Posted by: episystechpubs | May 8, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Cliches

“At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar—fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.”

We’ve all heard and used clichés before, but here is the Merriam-Webster description of a cliché:

1a: a trite or stereotyped phrase or expression

b: a hackneyed theme, characterization, plot, or situation in fiction or drama: an overworked idea or its expression in music or one of the other arts

Here are some selected clichés from A to (almost) Z:

  • as the crow flies
  • big fish in a small pond
  • crack of dawn
  • dog and pony show
  • every fiber of my being
  • follow your heart
  • go with the flow
  • hold your horses
  • if the shoe fits
  • jockey for position
  • keep your fingers crossed
  • last but not least
  • movers and shakers
  • no stone unturned
  • out of pocket
  • pot calling the kettle black
  • quiet as a dormouse
  • raining cats and dogs
  • sharp as a tack
  • think outside of the box
  • under the gun
  • vested interest
  • went belly up
  • you are what you eat

For the full list of 681 clichés to avoid in your writing, see the Be a Better Writer website.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | May 8, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Cliches

“At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar—fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.”

We’ve all heard and used clichés before, but here is the Merriam-Webster description of a cliché:

1a: a trite or stereotyped phrase or expression

b: a hackneyed theme, characterization, plot, or situation in fiction or drama: an overworked idea or its expression in music or one of the other arts

Here are some selected clichés from A to (almost) Z:

  • as the crow flies
  • big fish in a small pond
  • crack of dawn
  • dog and pony show
  • every fiber of my being
  • follow your heart
  • go with the flow
  • hold your horses
  • if the shoe fits
  • jockey for position
  • keep your fingers crossed
  • last but not least
  • movers and shakers
  • no stone unturned
  • out of pocket
  • pot calling the kettle black
  • quiet as a dormouse
  • raining cats and dogs
  • sharp as a tack
  • think outside of the box
  • under the gun
  • vested interest
  • went belly up
  • you are what you eat

For the full list of 681 clichés to avoid in your writing, see the Be a Better Writer website.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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.
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 | May 7, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Misplaced Modifiers

“A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.”

Hmm…what’s wrong with this sentence? Well, according to the way it’s worded, the bar owner has a glass eye, and the eye’s name is Ralph. Instead, the man is named Ralph, and he has a glass eye. This is definitely a misplaced modifier.

Let’s have a look at what misplaced modifiers are and how to fix them.

Modifiers can be adjectives or adverbs that change or add detail to other words or phrases, for example: pretty, hopeful, fast, happy, very, much, many. It’s important to remember that modifiers should be placed close to the words they are modifying.

Adjectives in English usually come before the word they are modifying:

  • The handsome man
  • The furry dog
  • The red hydrant

Adverbs can go before or after the word they are modifying.

  • The very handsome man
  • The dog ran quickly
  • The only hydrant on the street

When you use modifying phrases, they should be near the thing they are modifying so that you don’t end up with a crazy misplaced modifier.

Here are a few examples of misplaced modifiers with some suggestions to correct them:

Misplaced: She served franks and beans to the guests on paper plates.

Corrected: She served the guests franks and beans on paper plates.

Misplaced: The church was reported robbed by Sister Maria last week.

Corrected: Last week, Sister Maria reported that the church was robbed.

Misplaced: Bob saw a goat and a llama on the way to the store.

Corrected: On the way to the store, Bob saw a goat and a llama.

Misplaced: Jane bought a turtle for her brother named Pickles.

Corrected: Jane bought a turtle named Pickles for her brother.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 4, 2018

Editor’s Corner: The English Jokes Continue…

“A dyslexic walks into a bra.”

Okay, most of us are familiar with the term dyslexia or dyslexic. Sometimes it is described as a condition where you mix letters up or have a hard time reading. Officially it is “a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.”

It’s not nice to joke about learning disabilities; in fact, I almost left this one off the list of jokes. But the 15-year-old boy in me thought that the idea of “walking into a bra” was pretty funny, so there you have it.

The Online Etymology Dictionary provides the following information:

dyslexia (n.)

1885, from German dyslexie (1883), from Greek dys- "bad, abnormal, difficult" (see dys-) + lexis "word," from legein "speak" (from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to ‘pick out words’)") + abstract noun ending -ia. Dyslexic (n.) is first recorded 1961; dyslectic (adj.) from 1964.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | May 3, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Similes

“A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.”

