Bloody Well Write

June 29, 2009

Proofread vs. proof read vs. proof-read

Filed under: grammar,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 11:18 am
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No contest on this one.

The term is proofread. One word. No hyphen. The same goes for other forms of the word: proofreader, proofreading.  Somehow, some way, the word gets split in two or includes a dreaded hyphen in lots of advertisements and employment requests — very uncool.

It's all in the details

It's all in the details

Proofreading, by the way, dates back to the 1920s. And what does one of these rare breeds do all day? A proofreader reads and marks corrections on a typeset document. Note that the proofreader marks corrections, not makes corrections. That job is typically left to a typesetter or designer. What kind of corrections? If you want to be literal and stick to the official job description, the proofreader only looks for typos and formatting issues on one document compared with another. Sometimes a document has nothing with which to be compared; this is called a blind proof. Modern-day proofreading, however, has an extended job description, which includes checking grammar and consistencies, as well as looking over copy at several stages prior to its being typeset.

Fun stuff, eh?

Happy trails!



June 26, 2009


Filed under: AP Stylebook,punctuation,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 11:24 am
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This little acronym gets thrown around a lot. Often, it is used (not utilized, ahem); sometimes, it is abused. Let’s investigate.

RSVP stands for repondez s’il vous plait, meaning respond if you please. It is the French way of someone politely asking you to contact him or her in order to indicate whether you will be able to attend whatever event he or she sent you an invitation for. NOTE: The acronym does not call for periods, despite what some calligraphers deem necessary for high style.


High-style RSVP, with unnecessary periods

Let’s say that your friend Frankie mailed you an invitation to her son’s birthday party. The invitation has RSVP printed in bold letters, with a telephone number and e-mail address below it. The polite (and expected) thing to do, as soon as you receive the invitation, is to check your availability and immediately call or e-mail Frankie to let her know that you can or can’t make it to the party. If you two regularly contact each other some other way, such as tweeting or texting, that would probably be fine, as long as you verify that she received your message; but since the invitation listed a telephone number and e-mail address, one of those options would have less chance of somehow not getting your RSVP to her. It’s your call — just verify.

The purpose of the RSVP, by the way, is to help the person hosting the event to plan said event more efficiently. If 30 invitations are sent out (with 30 invitees) with no RSVP, then the host is assuming that 30 guests will arrive; the host will have to prepare to adequately serve 30 guests, plus the host and any of the host’s helpers or family.

But if an RSVP is on the invitation, the host’s hope is that if not everyone can make it and if those folks notify the host by the requested date, the host will be able to adjust the event requirements in time to save money and supplies. So, for example, Frankie could plan on buying a smaller cake and fewer jugs of fruit punch because seven invited guests replied that they could not come to the party, while 23 guests replied that they would be there, with bells on. And in these interesting economic times (yeah, you try to avoid that phrase these days), saving a few bucks here and there is a very good thing.

So please, folks, follow RSVP protocol and RSVP on or before the deadline on the invitation. If you’re a friend of the host (and you presumably are, or else why are you getting an invitation?), help him or her out and say that you’ll either be there or you can’t come.

One other thing: Don’t write, “Please RSVP by xyz.” The please is redundant.
One last thing: Don’t write, “RSVP in advance.” Duh — you’re expecting them to tell you they’ll be there after the shindig’s over?

Happy trails!


June 22, 2009

Oral, verbal or written?

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 3:24 pm
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Sometimes it may feel like a crapshoot, trying to decide which word correctly describes what’s going on, linguistically. Isn’t that “verbal agreement” really verbal, because the dude told you that he would come by the house and buy your old, electricity-stealing freezer? Or is it oral? How about both verbal and oral? Is it a binding agreement? And in what kind of world does it matter if it’s verbal or oral or whatnot?

Ah. Now, don’t get blasé on me. This is a grammar blog, if you’ll remember, so yes, it is vastly important whether it’s verbal or oral (or written).

What’s the difference?

Oral = the spoken word
Written = the committed-to-paper word
Verbal = the having-anything-to-do-with-words word

In its innate sense, verbal means that something has to do with words, no matter if they are written, printed, spoken or thought. Although it has come to stand for the spoken word in loose terms, oral still trumps verbal as referring to anything spoken. The AP Stylebook suggests using verbal “to compare words with some other form of communication.” Some examples for clarity:

Oral — He gave an oral promise to stop by and take the freezer off her hands.
Written — She had a written agreement drawn up that stated the time and date that the man would come take the freezer off her hands.
Verbal — Once she realized that the man was not coming for her freezer — and that he had never signed her written agreement — she cried elephant tears that were more telling of her mind-set than any verbal sentiment she could have expressed.

