Sunday, September 9, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - Eating Crow

*Don't worry. You didn't lose a day, or your mind either. This lesson is being posted one day early so I can host Carrie Butler's cover reveal for her debut novel, Strength, tomorrow. :)

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Have you ever had to eat crow over a comment you made in a critique? 

I have ... more than once. *blush* :P  

Today we're going to start with one of my goofs and go from there, covering a few common usage errors.


In the process of swapping chapters with a critter of mine, I commented on his use of the word myriad.  I had always heard it used with the word of following it, as in a myriad of stars in the sky, and I marked it as such.

He said nothing.


When I came across it a second time, I began to question the usage and looked it up. Oops. I was wrong. I promptly commented to that effect and apologized.

Myriad can be a noun or adjective and means a great or indefinite number of persons or things. And it stands alone. Do not follow it with the word 'of.'

The myriad stars in the night sky.

[Edited to add: It has been brought to my attention that my advice on the use of myriad is possibly incorrect. The source I used to prepare this lesson did not list a version using of. According to Grammar Girl, the issue is, by some, hotly debated. Seems I'm eating crow yet again... :P]

What about this...
Do you say a couple or a couple of?

He met up with a couple guys at the bar.
He met up with a couple of guys at the bar.

Unless you are trying to make a line of dialogue sound casual, use the proper form a couple of. Leaving out the 'of' forms the slangy version of the phrase.

Same goes with might oughtoften stated might oughta because ought is followed by the preposition to, which sometimes doesn't get properly pronounced.

Might and ought are both auxiliary verbs. Might is a form of may and expresses possibility. (I might go to the movies later.) Ought expresses obligation. (You ought to help your mother carry the groceries.) Use them separately all you want. Use them together, however, and you (or your character) will sound uneducated.

Next: 180 vs. 360 degrees

If you turn half the way around, such as moving from facing north to facing south, you have turned 180 degrees. If you turn 360 degrees, you've turned a complete circle and you're right back where you started.

Therefore, if your character has made a drastic change in his behavior, then he's 'made a complete 180,' not a complete 360.


Which is correct?
Go to the party without me if you want. I could care less.
Go to the party without me if you want. I couldn't care less.

If you mean that you don't care about the other person going to the party without you at all, then choose the second version. If you could care less, that means you care at least some. If you couldn't care less, well... you couldn't care less. ;)

I hope you found this lesson helpful. 
Thanks for visiting. :)




14 comments:

  1. This is another good lesson Melissa. Funny, I've never heard of the "eat crow" phrase before. I'll be back tomorrow for Carrie!!! (:

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    1. Eat crow -
      Part of Speech: verb
      Definition: humble oneself
      Synonyms: eat dirt, eat humble pie, eat one's words, eat shit, swallow one's pride, tuck one's tail

      Now you know. ;)
      From Thesaurus.com

      Great! I'm so excited for Carrie, I could burst! :D

      Delete
  2. I could throw some Southern slang at you and really confuse you further! Well, I could, but I don't use those words.
    So you're younger than me? Fine. Be that way. Young pup!

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    1. I doubt it. I grew up in the deep south, raised by a mother who grew up in a tiny town in Arkansas and doesn't always speak like the educated English teacher she is. I dare say I've heard them all...and then some. LOL

      Ha! Yep. But only by a couple of years. ;)

      Delete
  3. This is one of my favorite GPMs! More like this, please. :D

    *Ctrl + F searches for the word 'myriad' in her manuscript*

    Haha! Great post!

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    1. Why? Because I mentioned you, or because you got to see me tuck tail? LOL :P

      Delete
  4. Whenever I do critiques, I focus only on story and character development! Grammar is not my strong suit and I tell that to anyone who asks me to read their work. ;-)

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    1. We all have our strengths and weaknesses - and that's okay! I firmly believe the best critique partners are those whose strengths are different and therefore balance each other.

      I usually do line-by-line style critiques for my partners, so I focus in on the details as well as the story. I'm so sensitive to grammar (PUGS), that I have trouble doing a beta read (broad issues), but I have done them.

      I beta best if I can print the submission out on paper or send it to my Kindle and recline in my favorite reading spot and simply read. If I beta on my laptop, I have to literally sit on my hands. LOL

      Delete
  5. Love it. This is great stuff although I've never used might and ought together.

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    1. I try to avoid it, but I'm from the south, so I won't go so far as to say 'never.' LOL Thanks for visiting. :)

      Delete
  6. Great post, Melissa! I rarely use "myriad" in my writing because I don't know how to use it properly. Yes, I know it means several people or things. Instead of using "myraid", I use "several" or "numerous", it's less confusing to me :)

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    1. Me neither, because it sounds strange to me without the of.

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  7. I have seen that 180/360 used incorrectly a few times. And the "I couldn't care less" is often verbally abused near where I live. Jolly good!

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    1. Thanks for visiting. Glad you were able to find the post. ;)

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