Parallelism is Good

A lot of sentences in English are constructed with two parts that are semantically connected. We call this parallelism. Whenever you construct a sentence with parallel parts, those of us in the know consider it good form to make the parallel parts have the same structure. (Search on “parallelism” in the search box on the upper right of this page to find at least five other times wrote about this.) I remember my English teacher back in high school mentioning this, and our grammar book, Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition, had some pretty good examples, which I don’t remember. I still recommend that book if you want to have a good grammar text on hand. You can get it on Amazon. But I digress.

An example should help, because what I just wrote is rather vague. Here’s an example of a guy getting it wrong in one sentence and getting it right in the next.

To invoke another axiom, he shows rather than telling. And whether that’s a rule or a cliche, it’s true.

“Shows” is parallel to “telling,” a verb and a participle—bad. The second word should be “tells.” In the next sentence, “that’s” is parallel to “it’s,” both of which are subject-verb combinations, so that’s good. Nice even, because both are not only s-v combinations, but they’re both contractions. He’s a professional writer, a journalist even, so I suppose I should add that this rule is often broken.

But you’re better off if you don’t break it.

Simultaneous Cringe and Laugh

Okay, I have to admit I cringed and laughed at the same time when I saw this. Once before I wrote about what you call someone who’s picky and public about correct grammar. Oops—twice, I guess. I would have included this comic (posted in The Nib) if it had been published then. It’s one of six, by the way. Go look.

At least the guy is correct about his grammar…

Redundancy

Redundant text is a bane of technical writing. It’s when you add words that repeat what you just said. I wrote about this clear back in 2010 here and here. Use the Search…  box near the upper right corner of the site to find several more posts on the subject. That’s how bad redundancy is! Anyway, I just ran into an Adult Children comic that uses some obvious examples to give you the idea.

Those were pretty obvious, but it’s easy to be redundant accidentally. For example, don’t say “do it over again.” Don’t say “return back.” Be alert and you’ll find lots more.

Slang

While we’re discussing specialty words (see the last two posts), here’s another: slang. Slang is characterized by informality, and it typically has more to do with popular culture than any specialty. Some slang becomes a normal part of the language, some fades away. One of my favorite bloggers, Mike Peterson, of Comic Strip of the Day, found a site that’s all about slang. Here’s a picture of some of it. See how many words you know. I remember my parents using a lot of these.

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Buzzwords, Jargon, and Portmanteaus

Okay, my previous post is out of order. I mentioned a “previous post” about portmanteau words, but it was a post whose material was in my saddlebag—I hadn’t posted it yet! So here’s that material:

A definition is in order: jargon is language that fits into a narrow field and might be unknown elsewhere. Jargon doesn’t need to consist of portmanteau words, but lots of times it happens. Here’s the Fastrack comic that got me started on this topic:

The comments on the site are pretty good, too. Some of these are portmanteaus, and some are just plain jargon. Jargon that gets overused are buzzwords, by the way.

And while I’m on the subject, the excellent daily wordsmith.org  blog A Word A Day is mentioning portmanteaus this week (starting May 29, 2017). Go look. Subscribe!

Portmanteau Words

Seems to me I mentioned these guys recently, but I’m too lazy to do a big search for my post about them (I think it was a post about buzzwords). Besides, this Dagwood oops Blondie comic is a good example of these words.

A portmanteau is an old kind of suitcase, usually made of leather, and usually with some kind of straps. You put unrelated things inside, hence the analogy with portmanteau words, parts of unrelated words put together into one word.

Blondie - 05/16/2017

“Ever-popular” is just a plain old compound adjective.

Enormity

I mentioned enormity a while back, as a word that most people get wrong. Here’s someone who gets it correct!

In case you didn’t see that earlier post, “enormity” means extremely bad, not extremely big.

And here’s a more serious example of getting enormity right. It’s from This Day in History for May 11.

Still, many in the crowd did not realize the enormity of the disaster. Some young fans reportedly danced and sang in front of the raging fire while others threw stones at a television crew.

 

Watch your Person

You see this mainly in informal English, especially spoken, but if you don’t want to cause that little jolt to your reader that comes from sloppy writing, don’t mix persons. That is, don’t start with something like “me” and end up with something like “you.” (Emphasis mine:)

This pair got an especially hard laff this morning because, for those of us who work at home, time off means time spent thinking there is  something more productive you ought to be doing.

This excellent example of gear-changing is from Comic Strip of the Day, by one of my favorite bloggers, Mike Peterson, who writes both thoughtfully and informally, occasionally providing me with something to quote. The quote is toward the bottom of the post, in a section labeled “Juxtaposition of the Day,” referring to two strips about people who work from home.

Don’t throw your readers this kind of curve. The statement isn’t literally true; (well, maybe it is, but) his meaning is probably about …something more productive that we ought to be doing.

Tesla Gets Comprise Right

This is part of a strip about Nikola Tesla, quoting part of his autobiography. Follow the link to see the whole thing. Yes, I have a thing about getting “comprise” right (see the text at the bottom of the picture), but I recommend Zen Pencils anyhow because it’s a good, often inspirational comic. Go poke around the site.

Gender-Neutral Pronouns

Really concise today…

Mallard Fillmore - 04/29/2017

http://ift.tt/2pO54tc  Bruce Tinsley

My solution is to avoid pronouns. Pronouns are an easy source of accidental ambiguity. The singular “they” goes back to Milton or Chaucer, so the duck can’t really object to the usage.

We have no gender neutral singular pronouns in English–you can’t have a group of a singular, but in our current culture, it’s less in style to be so specific, although sometimes you don’t know the gender. Sex, btw is the biological term, gender is grammar, though our culture has started using gender to refer to sexual preferences.