Today I’m snagging another topic from the list of jokes I sent the other day. Our discussion today revolves around similes…no, not smiles, but similes.

A simile is a figure of speech comparing two unlike things. You will often see similes used with the words “like” or “as,” as you probably learned in school. For example, “Her eyes were like the ocean—stormy and gray.” Or, “He was as strong as an ox.”

Here are some examples of bad similes from a contest in the Washington Post:

  • He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree. (Jack Bross, Chevy Chase)
  • The politician was gone but unnoticed, like the period after the Dr. on a Dr Pepper can. (Wayne Goode, Madison, Ala.)
  • He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it. (Joseph Romm, Washington)
  • She caught your eye like one of those pointy hook latches that used to dangle from screen doors and would fly up whenever you banged the door open. (Rich Murphy, Fairfax Station)
  • She was clever all right, like a woman who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the world’s highest IQ and whose last name just happens to be "Savant." Yeah, maybe too clever by half. (Joseph Romm, Washington)
  • The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t. (Russell Beland, Springfield)
  • From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy!" comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30. (Roy Ashley, Washington)
  • Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)
  • Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
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Posted by: episystechpubs | May 2, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Irony

“A hyphenated word and a non-hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender nearly chokes on the irony.”

What is irony? According to Google, the brief answer is that it is “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.”

But there are actually three types of irony: verbal, situational, and dramatic. Here is a brief definition for each type, along with some examples, from Flocabulary:

Verbal irony occurs when a speaker’s intention is the opposite of what he or she is saying. For example, a character stepping out into a hurricane and saying, “What nice weather we’re having!”

Situational irony occurs when the actual result of a situation is totally different from what you’d expect the result to be. Sitcoms often use situational irony. For example, a family spends a lot of time and money planning an elaborate surprise birthday party for their mother to show her how much they care. But it turns out, her birthday is next month, and none of them knew the correct date. She ends up fuming that no one cares enough to remember her birthday.

Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows a key piece of information that a character in a play, movie or novel does not. This is the type of irony that makes us yell, “DON’T GO IN THERE!” during a scary movie. Dramatic irony is huge in Shakespeare’s tragedies, most famously in Othello and Romeo and Juliet….

Why Writers Use It: Irony inverts our expectations. It can create the unexpected twist at the end of a joke or a story that gets us laughing—or crying. Verbal irony tends to be funny; situational irony can be funny or tragic; and dramatic irony is often tragic.

Back to the initial joke, the irony is that the word “hyphenated” has no hyphen, while the word “non-hyphenated” does have a hyphen.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 1, 2018

Editor’s Corner: A Herd of Nerds Walks into a Bar…

Over the years, we’ve covered a lot of topics such as passive voice, Oxford (serial) commas, and avoiding clichés. Of course, there are still so many things to review. Rather than review all the grammatical terms that you’ll see in these jokes today, I’ll cover most of them in the weeks to come.

Thanks to those of you who shared this list with me!

  • A bar was walked into by the passive voice.
  • An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.
  • Two quotation marks walked into a “bar.”
  • A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.
  • A non-sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.
  • Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Get out — we don’t serve your type."
  • A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.
  • A synonym strolls into a tavern.
  • At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar — fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.
  • A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.
  • A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.
  • The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.
  • A dyslexic walks into a bra.
  • An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.
  • A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.
  • A hyphenated word and a non-hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender nearly chokes on the irony.

For the full list of “Bar Jokes for English Majors,” see the bluebird of bitterness website.

“Your jokes do not amuse me.”

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | April 30, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Schoolhouse Rock

Last week, Bob Dorough, the music director of Schoolhouse Rock, passed away. Dorough was a pianist, singer, and composer.

I listened to a Fresh Air podcast and learned that the idea of Schoolhouse Rock came from an advertising executive (David McCall) who was looking for a way to teach his son to memorize multiplication through music. Dorough was introduced to McCall. McCall told Dorough that his son couldn’t memorize multiplication, but he could memorize song lyrics. Dorough created a demo called Three Is a Magic Number, and the rest is history.

In memory of Bob Dorough, I’m sharing some of the Schoolhouse Rock grammar lessons. Clear your throats and start singing away!

