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Tag Archive | writing

Top 10 Charming Words for Nasty People

bully, rowdy, ruffian

#1: Ruffian 

Definition:

a brutal person; bully Read More…

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That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is

That that is is that that is not is not is that it it is is an English word sequence demonstrating syntactic ambiguity. It is used as an example illustrating the importance of proper punctuation.

The sequence can be understood as either of two sequences, each with four discrete sentences, by adding punctuation:

That that is, is. That that is not, is not. Is that it? It is.

Read More…

Seven Tips for Communicating Data

Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training

After you have worked hard to collect meaningful data, the big challenges are how and how much to communicate. Consider these tips when you work on your next report or presentation that includes data. 

  1. Focus first on your message, not on the numbers.
    When planning your communication, focus first on the big idea or points you want to make. Then incorporate the data that will help your audience understand and appreciate your points. Be sure your big idea gets center stage, not the numbers.
  2. Explain the data.
    Numbers mean nothing on their own. They need interpretation. Avoid asking readers or your audience to “review the attached spreadsheets.” Why should they review them? Which numbers should they pay attention to and why? What do the numbers indicate?
  3. Put data in context.
    Make it clear whether numbers are positive, negative, or neutral. If you tell a sales rep that she visited an average of six prospects per day, compare that number to the goal number of prospects. If a client walks 5500 steps in a day, state whether 5500 is the magic healthy number or only halfway there. If expenses are 18 percent over income, say why the reader should care. Explain that the account balance will be €0 by 2018 if nothing changes.
  4. Paint a picture with your numbers so people can see them.
    Even simple expressions like “a tenfold increase” or “a 30 percent drop” can seem vague unless your audience can see them. If numbers have decreased dramatically over a decade, do not use words and numbers alone. In a bold-colored graph, show the deep drop year by year, month by month over 10 years.

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If your numbers are so large as to be abstract, paint them in recognizable mental pictures such as an area as large as Italy or a distance of 100 Greyhound buses. (Think of your audience when you choose the image.) How hot is 158 degrees Fahrenheit? Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. 

Or show the numbers reduced to their essence. Jack Hagley’s graphic “The World as 100 People” (www.jackhagley.com/The-World-as-100-People) presents the world as though it were only 100 people. For instance, 83 of the world’s 100 people are able to read and write; 17 are not.

World-as-100-People_3

  1. Highlight important numbers.
    A wall of numbers is as intimidating as a wall of text. Pull out essential numbers and focus on them. If you are presenting financial data, show just a small portion of it at a time on a slide or a page–just the portion you are discussing now. If you refer to and show just a small part, your audience will not say, “Where are you?” and “What are you talking about?” And always render numbers in a large enough font that you do not have to apologize for it.

Make it easy for your readers to find important numbers. If a client has asked for your fee, for example, don’t bury the number in a paragraph. Instead, render the number alone on a line or as part of a short heading, like this:

Your investment: US$19,000

 

  1. Prominently display the legends for tables and charts of numbers.
    Ensure that your audience will know instantly that 3000 indicates 3,000,000 and that your balance is positive rather than negative. Use abbreviations such as K and M only if you are certain your readers understand them. (To some people, M means thousand; to others, it means million.)
  2. Use only the essential, compelling numbers in the body of your document.
    If numbers weigh down your document, your readers may forget your main point. So move most of the supporting tables, lists, charts, and graphs to the appendices. In a presentation, hold back some slides of data, and show them only upon request. Remember: The numbers are not the message; they serve the message.

If you think of your communication as music, your most important message comes through the soloist. The numbers are the accompanists. They play an essential role, but they should never drown out the soloist. If they do, your communication will not reach and change your audience.

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9 Novel English neologisms

[nurd]

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The slang term nerd means an intelligent but single-minded person, obsessed with a certain hobby or pursuit, e.g. a computer nerd. But the word that has been the bane of so many elementary schoolers’ existence was actually invented by their king: none other than Dr. Seuss himself! The word first appeared in print in Seuss’ 1950 picture book, If I Ran the Zoo, though Seuss’ “nerd” is a small animal from the land of Ka-Troo, not a pale kid with glasses taped together.

