Bloody Well Write

August 31, 2009

Gray vs. grey

What color is it?

Well, what are we talking about?

An elephant. An oyster. A moody sky. A town in Maine. A city in Georgia. A brewing company. “What’s-her-name’s Anatomy.” One of the lonelier colors in the big box with the cool sharpener.

That’s right — it’s gray. Or is it grey?

Gray can be gorgeous — no matter how you spell it.

Gray can be gorgeous — no matter how you spell it.

The answer depends on your location. If you’re stateside, the color is gray unless it is a person’s or company’s preferred spelling or if you’ve checked Merriam-Webster’s dictionary for first-mentioned spellings.

There are, as always, a few wild hairs:

• Greyhound (a dog, a cocktail)
• Earl Grey (a tea)
• Grey friar (a Franciscan friar)

If you’ve hopped the pond, however, the colour is grey. While you’re in UK English-speaking countries, feel free to use grey as often as you wish, as it is the preferred British spelling.

If you’re writing with the AP Stylebook in mind, however, it doesn’t matter where you are; gray is the way to go. And you know how I feel about the AP Stylebook, don’t you?

Happy trails!

SAK

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August 25, 2009

-ward vs. -wards: toward or towards?

Here’s a dodgy problem.

Which one is correct: Toward or towards? Backward or backwards? Forward or forwards?

OK, so it’s not that dodgy. It’s pretty simple, really. Let’s focus on toward vs. towards and realize that the answer will be valid for all -ward words.

According to the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary, as well as a host of other dictionaries and Web sites, both versions are technically correct. But one is — how shall I say it? — more technically correct than the other.

Toward, backward, forward, leftward and any other directionally influenced -ward words are used primarily in the United States. Words that add an “s” at the end are primarily British. One guy even did a Google test to see if this is true and found out that, lo and behold, it stands up to a Google search.

For me, the real test is looking it up in the AP Stylebook — the bible of journalists, ad agencies and many writers — and the answer is clear: Toward is the correct term and towards is unacceptable. End of story.

There you have it — unless you want to sound British for some bloody reason, you cheeky bugger.

Happy trails!

SAK

August 20, 2009

Pet peeve No. 39: quality

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 11:06 am
Tags: , , ,

I have two pet peeves for this entry, really.

The first one stems from how I came to decide what to write about today. I was standing in the shower thinking, and I had all these great phrases and sentences and points running through my head. But I was standing in the shower, hair full of shampoo and soapy puff in hand, and there was no way I could easily record these fantastic ideas.

Try to remember them? Oh, sure — easy for you to say, sitting there all dry and all. You know how it goes: Great idea pops into your head, it’s completely developed and ready for a patent, but by the time you’re towel-dried and undies on, your mind is blank. You don’t have a recorder handy in the bathroom, and pen to paper completely is out of the question.

So that’s my pet peeve No. 38: How in tarnation do people expect to get great ideas and keep those great ideas intact until they’re out of the shower? Umph.

Now on to pet peeve No. 39, the point of this entry: quality.

What does that mean? I see it all the time: This is a quality product. That is quality-made. The other is a quality idea.

What kind of quality, pretty please? High quality? Low quality? Supreme quality? So-so quality?

There are those who would argue that I am being too picky and not letting myself read into it what is meant to be read into it. I argue back: I am a writer. And an editor. And a proofreader. My job is to be picky with the language, to make entirely sure that the point is clear (and concise, yes, but clarity rules the writer’s roost).

If the wording isn’t absolutely clear to me, I can guarantee you that there are others out there who would also find it confusing as is. And if I don’t question language that is not quite clear (especially as an editor and proofreader), then who will? The readers, that’s who. And if the readers are questioning the wording, then it’s a little too late for the writer to clarify.

The readers have power — political power, emotional power, purchasing power.

Even if the readers “get” your meaning, there are some who will relate the slightly sloppy writing with the product. Do you really want even a few of your readers to mock your writing (and thus your product, if you are selling something) by thinking, “Hmm. I wonder if the bozo who wrote this copy (snicker) meant “crappy quality” or (tee hee) “subpar quality” (har dee har)”? No. Of course you don’t. So be clear when you’re writing about the quality of something.

It’s crafted of high-quality mahogany.

It’s a low-quality grape.

It’s the best quality that money can buy.

Happy trails!

SAK

August 11, 2009

Preposition overload

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 4:57 pm
Tags: , ,

When I think of prepositions, I think of Schoolhouse Rock and the “busy prepositions.” Yes, I’m revealing my generation, and I’m OK with that.

Prepositions are a group of words that link nouns, pronouns and phrases (prepositional phrases — get it?) to other words. They are usually indicators of time or space. Here is a handy list of the most-used prepositions:

• About
• Above
• Across
• After
• Against
• Along
• Around
• At
• Beneath
• Behind
• Below
* Beside
• Between
• Beyond
• But
• By
• Down
• During
• Far
• For
• From
• In
• Like
• Near
• Of
• Off
• On
• Outside
• Over
• Past
• Since
• Through
• To
• Under
• Until
• Up
• With

Prepositions are great; really, they are. I love ’em so. But they do tend to get overused. “Where are you at?” Argh. This drives me crazy, especially when I find myself saying it. “Where are you?” is plenty of information; the at is completely unneccessary. Same with “Where did you get that from?” The from is not needed. “Where did you get that?” makes sense, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.

And here’s one of my pet peeves: I see writing very often that has layers upon layers of prepositional phrases, all within one sentence; and very often, those prepositional phrases that are right next to each other begin with the same preposition:

• The dog that ate the berries of the tree of Bob is sick. (OK, so that sentence bites for several reasons.)
• Bob buys treats for his dog for a snack.
• The snack on the plate on the counter is for the dog.

First bullet: two of prepositional phrases.
Second bullet: two for prepositional phrases.
Third bullet: two on prepositional phrases.

I am not sure if it’s written somewhere as a grammar rule that a good writer does not use two prepositional phrases in a row — both starting with the same preposition — but it drives me absolutely batty. I change or rewrite every instance that is within my power to alter, and I heartily suggest you do the same.

Serenity now!

Happy trails!

SAK

August 4, 2009

My 2 cents

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 1:45 pm
Tags: , , ,

When it comes to money, everyone has an opinion about how to manage it. Let me just add one thought: Let’s leave the fate of dollars and cents — in the written form, anyway — to the folks at the AP Stylebook headquarters.

Feed the pig

Feed the pig

When you don’t have a ton (or even a pound) of cash and you are writing about this lack of funds, spell out the word cents and use numerals for any amount less than a dollar:

• What can I buy for 8 cents?
• He gave me 74 cents back in change.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to rub coins against paper money, use the dollar sign and decimals for any amount equal to or larger than a dollar:

• Bob owes me exactly $1.
• I owe Sue a penny more: $1.01.
• Sue bought me a slurpie that cost $2.35.

As much as I’d like to use that cute cent sign (¢), AP doesn’t approve, so I acquiesce.

Happy trails!

SAK

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