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here

Conjunction Junction

A Noun Is a Person, Place, or Thing

Verb: That’s What’s Happening!

Interjections!

Unpack Your Adjectives

Busy Prepositions

Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla

Jackie Solano | Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.542.6711 | Extension: 766711

Symitar Documentation Services

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
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Posted by: episystechpubs | April 27, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Things

Toastmasters of the world, avert your eyes! I’m about to talk about something dreaded in your world: words that we use when we can’t think of the name for something, like stuff, or thingy, or doodad. Specifically, one of our readers was wondering about thingamajigs and thingamabobs.

Here’s what I found. First, I discovered that there are alternate spellings:

  • thingamajig
  • thingumajig
  • thingamabob
  • thingumabob
  • thingumbob

The second thing I found was that they all have the same meaning: “something which is hard to classify or whose name is not known.” Merriam-Webster didn’t go much further than that. In fact, all it had as far as an etymology was “irregular, from thingum.” So I looked up thingum and it defined it as “thingumbob.” Thanks for nothing!

Moving on to my more reliable site for etymologies, I went to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Suddenly, I felt like someone was teasing me. Here is the thingamajig etymology:

also thingumajig, 1824, see thing. Compare in similar sense kickumbob (1620s), thingum (1670s), thingumbob (1751), thingummy (1796), jigamaree (1824).

And under thingamabob, the etymology dictionary has the following definitions, including some tasteless ones I’ve omitted:

dingbat (n.)

1838, American English, some kind of alcoholic drink, of unknown origin. One of that class of words (such as dingus, doohickey, gadget, gizmo, thingumabob) which are conjured up to supply names for items whose proper names are unknown or not recollected. Used at various periods for "money," "a muffin," "a woman who is neither your sister nor your mother," and "a foolish person in authority." Popularized in sense of "foolish person" by U.S. TV show "All in the Family" (1971-79), though this usage dates from 1905. In typography, by 1912 as a printer’s term for ornament used in headline or with illustrations.

I guess with all of those possible meanings, maybe Toastmasters should cast aspersions on us when we don’t use a precise, correct term!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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 | April 26, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Changing English Language

The Symitar editors receive a lot of comments and a few complaints about ever-changing English rules and about our own evolving JHA and Symitar standards. Some people get frustrated when the rules change. Some people think our editorial changes are too finicky. And on the other hand, many people think English rules are getting too lax. For example, few people use whom these days, and many people don’t know how to use apostrophes, or they think they’re completely unnecessary. Infinitives are being split willy-nilly. Untold sentences end in prepositions. Where will it end?

The answer is, it won’t. The English language, like all living languages around the world, is always evolving. We don’t speak like Shakespeare did in the 16th and 17th centuries. We don’t speak like Jane Austen did in the 19th century. In fact, we don’t even speak like our parents (you should be thankful I don’t speak like my dad, that cotton-pickin’, yellow-bellied sapsucker!).

I recently read some interesting articles on the changing English language (they are listed below, if you’re interested), and was intrigued by this statement: “…every time a child uses it, the language reproduces itself” (Erard). And every reproduction is a little different than the “original.” The article goes on to say that “…key factors in biological evolution—like natural selection and genetic drift—have parallels in how languages change over time.”

Words and phrases that are used more often by more people survive. Rules change according to how people actually use language. And sometimes rules and pronunciations change a little more randomly. “Every single speaker on Earth will have their own specific linguistic variants…This variation is sometimes driven by selection, but at other times, we like to choose our own options from the linguistic buffet available to us” (Erard).

Can we fight the changes? Absolutely. But we won’t always win. You may want to hear and see people using whom correctly, but if most people are not interested in correct usage, the actual usage will prevail and the rule will change. Remember Shakespeare, and consider again how much has changed since he was writing.

As editors, it is our job to know and enforce basic grammar rules and all of JHA’s standards and styles—even though they are always evolving. We also strive to produce documentation that is consistent no matter which employee wrote it. It’s a job we all love. We don’t always agree with changes that occur, but we’re busier than a one-legged cat in a sandbox trying to enforce them. And we do it all without pitchin’ a hissy fit (usually).

Articles:

https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/english-changing

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/how-english-language-has-evolved-living-creature

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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