Blonde -Versus- Blond

This is a short post but informative, I think. A lot of people use blond and blonde, so why not get it right?

My husband says I nitpick too much about English. I’ll tell you, my English is far from perfect. Even so, I’ll throw out a piece of knowledge that jumps off the page at me–the difference between blond and blonde. ๐Ÿ™‚ It seems like such a minor thing (nitpicking), but I see the words misused so often, it’s a decent topic to address.

First let’s look at the definitions of the two words. Blond — an adjective which describes a particular color. Blonde — an noun identifying a woman with blond hair.

That’s right! One’s a noun and one’s an adjective. Not only that, but blonde is sex specific.

Let’s check out a couple of sentences.

  • I just loved his dirty blond hair.ย  Adjective
  • Will you check out that blonde? Noun

Simple. ๐Ÿ™‚

So what types of misused words jump off the page for you all?

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Working with Your Pet Peeves

Everyone has their pet peeves. One thing to keep in mind is pet peeves are about the person who holds them, not the person who’s doing the evil deed. Generally, people are not out to get you (unless we’re talking family). They’re not trying to push your buttons.

If you have a pet peeve in writing, think of it as an asset rather than another way for others to irritate you. As a critique partner, your pet peeves can come in handy. Why? Because when you see the particular item, it stands out to you in a way that may not have stood out to the writer. It’s an opportunity for you give your valuable expertise to someone less experienced in a particular topic.

For example, I don’t know about others, but homonym (who’s versus whose, it’s versus its, your versus you’re, past versus passed, and there versus their versus) are my biggest problems and mistakes I make all the time. It’s not that I don’t know the difference or when to use them. It’s more on the line of human error. I have to make an extra check in my mind while typing homonyms. I’m pretty sure I type the way I read (by the word rather than the letter, unless I have to sound things out). So when it comes to homonyms, I’m guessing the first word that pops into my mind is the one I type.

If I realize it’s one of my problem words, I’ll stop and check it in my head before continuing to type. If not, I might gloss over it. Later, I may or may not catch it in editing. Just like anyone else editing their work, I don’t always catch all my mistakes. I also find it easier to spot glitches in another person’s work than my own. And we know spell/grammar check is not perfect. There are programs, like autocrit, which do identify homonyms and other errors writers should check though, but even those are not infallible. So I make the mistake. And yeah, misusing homonyms are on a lot of people’s pet peeve (say that fast three times) list. Then again, I’ve got my own set of pet peeves.

Anyway, I had a writer read one of my manuscripts recently. She pointed out several misuses of words (administrations versus ministrations and purses versus pierces, etc) which I had. Honestly, I had no idea I used them incorrectly. I also didn’t realize how often I used the terms in my manuscript (which was more than I liked). For me, having her point it out was an invaluable learning experience. If not for her, those errors would likely still be in my manuscript. I’m 30something and still learning new grammar rules and new vocabulary. Last year I learned the difference between lay versus lie.

For me, writing is a journey. I learn as I go. I understand that everyone is at different levels in their writing experience. The compiled writing list of rules areย  excellent tools, but not everyone is there yet. Not everyone knows about the guidelines. I believe part of the job of a critique partner is to point writers in the right direction. Show them the guidelines and refer them to resources which will help.

Critiquing combines the idea of give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish and lead a horse to water. We, as critique partners, can just go through and make the changes, or we can explain the guidelines. We can make suggestions, but we can’t force our partners to use them.

So I say, keep your pet peeves. Don’t yank your hair out when you encounter them. Instead take them and use them to help someone else through constructive criticism.

Show -Versus- Tell: Why he asked and she said.

It’s been almost two weeks since my last confession…I mean post.

Anyway, in a previous post, I mentioned that typically readers overlook dialogue tags such as ‘asked’ and ‘said.’ This time let’s look at dialogue tags from the show versus tell perspective.

For starters, descriptive dialogue tags are lazy ways to evoke a response. And it’s telling. What do I mean by descriptive dialogue tags?

  • teased
  • interrupted
  • threatened
  • pouted
  • and many more

Rather than creative dialogue tags, a writer can convey a certain feeling to the reader by showing. So, let’s look at some examples.

  • “You like that, don’t you?” Sue teased. TELLING
  • Mischief twinkled in Sue’s eyes as her lips twitched into a smile. “You like that, don’t you? SHOWING

Telling that Sue teased leaves the dialogue lacking. What about Sue was teasing? If you show, you don’t have to tell your readers; the readers can decide for themselves.

  • “But I don’t–”
    “I’ve had just about enough of this,” Bret said. SHOWING
  • “But I don’t–”
    “I’ve had just about enough of this,” Bret interrupted. TELLING

The em dash already implies an interruption. Why bother telling what’s already self-explanatory? Give your readers some respect and treat them like they can actually think for themselves.

A technique I use, since I like visuals, is to close my eyes and play out the scene. What are the characters doing while speaking? What expressions are on their faces? Then, I write it.

Sometimes writers need to trust their readers. Let the readers make up their own mind without forcing them to understand what you’re trying to tell instead of show.

Commas, commas, and more commas

The topic of commas came up today. And it brought to mind a trend I see often regarding lists, as well as other common mistakes I see with comma usage. Commas fill up the biggest chunk of my Gregg Reference Manual. I’m not going to go through it in its entirety, but I will mention a few items. A comma isn’t necessary with every ‘and’ used in a sentence.ย  I notice a lot of people omit the final comma before ‘and’ or ‘or’ย  in a list. That’s okay. Just remember to be consistent throughout your work.

For example:
  • I went to the park, played on the big toy and went home. RIGHT
  • I went to the park, played on the big toy, and went home. RIGHT * My preference
  • I like pepperoni, sausage and meatballs on my pizza. RIGHT
  • I like pepperoni, sausage, and meatballs on my pizza. RIGHT * My preference

All the above are grammatically correct. Personally, I prefer the comma before the ‘and.’ It offers more clarity. I’ve read that in journals, they omit the serial comma to save space. However, if the sentence leads to ambiguity, definitely include the comma.

For example:

  • I often write about Jack, a friend and a businessman.
Is Jack a friend and a businessman? Or did I write about three different subjects?

A comma before a conjunction (and, or, but) is grammatically correct if there are two independent clauses. Like the serial comma, some choose to omit the comma. Not my preference, but to each their own.

For example:
  • I went to the park, and Jim followed. RIGHT *My preference
  • I went to the park and Jim followed. RIGHT
  • I had pizza, and I had hot wings. RIGHT *My preference
  • I had pizza and I had hot wings. RIGHT

Each of the above examples have two subjects and two verbs. A comma is not needed if there are two subjects and one verb or one subject and two verbs. AND should NOT be used. ๐Ÿ™‚

For example:

  • Jim and I went to the park. RIGHT
  • Jim, and I went to the park. WRONG
  • I ate pizza and hot wings. RIGHT
  • I ate pizza, and hot wings. WRONG

Just quick grammar tips.