Posted by: episystechpubs | October 22, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Starting from Scratch

I recently edited a slide show that used the term “starting from scratch,” meaning to start at the very beginning. I’ve used the phrase myself, but I’ve never really thought about what “scratch” means. I’ve heard of the devil being called Old Scratch or Mr. Scratch, but according to Wikipedia, that is most likely from “Middle English scrat, the name of a demon or goblin, derived from Old Norse skratte.”

Looking further, to Even-Steven and Fair and Square: More Stories Behind the Words by Morton S. Freeman, he has this information on “starting from scratch”:

A person who is unexpectedly scratched may start from the surprise or the pain, or both. But the expression to start from scratch is not related to any form of skin-cutting. It came from a cutting on the ground that marked the starting point for runners in a race. The runners were said to start from scratch, the usual starting point. Handicapped competitors were given an advantage. They did not start…from the scratched line, but were placed ahead of it. In current usage of the idiom, which may refer to almost any beginning, it has retained its original sense of starting with no advantage, without having a head start over others.

Merriam-Websteralso writes about the term to start from scratch, and adds the following:

A runner starting from scratch was not given a head start; applying the same idea to other sports, a scratch golfer or scratch bowler is one good enough to play without having their score adjusted with a handicap.

The idea of the scratch as a figurative starting point then gets carried over to contexts of cooking or building, giving us from scratch as a phrase for a true starting point for such projects.

That’s it for today! All this talk of scratching has made me itchy.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | October 20, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Animal Idioms

Hello!

You know me—I can’t help myself when it comes to dogs. I was recently reading a book of idioms and word histories called Even-Steven and Fair and Square: More Stories Behind the Words by Morton S. Freeman. (No, not Morgan Freeman, though he’d be a great narrator for the “books on tape” version.) In the book, I found two animal idioms that delighted me: To lead a dog’s life, and to get one’s goat.

Here’s what Mr. Freeman had to say about each!

To lead a dog’s life

The dog has been mercilessly vilified in proverbs. In 1542 Erasmus said: “The most parte of folks calleth it a miserable life, or a dogges life….” To lead a dog’s life is considered a bleak, wretched existence. The idiom described a person harried from morning till night, nagged constantly, and never left in peace. And so it is said to go to the dogs, meaning the lowest form of existence, and to die like a dog, a miserable end indeed. We speak of a morally base person as a dirty dog, one who is in the doghouse as far as society is concerned. [KC – OK, yes, we’re probably familiar with these phrases and idioms, but apparently this guy never met anybody in our department or their dogs. I wish I had the dog’s life that
Jackie’s dog May has. I didn’t even get a card for my birthday!]

Ms. May, Editor Jackie’s Teenager

But all this has changed, not the derisive sayings about dogs, but man’s attitude toward these animals. [KC – Ah, he does get it!] It all started a long time ago when one interloper had something nice to say about dogs. He said, “Love me, love my dog,” which was construed by some people to mean that my dog is so much a part of me that you must love us both, you can’t have me alone….

To get one’s goat

Although some city dwellers have never seen a live goat, they might nevertheless say, if they lose their temper, “That gets my goat,” or “That gets my nanny.” [KC – I can’t imagine a city dweller ever saying, “That gets my nanny,” unless there is a problem with your live-in baby sitter’s visa, and INS comes to deport her.] Both expressions have the same meaning…but this is not to say that their rural cousins do not express themselves in like terms. In fact, the notion of getting one’s goat can be traced far from urban areas—to horse country.

It was the practice some years ago to provide a high-strung racehorse with a companion, a docile animal, one that would stay close whenever the horse was in its stall. A stablemate tended to quiet the thoroughbred so that it didn’t become restive. Since thoroughbred horses, especially stallions, become competitive when near each other, and since a mare might excite them, a goat was used instead. The continued presence of the goat as a companion put the horse at ease. Then the bright but nefarious idea arose that if someone would get the goat, that is, steal it before a major race, the horse might become nervous and lose its composure and, in all likelihood, the race, too. Sure enough, once a thief got a horse’s goat, the horse became upset and irritable, which is exactly how a person feels when someone unfelicitously gets his goat.

Apparently, this horse is really comfortable. He’s got three spares!

Enjoy your day.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | October 15, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Tone

Good day to you! Following up on my Editor’s Corner article on Tuesday, today’s topic is "tone.” For most professionals, email is the primary form of communication. It is usually less disruptive than a phone call or an instant message. And writing an email allows us to take the time to organize our thoughts carefully and succinctly to be sure that our audience gets all the information we want them to have. However, tone is just as important for texts and instant messages.

