Friday, May 29, 2009

Atone -- finding the harmony of being "at one"

from wordsmith.org

atone

PRONUNCIATION: (uh-TOHN, rhymes with phone)

MEANING: verb tr., intr.: To make amends for.

ETYMOLOGY: From the contraction of the phrase "at one" meaning "to be in harmony".

USAGE: "While society must be protected from those who might pose it a threat, it is vital we let people get on with their lives once they have atoned."√Čamonn Mac Aodha; Minor Offenders Need More Help to Escape Spectre of Past Crime; The Irish Times (Dublin); Apr 28, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Would it kill you to write "such as"?

From today's New York Times:
"In the months leading up to Judge Sonia Sotomayor's selection this week, the White House methodically labored to apply lessons from years of nomination battles to control the process and avoid the pitfalls of the past, like appearing to respond to pressure from the party’s base or allowing candidates to be chewed up by friendly fire."

Plainly, we are losing the battle against "like" used as a conjunction (that is, with verbs, adverbs, phrases and clauses) in formal writing.

"Although widely used as a conjunction in spoken English," says Harbrace's Glossary of Usage, "as, as if, and as though are preferred for written English."

The Elements of Style weighs in on the issue as follows:

Like. Not to be used for as. Like governs nouns and pronouns; before phrases and clauses the equivalent word is as.

We spent the evening like in the old days. [should be as]

Chloe smells good, like a pretty girl should. [should be as]

The use of like for as has its defenders; they argue that any usage that achieves currency become valid automatically. This, they say, is the way language is formed. It is and it isn't.

An expression sometimes merely enjoys a vogue, much as an article of apparel does. Like has long been widely misused by the illiterate; lately it has been taken up by the knowing and the well-informed, who find it catchy, or liberating, and who use it as though they were slumming.

If every word or device that achieved currency were immediately authenticated, simply on the ground of popularity, the language would be as chaotic as a ball game with no foul lines.

For the student, perhaps the most useful thing to know about like is that most carefully edited publications regard its use before phrases and clauses as simple error.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Charlotte Cheever Cushwa Clark (1917-2009)

Charlotte Cheever Cushwa Clark, 91, of Harwich Port, Mass., an accomplished artist in watercolor, oil, pastel and lithograph prints; mother of six, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of five; died of heart failure, in East Harwich, Mass., May 21.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 54 years, the Rev. Bayard S. Clark, who died in 1994.

She is survived by her brother, William T. Cushwa of Agawam, Mass., and her six children and their spouses, Mr. & Mrs. Tom F. and Katharine C. Lord of Houston, Texas; W. Tucker Clark of Westport, Conn.; Mr. & Mrs. B. Stockton Clark Jr. of Hamden, Conn.; Mr. & Mrs. Franklin Taylor Clark of Washington, D.C.; G. Rockwood Clark and Mary Larkin of Harwich, Mass.; and Mr. & Mrs. N. Brooks Clark of Knoxville, Tenn.

She had 14 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

Charlotte Cheever Cushwa was born Sept. 5, 1917, in Exeter, N.H. Her father, Frank W. Cushwa, was the Odlin Professor of English at the Phillips Exeter Academy and the author of An Introduction to Conrad (1933) and, with Robert N. Cunningham, Ways of Thinking and Writing (1936).

Her mother, Elizabeth Tucker Cushwa, was a daughter of Dr. William Jewett Tucker, president of Dartmouth College from 1893 to 1909.

Her great grandfather the Rev. Henry T. Cheever of Worcester, Mass., was mentioned and quoted in Moby-Dick as author of the 1849 book The Whale and His Captors. Cheever had journeyed to the South Seas as a missionary in 1840 and written several books about his experiences.

Charlotte graduated from Smith College in 1940, where she majored in painting. She was married to Bayard S. Clark of Philadelphia on June 21, 1941, in Cambridge, Mass.

Their first child, Katharine Conger Clark, was born in Philadelphia Dec. 15, 1942.

Bayard graduated from the Virginia Theological Seminary in 1945. His first assignment was to St. Louis, Mo. Over the next two decades, while rearing a growing family, Charlotte was a rector’s wife in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Houston, Tex., Nashville, Tenn., and then Washington, D.C., where Rev. Clark served as a canon at the National Cathedral from 1960 to ’65.

