Posted by: episystechpubs | March 19, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Man

It’s Women’s History Month, so today we’re going to talk about men. Nope, I’m not kidding. We will definitely get to women, but we’re starting here with an excerpt from an article on masculine terms used in interjections, from the Grammarphobia blog.

Q: I’m curious about the use of male nouns in interjections like “man oh man” and “oh brother.” Did these expressions begin life as euphemisms? Where are they heard most? Are there female equivalents? Oh boy! I can hardly wait for your response.

A: You may be surprised to hear this, but “man” has been used as an interjection since Anglo-Saxon days, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

You’d have a hard time making out the Old English examples, but here’s one from 1530 by John Palsgrave: “Plucke up thy herte, man, for Goddes sake.”

In this old sense, the OED says, “man” is used to address a person or introduce a remark “emphatically to indicate contempt, impatience, exhortation, etc.”

You’re asking about a much more recent usage, however.

From the published references in the OED, the usage appears to have originated in the early 19th century. At first, according to the dictionary, it was “chiefly” heard among African-Americans and South Africans.

[KC – My personal favorite use of “man, oh, man” is in the chorus of the song “I Palindrome I,” by They Might Be Giants.]

There’s no indication that these expressions began life as euphemisms. From the examples in the OED and other sources, the usage appears to be most common in North America.

The OED describes the use of the interjection “brother” as “a mild exclamation of annoyance, surprise, etc.”

“Boy,” “oh boy,” “oboy,” and “boy oh boy” are described as interjections “expressing shock, surprise, excitement, appreciation, etc. Freq. used to give emphasis to the following statement.”

We can’t think offhand of a female version of the kind of “man,” “brother,” or “boy” interjection that’s aroused your curiosity.

In an expression like “way to go, woman” or “what’s happening, sister?” or “you go, girl,” the interjection is used to address someone (as in that early “man” usage we mentioned at the beginning).

By the way, the word “woman” is not derived from (or a mere variation on) the term “man.” The story is much more complicated.

And I will deliver that complicated story to you Thursday!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | March 14, 2019

Editor’s Corner: I Feel Like

I know this is not a new phenomenon, but I notice a lot more people these days saying, “I feel like” rather than “I think” or “I believe,” so I decided to do a little research to see what’s going on.

Turns out it is not my imagination, and most of the articles that popped up in my research stand firmly against “I feel like.”

A New York Times article titled “Stop saying ‘I feel like’” had this to say: “This reflex to hedge every statement as a feeling or a hunch is most common among millennials. But I hear it almost as often among Generation Xers and my own colleagues in academia. As in so many things, the young are early carriers of a broad cultural contagion.”

Wow, a “contagion.” I think we know exactly how that author feels.

The article goes on to point out that the phrase became common in the ‘90s. And it states that it is used because it gives users an out. They are not stating a fact, they are merely giving an opinion. When people are just stating their feelings, you can’t really fight back with logic. You can’t really disagree with feelings.

And it turns out that the New York Times is not alone in their dislike of the phrase.

Entrepreneur published an article called “’I Feel Like’ Is the Newest Controversial Phrase You Should Avoid.” The article states, “Saying ‘I feel like’ is a nonassertive, fearful way to introduce an idea…In protecting the person who says it from being judged or offending anyone, it also ‘halts argument,’ because it suggests to others that they cannot understand or challenge the speaker’s subjective feelings and experiences.”

Other articles I looked at (but not every single one) had similar opinions. Most condemn the phrase as wishy-washy and non-committal.

But many people simply use this term as a matter of habit. We all tend to use popular phrases that we hear, and this one is pretty prevalent in U.S. society.

So, whether you fall in the “stop using it” camp or the “it’s just another fad” camp, it’s good to be aware of the conversation that is taking place around this phrase. And it’s always a good idea to be cognizant of what you’re saying and how it could be perceived by others.