Oh, the humanity.

Happy trails!


June 19, 2009

Empathy vs. sympathy

Filed under: grammar,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 10:13 am
Tags: ,

We’ve all been there. Or have we?

That’s the crux of the matter — the difference between having empathy and sympathy for someone’s plight. It seems as if everyone is sympathetic to our struggles, our pain, our anguish; they say as much:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“I feel your pain.”
“I know just how you feel.”
“I’ve been there, friend.”

But are those phrases really sympathetic? We rarely hear people say that they empathize with us; they almost always say that they sympathize with us.

So let’s clear this up.

Empathy = You feel empathy when you’ve experienced what the other person is now experiencing. You’ve been there, done that. You actually do know what that person may be feeling (probably not the exact emotions, but you can draw on your own experience and remember the feelings that you experienced during your own saga).

Sympathy = You feel sympathy when you haven’t experienced the same situation, but you can imagine what the person is going through.

Let’s say that a good friend’s dad/aunt/dog has just died. If you’ve gone through that horrible experience with your own dad/aunt/dog, you are probably going to be empathetic. The language you choose to use can gently explain your position: “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “I feel your pain.” “I know just how you feel.” “I’ve been there, friend.” All of those phrases are valid and possibly appropriate (although “I feel your pain” is a little over the top, if you ask me).

In the same situation, if you haven’t lost a dad/aunt/dog (or any person/animal that’s similar in relation, such as a mom/uncle/cat), it’s not a good idea to say, “I know just how you feel” or “ I’ve been there, friend” because it ain’t the truth. And everyone knows that the truth is typically the best path to take each and every time. If you blurt out something like one of those phrases, the person in pain has every right to call you on it and you shouldn’t get your nose out of joint if you get an earful from this person. Just be sympathetic and provide a shoulder to lean on.

Clear as mud? Here it is, simply:

Empathy = I’ve been there.
Sympathy = I can only imagine.

Happy trails!


June 12, 2009

Envy vs. jealousy

Filed under: grammar,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 4:43 pm
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Scenario 1:
So your neighbor just got a hot, new car that makes your get-along heap look a tad uncool. And yes, you would love an auto just like your neighbor’s — same smart color, same moon roof, same front heated seats. Do you envy your neighbor or are you jealous of your neighbor?

Scenario 2:
Your man (or woman), who is a hottie by all accounts, is suddenly partnered up with an equally attractive co-worker for a rousing three-legged race at the employee picnic, and you (who recently sprained your left big toe and have to sit on the sidelines) are forced to watch the two of them hobble and giggle all the way to the finish line. Assuming you’re not the perfect mate who cares not a whit about this situation, are you just a teensy bit jealous or are you a little envious?

Envy is one of the seven deadly sins. The decidedly Christian list also includes lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath and pride. Although the listed items are also mentioned as being not very good things throughout all kinds of religions, early Christians corralled them into a list. (Interesting note: Pride usually “wins” for being the most horrid of all the sins.)

Envy can be described as an insatiable desire for something, either material or intangible. It implies that someone desperately wants something that another has, and that the desperate person wishes that the person (who has ownership of the wanted thing) would not have that thing.

Really, it’s not a nice feeling to have; hoping that someone else experiences failure or loss simply does not build ones’ self-esteem up, no matter which way you look at it. Let it go, people. Live and let live. Give peace a chance.

A person is jealous if he or she has something (or someone or an ability) that he or she deems cool, and he or she would do just about anything to not lose that cool thing. That person may believe that someone (anyone) is out to get that cool thing, so that person lives life always looking over his or her shoulder, assuming that something bad is about to happen or someone is about to steal the cool thing.

That’s a depressing way to live. What’s the old saying? If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it was never yours in the first place. There you go.

Here’s the psychologist version: If you love somebody, set him or her free. If the person comes back, his or her super ego is dominant. If the person doesn’t come back, his or her id is supreme. If the person doesn’t go, he or she must be crazy. Ha!

