Titular or eponymous?

Here’s the definition of “titular.”

Here’s the one for “eponymous.”

Note that initially, “titular” has nearly nothing to do with the title of a book or story or what have you. It has to do with a title, as in an office (like queen or king or president), and with that title being “in name only” with no actual power. Continue reading

“Okay,” quoth he

That’s extreme, but it’s also an example of today’s subject: choosing the right words for your work.

One of my biggest concerns when I’m editing is “voice.” I work hard to maintain my clients’ “writer’s voice,” because it’s their writing, not mine, that is being published. Part of that work is helping them choose the best words for the purpose. And part of THAT work is, quite often, teaching them about diction.

Not in the sense of “enunciation or elocution.” In the sense of word choice. None of my clients would come up with a sentence like the one I used for the title of this post. Some of them, though, have more trouble than others keeping a grasp on the language that best suits their purpose. It’s particularly difficult with “medieval fantasy,” a phrase I’m using here to encompass “the usual” in terms of a story with a pseudo-medieval setting, royalty, wizards, magic, dragons, elves (and perhaps orcs and so on), and the like. Your standard fantasy, perhaps.

When I’m reading a story with this kind of setting, nothing jars me more than modern speech patterns, phrases, and words. “Okay” is one of them. “Alright” (sic) is another. (Yes, I sicced that. I don’t like it. I’ve tried to get used to it, but — no. I see no point in it. I waffle about allowing it or not, and ultimately, if my clients overrule me, that’s on them. I mark it every time.) “Are you really going there?” is yet another, when used to mean “Are you actually taking that route in this conversation?” These words and phrases have no place, in my opinion, in a medieval fantasy setting unless there’s time travel involved. If a character from our modern world winds up in that setting? Well, I’d expect that character to speak appropriately for their origin, and for the other characters to be confounded by it.

Certainly there’s no need to write in the style of Shakespeare in order to write fantasy. But there’s no reason not to use appropriate language and sentence structures, either. The words shape the reader’s experience. What do you want your reader to see, hear, feel, taste, touch? For me as a reader, a voice that seems to have no direction, that wanders between the language I expect to encounter in a fantasy setting and that I hear every day, confuses me. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be seeing, hearing, feeling . . . I need to be grounded in the world the writer’s created. The diction is the basis for that grounding. It’s entirely possible to use simple sentences and words to achieve this, just as it’s possible to use complex ones. The secret is in the combinations. I am not a writer, but I know when I’m drawn into a story and when I’m left floundering.

Hook me. Pull me in. Let me breathe the air of your world. Don’t throw me back out with poorly chosen words.

They were all together in the altogether.

Meaning, they were all in the same place (“all together”) and they were naked (“in the altogether”).

“Altogether” can mean “entirely or completely,” too: “That was altogether uncalled for.”

(And just now I looked at the word “together” and pondered why it looks the way it does. I do that, sometimes.)

“I’m glad to hear he’s not gone [all together, altogether].”

The first option doesn’t make sense, really. He’s not gone all in the same place? What? He’s not gone completely. He’s not gone altogether.

This is the kind of post that comes to me sometimes when I’m reading social media. Perhaps the person who wrote “all together” knows it should’ve been “altogether” but didn’t bother to edit, or to read before posting. It makes no difference to me, honestly — except when I’m being paid to edit, or when I’m looking for post fodder.

That’s not Shakespearean.

My brain just said those words as I was reading the etymology for “layabout.”

I was sure, in my head, that the word had to be Shakespearean. It sounds Shakespearean. I’m sure I’ve heard or read it in pieces that are set, chronologically, well before 1932.

And yet, there’s the date, in black and gray (that box isn’t white, it’s gray). 1932. American. The word doesn’t even have the courtesy to be British.

The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Online site further explains that “lay” in this sense is the “nonstandard alteration of lie about.” I figured as much, but it’s always comforting to see such a thing in print.

Then there’s the other term, “to lay about,” which means “to strike randomly in all directions.” As in “He laid about with a mace and still managed to strike nothing.” Here’s the link to Etymology Online’s entry, showing the “put down (often by striking)” meaning.

I suppose, then, that a layabout might lay about if awakened suddenly.

 

I don’t love you (anymore, any more)

Which one would you choose?

There really is a difference in meaning in AmE. They’re not interchangeable, and a copy editor worth their salt will be able to tell the difference.

“Anymore” is an adverb. “I don’t like pizza anymore. I ate myself sick on it, and now I can’t even smell the stuff without turning green.”

“Any more” isn’t the same thing. “I don’t want any more pizza. I’m afraid I’ll eat myself sick on it.” Here, “more” is an adjective (it modifies “pizza”). If you simply said “I don’t want any more,” “more” would be a pronoun (it stands for the thing you want no more of).

It might help to think “adverb” and “anymore” because both are single words. If you mean the adverb, use “anymore.”

As for the answer to the title question, if this is a complete sentence, then “anymore” is the word you want. “I don’t love you anymore.” (I no longer love you.) If there’s more coming, you might want “any more” — but it depends on what’s coming, y’know? “I don’t love you any more than I love my other three partners.” Or something. You figure it out. Please.

People who/that live in glass houses

Because, you see, either pronoun is absolutely correct in that usage.

Ed Greenwood (whom I’ve known, literally, for decades, and whose work I’ve edited) asked me to write a post about “all the folks who use ‘that’ for people, instead of ‘who.'” I have to presume, therefore, that Ed (I LOVE YOU, ED) eschews the usage of “that” for people. Continue reading

Shine a light

I have Elton John running through my head at the moment, since typing those three words. Sorry if I’ve earwormed anyone else.

There are two verbs that many people have trouble conjugating and using correctly. (Okay, there are many, many more than two. But I’m talking about only two today.) There’s shine the transitive verb, which conjugates shine/shined/shined, and there’s shine the intransitive verb, which conjugates shine/shone/shone. Continue reading

Grammar Day 2016: Two days later

I knew Greenbaum had to address the subject/object pronoun situation somewhere. It’s taken me this long to find it. (And if you think that means I’ve been tirelessly poring over the text, hunting for the entry, I appreciate your mental picture of me. I picked up the book again this morning, opened it, flipped a few pages, and there it was. Silly me, having tried to use the index the other day. What a maroon.) Continue reading

Grammar Day, 2016

I see I didn’t bother writing anything for last year’s Grammar Day. I was probably busy working. I’m sure I wasn’t writing haiku. (Why would I write haiku, you ask? Because of the annual ACES Grammar Day Haiku contest.)

But, I digress. While pondering what to write for this year, I picked up my copy of Huddleston and Pullum’s A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar (Cambridge 2005) and flipped idly through its pages. Scattered throughout the text (not randomly, of course, but with forethought) are “Prescriptive grammar notes.” If you don’t know what “prescriptive” means, here’s a link to my post about the different types of grammar. I’ll wait while you go read. ::sips coffee:: Continue reading

Best words, best order

My editing-Twitter colleague @SheckyX gave me the idea for this post earlier this week, when he responded to a tweet of mine. It was a link to an old post here, actually. He commented to me that aside from worries about putting prepositions at the end of sentences, writers might do well to consider other aspects of prepositional placement. For example, moving “on” makes a big difference between “she turned on him” and “she turned him on.” Continue reading