She and Bayard first heard Martin Luther King speak in 1957 at Scarritt College in Nashville, shortly after the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which Bayard had attended the first convention, in Montgomery, Ala. In 1960, Bayard introduced Dr. King to a meeting of the Nashville Ministerial Association. He was present at the Lincoln Memorial for the “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 and marched in Selma in 1965. Charlotte heard the last Sunday sermon of Dr. King’s life, at the Washington National Cathedral on March 31, 1968.

Between 1962 and 1970, Charlotte earned her MFA in Painting and the History of Art from American University. In the years thereafter she was a member of and took part in shows with numerous art groups, including the Watercolor Society, the Art Barn, the Art League of Washington, and the Washington Printmakers. She also taught art at John Eaton School and the YWCA, and Art History at the National School of Ballet of Washington.

In 1991, Charlotte and Bayard Clark became year-round residents of Harwich Port, Mass., where Charlotte had spent summers since 1928.

In the 15 years since Bayard’s death, Charlotte had enjoyed keeping up with the births, graduations, and weddings among her extended family and remarkable circle of friends.

She was a member of the Garden Club of Harwich, the Guild of Harwich Artists, the Printmakers of Cape Cod, and a the Chatham Newcomers Club.

She was a loyal member of Christ Church Episcopal, Harwich Port, where she attended services just weeks before her death and where her funeral was held on Sunday, May 24.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Avoid the awkward use of "it" near another "it" with a different meaning

Old editions of Harbrace had a note under Rule 28D that read as follows: Avoid the confusion arising from the repetition in the same sentence of a pronoun referring to different antecedents.

CONFUSING Although it is very hot by the lake, it looks inviting. [The first it is an idiomatic pronoun; the second it refers to lake.]

CLEAR Although it is very hot by the lake, the water looks inviting.

Newer editions state it [this note] a little more specifically: Avoid the awkward placement of it near another it with a different meaning.

AWKWARD It would be unwise to buy the new model now, but it is a superior machine. [The first it is an expletive. The second it refers to model.]

REVISED Buying the new model now would be unwise, but it is a superior machine.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences

Here is a link to The Guide to Grammar and Writing (sponsored by the CCC Foundation of Hartford, Conn.) on diagramming sentences. If you click here , there are examples of diagrammed sentences that go on for pages, including an amusing explication of diagramming by Dave Barry.

Friday, May 8, 2009

While -- a comma makes it mean "whereas"


from Ruge Rules

The Rule: "While" can be used to mean "during the time that," and it can be used to mean "whereas."
In the former case, while is not preceded by a comma.
In the latter case, while must be preceded by a comma.

So: I can't study while my little brother is beating on his drum.
And: The Blue Ridge mountains are beautiful, while the Rockies are grand.

Purists and copyeditors tend to frown on the use of "while" to mean "whereas," because the meaning depends upon the comma and points of punctuation have a perverse way of not being where they should be. If you choose to use "while" to mean "whereas," it's important to be assiduous in your punctuation.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Exorable -- capable of being persuaded

from wordsmith.org

exorable

EK-suhr-uh-buhl

adjective: Capable of being persuaded or moved.

From Latin exorare (to prevail upon), from ex- (out) + orare (to pray, beg).

"Without reform, the result is an exorable middle-class tax increase."Jonathan Rauch; A Bad Tax With Good Timing; National Journal (Washington, DC); Mar 18, 2006.

15 Practical Rules of E-Mail Etiquette

It’s 11 a.m. on an ordinary day at the office. You notice that little yellow envelope in the bottom corner of your screen that means you’ve got e-mail. You click to see what’s come in.

It seems someone in your firm has a problem. With you. He is not happy, and he has e-mailed you and “cc”ed your boss, your co-workers, several other managers---just about everybody but the president of the company. There’s one of those threatening “if/then” sentences near the end, something along the lines of, “…if you are not willing or able to fix this situation, then…”

You’ve been flamed. (“Flaming” is e-mail lingo for venting strong emotion online or sending highly inflammatory messages.) So it’s 11:02 a.m. on that same morning, but now you’re fuming with rage. You’re tempted to bang out a response, hit “reply to all,” and share some ungentle sentiments of your own. But you pause. You resolve to wait until after lunch to frame a considered response, a polite response, one that recognizes not only the unique qualities of e-mail but also its pitfalls.

