This week's Word Nerd Wednesday is partially a public service announcement.
There is no need for bloggy/writing/conversational paranoia.
Really. I've had a lot of comments and e-mails along the lines of, "I'm not an English major, and I don't know grammar. You'll totally freak out reading my blog . . ."
But here's the thing: I won't. And I don't.
When I say that certain gaffs make me twitch, it's almost always in professional publications or other places like that.
Blogs and other casual settings, including daily conversation, aren't a big deal to me. Really, truly. There are places where the editor hat and the mental red pen go into a drawer and stay there.
An example, which has happened on many occasions:
A friend sends an e-mail, which I quickly read and reply to and don't think about again.
Five minutes later, another e-mail arrives, wherein the writer corrects her typo in the first e-mail, sure that I cringed reading it.
Here's the thing: I didn't even notice the typo, but now I have to go reread the e-mail and find the typo I'd glazed right over before.
(See, once it's pointed out, I have to look for it. It's like a cosmic law or something.)
Rest assured, I don't freak out over typos or grammar errors on blogs. I know they're not perfect, and they're not supposed to be.
Which is why I reserve the right to have typos and grammar errors on my blog as well. I have them frequently, and I figure that's okay.
Now for some actual WNW fun, a very common mistake people make:
Mixing up figuratively and literally
As with most errors, people generally go one direction with it, and in this case, it's using literally when they really mean figuratively.
Literally means it's actually, really, truly this way.
Figuratively, on the other hand, means that this is what something is like, but it's not really that way.
So if someone says, "I was so sick I literally coughed up a lung," they must be in the hospital (and likely on a transplant list) by now.
Or when someone says, "I was so happy I literally floated through the air," then you can assume they're living on some planet that has less gravity than Earth (or maybe they're holding onto a couple thousand helium balloons . . .).
When in doubt, think through what you mean. Is it really like that or are you trying to emphasize how bad/good/intense something was? If it's the latter, don't use literally.
Figuratively isn't nearly as fun to use (one reason I imagine that literally has been abused so much), so you can change up the sentence altogether, using neither:
"I swear, I was so sick I about coughed up a lung."
"I was so happy I practically floated on air."
See? Both of those work, make sense, and are actually feasible.
So what did we learn today?
1) No more bloggy/writing/speaking paranoia around here. Stop it already.
2) Literally and figuratively don't mean the same thing.
I'll literally be proud of anyone who uses them correctly. In fact, I'll figuratively burst with pride.
(I can't do that literally. That would hurt.)
UPDATE from last time:
This is somewhat appropriate, since we were just discussing paranoia. I finally caved: I e-mailed my editor and asked him to change the whole peach pie thing. He said he'd take care of it.
Phew. I think I'll sleep better now.
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