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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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.”

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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

7 Writing Mistakes Editors are Constantly Fixing

By Barbara McNichol

What can editors tell writers about improving their writing before they even begin the editing process? I shared my ideas and examples on a recent teleclass hosted by Janice Campbell of NAIWE.

You can listen to the full hour of “fixes” I presented by dialing dial 1-218-844-3182 and enter Recording ID: 90075555

In the meantime, here’s a summary:

Mistake #1.      Being so self-absorbed as a writer that you’re unaware of the reader’s experience. The fix? Know your core message and write to that message, leaving out the experience of writing.

Mistake #2.      Addressing readers as readers rather than a single key person whose interest you want to capture with your message. The fix? Keep a single interested person in your target audience top of mind as you write.

Mistake #3.      Skimming the surface, not going deep enough. The fix? When describing an experience, explain what you felt, what the other person felt as best you can, and what exact words were spoken. Go deeper with the details.

Mistake #4.      Having no rhyme or reason to the order of the paragraphs. The fix? Make a conscious decision about the order based on logic and facilitating your readers’ comprehension.

Mistake #5.      Overusing weak verbs and throwing in extraneous phrases and wobbly words. The fix? Rewrite using active verbs; question use of every adjective and adverb; throw out wobbly words: really, very, much, some that.  “I Really Think That We Should Not Use Some Words Very Much.”

Mistake #6.      Using multiword noun phrases when one active verb will do. The fix? Whenever possible, get an active verb to do the “work.”

Mistake #7.      Writing sentences that ramble (on and on and on and on). The fix? Limit sentences to 15-21 words max but vary sentence length.

Bonus mistake: Mixing metaphors and flat-out choosing the wrong word. The fix? Use a word choice guide like Word Trippers to help you select the perfect word when it really matters.

About Barbara McNichol

Authors and experts depend on Barbara for her expert editing of nonfiction books, articles, and marketing materials. On her website, she proudly lists close to 200 books she’s edited. Her mission is to teach writers techniques that will improve their writing—and make the final editing process go smoother and faster. As part of this mission, Barbara sends out a monthly ezine called Add Power to Your Pen. When you sign up for it, you’ll receive “10 Top Techniques for Improving Your Writing.” She’s also written Word Trippers: The Ultimate Source for Using the Perfect Word When It Really Matters, available at amazon.com as a Kindle and a print book.

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