Yahoo

[yah-hoo, yey-, yah-hoo]

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The origin of this word may add some unexpected irony to the well-known internet browser. Originally coined by Jonathan Swift in his 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels, Yahoo refers to the brutish race of homo sapiens ruled by the Houyhnhnm, a noble race of speaking horses. Swift’s Yahoos display all of the vices of humanity with none of the virtues, thus it makes sense that the word has come to mean “a coarse or brutish person.” If you say “yahoo” loud enough you might be moved to experience our next neologism.

Chortle

[chawr-tl]

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Lewis Carroll coined this funny term for a gleeful chuckle in his 1872 novel, Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the novel, the word appears in a verse poem titled “The Jabberwocky,” in which Alice finds a book that can only be read using a mirror. The old man in the poem “chortles in his joy” when his son beheads the terrible monster. Today the word is widely thought to be a combination of “chuckle” and “snort.”

Quark

[kwawrk, kwahrk]

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A quark can be any group of elementary particles that combine to become a subatomic particle such a neutron or proton. In other words, quarks are some of the smallest building blocks of an atom. In 1964 the U.S. physicist Murray Gell-Mann named the particle after a word he found in James Joyce’s novel, Finnegan’s Wake. Joyce’s quotation reads, “Three quarks for Muster Mark,” with “quark” referring to the cry of the seagull.

Utopia

[yoo-toh-pee-uh]

utopia

Utopia is the title of Sir Thomas More’s whimsical and satirical book written in 1516. More envisions a perfect society situated on an island that he names Utopia. Developing the word from the Greek topos for “place,” More chose the prefix ou- or u- meaning “not” or “no.” Thus the name Utopia quite literally means no place at all. Even though More might have his reservations about the achievability of a perfect world, our next neologism might be the closest thing to a perfect sound.

Tintinnabulation

[tin-ti-nab-yuhley-shuhn]

learn English

The American poet and author Edgar Allen Poe coined this onomatopoetic word in his 1849 poem “The Bells.” The poem was published shortly after Poe’s death, and though the four sections of the piece become progressively darker as Poe describes four different types of bells, tintinnabulation characterizes the joyous sound of silver sleigh bells, foretelling “a world of merriment.” The word is derived from the Latin tinnire meaning “to ring” combined with the instrumental suffix “bulum.”

Grok

[grok]

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Do you feel like nobody groks you? Don’t worry, Robert A. Heinlein does. In his 1961 best-selling science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein coined the term to mean an understanding so thorough that “the observer becomes a part of the observed–to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.” But in common usage the term means to communicate sympathetically or to “drink in” understanding. If you’re reading this slideshow off a screen, you’ll definitely grok our next neologism.

Cyberspace

[sahy-ber-speys]

syberspace

Though you might not want to build a house there, anyone with a computer has a stake in cyberspace. Coined by the science fiction writer William Gibson, cyberspace first appeared in a 1982 short story. The word combines the terms “cybernetics” (the use of mechanical and electronic systems to replace human function) and “space” (an area or realm). Together they form “cyberspace,” the realm of electronic communication or virtual reality. If you’ve ever thought “virtual reality” was a bit of an oxymoron, you might be familiar with our final neologism.

Catch-22

[kach-twen-tee-too]

catch 22

The deal sounds great, but what’s the catch?” Have you heard something like this? Then you’d better hope the catch isn’t a Catch-22. The phrase represents a frustrating situation in which one is trapped by contradictory regulations or conditions. Catch-22 is the title and central problem of Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel, and in Heller’s context the catch represents a simultaneously dangerous and idiotic military regulation that maddens the poor characters tangled in his Catch-22.
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8 Tantalizing Terms for Eating

Gobble

[gobuhl]

gobbleThere are many different ways to partake in a meal: if your appetite is slight, then you might peck and nibble, but if you’re famished, you’re more likely to gobble. This word, which means both “to eat hastily” and “to make the throaty cry of a male turkey,” is thought to be a formation from the word gob, which is slang for mouth. Both definitions could be fun to try out at the dinner table.

