Three Words Everyone Keeps Misusing

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Being an English major (or anything related) can save the human race. Because of us, there is hope.

And if you point out that my first sentence is passive, or that I started the next two sentences with “because” and “and,” congratulations. You’re hired.

Grammar Nazis everywhere now have a new world-salvaging task: to advocate for the grammatically challenged, since it appears no one is going to stop using the following words and phrases incorrectly. Ever.

Before you venture out into the unknown, arm yourself with the linguistic truth.

“Legitimately” and “Literally” Are Not Synonyms

Really? You “legitly” failed your math test? I think you mean you literally received a failing grade on it, because these two words are not at all the same thing. Something legitimate follows a set of rules, like a legitimate birth certificate. Something literal is exact, the opposite of a figurative statement. You are literally missing the point.

Something “Ironic” Is “Opposite”

Let’s pretend I’m talking with someone who absolutely hated contemporary young adult fiction (and if you do, you’re entitled to your preference). Situational irony would involve meeting them for lunch and walking up to the restaurant to find them reading The Hunger Games because they got bored waiting. While irony is often used to convey humor, something ‘funny’ isn’t always ironic.

Are We “Farther” or “Further” From Making Any Progress Here?

One refers to distance, while the other references moving forward. Can you tell the difference? It’s not that simple if you’re an abstract thinker (many writers are). It’s not unheard of to compare advancement to traveling a great distance. Someone moves farther down a sidewalk than you, but you’re further along in your college education than they are. Farther is a physical measure, while further is a less concrete term. (Sidewalk? Concrete? Hehe.)

Let’s build on this list. Comment with your “misused words and phrases” pet peeves. The first step to educating those less “grammatically inclined” is to know where we’re starting from. Together, we can save the English language.

“Literally.”

Love&hugs, Meg<3

 

 

 

 

Why Twitter is the Best #WritingCoach

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And it’s not just because it’s free.

What can you say in 140 characters or less? A lot, actually, if you know at least a little bit about what you’re doing. Some writers will argue that the more words you can cram into a piece, the better that piece is. I don’t necessarily agree. You probably don’t, either, if you’ve ever written something that had a 500-word or one-page limit and realized you couldn’t fit every adjective and colorful phrase you wanted into a pesky yet necessary word or page restriction.

You won’t have much of an audience if you don’t learn how to say what you mean as efficiently (a.k.a., quickly) as you can. Thank goodness for social media and its ability to teach us how to shorten what we say so our followers don’t just scroll right past our posts. Here are a few examples of how Twitter in particular can help you become a #betterwriter, right now.

Use as few words as possible.

It’s like when I write out directions to a recipe – a sentence can still make sense even with fewer words inside. I’m not to keen on using the phrase “word vomit,” but think about what happens when you get super excited about an idea and can’t type as fast as your spontaneous mental rush. You’re naturally going to type out whatever comes to mind, which is 100 percent normal when drafting an original work. That’s why we go back later and engage in my favorite literary activity of all: editing.

It’s less work for everyone later if you start out using as few words as you can to get your main point across. Tweeting is a wonderful way to practice this, since you have a limited amount of space to say what you want (not to mention adding a link, tagging 500 of your friends and squeezing in as many #hashtags as your character limit allows). Facebook lets you go on and on, but Twitter stops you before you’ve said too much. Quite literally.

Learn the power of active voice.

Starting your sentences with a verb – something the #GrammarNaziUniverse calls “active voice” – will help you eliminate many of those extra words you’ll automatically find yourself tempted to throw into your posts, statuses, novels, whatever you’re working on at the moment. Prepositions are great, but not in excess, sort of like chocolate chip cookies. Okay, maybe not. I could eat plenty of those and never get sick of them. Personally.

Moving onto my next point. Apparently my brain is #hungry. I wouldn’t want to give you a bad example of point number three…

Captivate your audience from the first word.

There’s nothing that bothers me more about a piece of writing than having to skim through multiple layers of imagery and sensation to find a thesis. It isn’t that I don’t support these beautiful qualities of writing – it is an art, however, one that takes millions of words and sometimes years of practice to improve. There is a way to incorporate those stylistic attributes without drowning your reader in an ocean full of mental pictures.

Start with your main point and branch out from there, but do it in a way that will catch someone’s attention (or even catch them off-guard). Don’t just stick with the cliche “attention-getting questions.” Did you know we’re getting sick of them by now? Use that creative (and sometimes scary) literary brain of yours. Don’t fear it; embrace it. Especially if you want someone else to embrace, and pass on (retweet) what you’re saying.

Since we’re talking about Twitter, have you followed me? Do so here. And don’t judge me for the plug. Social media is where this all began. Never underestimate the things it can teach you.

Love&hugs, Meg<3