I feel like I’ve said my piece here. I hope you feel like it was worth your time.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | March 12, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Assume and Presume

Have you ever wondered if assume and presume mean the same thing? Do you ever even use the word presume? Are you worried that if you do, you’ll sound like the 19th century explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who, after searching throughout Africa for some time, finally found fellow explorer and missionary Dr. Livingston and greeted him by saying, “Dr. Livingston, I presume?”

Do you wonder why Morton used the word presume instead of assume?

To answer all my questions, let’s first look at some definitions:

  • Assume means to suppose something to be the case without proof
  • Presume means to suppose something to be the case based on probability or evidence

So, you assume something when you really have no idea, and you presume something when you have reason to believe it could be right or true. These days, people seem to use assume in both cases. But as I’ve said before, we’re not most people. We’re nerds who care about using just the right word in just the right situation. You’re with me, I presume?

In case you have trouble remembering which word means what, here’s a useful, work appropriate mnemonic: presume and proof both start with the letter p. To presume something is to suppose that it is true based on proof.

There you go! Enjoy the rest of your day.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
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is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
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Posted by: episystechpubs | March 7, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Vocabulary Quiz

Today, I have a vocabulary quiz from Daily Writing Tips for you. Like previous vocabulary quizzes that I’ve shared, this one is made up of five commonly confused word pairs. All you have to do is guess the right word to complete each sentence. You have a 50/50 chance. As always, you don’t win anything if you get them all right, but it’ll put a positive spin on the rest of your day. You can’t put a price on that.

And if you don’t get them all right, there’s still a silver lining because we all learn from our mistakes, right? So, you’ll probably remember these word pairs and never make the same mistake again. You can’t put a price on that either.

The quiz questions are directly below. You have to scroll down a bit for the answers and the very helpful explanations. On your mark, get set, go!

In each sentence, choose the correct word from the pair of similar terms. (If both words possibly can be correct, choose the more plausible one.)

1. Mozart was a musical ______ who gave his first concert at the age of four.

a) prodigy
b) prodigal

2. None of the freshmen wanted to room with Felix because of his _____ manners; he piled wet towels on the floor, used anyone’s toothbrush, and left food scraps to moulder in the wastepaper basket.

a) barbaric
b) barbarous

3. Your design would probably work, but building it is not ______ because of the expense and rarity of the materials.

a) practical
b) practicable

4. His friends’ plan to vandalize the school went against the boy’s ______ , so he refused to take part.

a) conscience
b) conscious

5. Some have called this ______ life “a vale of tears.”

a) earthy
b) earthly

Answers and Explanations

1. Mozart was a musical prodigy who gave his first concert at the age of four.
a) prodigy

A prodigy is something out of the ordinary. It’s often used to refer to a child with gifts beyond his age. A prodigal is a wastrel, a person who spends his wealth foolishly, with no thought for the future.

2. None of the freshmen wanted to room with Felix because of his barbarous manners; he piled wet towels on the floor, used anyone’s toothbrush, and left food scraps to moulder in the wastepaper basket.
b) barbarous

Barbarous and barbaric are similar in meaning; many speakers use them interchangeably to mean “uncivilized.” Barbaric always refers to extreme, gruesome cruelty; barbarous can refer to behavior that is merely coarse.

3. Your design would probably work, but building it is not practicable because of the expense and rarity of the materials.
b) practicable

A practical idea is sensible and reasonable. A practicable idea, on the other hand, is one that can be done or put into practice.

4. His friends’ plan to vandalize the school went against the boy’s conscience, so he refused to take part.
a) conscience

Conscience is a noun. It is a person’s moral guide. Conscious is an adjective meaning “alert, aware.”

5. Some have called this earthly life “a vale of tears.”
b) earthly

Earthly is an adjective referring to things on or of the earth. Earthy is also an adjective. Earthy is a pleasant word for vulgar. “An earthy remark,” for example, is one that would not be spoken in polite company.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Posted by: episystechpubs | March 5, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Retronym

Today I received a newsletter about a word I hadn’t heard before: retronym. I was thinking it must mean something about old clothing styles or movies or technology that came back into fashion—but I was wrong.

