I love it when people send me examples of bad writing. (It makes my job so much easier.) Here is the latest from V.M., who relishes these goofs as much as I do. She received a brochure last week from “Beyond Caring Home Care Services.”
You know what the owners were trying to convey. They wanted us to know that not only do they care, but they go beyond caring to do many other helpful things. The problem is that according to the common meaning of “beyond caring,” you no longer care. You used to care but now you are past that; you are beyond caring.
It’s possible the brochure was written by someone whose first language wass not English and who was not familiar with this particular expression. If a document was important, I always used to encourage my ESL students to run their writing by someone whose facility with English they could trust, to make sure they were not making inadvertent mistakes.
P.S. Winnie the Pooh should have used a period or a semicolon between those two sentences, not a comma. But I love him, and he admits he is a bear of very little brain.
Welcome to fall. Seasons are not capitalized except when you specifically refer in a document to, for example, a report of Fall 2014 or the Fall Retreat.
This week I have a treat for you, sent to me by B.B., who took my corporate class a very long time ago. I love it when former participants stay in touch with me, especially when they think of me when finding a goodie like the following. Take it as a warning. PROOFREAD EVERYTHING!
In the same way “literal” and “figurative” are often used incorrectly, people also confuse the meanings of these two words:
VIRTUAL means in effect or almost: “I’m so hungry, I could eat a virtual horse.”
A virtual horse is one that doesn’t exist. It isn’t actual. It might be a horse in a painting or some other image of a horse, but it isn’t alive (or even dead). It doesn’t exist.
You are certainly familiar with the term “virtual reality.” That means something that seems to be real in every way but is, in fact, an illusion.
On the other hand, if you’re hungry enough to eat an actual horse you’re more likely to satisfy your appetite in France than in many other countries. (But being vegan or vegetarian is also an option you might consider.)
Here are two frequently confused words.
To HOME (in), a verb, means to head for home, like a passenger pigeon, or to focus on something:
“Elliot cut short the chatter at the meeting and homed in on the topic everyone had come to discuss.”
To HONE means to sharpen, either literally or figuratively:
“Karen honed her skills as a designer by finding a mentor in the fashion industry.”
“Robin honed her favorite whittling knife before entering the wood-carving competition.”
The following words often cause problems with subject-verb agreement: EVERYBODY, EVERYONE, EVERYTHING. However, if you look at the end of each word, you’ll see that each one is singular. Therefore, you’ll need a singular verb to go with one of these words if it is your subject. The same rule applies for the ANY— words and the NO— words. (“No one” is always spelled as two words.)
Everyone in the meetings is coming with a laptop.
Anything you’ve heard about his children is likely to be true.
Nobody at the hotel has heard about the robbery on the second floor.
The rule has always been that the pronoun associated with these words needs to be singular as well: “Everyone attending the meeting needs to bring (his, her, his or her) laptop.” All of those choices are either awkward or exclusionary. For that reason, we most often hear “Everyone needs to bring their laptop.” It’s only a matter of time until that becomes standard English. However, an easy fix is to skip that pronoun entirely and just have the people bring “a laptop.” Problem solved.
Here are crazy examples that struck me the other day. Look at these two sets of words:
Adding just one letter at the beginning of the first words entirely changes the expected pronunciation of the second.
Don’t blame me. I don’t make the rules; I just comment on them.