Glued to the TV
Can you do your level best? Can you throw a fit? How about throwing someone under the bus? Or throwing a birthday party? Can you crack a smile, float a trial balloon, pose a question, bear the brunt, beat a hasty retreat, grab a nap, or cause someone’s words to fall on deaf ears? Are you glued to the conventions? Can you drive a hard bargain and nail down an argument?
If you can do these acts, it might be better if you didn’t. They’re all clichés, and everyone knows clichés should be avoided like the plague.
Food Fight ©Judi Birnberg
If you’d like a list of rules governing when to capitalize a letter, use the search box and put in Capitalization Rules. I posted the list a little over a year ago.
I just want to add that although a word may have special significance for you, your response won’t be universal: Exercise will fill you with Joy and Energy. When you finish your 75 pushups, you may be elated and buzzing with verve. Nevertheless, joy and energy are nothing more than ordinary, common nouns. They aren’t official names of anything (proper nouns) and should not be capitalized.
As I wrote in my previous post about capital letters,
Be very sparing in using capitalization for emphasis. Let your words show the emphasis. As with any form of calling attention to your message (e.g., bold, italics, underlining), when you emphasize everything you end up emphasizing nothing.
Are you aware that almost every day you see one or more signs using quotation marks improperly?
“In business since 1979”
“Apple pie like your mom used to make”
“Call us for affordable repairs!”
No one ever said these things. They were made up to call attention to what the advertisers want you to remember.
Legitimate uses of quotation marks are when you are quoting the actual words someone else either said or wrote, or when you use a word knowing that your readers are aware you are being facetious or sarcastic.
For instance, if you write that your Aunt Edna is on a “strict” diet and then you go on to write that she eats strictly high-calorie foods, your readers understand your sarcasm. But in the last sign listed above, putting quotation marks around “free” seems to indicate that the delivery is, in fact, not free. It’s as if the company is poking you in the ribs and saying, “Ha! Not really.”
If you want to call attention to certain words, instead of quotation marks, you can use italics or boldface type. But please do this very sparingly.
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A Jumble of Words © Judi Birnberg
If you edit as you write, stopping frequently to go over what you’ve just put down, you stop your creative flow and get lost in the words, debating with yourself whether one version of a sentence is better than others. In that process, you tend to forget where you were headed. When I say “you,” I mean “me” and everyone else.
You will end up with a better document if you follow this rule: Down and Up. Write it down and then fix it up. Get your ideas out and, ideally, let the document sit if you have the time.
It’s helpful to get distance from your writing. I realize that with today’s pressures you can’t always do that. But at least give yourself perhaps five minutes to do something else and then come back to what you wrote to take another look at it and fix it up.
Can you do that? Let me know.
Lately, I’ve been hearing and reading the word dribble used to mean “nonsense,” as in So much of political discourse today is dribble.
Dribble is what basketball players do with a ball and what babies do with just about everything that goes into their mouths. If you substitute drivel in the example sentence in the first paragraph, you’ll be using the word correctly.
Are you familiar with this website in the title? I recommend it highly: It’s free, fun and useful.
If you subscribe, every day your inbox will greet you with a new word, some of them quite unusual. Occasionally the words are a miscellaneous collection, but often they come from a common theme. This week’s words all begin with silent letters, and I’m not talking about especially common words like knife and write.
You get the etymology, pronunciation (both written and spoken), notes, and use in a sentence. Does this sound stuffy and boring? It’s not. Give it a try.
Here’s the link: www.wordsmith.org