Showing posts with label word usage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label word usage. Show all posts

22 September 2020

Let's delve into some word usage issues


English is an interesting, intricate language. No matter how much I know, there's always more to learn. Today I'm continuing an occasional series on words and their usage.

In versus Into

Did you know there's a difference between when to use in versus into? I didn't until I got a recent copy edit back on a story coming out later this year. The copy editor didn't explain why one word was right and the other wrong, but thankfully, we have a little thing called the internet these days, so I was able to consult the quite helpful Cambridge Dictionary. It explained that you use in when addressing where someone or something is right now. You use into when addressing where someone or something is going. Right now, for instance, I am in my kitchen. Later I will walk into my bedroom. I can toss a scrap of paper into the recycle bin. When it lands, it will be in the bin.

What is up with the word up?

There are so many words and word phrases that include the word up, and I see people use the wrong spelling often. For instance, should you use ...
  • setup or set up
  • hookup or hook up
  • makeup or make up
  • pickup or pick up
  • breakup or break up
  • giveup or give ... wait, there's no such word as giveup. Never mind. 
But as to the others, here's the general rule: When you're using the word as a noun, use one word. When you want a verb, use two words. Here are some examples:

  • I set up the camera so it was aimed at the table setup, enabling me to catch the silverware thief.
  • The evil man laughed and said, "I set up your sister for the fall, and it worked." The honorable man replied, "I knew it was a setup, and now the police do too." Then he revealed the wire under his shirt.
  • I hooked up the customer's disabled car to my tow truck, hoping we'd have a hookup later.
  • On the way out of the bar with Jim, my newest hookup, I ran smack into Bob, the tow-truck driver I hooked up with yesterday.
  • My friend Ann hasn't spoken to me since I dropped her makeup bag and her favorite eye shadow cracked. She won't make up with me, no matter how much I beg.
  • The makeup of my days has changed since I stopped begging Ann to make up with me. Now instead of wasting all my time on unanswered texts, I'm hooking up with her boyfriend. (See, hook up can be helpful in all kinds of scenarios.)
  • My brother stole a red pickup. Now he gets to pick up trash by the side of the road as part of his sentence.
  • I wanted to break up with Troy, but my last five breakups happened in this bar too, so I decided to wait until tomorrow and do it over the phone. I'm nice that way.
Sorry to be brief, but I'm out of time. Hope this has been helpful.

28 May 2019

Things You Learn from Editing


As the old saying goes, it's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. (As a dog owner, I can attest that this is true!) The saying also applies to writers. No matter how much writing experience you have, you still can learn more.
I was reminded of this point recently, as I've been editing a lot of short stories for two upcoming anthologies, one coming out in December, and another coming out next spring. Some of the stories have been written by authors I consider to be short-story experts. Other stories have been written by authors who have had several stories published but who haven't broken out yet, and others still have been penned by authors who are just starting out. And I have learned something from all of them--sometimes simply from reading the stories (even the newest writer can come up with a twist or a turn of phrase that turns my head) and other times from editing them.

It's the editing finds that can lead to especially interesting conversations.

Did you know that SOB is in the dictionary? All caps. No periods. The acronym for son of a bitch is a word all its own, at least according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Even more surprising (to me at least), mansplain has made the dictionary too. I won't bother to tell you what that words means. I'm sure you know.

Turning to homophones, two-word terms often become single words when slang enters the picture. For instance, a woman might go to the drug store to buy a douche bag, but if her boyfriend is being a jerk, she'd call him a douchebag (one word, no space). And descriptions of animal excrement are usually spelled as two words: horse shit, bull shit, chicken shit. But when you mean "no way" or "a load of not-actual crap" you spell it horseshit and bullshit (again, one word, no space). And when you mean that someone is a coward, you call him a chickenshit--also one word. (Thanks to Michael Bracken for helping me see the horse shit/horseshit distinction recently.) It's interesting that horses, bulls, and chickens have had their excrement turned into slang words, yet dog shit is just that. Two words meaning excrement. As I told a friend, I might start saying "dogshit," when I want to say "no way!" just to see if it catches on.

Keeping with the one-word or two-words questions, do you go into a room or in to a room? This may be an obvious thing for you, but it's one of those little things I find myself double-checking over and over. Same for on to/onto, some time/sometime, and so many more. Each of these words has their proper place, so I like to make sure I use them properly.

Yep, that's a bear on a trampoline.
To answer these questions: you go into a room. Into is the correct word if you are showing motion. The onto/on to question also turns on whether you are showing movement. I jump onto the trampoline. I catch on to my boyfriend's lies. As to sometime or some time, this question turns on whether you are talking about a period of time (writing this blog is taking some time) or if you mean an indefinite date (I'll get back to you sometime next month). Thank goodness for Google, without which I would have to memorize these distinctions. Instead I just get to look them up again and again and again.

Well, I hate to cut this column short, but I'm short on time. (Ha ha!) (And that's two words for ha ha, per our friend Mr. Webster.)

Do you have any interesting word usage issues/spelling knowledge you'd like to share? Please do. I'm always eager to learn something new.

******

Oh, and before I go, two bits of BSP: My story "Bug App├ętit" has been nominated for the Anthony Award for best short story! This story was published in the November/December 2018 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and was a finalist earlier this year for the Agatha Award. I'm honored to be an Anthony finalist along with fellow SleuthSayer Art Taylor as well as authors S.A. Cosby, Greg Herren, and Holly West. The winner will be voted on and announced at Bouchercon in November. In the meanwhile, you can read my story here, if you are interested.


And if you're anywhere near Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday, June 8th, I hope you'll come to the launch party for Deadly Southern Charm. This anthology from the Central Virginia chapter of Sisters in Crime includes my newest short story, "The Power Behind the Throne."

The launch party will run from 3 - 5 p.m. at the Libbie Mill - Henrico County Public Library, 2011 Libbie Lake E. St., Richmond, VA. In addition to the usual book launch activities such as book selling and book signing and snack eating, there will be a panel discussion about the pros and cons of writing different lengths of fiction. I'll be on the panel with fellow Deadly Southern Charm author Lynn Cahoon and anthology editor Mary Burton. We hope to see you there!