Posted by: episystechpubs | April 19, 2013

Editor’s Corner: Rule 7 – Check the Dictionary

Huzzah, hurrah, it is the last day of Ben Yagoda. Why am I down on Ben? Well, here’s one reason. His article “7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to” lists this as rule seven: Words. Dude, what kind of rule is that?! Still, I’m not one to start things I can’t finish, and I must agree with his bullets, so let’s put this thing to rest. I will call it:

Rule 7: Check the Dictionary

As I noted in my previous article, the meaning of words inevitably and perennially change. And you can get in trouble when you use a meaning that has not yet been widely accepted. Sometimes it’s fairly easy to figure out where a word stands in this process. It’s become more common to use nonplussed to mean not bothered, or unfazed, but that is more or less the opposite of the traditional meaning, and it’s still too early to use it that way when you’re writing for publication. (As is spelling unfazed as unphased.) On the other hand, no one thinks anymore that astonish means "turn to stone," and it would be ridiculous to object to anyone who does so. But there are a lot of words and expressions in the middle. Here’s one man’s list of a few meanings that aren’t quite ready for prime time:

· Don’t use begs the question. Instead use raises the question.

· Don’t use phenomena or criteria as singular. Instead use phenomenon or criterion.

· Don’t use cliché as an adjective. Instead use clichéd.

· Don’t use comprised of. Instead use composed of/made up of.

· Don’t use less for count nouns such people or miles. Instead use fewer.

· Don’t use penultimate (unless you mean second to last). Instead use ultimate.

· Don’t use lead as past tense of to lead. Instead use led.

I hesitate to state what should be obvious, but sometimes the obvious must be stated. So here goes: Do not use it’s, you’re or who’s when you mean its, your or whose. Or vice versa!

Bye-bye, Ben!

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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