According to Wikipedia: “A retronym is a term used to describe an older object or idea to contrast it with something similar but newer.” Here is an example from The Grammarist, which might give you a better idea of what they are and how they are formed:

Evolving technology does not always create new words, sometimes it takes words that have been in use for a period of time in the English language and gives them new meanings. For example, the word phone has been in use for a long time to mean an instrument that one uses to call another person to speak with him. For decades, all phones worked by virtue of a rotary dial. Today, when one says the word phone, it conjures the image of a hand-held wireless device. To talk about the original model of the phone, it is now necessary to refer to the retronym rotary phone.

Make sense? Here are a few more retronyms for you, from Wikipedia:

  • Manual transmissions in vehicles were just called "transmissions" until the invention of automatic transmissions.
  • Plain M&M’s: Plain M&M’s candies (now Milk Chocolate) would not have been called that until 1954, when Peanut M&M’s were introduced.
  • Regular coffee: The development of decaffeinated coffee led to this coinage.
  • Acoustic guitar: Before the invention of the solid-body electric guitar, all guitars amplified the sound of a plucked string with a resonating hollow body. Similarly: acoustic piano.
  • Bar soap: The common cake of soap used in the tub or shower was familiarly called "soap" or "bath soap"; the term "bar soap" arose with the advent of soaps in liquid and gel form.
  • Corn on the cob: Before canned corn was widely available, "corn on the cob" was simply "corn".
  • Paper copy, hard copy: With the proliferation of exchange of documents in the form of electronic files, physical copies of documents acquired this retronym. Occasionally extended to the copying devices; i.e. paper copiers..
  • Silent film: In the earliest days of the film industry, all films were without recorded sound. Once "talkies" became the norm, it became necessary to specify that a particular film was "silent".
  • Sit-down restaurant: With the rise of fast-food and take-out restaurants, the "standard" restaurant received a new name in the United States.
  • Whole milk: Milk was formerly available in just one version, with the cream included, and benefited eventually by pasteurization and homogenization. But it was still called simply milk. This variety of milk is now referred to in the U.S. as whole milk (3.25% milkfat) to distinguish it from 2% (reduced fat) milk, 1% (low fat) milk, and skim milk (nearly no fat).

She’s so retro, the first woman’s hair doesn’t fit into the picture! And you

must love the gloves!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | February 28, 2019

Editor’s Corner: If Nothing Else

“If nothing else” is a remarkably difficult phrase to define, which might be why Merriam-Webster gives this uncharacteristically muddled definition:

  • if nothing else: used to say that something is probably the only thing that is true, acceptable, desirable, or certain because there are no better/worse possibilities

Some dictionaries adopt a narrower definition, such as the following (from the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English):

  • if nothing else: used to emphasize one good quality or feature that someone or something has, while suggesting that it might be the only good one

Examples:

  • “Andrea’s work has always been very neat, if nothing else.” (Macmillan Dictionary)
  • “The food is cheap, if nothing else.” (Merriam-Webster)

For these sentences to make sense, the reader needs to recognize that “neat” and “cheap” are positive characteristics.

“If nothing else” can also mean the opposite (emphasizing the only bad quality that something has). For example, you could say, “I’m not buying that new sportscar. It’s too expensive, if nothing else.”

There are many other meanings the phrase can take, such as the following:

  • if you do nothing else (“If nothing else, you should send him a card.”)
  • if there’s no alternative (“If nothing else, there’s the party to go to this evening.”)
  • if they have nothing else in common (“Everybody knew each other, and had grown up in proximity, if nothing else.”)

If you’re not careful, you can make too big of a logical leap and end up confusing your reader.

Examples:

  • “The sun is hot, if nothing else.”
  • “The Statue of Liberty is green, if nothing else.”
  • “That tree is leafy, if nothing else.”

When you’re writing a business email or a technical document, you don’t want to leave anything open to interpretation. Use more precise language.

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Ben Ritter | Technical Writing Supervisor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 | www.Symitar.com

Symitar Documentation Services

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
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Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.

