devote a significant amount of time to planning how I’ll write and/or promote my book in 2016.

2. I will look for interesting, unique ways to craft my chapters. I want them to be informative, intelligent, and fun to read.

3. I will put into place new ways to promote my book, perhaps even before it’s been produced (e.g., turn parts of chapters into blog posts, use social media to draw attention to them).

4. I will create an ezine and/or website to convey my book’s concepts, build a list of interested people, and communicate regularly with those who can benefit from my message.

5. I will stop procrastinating! When I’m tempted to put off working on my book, I’ll remind myself of the reputation-building value a professional book brings to my business. It will help me engage with my prospects, gain exposure to my market, demonstrate my expertise, and land new opportunities.

6. I will not let lack of time or dislike of writing stop me. I have something valuable to say to the world, and I will put it out there in a quality way. Yes, I will set aside time to write, revise, and perfect my chapters and my marketing materials.

7. I will ask for help to perfect my manuscript. Knowing there comes a time when I can’t read my own writing objectively, I ask for writing/editing assistance to polish it to a fine sheen. I’ll be alert to when that time is right.

8. I will do my best to choose the right word when it matters most—and not let grammar gremlins and wrong choices spoil the party.

What resolutions would you add to this list? Write your favorites in the comments section below.

When it comes time for #7 and #8, allow me to assist you with my professional editing services and my ebook, Word Trippers in print at amazon.com and now available as a Kindle ebook on Amazon.

 

Grammar Glitches You Can’t Ignore

By Barbara McNichol

My attention was recently drawn to an article in Ragan Report (great resource for communicators) that puts the “Top 25 Grammar and Language Mistakes” in your face. Some, in fact, are Word Trippers that I include in my ebook.

This handful of grammar glitches stood out for me. I’m eager to point them out because they’re extremely important to good writing. I encourage you to take them to heart.

  • Using “could of,” “would of,” “should of.” These are all 100 percent wrong, born of our sloppy speaking styles—could’ve, would’ve, should’ve. What you want to write is could have, would have, should have. We all coulda, woulda, shoulda become better at grammar.
  • Using “me and somebody.” I tell my children that it’s common courtesy to put the other person first. Thus you should always say, “Fred and I went to the gym together,” or “Suzie and I saw that movie.”
  • Using “that” instead of “who” (and vice versa). If you’re writing about people, always use who. If a company president says, “employees that are affected by layoffs will be greatly missed,” no one is likely to believe him because he’s treating them as objects by using the word that.
  • Using “they” when referring to a business. “Starbucks said they would give everyone a free latte today.” Although this might sound right, the correct sentence is: “Starbucks said it would give everyone a free latte today.” And if that grates on your ears, then rewrite the sentence to avoid the problem: “Starbucks is offering everyone a free latte today.”

Want to peruse the whole article so you can learn from all 25 mistakes? Here’s the link.

Please share other grammar glitches that might trip you in the comments section below.

Why Grammar Mistakes Proliferate: Don’t Writers Care?

Recently I learned what a hot topic grammatical errors can be when one of my favorite blogs, Article Writing and Marketing Insights from Ezine Articles, took a subject close to my heart and made it relevant to everyone who writes.
 
Within 24 hours of posting “Avoiding the (6) Common Grammatical Errors That Make Authors Look Du…Unprofessional,” the blog received 776 views and 93 comments. That’s evidence of how “hot” the topic of incorrect grammar can be!

The blog post started:
in these days of txting, iming and all low caps, its easy to take shortcuts to writing
However, even though we now use our keyboards as we once did our phones, what most people do not understand is how unprofessional the improper use of the English language can make an article, and its author, look. Look at the sentence above again. Does it look professionally written to you? 
Now, I’m not saying you need to go back to 9th grade English class and try and figure out where your participles are dangling, but making sure you have a command of the basics is essential.

The post went on to list six common errors that make authors look unprofessional. Five of them are what I call Word Trippers—a pair of similar words with different meanings and spellings that can trip people up: loose/lose, affect/effect, it’s/its, their/there, than/then. (The sixth addressed misuse of semicolons, something that riled writer Jeff Rubin so much, he established September 24 as National Punctuation Day.)

Among the blog comments, the most philosophic came from a subscriber named Jenny who wrote, “I am always amazed at how many who consider themselves writers make these mistakes — which are so easily avoided if one is paying attention. Personally, I think they just don’t care. Thanks for a provocative post that is a very good starting point in dealing with a problem that is unfortunately much bigger than those six examples!”

Do They Care?

As an editor who deals with mistakes like these in articles and manuscripts, I endorse Jenny’s observation that the problem is bigger than these six examples. But I challenge her statement, “I think they just don’t care.”

Rather, I see three factors at play here:

(1) People tend to write in a stream-of-consciousness manner, eager to get ideas down (that’s how I approach drafting of my ezine and the initial piece is downright sloppy). In this creative mode, fine tuning isn’t the first priority.

(2) “Instant messaging” is just that! People seem to be hurrying to move on to the next thing, feeling good about “getting that done” and prematurely declaring the piece complete. They don’t make sure what they’ve written comes across exactly the way they wanted to say it.

(3) Writers often lack the desire, discipline, or dedication to revisit their prose with a fresh eye, a clear mind, and breathing space to think it through.

Half-Baked Prose

I call the result of this propensity to write fast, move on, and never look back “half-baked.” After all, you wouldn’t eat a loaf of bread that’s half-baked. Why would you send out a written piece that isn’t fully “cooked” either?

The solution? Take time to put your writing “back in the oven” and question the key elements: the validity of the thoughts, the logical thread of persuasion, and the correct use of each word.

Yes, gremlins such as incorrect grammar and punctuation still get through unintentionally. So do unclear transitions and inexact word choice. Because of these, reviewing your written piece only once simply isn’t enough.

Three Steps to Perfection

I suggest if you habitually add these simple steps, you can “bake” your piece close to perfection:

(1) Print your piece and then go to another area to read it aloud as if a 10 year old needed to understand it. You’ll recognize unclear passages quickly that way.

(2) Question each word for its meaning, spelling, and role in the sentence, then take time to look up what you suspect isn’t correct. Don’t rely on memory alone; it can be shaky. Instead, access easy-to-use resources that will make your writing life easier.

(3) Revise, reread, revise, reread . . . until you’re satisfied.

Above all, slow down and think about your readers, be they 10 years old or 100. No one wants to eat half-baked bread, nor do they want to read partly polished prose. Flavor your writing until it’s “cooked” just right!

Barbara McNichol edits the gremlins out of nonfiction articles and books. She has created Word Trippers: The Ultimate Choice for Choosing the Right Word When It Really Matters as a resource that keeps writers on a professional path. Visit www.wordtrippers.com to sign up for her free Word Tripper of the Week ezine or contact her at 520-615-7910. Better yet, you can buy her Word Trippers – 350+ of these pesky pairings—as a Kindle e-book on Amazon. now a Kindle e-book on Amazon