Here are some sentences written without commas. On first reading, you likely will be scratching your head. But read each sentence again and put in a comma; instantly, your confusion will be lifted.
- Just as we were ready to leave my brother drove up in his new convertible.
- While I watched my uncle assembled the ingredients for a salad.
- After he shot the arrow always hit the target.
- If you can afford to visit New Orleans at Mardi Gras.
- They recognized the document was not complete and announced it could not have been given the situation and time.
At least I hope it’s a laugh. I’ll let the Dog/Them disparity go.
Wishing all my readers a better year than 2017 has been (IMO), and hoping for good health and good times for all. (Stay away from fad diets that advocate eating children.)
Will she be discreet?
These two words are pronounced identically and are commonly mistaken for each other.
DISCREET means circumspect, prudent, careful. If you are discreet, you will avoid gossiping or criticizing others. You try to avoid embarrassing others. Roger promised he would be discreet after his best friend told him he was thinking of divorcing his fourth wife.
DISCRETE means singular, unconnected, separate. Academy Awards are given in multiple discrete categories.
Euphemisms are generally used to change something icky into something more palatable. As George Carlin said, “Sometime in my life—no one asked me about this—toilet paper became bathroom tissue. The dump became the landfill. And partly cloudy became partly sunny.”
I was in a medical center the other day, where an information station was set up under an umbrella. Emblazoned on the umbrella were the words SERVICE AMBASSADOR. I find nothing distasteful about the word INFORMATION, but I am entertained by the thought of a group meeting to find a supposedly better (and definitely more pompous) description of the services offered under that umbrella. SERVICE AMBASSADOR: Do you suppose the, ahem, ambassadors who staff that desk need congressional confirmation?
Keep it simple. Not everything needs to be prettied up. In most cases, your readers aren’t fooled.
Don’t be fooled by the cuteness.
At this time
In fact, depending on the context, these words could fit into any one of those three categories.
• If you honestly don’t know about a situation, it might be necessary to use one to give yourself some wiggle room and buy some time.
• If you are certain of the situation and you use one of those words, you are adding extra verbiage that serves no purpose. Cut out all deadwood.
• If your intent is to deceive and you use one of those words, you are being a word weasel. Avoid this.
I’ve had a book for eons, Questions You Always Wanted to Ask About English (but were afraid to raise your hand), by Maxwell Nurnberg. Many of the exercises make you think. Look at these pairs of very similar sentences and answer the questions:
A. Which sounds more conspiratorial?
- We’d like to invite you to dessert with us tomorrow evening.
- We’d like to invite you to desert with us tomorrow evening.
B. Which draft board’s needs were the greatest?
- The medical board accepted men with perforated eardrums.
- The medical board excepted men with perforated eardrums.
C. Which question would an investigator ask about a specific group?
- Were there voices raised in protest?
- Were their voices raised in protest?
D. Which Joe is the eager beaver?
- Joe submitted to many orders.
- Joe submitted too many orders.
E. Which statement is concerned with ethical standards?
- The principles in the case are well known.
- The principals in the case are well known.
Remember, if you write an actual word, even if it’s wrong, your spellchecker won’t pick it up. Proofread meticulously.