Posted by: episystechpubs | February 26, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Emojis

Recently, several people have brought up emojis as an Editor’s Corner topic. In the past, I’ve avoided them because they are pictures rather than words. Additionally, since this is a business, we try to project a certain amount of seriousness when communicating with the world outside. But we also like to have a little fun, and when you spend your day in email and instant messages and on the phone, sometimes it’s nice to see a smile while you’re reading. Emojis can add a little extra “oomph” to your conversation.

And here’s the other reason I’m talking about emoji’s today: the almost sacred Chicago Manual of Style discussed them in their monthly Q&A! That’s like getting permission from your parents to watch an R-rated movie when you aren’t 17 yet! Yes, excitement abounds!

According to Merriam-Webster, an emoji is “any of various small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, e-mail, and social media) to express the emotional attitude of the writer, convey information succinctly, communicate a message playfully without using words, etc.”

The word is from the Japanese words for picture (e) + character (moji).

Now, before you start getting emoji crazy, here are some rules and good advice from Entrepreneur magazine’s website. These are the bare bones, but you can read the full article here.

  1. Keep the situation in mind. Before flooding your message with emojis, carefully consider the situation, the person who will receive it, and the tone of your business communications.
  2. Practice discretion. Regardless of the situation, emojis should never be used to totally replace actual words; they are only meant to add a bit of emotion to your message.
  3. Use only emojis you understand. When in doubt, leave them out.
  4. Don’t use emojis with a potential client. It’s not wise to use emojis if you are trying to establish a new relationship with a client or colleague. Use actual words instead. Again, keep it professional.
  5. Consider emojis like slang. Co-workers build a language of their own that includes industry jargon and casual slang, and using emojis is like using slang words. Emojis work best in casual conversations.

Okay, time for a look at the CMOS Q&A, which deals with using emojis and punctuation.

Q. Where does an emoji go in a sentence? Before or after the period? ✏️ Having a tough time deciding 🤔.

A. An emoji that applies to a sentence as a whole might logically follow the period or other terminal punctuation. Let’s coin a term and call this a sentence emoji. 😉 Then, by a similar logic, emoji applying to a word or a phrase could immediately follow that word or phrase, before any mark of punctuation 🔍, like that. Emoji standing in for words, like this picture of a 🐈—well, you get the idea. But if you’re texting? Most of this logic goes out the window (along with the punctuation). Love your emoji btw!

And here are two tips for those of you who may not be very familiar with emojis, like me:

  • To find out what different emojis mean, check out Emojipedia.
  • To see a list of emojis while you are in the text area of Microsoft® Outlook® or Word, click the Windows® key and the period. A menu appears with various emojis.

Have a great day! 🌞

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | February 21, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Mixed Metaphors

I recently read a book that is full of extraordinary metaphors, and it made me want to share some information about these useful figures of speech.

A metaphor is a word or phrase that is used to compare two unlike objects, ideas, thoughts, or feelings to provide a mental image and a clear description. For example, when I say that my father is a rock, the comparison lets you know how solid and dependable he is. When I say that the DMV employee had a wooden face, you understand that the agent showed no emotion (surprise!). If I say that my heart swelled watching the children play, you know that I was feeling very happy emotions.

Metaphors make language come to life. We may not use them much in technical writing, but we use them in speech, in our emails, and in other correspondence. Here are some common examples:

  • Time is money.
  • You are my sunshine.
  • He has a heart of stone.
  • I was jumping for joy.
  • She’s the apple of his eye.
  • It’s raining cats and dogs.
  • I’m dead tired.
  • He’s as strong as an ox.

You can create your own metaphors to express your thoughts and feelings. Here are some less common examples:

  • These shoes are prisons for my feet.
  • Chocolate is my drug.
  • He’s my Adam; I’m his Eve.