The fact is that most of us are still figuring out the rules of practical etiquette that enable us to use this medium to best advantage. E-mail can be as personal and revealing as a letter or as impersonal as junk mail. It has limitations in conveying emotions—but it can also convey emotions too well. Especially fiery ones! It’s instantaneous and easy—often too easy. What we need is e-mail etiquette. So here goes:

1. Use that subject line. Take a moment to summarize what your message is truly about, as a newspaper headline does. This helps get your message read. (Key words in the title line also help if you have to search for a message later on.) To avoid “Re: Re: Re:-itis” in multiple replies, summarize your response, as in “12:15 better than noon,” rather than “RE: lunch plans.”

2. Pause for a salutation. We are always grateful to be greeted with politeness and humanity. “I like the classic ‘Dear so-and-so,’ just as in a letter,” says Karen Ramsay, a computer network engineer. Short of “Dear,” it’s more and more common to start with your recipient’s name and a dash or comma. This also signals that it is a personal communication and not spam or a broadcast to the group.

3. Include pleasantries. In the elevator, we say, “Good morning.” At a co-worker’s office door we ask a greeting question. These are the lubricants of daily interaction. Some e-mails are more formal than others, but the vast majority move between two people who might just as easily be saying hello in the hall. In your e-mail, consider the same pleasantry you might employ in a conversation: Before you launch into your three points of action from the previous meeting, consider saying, “It was good to talk with the group today.” Or if it’s an individual, “It was good to hear about your trip to Cancun.” Or, if it’s an acquaintance you haven’t e-mailed in a while, “Hope you are well.” Why? It makes life more pleasant and your reader more apt to enjoy the message.

4. NO SHOUTING! All-caps in e-mails have the same effect as shouting in conversation. It’s considered rude. Even an all-cap word here and there is iffy, since it takes the reader aback.

5. Proof and spell-check. A poorly written message replete with run-on sentences, omitted punctuation, misused or misspelled words is difficult to read, easy to misunderstand---and reflects poorly on the sender. (And no one will ever tell you if you’ve made an embarrassing gaffe.)

6. Use “cc” sparingly. Copy co-workers or bosses only when there’s a reason to do so. Similarly, don’t use “Reply All” as your default. Resort to “Reply All” only when everyone truly needs to see your response.

7. Beware the negative. E-mail is great for conveying information, instructions, and objective facts. But, for some reason, slams slam harder in an e-mail. It is rarely a good idea to send anything negative online. If the news is that bad, it should be delivered face to face, or at least by phone, so your facial expression or the sound of your voice can soothe and explain tough news. “Even if it’s mild criticism,” says Ramsay, “take some extra words to make your tone much gentler than in regular conversation.” Another side to this issue is that everyone is very courageous in e-mail, precisely because they don’t have to face the person. A good rule is, “Never say anything in an e-mail you wouldn’t say to the person’s face.”

8. Remember, it’s public. E-mails are forwarded from person to person, often multiple times, with forwarders often forgetting a nugget of “touchy” or classified information that appeared several messages below. Says Karen Ramsay, “I tell my staff, before you send an e-mail, ask yourself if you’d be willing to post it on your office door.” And e-mails can legitimately be perused by employers and are often subpoenaed in legal cases, sometimes going back years.

9. Be careful about humor. Always a two-edged sword, humor can be extremely touchy in e-mail. Sarcasm is easily misunderstood and may come across as insulting. If you must make a light comment, it’s often a good idea to use a smiley-face or emoticon ---to make sure a recipient knows you’re kidding.

10. Never respond in anger. First, if someone has insulted you, it may well be a miscommunication, a lame attempt to be funny, or it might be a response to a hasty e-mail of yours. Pick up the phone and ask, “What was that about?” A double caution is, “Never ‘Reply to All’ in anger. This is a good way to make an enemy for life.

