Superannuated Syntax: “Hard by”

“The house sat hard by a small stream.”

It did what? Did it fall from the sky, like Dorothy’s farmhouse, and “sit hard” on someone?

Nothing nearly so exciting, I fear. This phrase means simply “near.” My copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles tells me that this usage of “hard” (with “by”) is archaic and dates to 1526. The meaning of “hard” is “close, of time or place,” but the sense of “of time” is no longer used. Continue reading

Now Offering Critiques!

Clients and supporters have told me for some time now that I should do developmental editing.

It took me a while to come around, but I concur with them. I’m offering critiques for $35/hour, separate from my copy/line editing services. Details are on my CV here. Click on the NEW SERVICE link under INFORMATION.

They talked; I finally listened. Let’s do this thing.

Definitely indefinite, or “Which article should I use?”

I knew I’d written about this before. Here’s the proof. However, I’ll write about it again because it keeps coming back.

The issue at hand is whether one uses a or an before a given abbreviation. I’m sure that you were drilled on this in school (I sure was) by a teacher who insisted that you use a before a consonant and an before a vowel.

That’s partly correct. Continue reading

“For N o’clock” or “by N o’clock?”

When you have an appointment, do you say you need to be there “for” or “by” the scheduled time?

I have always said “by.” I need to be at the office by nine o’clock.

My husband, however, has always said “for.” He needs to be at the office for eight o’clock.

The first time I heard it, I mentally stopped, stock still. “For?” Surely you mean “by,” right? I didn’t ask, though. I just made a note and kept listening. Sure enough, that’s the phrasing he always uses. He was born in MA and grew up in RI. He’s not British, which this usage would seem to suggest (it’s “exclusively” BrE, according to Algeo’s British or American English?”: A handbook of word and grammar patterns).

I’ll suggest it may be less “exclusive” than his research led him to report. He states “0 iptmw in CIC texts” for AmE. In English (AmE, precisely), that means zero instances per ten million words in the Cambridge International Corpus. I can swear to the existence of three American English native speakers (my husband and his two daughters) who use “for” where I use “by” in this particular construction. Is it a spoken AmE thing, but not a written AmE thing?

I’d love to hear from linguists who have experience with this wording. Is it as “exclusive” as Algeo says? Or are there other AmE speakers (perhaps from New England, or perhaps only in that little bit of MA and RI) who use this? I’m a corn-fed Midwestern gal of Frisian extraction. This British thing . . . I didn’t grow up with this.

I’m still here.

It’s been ten days since my last post. (I swear, I’m not Catholic. I was raised Dutch Reformed. I’ve never been to confession, but I know how it goes from tv and movies and stuff.)

I’ve been working like a fiend on concurrent projects since the beginning of July. Being busy is wonderful, but not being able to make time for blogging is a drag. So, I’m tossing this up here quickly to say “I’m still here.”

One debut novel edited and returned, topping out at nearly 76,000 words.

One installment in a series edited and returned, about 35,000 words or so (I honestly don’t recall, but it’s a rip-roaring story just like the others before it!). If you want to know, it’s Harry Gets Her Wings by Steve Turnbull, the third book in the IRON PEGASUS series.

One memoir edited and returned. I haven’t a clue how many words. It was a very moving experience, though, touching the life of a WWII vet in that manner.

And now, I’ve started another debut piece, AND I’ve done a sample edit for a potential client, AND I’ve penciled in the fourth book in a series (THE MINUS FACTION by Rick Wayne, for anyone who might be interested) on my calendar for later this fall.

Busy, busy, busy. There should be a proper blog post coming next week, if all goes anywhere near as I have planned. Maybe even another Superannuated Syntax post.

Who knows?

I bought PerfectIt 3.

This is no spelling checker. It’s no grammar checker, either. It’s a proofreading program, and it’s amazing.

Here’s a link to the first how-to video for the program. Yes, I will be watching all of them. I may not need to know everything, as I don’t do much technical editing with charts and tables and figures, but I’ll watch them anyway.

For all the times you’ve seen me rant about the uselessness of “editing software,” you should be able to tell this is NOT like any of those other programs I’ve poked at. This one is worth the money. No kidding. It’s a proofreading program. It will ask you about inconsistencies. “This word is spelled this way 4 times and this other way 10 times. Should I change any of them?” You MUST verify every instance; not all of them will be wrong, and indeed perhaps none of them are. The program simply alerts you to the fact that, for instance, you used both “run in” and “run-in,” and asks you if all the occurrences are correct or if some need to be changed. It will catch usages of abbreviations and ask about defining them. You get to decide. Nothing happens without your approval until you get to the automatic stuff like “change two spaces to one following terminal punctuation.” (And you don’t even have to tell it to do that, if you don’t want it to. Just don’t click the radio button, and click on “Exit.”)

AND, it’s customizable. For example: I can enter a unique term from something I’m editing, and tell PerfectIt I want that term to always be italicized, or italicized on the first use only, or never italicized. If one slips through my eyes and fingers, the program will catch it and flag it for me. No more worries about “did I style those all the same?” PerfectIt will know, and will alert me to any variations.

Here’s a link to the Intelligent Editing site, so you can download a trial for yourself. It’s free for 30 days; you can purchase/register it at any time (for $99US) during the trial, or get it afterward.

Ginger Page? No thanks.

Pursuant to a discussion with Google+ user Fiber Babble about proofreaders and grammar checkers, I looked into Ginger Page, a free grammar and spelling checker (and supposedly much more) that I heard about on Twitter.

What follows is an edited version of a series of posts I made at G+ earlier this morning. You can read the original here. Continue reading

I assure you, insurance will ensure your peace of mind.

I just wrote a quick usage post over on G+ in my “GUMmy Stuff” collection. Rather than reproduce it here, how about a link? Here you go.

You want me to use WHAT?

Substitute or replace?

A few years ago I’d have wondered why this is even a question. At the time (let’s say, ten years ago or thereabouts) I had yet to see them used the way I do now, with what is to me alarming regularity.

I even checked Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd Edition) to see if there was an entry with a language-change index rating. There is not.

Then I pulled out my dog-eared Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (copyright 1989, a full 20 years earlier than Garner’s 3rd), and lo. An entry. At the time I purchased this book, I had never encountered the usage discussed.

And I should probably tell you what that usage is, shouldn’t I. I get so discombobulated when I see it, I have trouble being clear. It makes me verklempt, I tell you. Continue reading

Superannuated Syntax: For Such Fell Purpose

“Fell” needs to be resurrected in the adjectival sense, for my money. It’s a wonderful word used in that manner. I’ll wager you know the phrase “one fell swoop,” meaning “a swift and deadly stroke” (and if you don’t know it, you can read about it here). Unsurprisingly, that phrase comes from Shakespeare. Macbeth, actually. But I digress. Continue reading