What you don’t want to do is mix metaphors. Doing so creates competing imagery—but mixed metaphors are often funny. Here are some examples of humorous mixed metaphors with brief explanations:

  • You better not burn your bridge when you get to it.
    (Mixes two common—even cliched—metaphors: “Don’t burn your bridges” and “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”)
  • All at once, he was alone in the noisy hive with no place to roost.
    (Mixes a metaphor about a bee’s hive with a metaphor about the place where birds rest at night.)
  • It’s our turn at bat, so let’s make this touchdown for the company.
    (Mixes two different sports metaphors.)

You get the point. Metaphors are fun to create, and when they’re original, they’re fun to hear and read. They can liven up our speech and writing (even so, you won’t catch us sprinkling them throughout Episys eDocs—I campaigned to introduce colorful metaphors into our documentation, but my boss didn’t go for it).

If you’d like to read a little bit more about mixed metaphors, click this link. And if you’d like to read some clever (slightly saucy) medical metaphors from the TV show House, click this link.

I hope that for the rest of the day, you’re as happy as a pig in a china shop!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Posted by: episystechpubs | February 19, 2019

Editor’s Corner: It’s All Greek to Me

My husband walked in to the kitchen the other day and asked, “Since your relatives are Greek, what phrase do they use if they don’t understand something? They wouldn’t say ‘It’s all Greek to me,’ would they?” “Good question,” I responded. Before I could do any research, a link appeared in my email like magic! Here, from Wikipedia, is a selection of phrases people use to indicate that they don’t understand something. If you want to see the full list, click here.

Language Phrase (translated)
English It’s Greek to me.
Albanian Do not speak Chinese.
Afrikaans It’s Greek to me.
Arabic Are you speaking Hindi?
Bulgarian It’s like you’re talking Patagonian.
Cantonese Is this ghost’s handwriting? (Referring to illegible handwriting.)
Croatian These are to me the Spanish countryside.
Czech This is a Spanish village to me.
Finnish It’s all Hebrew.
French It’s Chinese.
German Note: The Germans have seven different phrases, including:

§ That sounds like Spanish to me.

§ Am I speaking Chinese?

§ It sounds like Polish reversed.

Greek This strikes me as Chinese.
Hebrew It is Chinese to me.
Latin This is Greek; it can’t be read.
Mandarin § It looks like hieroglyphics.

§ It sounds like the birds.

Persian Am I speaking Turkish?
Portuguese Note: Tying the Germans with seven phrases, the Portuguese translations include:

§ This is Chinese to me.

§ Are you speaking Greek? (Latin? Arabic?)

§ I can’t read Japanese.

Russian That’s Chinese writing to me.
Spanish This is in Chinese (or Aramaic).
Turkish § I am French to the topic.

§ If I could understand, I’d be an Arab.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | February 14, 2019

Editor’s Corner: How to Write About a Film Series

The Academy Awards® are coming up in 10 days, and there’s one question on every movie-lover’s mind: According to The Chicago Manual of Style, the title of an individual film should be italicized (for example, Jaws 3-D). But what about the name of a film series (for example, “the Jaws tetralogy”)?

I found an answer on the Modern Language Association (MLA) website: How do I style the title of a trilogy or informally titled series? Although we do not use the MLA Handbook, I think their advice makes sense. Basically, the decision to italicize depends on whether the series is named after a film in the series (which is italicized) as opposed to, say, a character’s name (which is not italicized).

MLA says, “Star Wars is the name of the first movie released in the series. Since the title is foundational, italicize the series name: Star Wars movies. If you are writing about the Nancy Drew books, style the series name roman, since ‘Nancy Drew’ does not appear in the titles of the individual books. If you are discussing the Harry Potter books, you could style the series name either way—Harry Potter books or Harry Potter books—since the series is associated with the first title in the series (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and also with the character’s name.”

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Do you have a question or an idea for Editor’s Corner? Send your suggestions or feedback to Kara, <a href="mailto:DBurcher, Jackie, or <a href="mailto:BRitter.

Ben Ritter | Technical Writing Supervisor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 | www.Symitar.com

Symitar Documentation Services

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
exclusively for the individual or entity to which it is addressed. The message,
together with any attachment, may contain confidential and/or privileged information.
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is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
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