11. Avoid multiple questions. If you ask a series of questions, most responders will answer only the last question asked. If you are posing a series of questions, number them. This is also a good idea for multiple pieces of information. It simply helps the reader order the information. If you are responding to a series of questions, number them in your reply and use a different color to set your replies off from the questions.

12. The shorter the better. Something about a long e-mail can make a reader say, “Oh, no.” Shorter ones are better read and more quickly responded to. If you find yourself responding to an emotional situation with a three-page, single-spaced rehashing of events, consider the possibility that e-mail is not the best medium for working out the situation.

13. Kick the forwarding habit. Everyone gets too much mail already. If you can’t resist broadcasting jokes, inspirational stories and political diatribes, consider saving them for friends and family—and realize that we’ve all seen most of them already.

14. Sign-off: Consider the same pleasantry and sign off as you would use in a letter. “Please let me know if I can be of any assistance. Best regards, Brooks.”

15. Say “please” and “thank you.” Your grandmother was right: “They’re the three most valuable words in the English language: they don’t cost you a thing, and they pay dividends your whole life long.” In e-mail, as in life, a little courtesy goes a long way.

Monday, May 4, 2009

palliative and hortative

From this week's Time: "Obama is cool where George W. Bush seemed hot . . . palliative rather than hortative."

palliative noun
[from the Latin palliare, to cloak or conceal (a pallium is a cloak)]
to moderate the intensity of

hortative adj.
[from the Latin hortari, to urge. Recall the fellow in Ben-Hur who beat time for the oarsmen with his wooden mallets and the immortal line, "Hortator, ramming speed."]
giving exhortation (language intended to incite and encourage)

Why we need to hyphenate two or more words serving as a single adjective before a noun

Mr. Ruge always loved the example of the headline below, in which the hyphen broke off from the printing plate and brought a lawsuit upon the newspaper:

Mr. Jones Has Cast-Off Clothing and Invites Inspection.

Here is a discussion of the issue from Garner's Usage Tip of the Day:

Miscues (7).

Unhyphenated Phrasal Adjectives

Forgetting to put hyphens in phrasal adjectives frequently leads to miscues. For example, does the phrase "popular music critic" refer to a critic in popular music or to a sociable music critic? If it's a critic of popular music, the phrase should be "popular-music critic."

[[Similar example: He went to a small business convention. Was it a small convention? Or was it a convention for small businesses?] ]

The general rule [Harbrace 18f(1), in the subject field above ] is that when a phrase functions as an adjective preceding the noun it modifies -- an increasingly frequent phenomenon in modern English -- the phrase should ordinarily be hyphenated. Hence "the child is six years old" becomes "the six-year-old child."

Most professional writers know this; most nonprofessionals don't.

Some guides might suggest that you should make a case-by-case decision, based on whether a misreading is likely. You're better off with a flat rule (with a few exceptions noted below) because almost all sentences with unhyphenated phrasal adjectives will be misread by someone. The following examples demonstrate the hesitation caused by a missing hyphen:

o "One last pop on this whole question of incivility of discourse, the much argued over issue of whose speech has been more inflammatory and socially destructive than whose." Meg Greenfield, "It's Time for Some Civility," Newsweek, 5 June 1995. (After "much argued," the reader expects a noun; then "over" appears, unsettling the reader for a moment; then, in two milliseconds, the reader adjusts to see that "much-argued-over" is a phrasal adjective modifying "issue.")

o "This English as a second language text presents the different speaking styles for international students." Mary Newton Bruder, The Grammar Lady 243 (2000). (A possible revision: "This English-as-a-second-language text presents the different speaking styles for international students.")

Readability is especially enhanced when the hyphens are properly used in two phrasal adjectives that modify a single noun -- e.g.: "county-approved billboard-siting restriction"; "13-year-old court-ordered busing plan"; "24-hour-a-day doctor-supervised care." Some writers -- those who haven't cultivated an empathy for their readers -- would omit all those hyphens.

Enlightened writers and editors supply those necessary hyphens -- e.g.: "They lived in a first-floor apartment in a six-story rent-controlled, union-subsidized housing development in Flushing, Queens." Ken Auletta, "Beauty and the Beast," New Yorker, 16 Dec. 2002.