But getting your tone just right, when writing, can be challenging. When we are face-to-face with someone, we can use non-verbal cues to set the tone and help deliver our message: we use facial expressions, body language, gestures, and we can modulate our voice. But when writing, we have to rely on our words to convey our meaning and our tone. So, how do we strike just the right tone when writing an email, an instant message, or any professional document? I found these important tips in an online article from Psychology Today:

  • Assess your relationship with the receiver. Adjust your level of writing formality to match the relationship. [dbb – You probably shouldn’t use the same informal tone you use with a colleague if you are emailing your company CEO—even someone as cool as our Dave Foss.]
  • Email is more than just the transmission of information. It is about managing a relationship remotely. Consider leading with a social comment like you would if you were talking face to face. For example, “I hope you enjoyed the long weekend,” or “I’m looking forward to working with you on this project.”
  • If you think there is room for misinterpretation of your message, take the time to craft the email to make sure your message is more likely to be received with your true intention. This might make the email longer. [dbb – This is so important. Please do not assume that your first draft is your final draft, especially if you are worried about being misinterpreted, or if you are aware that you are sometimes misinterpreted. Write and revise. And
    after that, you may want to revise again.]
  • Do not use text speak like "lol" or "BTW" unless you know the person really well. The same goes for using emoticons. [dbb – For a list of texting abbreviations and their meanings, see my recent
    email.]
  • Be careful with cc’s and bcc’s, as different interpretations can be made about what copying people on the email implies. Realize that a person who is blind copied may reply, forgetting that they were a blind copy.
  • Most people know by now that typing in ALL CAPS is the same as screaming at someone.
  • Don’t overuse punctuation!!!! [dbb – And on the other hand, don’t underuse punctuation either. I’ve known many people who
    never use exclamation points, which can sometimes make them seem detached or bored.]
  • If you are not sure about the tone of an email you are sending, have someone else read it and give you feedback before you send it. If no one else is available for a tone check, park the email in your draft folder and come back and re-read it a couple of hours later before sending it. [dbb – This is excellent advice! It is always a good practice when writing an important email to take a break between writing it and sending it. When you re-read it with a fresh perspective, you’ll be able
    to make important adjustments to your wording and your tone. And please feel free to send any emails to your friendly editors for a quick review.]
  • Most importantly, know when to pick up the phone or meet face-to-face to discuss an issue. [dbb – Sometimes there is nothing better than your friendly voice and kind smile.]

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Pronouns she/her/hers

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 | October 13, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Writing Tips

Good morning!

I read an article the other day called “30 Writing Tips to Make Writing Easier.” All the writing tips were good, but some of them were specific to writing email and professional documents. That’s right up our alley! So, I’m sharing six of the tips with you today.

Keep it brief.

Brevity is important in professional communication. Respect your colleagues’ time by knowing exactly what you need to communicate before you begin writing so you can keep your message concise.

Use active voice.

Writing in active voice animates your writing so that the subject is acting on its verb. An active voice reads as being more confident and self-assured; it’s also a great way to shave superfluous words from your writing. [dbb – As a reminder, active voice starts with a subject: “Your IT department can create a specfile” as opposed to “A specfile should be created.”]

Don’t neglect context.

Does the person you’re communicating with have the same information and frame of reference you do? If not, make sure you provide context. You don’t have to give the entire backstory, just fill in the missing pieces so your message will be clear. [dbb – This is one of the most frequent issues we editors run into—writers don’t fill in the blanks. Don’t assume other people know what you know. Provide the basic information!]

Format your email properly.

Use good email formatting structure. Write an enticing subject line so your recipient is compelled to open your email. Understand proper email salutations and closings.

Don’t email angry.

Yes, you might be irked at your colleague for dropping the ball on that project and making you look bad, but don’t send emails when you’re still fuming. If you must write when emotions are hot, do it offline. Walk away for at least twelve hours, then edit with a calm head. [dbb – I wish I could say I’ve always done this. It’s definitely something we
should
do.]

Here’s a tip: Don’t treat email as anything less than an extension of your professional persona. The way you communicate in professional settings reflects on you in a potentially lasting way.

Proofread thoroughly before you hit SEND.

Typos and grammar gaffes make you look bad. Scan your email and fix errors before you send it. You’ll look your best when your correspondence is mistake-free!

