Thursday, June 12, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 38)

Want more frequently misused words, phrases, and punctuation? Ready or not, here they come:

Could care less vs. couldn’t care less

Wrong: I could care less what you do.
Right: I couldn’t care less what you do.

Saying I couldn’t care less about something means that nothing interests you less. On the other hand, I could care less implies that you must care something about it, because you could possibly care less about it than you do now.


Wrong: Well….I guess we should turn left.
Right: Well…I guess we should turn left.
Wrong: I-I don’t know…
Right: I-I don’t know….
Right: John Q. Smith was born in 1803. … During his formative years, he lived in London.
Right: John Q. Smith was born in 1803. …He lived in London.

I see a lot of confusion in the use of ellipses (the plural of ellipsis), yet they’re quite easy to use. An ellipsis consists of three consecutive periods and is used in fiction to indicate a pause in dialog (perhaps for thought) in the middle of a sentence or sometimes the tailing off of a voice at the end of a sentence. In nonfiction writing, it’s used to indicate deleted text.

When used at the end of a sentence, follow the ellipsis with a fourth period to end the sentence. At the beginning of a sentence, use three periods. When indicating a passage deleted between sentences, use three periods set off by a space before and after the ellipsis (just as you’d set off a sentence).

Notes: If you use Microsoft Word, you’ll discover that when you type three consecutive periods, Word’s AutoCorrect feature will replace them with an ellipsis character. You won’t be able to insert your cursor between the periods, but you will between the ellipsis and the ending period. Some publishers insist that you insert spaces between the periods for formatting purposes. This is not typical usage; however, if that’s what the publisher wants.

I have plenty of more words to go, so don't forget to come back.


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