Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 72)

Still with me? Here are some more phrases and symbols that frequently get mangled:

Low and behold vs. Lo and behold

Wrong: Low and behold! My masterpiece.

Right: Lo and behold! My masterpiece.

The phrase lo and behold has been used for centuries, to call attention to somethingespecially something important or startling. Low and behold is simply a common misspelling.

Ampersands (&)

Wrong: It’s time for fun & games.

Right: It’s time for fun and games.

Wrong: I invested in an oil & gas limited partnership.

Right: Invested in an oil and gas limited partnership.

Right: I bought a Black & Decker drill.

Ampersands should never be used in prose. Reserve them for product and brand names that require them, or movie titles (such as Harry & Tonto).

I'll have more for you next time.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 71)

I hope I haven't kept you waiting too long for more of these:

Data vs. Datum

Right: The data are used to plot a graph.

Right: Additional data is available upon request.

Data is the plural of the singular datum (a single piece of information, such as a fact or statistic). When referring to multiple data points, use data as a plural noun. However, when referring to a body of information, it is permissible to use data as a singular noun.

Different than vs. Different from vs. Different to

Wrong: San Francisco is different than Oakland in many ways.

Right: San Francisco is different from Oakland in many ways.

Right: San Francisco differs from Oakland in many ways.

Just to be clear, different than is always incorrect. It should be different from in U.S. English or different to in U.K. English. (It’s unusual that to and from would be used synonymously in this context.) Isn’t it interesting how U.S. English differs from U.K. English in so many respects?

I'll have more for you next time.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Upcoming interview

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I'll be interviewed about my sci-fi novels in the next few days by someone from Sonar 4 Science Fiction and Horror Ezine. The interview will appear in the March 2009 issue of the magazine.

That's all I know at this time. I'll post more later.


Friday, November 14, 2008

First images of a planet orbiting another sun

This is so cool! The Hubble telescope has captured images of a planet orbiting another sun. The images, taken two years apart, show the movement of what can only be a planet. Here's a link to the article.

And a short video illustrating it:


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 70)

Here we go again. More works to keep straight:

Sherbert vs. Sherbet vs. Sorbet

Wrong: Would you like some sherbert for dessert?

Right: Would you like some sherbet for dessert?

Sherbet is a frozen concoction made of fruit and/or fruit juice, with gelatin, egg white, or milk added. Sherbert is simply a misspelling and mispronunciation of sherbet. (Note: In Europe, sherbet can also refer to a type of fruity drink.) A sorbet is similar to a sherbet in that both are frozen fruity desserts. However a sorbet is usually softer/mushier (less frozen), and lacks the milk/gelatin/egg white additive, as well as fruit solids. As a result, the texture is often finer. Sorbets are frequently served between meal courses as a palate cleanser.

Criterias vs. Criteria

Wrong: We use different criterias to help us decide.

Right: We use different criteria to help us decide.

Criterias is essentially a double plural, given that criteria (standards, rules or tests by which a decision can be made) is the plural of criterion. (“We have only one criterion: quality.”)

I have more, so come back soon.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 69)

Now that the elections are over, maybe we can get back to the important stuff: writing! On that note, here are some more oft-confused words to consider.

‘im vs. ‘em

Wrong: They’re inside. Don’t let ‘im get away.

Right: They’re inside. Don’t let ‘em get away.

Right: He’s inside. Don’t let ‘im get away.

The contraction ‘im is short for “him,” while ‘em is short for “them.” It shouldn’t be hard to keep ‘em straight.

Risky vs. Risqué

Wrong: I love those risky poses.

Right: I love those risqué poses.

Risky means hazardous, while risqué mean racy or suggestive of sexual impropriety. Of course, the two terms aren’t mutually exclusive. A topless dancer, for example, may be engaging in behavior that is both risqué and risky.

More next time. See ya!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ban the straight party ticket voting option!

I don't normally write about politics, politicians, or voting, but this is an exception. In every election I'm confronted with the stupidest idea ever invented: the straight party ticket.

Regardless of which party affiliation you register with, is it really possible that every candidate in that party is honest, hardworking, and feels the same way you do about the important issues? Not bloody likely. Yet, in every election millions of voters abdicate their responsibility to use their brains when voting, and blindly check the Democrat or Republican straight party ticket box.

I can't remember the last time (if ever) that I
didn't select at least one or two candidates from the "other" party, or at least one independent. That's because I actually think about who I'm voting for before I vote.

As far as I'm concerned anyone who checks the straight party ticket box should be barred from further voting as an idiot who doesn't deserve the right. But because the U.S. Constitution won't allow that, the next best option is to do away with the straight party ticket choice. That would force voters to actually look at the names of the candidates before they vote. (What a concept!)

Sure, the voters may still simply check off the names of all the candidates in the party, one by one, but at least they'll have to look at the names first. Who knows? Some voters might see the names and remember the sleazy negative campaign their candidate waged and decide to vote for someone else. They might recall that the incumbent was roundly denounced by multiple media analysts as useless, wasteful, or catering to special interests, and decide to vote for someone else. They might even decide that both major party candidates are sleazeballs that don't deserve their vote and vote for one of the minor candidates. (It might even send a message to the major parties, if enough disaffected voters did this.)

Of course, this sort of vote-switching may not happen much more often than today, but it should happen at least
occasionally, which would be a good thing for American politics.

So I say, ban the straight party ticket voting option!


P.S. Here's another idea to consider: the negative vote. In those races where there is one candidate running unopposed, or only two and both are worthless, we should be able to cast a vote that counts as -1 instead of +1. If enough negative votes are cast, the candidates may not register any votes at all (or at least they should get the message that we're not happy with them). Write and let me know what you think about these ideas for voting reform.

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 68)

Still looking for more of these words? Very well, here they are:

Zippo vs. zippo

Wrong: He flicked open his zippo and lit a stogie.

Right: He flicked open his Zippo and lit a stogie.

Wrong: We went for it all, but we ended up with Zippo.

Right: We went for it all, but we ended up with zippo.

Zippo is a registered trademark for a brand of cigarette lighter. If you’re referring to the lighter, it should be capitalized. Conversely, if you mean zip, zilch, zero, nada, goose egg—as in nothing—then it would be lower-case zippo. You might request a Zippo but get zippo instead.

Xray vs. X-ray

Wrong: He went in for xrays of his wrist.

Right: He went in for x-rays of his wrist.

X-rays is properly written with a hyphen or as two words (x rays), but never as one word (xrays).

I'll have some more for you soon. Please come back. The management appreciates your patronage.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Commonly misused/misspelled words and phrases (Part 67)

Here are a few more words to chew on:

Cord vs. Chord

Wrong: Something in what she said struck a cord.

Right: Something in what she said struck a chord.

Cord has many meanings, but most relate to string, wire, a cord-like structure (e.g., spinal cord), or binding of some sort (the cords of marriage). Chord can mean a combination of musical notes or, in this case, evoking a feeling or emotion.

Funner vs. More fun

Wrong: I think tennis is a lot funner than bowling.

Right: I think tennis is a lot more fun than bowling.

I’m sure funner is used tongue-in-cheek sometimes; but it’s not a proper word, falling into the same category as ain’t. It should only be used in dialog where the speaker is supposed to sound uneducated. If you use it in narrative, you’ll be the one sounding uneducated.

There are still more to come.