Thursday, I’ll give you more in-depth information about how to find the right tone when writing an email or professional correspondence.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Pronouns she/her/hers

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 | October 8, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Fingers and Toes

A few weeks ago, I had a discussion with Donna about the names of fingers and toes. I said the doctor didn’t refer to my middle finger (which was not being used in an insulting way) as my middle finger, he called it my “long finger.” Donna then told me that her parents had names for all the digits. They were names that she shared with her kids—and they still remember them even though they’re grown. Besides long finger, I think one of them was Long Jerkin, and I don’t remember the other names. I thought it was cute. I just learned them as pinkie, ring finger, “the bird” (or middle finger), pointer, and thumb. Thanks, Dad!

Today’s tidbit is also about fingers and toes, from Even-Steven and Fair and Square: More Stories Behind the Words, Morton S. Freeman.

A hand has five fingers. [KC – He hasn’t met the meat cutters I worked with.] Since everyone knows it, that is not an exciting fact. And neither is there much of a story behind the naming of these digits, but it is interesting to learn what the various fingers were called many years ago and why they were given these names.

The first finger, the inside finger, is the thumb, in Old English called the thuma, meaning “thick” or “swollen.” Some anatomists would dispute that statement, for they say that a man does not have five fingers. He has four fingers and a thumb. They reason that since a finger has three phalanges and a thumb only two, the thumb is not a finger. (The word phalange comes from the Greek phalanx, a close battle formation of spearmen carrying overlapping shields, because someone fancied that the small bones in the hands and toes were suggestive of a battle array.)

The second finger, the one after the thumb, is known as the index finger because it is used for pointing (index is the Latin “informer,” “something that indicates,” that which points out). In Middle English, the index finger was called the toucher (spelled towcher) because it was so often used to touch things. The third finger, now known as the middle finger, was called the long-man, for obvious reasons. The next, the fourth finger, now called the ring finger, was formerly called the lecheman because a leech or doctor used it for testing (leech is an archaic word for physician). The fifth finger, the pinkie, was called the little-man, here again for obvious reasons.

One question still remains to be answered: Who or what was finger’s ancestor? Most etymologists surmise that its original forebearer was penkwe, an Indo-European word mean “five,” from which evolved the form penkweros, meaning “one of five.” Certainly a finger is one of five. Which makes one wonder, how about the toes? Toe, in Anglo-Saxon ta, meant “to show.” This was its etymological sense all the way up through Middle English. Of course, in ancient barefoot or sandal-wearing times the toes were always, “that which shows.” This is still true, figuratively in today’s world when a person is made to “toe the line.”

I hope you found this handy information interesting!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Editing: Symitar Documentation Services

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

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Posted by: episystechpubs | October 6, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Primary, Campaign, and More

Good morning, everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve shared one of Richard Lederer’s columns with you, for good reason. My weekly stash of newspaper columns dried up because my buddy Ron couldn’t drop them by my desk. But this week, I received a special package in the mail! It was all of the columns Lederer has written since the quarantine began!

Today’s treat is from one of his more recent columns, “Here’s a classical primer of political word origins.” I’m including the link so you can read everything, if you are so inclined. If you’re just looking for a quick selection, then here you go!

Taking first things first, we’ll start with the word primary, which descends from the Latin primus, “first.” Primary, as a shortening of “primary election,” is first recorded in 1861. Latin e means “out” and lectus “pick or choose.” In an election we “pick out” candidates we wish to vote for.

Campaign is very much a fighting word. The Latin campus, “field,” is a clue that the first campaigns were conducted on battlefields. A military campaign is a series of operations mounted to achieve a particular wartime objective. A political campaign is an all-out effort to secure the election of a candidate to office.

When he went to the Forum in Roman times, a candidate for office wore a bleached white toga to symbolize his humility, purity of motive and candor. The original Latin root, candidatus, meant “one who wears white,” from the belief that white was the color of purity and probity.

There was wishful thinking even in ancient Roman politics, even though a white-clad Roman candidatus was accompanied by sectatores, followers who helped him secure votes by bargaining and bribery. The Latin parent verb candere, “to shine, to glow,” can be recognized in the English words candid, candor, candle and incandescent.

The story behind the word inaugurate is an intriguing one. It literally means “to take omens from the flight of birds.” In ancient Rome, augurs would predict the outcome of an enterprise by the way the birds were flying. These soothsayer-magicians would tell a general whether or not to march or to do battle by the formations of the birds on the wing. They might even catch one and cut it open to observe its entrails for omens. Nowadays, presidential candidates use their inauguration speeches to take flight on an updraft of words, rather than birds — and they often spill their guts for all to see….

And if all of the political talk drives you crazy, here is a little humor to bring a smile to (at least some of) your faces.

