Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Powerful Word


I saw this idea on Facebook today; it reminded me of an exercise I used to do with my corporate writing groups.

Place the word ONLY anywhere in the following sentence and see how it changes the meaning:


Only she told him that she loved him. (No one else did.)
She only told him that she loved him. (But she didn’t show him she did.)
She told only him that she loved him. (She didn’t tell that to anyone else.)
She told him only that she loved him. (She didn’t tell him anything else.)
She told him that only she loved him. (No one else loves him.)
She told him that she only loved him. (But she didn’t like or admire him.)
She told him that she loved only him. (She loves no one else.)
She told him that she loved him only. (Again, she loves no one else.)

ONLY is a modifier. That means it gives information about another part of the sentence. Modifiers may be one word or a group of words. They should be placed right next to the word you want to give more information about. If you put modifiers in the wrong place, you are creating, yes, misplaced modifiers. At times that will lead to embarrassing or awkward situations:

Be certain to buy enough yarn to finish your mittens before you start.
Wearing red noses and floppy hats, we laughed at the clown.
For sale: Mixing bowl set for chef with round bottom for efficient beating.

I know you don’t want people to laugh at your writing, so check for misplaced modifiers as part of your proofreading.

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Academic Typos


A few more from Drummond Moir’s collection of groanworthy errors in Just My Typo:

1. Dickens spent his youth in prison because his father’s celery was cut off.

2. You may be imprisoned if you use mallet and forethought.

3. A triangle which has an angle of 135˚ is called an obscene angle.

4. Rambo was a famous French poet.

5. A ruminating animal is one which chews its cubs.

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Negatives Without Positives


In English, we have many negative words that have no paired positives. Here are a few of those non-existent positives for you to ponder:

Are you ept, gruntled and couth? Are you ever shevelled, hibited or sipid? I bet you are never plussed, gainly or ert. But perhaps you may feel sipid, sidious or beknownst. My wish for you is that you are always jected, petuous and consolate, and that you will also be cognito and communicado. I think I have given you enough false positives now that this list needs to become cessant.

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The Whistled Language of Northern Turkey


I read a fascinating article in the August 17 edition of The New Yorker, about the small village of Kusköy, in Northern Turkey, where many inhabitants converse by whistling. Because the area is mountainous and in a dense forest, a whistle carries much farther than a shout.

Whistled languages have been known for centuries (not to me, however): Herodotus wrote of an Ethiopian “bat language” and another whistled language has been known in the Canary Islands (how appropriate) for over 600 years. They are also found in the Brazilian Amazon, in Northern Laos and in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

All whistled languages are based on spoken languages, with sounds made with the tongue, teeth and fingers. I am unable to provide a link to the article, but you should be able to find it at 17, 2015) Three examples of the whistled language are given. All three sound pretty much the same to me, but apparently it works well in Kusköy, although the author notes that the bird language in this tiny village is not as prevalent as it once was. Because of nosy neighbors, residents are finding more privacy by texting.


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Favorite Biblical Typos

UnknownAs collected by Drummond Moir in Just My Typo

From various bibles and church bulletins:

“Go and sin on more.”

“Rejoice and be exceedingly clad.”

“Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say ‘Hell’ to someone who doesn’t care much about you.”

“As the ushers bring the offering forward, the congregation will rise and sin.”

“The Bishop will then go to Chicago for a weep.”

“It took many rabbits many years to write the Talmud.”

“YOUNG PEOPLE’S SOCIETY. Everyone is invited. Tea and Social Hour at 6:15. Mrs. Smith will sin.”

“The widows of the church need washing badly. They are too dirty for any use and are a disgrace to our village.”


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Real Estate Typos


But where are the fangs?

In the market for a new home? Read the ads carefully or you might end up with a house that includes the following (from a real estate company in Virgina, as quoted in Drummond Moir’s Just My Typo):

Fresh pain throughout
Heated poo in back yard
Custom inferior paint
Large walking closet
Ceiling fangs in all bedrooms
Huge dick in back for entertaining
Beautiful bitch cabinets

I’ve also seen houses for sale that included “shudders.” Probably on those homes with ceiling fangs.

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Email Reminders

1. Avoid bold, CAPS and italics to give emphasis; they can be distracting. Let your words carry your meaning.

2. Use BCC: when sending to a group; you don’t want to expose others’ email addresses to strangers. By using BCC: you also avoid the likelihood that one of the recipients will click Reply All rather than responding only to you. We all get far too much email as it is.

3. Begin your email with a greeting and end with a closing and your name. Otherwise, your email may be perceived as being rude and clipped.

4. Don’t send a large attachment without first checking with the recipient to see when the best time to send it would be.

5. Avoid assuming your readers know the details of what you are writing about. If they knew, you’d have no need to write.

6. Use your spell- and grammar-check programs, and then proofread to make sure you didn’t leave words out. Spellcheck programs will accept everything you write that is a word, so if you wrote “and” when you meant “any,” only you can fix that.

7. Before writing because you think you haven’t received an expected response, check your Spam folder.

8. Make your Subject line clear and appropriate. Change it when the email discussion shifts.

9. Remember to thank people for any help you receive. Use “please” when making a request.

10. Writing in all caps is shouting. Writing in all lowercase is annoying.

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