Are you envious or are you jealous?

Are you envious or are you jealous?

Let’s look at Scenario 1: your neighbor’s groovy car. If you wish you had that car — man, that’s the best car on the planet! — you might be a tad envious. Now, maybe you don’t hope that your neighbor gets a door ding that first week; that’s very big of you. But if you still wish you could have a car like that, you’re still considered envious. If you simply think that your neighbor has worked hard and deserves a beauty of a car like that, then you can admire the car all day long, and your inner you will feel ethereal. Well done.

Now for Scenario 2: the hottie partnered with your hottie. I suppose you can guess this one. If you can’t believe your bad luck (i.e., cast on left big toe during the company picnic), keep an eagle eye on the other hottie to make sure that he or she keeps hands appropriately placed during the three-legged race and secretly hope that the prerace lunch gives said hottie a case of the tummy blues before the rope makes it around the third leg, you’re jealous. If you think, “Hey, my mate lucked out; that partner is going to be lightning-fast on the field and they’re going to win the nifty award,” then you’re a well-adjusted person and could teach the rest of us a thing or two. Well done!

Happy trails!


June 8, 2009

Eager vs. anxious

Filed under: grammar,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 3:46 pm
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You hear it all the time: “I’m anxious to go out this weekend!”

Whaaat? Why? Are you worried about having a good time? Are you nervous to see your friends? To eat great food and do something extraordinarily exciting for once? What’s to worry about?

The problem is the choice of words. Usually, folks use anxious when they mean eager. Maybe eager sounds too, well, eager. No one wants to seem needy, and eager implies that you really, really need something. So anxious rules the day. But really, everyone needs stuff. That’s just how life goes, so let’s embrace our needs and go out and fulfill them (without stepping on any toes, of course).

Here’s the difference between being eager and being anxious (according to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary):

Eager — marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire or interest (eager fans)

Anxious — characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency : worried (anxious parents)

In addition, a few other adjectives are similar to both eager and anxious but are slightly different in meaning:

Avid — adds to eager the implication of insatiability or greed (avid for new technology)

Keen — implies intensity of interest and quick responsiveness in action (keen on the latest fashions)

Athirst — emphasizes yearning but not necessarily readiness for action (athirst for adventure)

That’s the trouble with using a thesaurus to write your term paper, advertisement or contract: All the synonyms mean basically the same thing but not exactly the same thing. You can probably get away with it, but it’s a real drag when some smarty-patootie calls you on it in front of your peeps. And isn’t it more satisfying to just say what you really mean?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Happy trails!


June 2, 2009

Ands and ampersands

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 3:29 pm
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As a writer who’s worked with designers throughout most of my career, I am used to having my work doctored up to look pretty, regardless of the proper way to write something. And you know what? I’m often fine with that; why shouldn’t my stuff be as sexy and good looking as the next writer’s stuff? After all, sexy stuff sells. Good-looking stuff sells. And I want my stuff to sell. Right?

Um — well, of course I want my writing to be so amazing that it gets my clients’ products or services to fly off the proverbial shelves. But linear logic doesn’t work so well in this scenario. Integrity calls my name and yanks at my heartstrings, imploring me to stay true to the red-covered AP Stylebook that is never far away from my computer. And who am I to argue with integrity?

So, to the point: The ampersand (&), that curly-cue symbol that the vast majority of designers deem sufficient to take and’s place is not (I repeat not) sufficient to take and’s place.

Pretzel ampersand, minus the warm cheese

Pretzel ampersand, minus the warm cheese

The AP Stylebook clearly states that the ampersand is not to be used as a substitute for the word and. Its only sanctioned use is when it is officially part of a company’s name or within a composition title:

• Tiffany & Co.
• Barnes & Noble
• House & Garden
• Road & Track
• Shakespeare & Company
• “April & Oliver”
• “Design & Composition Secrets of Professional Artists: 16 Successful Painters Show How They Create Prize-Winning Work”

So when it comes to trying to create a lovely image versus doing the right thing, I err on the side of — you guessed it — the right thing. I would, of course, make an exception if it were a heavily designed ad with only three or so words (one of them being and) in a 72-point font and if the designer swore up and down that the client insisted on an ampersand. But that’s it. If the worry is a space issue, kerning is always an option.

Easy schmeezy.

Happy trails!


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