Now get out (or stay in) and vote!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | October 1, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Texting Abbreviations

Hello, my people.

After my last email to you all, Jason M. suggested that I provide a list of some of the common texting abbreviations we use. First, let me give you a little personal background: my husband, Mick, was resistant and kind of late to the “cell phone fad.” He doesn’t use emojis or abbreviations. And, to this day, witnessing him try to figure out texting abbreviations has given me some of my happiest moments.

So, for your reading pleasure, I am providing just a few of the most common work-appropriate texting abbreviations (there are so many more, and the list grows every second). I’m also providing the meanings, just in case you don’t know some of them. And lastly, I asked Mick to look at the list and give me his best guess as to what they mean. He got a few right…

I hope you enjoy.

Abbreviation Meaning Mick’s best guess
LOL Laugh out loud Laugh out loud
OMG Oh my God/Oh my gosh Oh my God
ROFL Rolling on the floor laughing Right on, French loaf
TY Thank you Too young
WTH What the heck What the heck
BF Boyfriend/best friend Best friend
GF Girlfriend Good Friday
BFF Best friends forever Best friends forever
LMK Let me know Leave my kitchen
JK Just kidding John Kennedy
ILY I love you I love you
YOLO You only live once You old limp loaf
SMH Shaking my head See me hurdle
BTW By the way Beat the window
CU See you Clean underpants
IKR I know, right? I keep reading
IDK I don’t know Internal driving knob
IDC I don’t care Industrial duck cap
NSFW Not safe for work Not so fast, William
ICYMI In case you missed it I can’t yield my ice cream
IMO In my opinion Instant mouse diaper
BRB Be right back Bring red beans
TTYL Talk to you later Too tight yellow leggings
TBH To be honest Try blue hats
OMW On my way Oh, my word
AFAIK As far as I know A fat aunt in the Kremlin
IIRC If I remember correctly I irritate rich customers
OTOH On the other hand On top of head

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

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 | September 29, 2020

Awhile or a While?

Hello there!

Today I’d like to tell you a secret. My topic for the day—when to use awhile vs. when to use a while—is one that gives me trouble. I know, I have written about it before, but obviously I didn’t do a good job because I keep forgetting which one to use. I think, perhaps, I finally found a secret that might help me, and possibly some of you!

The following information is from a book I have, called The Gremlins of Grammar, by Toni Boyle and K.D. Sullivan.

Here’s a case where the meaning is absolutely the same. You simply have two ways of expressing it that are equally correct, if you remember one point: awhile means “for a time,” and a while means “a time.” So if you write, “I’ll be on vacation for awhile,” what you are actually saying is, “I’ll be on vacation for for a time,” which sounds silly and makes the grammar check in your word processing program go crazy.

Okay. Let’s try some different examples using awhile (for a time) and a while (a time).

Correct:

After hiking 10 miles to the mountaintop, Rodrigo decided to stay awhile and pick some flowers.

Correct:

It had been a while since Ella had seen her grandmother.

Incorrect:

Petra spent her spare time walking on the beach and picking up rocks for awhile. (In this case, it would be the equivalent of saying “for for a time.”)

Just for kicks, I’ll create a few more, and you pick the correct option. The answers are farther down in the email.

  1. It’s been awhile/a while since I flew to Seattle.
  2. Lyle saw all of his friends from grade school at the party and decided to stay awhile/a while.
  3. Molly and Polly got on each other’s nerves; they decided to live separately for awhile/a while.
  1. It’s been a while since I flew to Seattle.
    (It’s been a time since I flew to Seattle.)
  2. Lyle saw all of his friends from grade school at the party and decided to stay awhile.
    (Lyle saw all of his friends from grade school at the party and decided to stay for a time.)
  3. Molly and Polly got on each other’s nerves; they decided to live separately a while.
    (Molly and Polly got on each other’s nerves; they decided to live separately for a time.)

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | September 24, 2020

Mnemonics, Part 2

Good day, folks!

I was so right when I predicted I’d gone nutty with all of these mnemonic types I found during some research. The original document I wrote was beginning to look like a dissertation. Today I have a few more examples for you from Wikipedia, Your Dictionary, and some other resources. Even if you aren’t too interested, I bet those of you with grade school and high school aged kids would be really popular if you shared these. It’s not cheating! These just help make memorization a little easier!

  • Note organization mnemonics

The method of note organization can be used as a memorization technique. Applications of this method involve the use of flash cards and lists. Flash cards are used by putting a question or word on one side of a paper and the answer or definition on the other side of the paper. Lists involve the organization of data from broad to detailed. For example: Earth → Continent → Country.

