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Tripping on Words


As a Copy Editor and Web site Reviewer I would like to share some concepts on writing with you. Let me begin by mentioning that for those of you that hate to write and have found the need to share your thoughts there is hope!

Ghostwriters can effectively create content rich content for your use typically for a very small fee. Look at most all of our President's First Ladies' books that have been written in recent years. Each and every one was written by a ghostwriter. For example I have heard it said, Hillary Clinton's book "It Takes A Village" was written by not one but three ghostwriters. However you do not have to be famous to take advantage of these services. If you do decide that you want to write your own story sometimes you might want to make note of some of the most misused words and phrases so you do not get caught in their snares.

The most often abused set of words that are used ineffectively and improperly are the two words 'effect' vs. 'Affect'. Think of it this way, effect is the thing that causes the action while affect is the end result. Sometimes that will help you keep those two from being entangled. I am sure you can think of many more that you have beaten over from time to time. To my thinking the second set that you should pay attention to is the set or words' its' and it's'. The first one is possessive, meaning something belongs to it while the second is a contracting for the two words 'it is'. Watch out for those two and if you find yourself stumbling over them read them out loud as 'it is'. If it does not make sense that way then it is wrong and you should not use the apostrophe.

A wide vocabulary is a repository that pulls together your ideas and generates powerful arguments. Have you ever been in mid thought or sentence and said, "What's that word I'm looking for?" As an author and editor I find myself constantly searching for just the right word or phrase. One of the most valuable tools to employ is a thesaurus. However there are times when even those will fail you. Perhaps you have been looking for a tool to supplement your current source or one that will assist you in understanding the proper usage and definitions.

For the last year I have been using White Smoke. If you would like more information on this wonderful program White Smoke offers a demo at their website whitesmoke.com. It provides not only anonym and synonyms but definitions as well. Another benefit of using this program, for me, is that you can specify the type of writing you are doing and it will provide you with options that fit that writing style. For example, if you are writing a business letter the suggestions it gives for enhancement and replacement are totally different than if you were to specify your content was for dating purposes. I am certain you will find this tool a valuable resource.

Words should be fun. Learning to use them properly is imperative in the internet environment. Not only spelling but sentence structure are all laid bare as we are limited to the written word for most of our online communications. The right words in the right form written in a well formed sentence can clarify and fortify your message.

Language reflects not only our culture but our ideas. It explains our lives and our life experiences. It is our way of transferring our observations and perceptions to one another. Communication is a two way street. It helps you understand the others and others understand you. This being the case it is important to remember to clearly state what you want the reader to understand. For instance, just because you know what an acronym means does not mean your reader will. Clarity makes for better understanding and better understanding makes for better communication. You may know that SEO means Search Engine Optimization but your reader might not. So, write out your acronym no matter how often you have used it in the past before relying on it to stand alone in your writing. Clarity is key! If your sentence looks too long it probably is; Break it into two easier to understand sentences in that case. Remember to keep your sentences short and sweet they will be much easier for your reader to follow along.

Yet another point that bears making is that when you use words improperly or even just spell them incorrectly it implies that either you are lazy, misinformed, or just plain uneducated. There are several words that seem to inevitably end up misspelled. You may want to make a mental note of some of these so that you do not trip over them. I will share with you a few of them here but please note this is in no way a comprehensive list.


One valuable piece of advice is not to overuse 'big words' just for the sake of using them. I strongly agree with Don Watson's principals clearly stated in his book "Death Sentences" . Management Speak (and over usage of unfamiliar terms) will make your listener or reader's go brain-dead quicker than a Sunday sermon. I offer the following excerpt from a book I recently acquired, see if your brain picks up every word and follows along with what the author is trying to express or if, like me, your brain shuts down and your eyes glaze over.

"Not a succedaneum for satisfying the nympholepsy of nullifidians, it is hoped that the haecceity of this enchiridion of arcane and recondite sesquipedalian items will appeal to the oniomania of an eximious Gemeinschaft which legerity and sophrosyne, which Sprachgefühl and orexis will find more than fugacious fulfillment Among its felicific pages. "

In closing I would like to offer one last bit of advice; Grow your vocabulary first then practice using the words properly before incorporating them in your speech and writing.

© Copyright 2006 Ginger Marks

By Ginger Marks

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