April: National Poetry Month

And to celebrate, a poem:

Untitled

The sky cries,

and trees bow their heads

in quiet prayer

The earth, she shakes with anger

and roars in pain,

But what do I care,

What do I care

My heart, broken, cries out, cries out

but no one hears

So let the sky cry

until her tears wash away

And my pleas, mere whispers

to all, go unheard

So let the trees bow

and break in despair

Just as my body lies crumpled,

broken,

and bare

Why shouldn’t the earth tremble,

and in my same fate share

If the sun no longer shines,

overcome by night’s fears

Would anyone notice,

Would anyone care

If the stars fall from the heavens

and not one witness their sins

For aren’t all our hearts broken

Carried away by the wind

Scattered in pieces, scattered in pain

Does anyone care

Does anyone care

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The $250,000 Typo

The next time clients tell you “No, we don’t need a line item for proofreading” you may want to share this story with them.

New York City transit officials recently printed 80,000 subway maps that listed the wrong minimum cost of a pay-per-ride card. The newly printed maps listed the rate as $4.50; actual rate … $5.00. The city’s transit authority had hiked the price for the card by 50 cents, but the change wasn’t caught. By anyone!

The maps were pulled, corrected, and re-printed. And according to the New York Post, the cost for correcting this typo: $250,000.

I’m guessing a proofreader would have cost the city’s transit authority a lot less!

It’s. Just. An. Apostrophe.

It never ceases to amaze how so many people not only misuse, but abuse, the poor, lowly apostrophe. It doesn’t have to be that way. Ever.

You see, this is one of the easiest rules not only to understand, but master. Think back. Think way, way back. You may have to reach back to those elementary school days…or ask your kids. You see, we all learned at an early age that an apostrophe is used to indicate a possessive word. And if the word is not possessing anything on God’s green earth, then don’t use it. See? Simple!

Of course, that is the “apostrophe rule” in its simplest form (did you notice that I did NOT use an apostrophe in the word “its?” It doesn’t possess anything).

As with anything in the hardest language in the world (yes, English IS the hardest language to learn in the world, and I should know: I studied both Korean and Russian. Easy in comparison), there are definite rules for its usage. And while there are slight changes in rules of usage with the apostrophe, they are so very frequently misapplied! Seriously?

So, to help those who are “apostrophe” challenged…a list of rules for usage.

1. An apostrophe is used to show the possessive case of proper nouns.

• Allison Jones’ article (one person named Jones)
• The Joneses’ article
(two or more people named Jones)

2. If a singular or plural word does not end in s, add ’s to form the possessive.

• a child’s wants
• the men’s concerns
• the people’s choice
• everyone’s answer

3. Add an ’s if a proper noun or name ends in a silent s, z, or x.

• Theroux’s “The Mosquito Coast”

4. Do not use ’s with possessive pronouns: his, hers, ours, its, yours, theirs, whose.

• The article was hers.
• I have not seen its equal.

5. Use ’s only after the last word of a compound term.

• my father-in-law’s book
• an editor in chief’s decision
• someone else’s problem

6. When showing joint possession with an organization’s or business firm’s name, use the possessive only in the last word.

• the Food and Drug Administration’s policy
• Hammond and Horn’s study

7. Do not use an apostrophe to indicate the plural of a name, an all-capital abbreviation, or of numerals.

• Veterans Affairs
• musicians union
• ECGs
• WBCs
• a woman in her 40s
• during the late 1990s
(1990’s—no, no, no, a thousand times no! This will NEVER be acceptable so please stop the abuse.)

8. Use ’s to indicate the plural of letters, signs, or symbols when s alone would be confusing.

• Please spell out all the &’s.
• She got eight A’s and two B’s on her last report card.

9. When units of time or money are used as possessive adjectives, add ’s.

• a day’s wait
• a dollar’s worth
• six months’ gestation
• two weeks’ notice
(The movie title was not punctuated correctly.)

10. When a word ends in an apostrophe, no period or comma should be placed between the word and the apostrophe.

• The last book on the shelf was the Smiths’.

Easy, right? I know…it is. Now follow the rules. And please, for the love of all things holy, STOP adding an apostrophe to dates, as they don’t possess anything, never will, and own that apostrophe! Any thoughts on the small, but mighty, apostrophe?

Disconnected Writing Kills: Great Transition Words Just Might Be the Cure

There is nothing worse than disconnected, disjointed writing. Your target audience completely gets lost (and not in translation). Your message is missed. And quite simply, no one understands what you’re trying to say.

But never fear…this, too, can be cured with great transition words. No magic wand needed…just you and your fabulous writing skills that will connect sentences and paragraphs into a unified body of writing.

Transition words help both the reader and the writer move from one idea to another idea in one fluid movement. Seamlessly. Painlessly. And with utter understanding.

Admittedly, transitions can be tricky if you aren’t accustomed to using them properly. Their placement can be awkward, making your writing even more cumbersome. And, I’m sorry to say, but no, you can’t just rely on your old stand-by words of  “but,” “however,” and “in addition.” You’ll need a handy list to pull from…and look what I just happen to have for you:

  • accordingly
  • admittedly
  • afterward
  • alternatively
  • altogether
  • as a result
  • at the same time
  • at this point
  • by comparison
  • certainly
  • clearly
  • concurrently
  • consequently
  • considering this
  • conversely
  • evidently
  • further
  • furthermore
  • given these points
  • in any case
  • incidentally
  • indeed
  • meanwhile
  • moreover
  • nevertheless
  • notably
  • obviously
  • on the contrary
  • otherwise
  • overall
  • previously
  • surprisingly
  • therefore
  • whereas
  • yet

Clearly, not every word on this list will work for your style of writing, nor is this list exhaustive. Moreover, pick and choose your transition words carefully to reflect your style of writing. And, yes, “clearly” and “moreover” were my choices for transition words to end this blog. I think they both work for my style of writing, don’t you?

For the Love of the Oxford Comma

Okay, so I know this is a point of contention for many a writer and editor: you are either for or against the Oxford, or serial, comma. I make no bones about it: I am definitely an Oxford comma girl. Can’t help myself. It just makes sense to use it. And, to further make the point, I cut my teeth in an industry as an editor where the Oxford comma was king. Please see the Chicago Manual of Style if you need proof.

And to illustrate the difference, double click on the awesome infographic below, also available on OnlineSchools.com:

oxford-comma

I Suppose I Should Address this…Supposably

I saw this pic posted on Facebook today, and my first thought was: Uh? That can’t be right. But, so many people were in agreement, and as you know, I am all about breaking the rules IF, and only if, they should be broken. There isn’t even a question about this one, however.

Supposably

To confirm that I was correct, and this little photo was not, I went to my girl, Grammar Girl. And she confirmed what I had said as being true: Supposably IS a word. It just happens to be used incorrectly. All. The. Time. You see,  the problem is that supposably simply does not mean the same thing as supposedly. Never has. Never will. But, it is indeed a word. Let’s take a closer look…

People who grasp for supposably are usually searching for supposedly, meaning “assumed to be true” and almost always includes a hint of sarcasm or disbelief (something I would never be guilty of, right?):

  • Supposedly, he canceled our date because his mom had an emergency.
  • She supposedly sent the check, but it was lost in the mail.

Supposably means “supposable,” “conceivable,” or “arguably.” It is only a valid word in American English as those Brits wisely refuse to accept it.

Supposably v. supposedly. And now it could be said that you supposably know which word to use when.

Thank you Grammar Girl!

Quote This

For all you creatives out there, words to live by:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of rules…You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the one thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things…they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

-Steve Jobs