  • Ode or rhyming mnemonics

Something that rhymes, like remembering the number of days in each month with “30 days hath September / April, June, and September…”

  • Image mnemonics

The information is constructed into a picture.

An example would be using the picture of a bat to represent three groups of depressant drugs: barbiturates, alcohol, and tranquilizers.

Or this example, from Wikipedia, that represents the way I remember which months have thirty day. You always have your knuckles with you, so you don’t have to remember the song.

  • Connection mnemonics

New knowledge is connected to knowledge already known.

Remembering the direction of longitude and latitude is easier to do when you realize that lines on a globe that run North and South are long and that coincides with LONGitude. Another Connection Mnemonic points out that there is an N in LONGitude and an N in North. Latitude lines must run east to west, then.

  • Spelling mnemonics

An example is "i before e except after c or when sounding like a in neighbor and weigh".

And my favorite example today provides a way of remembering the first eight digits of pi (π), which are 3.1415927. Instead of memorizing the numbers, you just have to remember this sentence: May I have a large container of coffee?

How does that translate? Well, each word represents a number of letters, which corresponds to the digits in pi.

  • May (3 letters)
  • I (1 letter)
  • have (4 letters)
  • a (1 letter)
  • large (5 letters)
  • container (9 letters)
  • of (2 letters)
  • coffee? (6 letters + question mark = 7)

And there you have 3.1415927, for those of us who are more inclined to remember words instead of numbers!

I think the beauty of all these mnemonics is that they provide so many different ways to help us remember things. If you are someone who likes poetry, maybe you can make up an “ode” mnemonic next time you need to remember some facts. If you are a more visual learner, you might use an image to remember things. I can see it now! Instead of a grocery list for these items (ham, orange juice, raspberries, soap, and eggs), all you have to remember is this:

Instead of using “May I have a large container of coffee?” for the first numbers of pi, you can remember an area code and phone number with a different sentence, like “Would Nancy think about joining me for dinner at 9?”

Would (5 letters)

Nancy (5 letters)

think (5 letters)

about (4 letters)

joining (7 letters)

me = (2letters)

for = (3 letters)

dinner = (6 letters)

at = (2 letters)

9 = (9 letters)

(555) 472-3629

The world is your mnemonic oyster!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | September 22, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Mnemonics, Part 1

Good morning, fellow travelers.

I am so excited about todays topic! Its probably the puzzle-lover in me, or maybe just the word nerd that suddenly found a much wider world of what we call mnemonics.

I never liked that word very much. My fingers sure dont like typing it correctly. Lets see how Your Dictionary defines mnemonics:

A mnemonic is a tool that helps us remember certain facts or large amounts of information. They can come in the form of a song, rhyme, acronym, image, phrase, or sentence. Mnemonics help us remember facts and are particularly useful when the order of things is important.

I was looking for spelling mnemonics to help with spelling, for example: Theres a rat in separate, can help you remember that it is separate, not seperate.

But then I looked at Wikipedia and was reminded that there are so many more types of mnemonics! (Yes, Im downright giddy!) Today Ill provide you with half of them, then Thursday Ill give you a few more so you dont feel overwhelmed.

Here are some examples from their site:

  • Music mnemonics

Songs and jingles can be used as a mnemonic. A common example is how children remember the alphabet by singing the ABCs.

  • Name mnemonics (acronym)

The first letter of each word is combined into a new word. For example: to remember the Great Lakes, think of HOMES Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior.

  • Expression or word mnemonics

The first letter of each word is combined to form a phrase or sentence, for example:

Richard of York gave battle in vain (for the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, indigo, violet)

  • Model mnemonics

A model is used to help recall information. Applications of this method involve the use of diagrams, cycles, graphs, and flowcharts to help understand or memorize an idea.

Now, here is one of my favorites that I learned today.

This is a set of mnemonics for learning a foreign language, in this case Hebrew. (From Wikipedia.)

For example, in trying to assist the learner to remember ohel (אוהל), the Hebrew word for tent, the linguist Ghil’ad Zuckermann proposes the memorable sentence "Oh hell, there’s a raccoon in my tent".

The memorable sentence "There’s a fork in Ma’s leg" helps the learner remember that the Hebrew word for fork is mazleg (מזלג).

Similarly, to remember the Hebrew word bayit (בית), meaning house, one can use the sentence "that’s a lovely house, I’d like to buy it."

Honestly, wouldnt it be great if you could learn more words like that? I wish I had some cool things like that for learning Greek! See you Tuesday for part two!

Kara Church

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