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Archive for September, 2015

24 Sep 2015



It doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition, does it?? #loveliveswithgoodgrammar

17 Sep 2015

better-quality adjectives.

qualsignRecently, a client was struggling with a portion of a tagline I had created for his company. He took issue with the phrase incomparable craftsmanship; he simply didn’t cotton to the adjective incomparable.

So I offered alternatives: Exceptional. Masterful. Consummate. Uncommon. High-caliber. Expert.

“How about quality?” he countered. “What do you think of quality craftsmanship?”

Well, he asked, so I was obliged to answer.

To be frank [but don’t call me Shirley], I’ve got a slight writer’s hangup with quality used on its own as an adjective.

Quality is primarily a noun, meaning a characteristic, property or attribute; alone, it says nothing about whether the characteristic, property or attribute is positive or negative. It just is.

Through common usage, quality has evolved into an adjective, used to connote high or good quality.

But when I read simply Quality craftsmanship – rather than High-quality craftsmanship or Top-quality craftsmanship – it feels purposely fudge-y to me, because quality can go either way.

The bottom line for me is, I believe it’s a weak word, where there are much stronger, clearer options available.

So, what are your thoughts on quality? Do you think it’s enough of a descriptor on its own?
I’m curious whether I’m on my own on this one!!

10 Sep 2015

a precious life.

Happy 80th birthday to Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver!

She’s one of my favorite poets [what’s not to love about a woman who dedicates a whole collection to dogs?];
here’s what may be my favorite non-dog-oriented poem of hers:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean –
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down –
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

3 Sep 2015

i’m only human.

OK, so I’m not the Mistress of All Evil. I am a damn fine writer. But nobody’s perfect. #trudat

I recently discovered one of my grammatical pet peeves isn’t actually incorrect. This is the second time this has happened to me this year. It’s enough to make a writer-grrl question her own recollection of the AP Stylebook or Strunk + White’s Elements of Style.

Earlier this year, I saw till used as an abbreviation for until for the kazillionth time, & I grew so annoyed [till is what gardeners do to soil; ’til is a briefer version of untilfools!] that I researched it . . . & found till is a perfectly appropriate & acceptable abbreviation of until.

Cue Emily Litella: “Never mind.”
I tell you, folks, my writerly world was rocked. But hey, you learn something new every day, right?

So I was planning to preach a little grammar gospel about myriad. I see & hear it used frequently, most often as a noun, as in America has experienced a myriad of scary-ass shootings this summer. Which has been making me insane, because myriad is an adjective, not a noun [idiots! imbeciles!]; it should read America has experienced myriad scary-ass shootings this summer.

Right? Umm . . . no. Research reveals myriad may be used as either an adjective or a noun. Dang.

A helpful linguistic sidenote: Myriad is derived from the Greek term for ten thousand. So it’s probably not accurate to use it to describe the number of scary-ass shootings of the summer, but it’s OK to use it to describe the number of maniacs in a popular late-80’s band fronted by Natalie Merchant.

I know, right? Who knew? Well, now I do – and hey, you do, too!
& when we know better, we write better. You’re welcome!

P.S. It’s a good thing they didn’t let me name that band; I totally would’ve called them Myriad Maniacs. Because alliteration.