Registering register

I’m going to blather a little bit about register.

The fact that I used the word “blather” is a cue that the register of this post is informal. If I wanted to be formal, I’d say “This post is about register in writing.”

See the difference? The latter is stuffier, less conversational, more like what you’d expect to see in an article or a textbook, perhaps.

When I blog, post, or tweet, I get pretty informal. (See? I did it again. “I get pretty informal.”) I use acronyms and abbreviations and IDGAF who gets upset by them. I also curse, obviously. However, I can write in a very formal tone if that’s what’s required of me. Continue reading

PAR means “average”

My husband calls me in the mornings, sometimes, after he’s dropped off his younger daughter at school and he’s driving to his workplace. Today, he included a tidbit that had occurred to him about the terms “above par” and “below par,” and how they’re opposite in golf and elsewhere. I see a lot of discussion on “ask us” websites (Yahoo, Quora, Reddit, and so on), but I didn’t keep digging into search results to see if any language blogs had addressed it.

I’ll address it.

First off, here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say about the meaning and etymology. Notice that the first simple definition is the one used in golf, and the second has to do with stock values.

In the game of golf, each hole is assigned a number of strokes as “par.” That’s the average number of strokes a player is expected to need to get from the tee to the hole. (I don’t play golf; can you tell?) If a player uses more strokes than par, that’s “bad.” If a player uses fewer strokes, that’s “good.” If the player’s control and strength and all the rest are expert, we expect the player to come in “below par.” And that’s good. If they play like I do, they’ll be “above par” and that’s bad. (I know I’m bad. I despise golf.)

However, in business and elsewhere the meanings are opposite. As you can see from the simple definition, if a stock is valued “below par,” it has lost value since it was issued. A value “above par” is desirable, because it’s worth more than at the time of issuance. Common usage extends this to many venues. Students’ performance is said to be “above par” if they’re doing well (scoring above average), and “below par” if they’re doing badly (scoring below average). The same applies to employees, to vehicles, to many things. The business/stock sense reaches far beyond pieces of paper with assigned monetary value.

If you keep in mind that “par” is average, the opposite meanings might be less confusing. In golf, you want to use as few strokes as possible to get from 1 to 18 (the standard number of holes on a course). You want to be below par. In everything else, you want to be above average.

The twelfth link of Christmas: English for the ESL student

Most of what’s in this collection is linked to the Cambridge Dictionary blogs. I don’t do as much with it as I probably should (and definitely not as much as I could), but that’s a goal for 2016.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that I’m fairly certain most of my followers are ESL speakers/writers/students. I see a lot of names from India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Eastern Europe, and so on. I intend to provide more content for them in days to come.

The tenth link of Christmas: Homophone Hell!

One October I made this a theme, because of that whole Halloween/devil/demon/hell thing.

It’s not really seasonal at all, though. Homophone hell is ever present. Here’s the proof.

The eighth link of Christmas: Books! (BOOOOOOOOOKS!)

This is a fairly small collection as well, being one of titles I’ve discussed or reviewed, generally speaking. I read when I am able (as in, when I make myself make the time, because let’s face it, I’m reading for six to eight hours every day when I’m editing), and I admit to being very bad at leaving reviews (mostly because I don’t quite know why anyone would care what I think, unless they ask me personally).

I should probably add some of the linguistics books to this. I’ve been reading McWhorter of late, and the only title of his that shows up in here is Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue. I’ve also read Word on the Street and have opened the cover of The Power of Babel. I need to get busy reading.

The seventh link of Christmas: Plain language

This is the smallest of my collections, which says something itself, I think.

I share what I find, and I find very little. In my experience, new writers tend to think they have to use florid language (big words, fancy syntax) to make their writing worthwhile.

Nope. If the writer is capable, that’s one thing. If the writer’s new, chances are good that simpler language (in both words and construction/syntax) will be the better option. Again, I’m speaking from my experience as a freelance editor. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

This little collection contains posts on legal, medical, academic, and business writing. You’ll see some familiar names, I think: Bryan A. Garner, Steven Pinker, Conscious Style Guide, and even the Mental Floss site. (AND June Casagrande, one of my editorial heroes.)

The sixth link of Christmas: Inclusive language

More than inclusive, really. Respectful. How should we talk about people not like ourselves, in order to avoid “othering” them?

This collection began with links about sexist language and has expanded to include (ha! “inclusive includes” — I kill myself sometimes) racist, ableist, and other -ist languages as well. I’ll suggest following Conscious Style Guide (on Twitter, @consciousstyles) for more on this. I don’t repost everything from them, y’know?

The fifth link of Christmas: REEEEEEE-GION-AL SPEECH! (Did you sing it?)

This collection doesn’t get as much business or traffic as some, but what’s here is worthwhile, I think. I started with the idea of focusing solely on AmE and BrE differences, but I’ve expanded that to regionalisms as well.

There are some great blogs out there with a focus on AmE/BrE differences, chief among which is the one from Lynne Murphy.

My gift to you: LINKS! (Post the first of over a dozen!)

While I’ve been less than perfect about posting here, I’m very active over on G+. In fact, most of my business is done there, whether it’s getting referrals or discussing projects. Because I spend so much time there, I’ve embraced the Collections feature and set up sixteen groupings of posts. I won’t link to all of them here (my Editing Projects, for example, aren’t really germane to everyone in the blogosphere, and the GRAMMARGEDDON! posts are already here, duh), but I’ll post a link to each Collection with a brief description of it so you good people can see the rest of my inspiring content. ::cough::

I just realized I’m posting at least a dozen links over the next few weeks. Rather like an editorial “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

But not. Anyway . . .

First up, in keeping with the theme of this blog, is my GUMmy Stuff. These are all about grammar, usage, and mechanics. Some of them are original content, some are links to other folks’ blogs, some are cartoons, but all are focused on GUMmy Stuff.

Here you go. Don’t get stuck in there. It can be messy.

GUMmy Stuff (Grammar, Usage, Mechanics)

It’s green, but which one is it?

“Green with envy.”

“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” (Yo, that’s from Shakespeare. Othello, Act III, scene 3.)

There’s envy, and there’s jealousy, and while common usage has conflated them to where perhaps it really doesn’t matter much to anyone anymore, there are times it’s worth knowing which is which. If you’re writing in a more formal register, or perhaps your fiction is a “period piece” with slightly dusty conventions, you might want to know how to use these words in the old-fashioned way. If you don’t care, you can stop reading here. Seriously. Don’t waste your time.  Continue reading