Devour

[dih-vouuhr, –vou-er]

devourAnother term for the ravenous, the word devour conjures a beastly manner of eating. The word is often invoked to express a degree of barbarous consumption, as in this passage from Robinson Crusoe about men so hungry they’d lost command of themselves: “The poor Creatures rather devour’d than eat it.”

Scarf

[skahrf]

scarfMore than a festive fashion accessory, scarf can also mean “to eat, especially voraciously“. It’s often paired with a helping word, such as up or down, and implies a rapid or frenzied feeding. Those who scarf up their meals are often the first ones at the table to finish, and, as a result, the first ones to nap.

Grub

[gruhb]

grubOne of the more versatile words on this list when it comes to discussing cuisine, grub can be used to refer to food itself, to the supplying of food, and to the eating of food. Needless to say, it’s a handy word to have in your back pocket at a family meal. But beware: in its noun form, this wily word can also mean “a dull, plodding person“, or the “sluggish larva, as of a scarab beetle“. Use this term wisely at the dinner table.

Chow Down

[chou]

chowAssociated more with meals of substance than snacks, the phrase chow down incorporates the word chow, which was perhaps brought to us from the Chinese pidgin English word chow-chow meaning “food.”

Gorge

[gawrj]

gorgeThis word, which comes to us from the Old French verb gorger, means both “to eat greedily” and “to stuff with food.” In its noun form, gorge can refer to a gluttonous meal or the throat. So remember: the next time you gorge on a gorge, be sure to wash it down with water; we wouldn’t want anything to get stuck in your gorge.

Nosh

[nosh]

noshUnlike devour and gorge, this word for eating implies a lighter and more casual consumption. Nosh means “to snack or eat between meals” or “to snack on.” It came to English from the Yiddish nashn meaning “to nibble”.

Gormandize

[v. gawr-muhn-dahyz]

gormandizeThose who gormandize at the dining table eat in a particularly greedy or ravenous manner. The word comes to us from the Middle French gourmand, meaning “glutton.” In English, the noun gourmand has the slightly less pejorative sense of “a person who is fond of good eating, often indiscriminately and to excess.”

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10 Simple Rules For Good Writing

by

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, the rules for good writing are fundamentally the same.

1. Express, not impress.

Good writing is not about the number of words you’ve produced, the quality of the adjectives you’ve written or the size of your font–it’s about the number of lives you’ve touched! It’s whether or not your reader understands you. It’s about expression, not impression.

2. Simple sentences work best.

– The only possible option in order to accelerate the growth of the food industry is to focus on the fact that the target market of this business demands convenience, competence and cost-effectiveness.

– Better: The food industry can grow faster if food trucks focus on convenience, competence and cost-effectiveness.

3. Active, rather than passive.

– The offering price was established by the real estate vendor and the negotiation process was initiated by the real estate buyer.

– Better: The real estate vendor set the offering price, and the real estate buyer started negotiating.

4. Know who your target audience is.

Who are you writing for? Who do you expect to read your article, your book, or your blog post? Will they care about what you’re talking about? Will they understand the message that you’re trying to get across? Good writing isn’t generic; it’s specific because it’s targeted towards a group of people with something common binding them.

5. Read it aloud.

Reading your works out loud allows you to notice something that you might not have noticed if you were just reading it silently. Go on, read them out loud now. Also, try to listen to your work objectively as you read it. Are you making sense? Or are you simply stringing a couple of words together just to fill a gap?

6. Avoid using jargon as much as possible.

Not everyone in your audience will know what a “bull market” is. Not everyone knows that “pyrexia” is basically the same thing as “a fever”. And surely you can come up with a better term for high blood pressure than “hypertension”?

7. In terms of words, size matters.

Please, don’t strain yourself by browsing the Internet, looking for complicated and fancy-sounding words. Less is always more.

– The man gave a me look so sharp that I sincerely believed it could pierce my heart and see my innermost fears.

– Better: The man glared at me.

8. Being positive is better than being negative–even in writing!

– I did not think that the unbelievable would not occur.

– Better: I thought the unbelievable would happen.

9. Set aside time for revising and rewriting–after you’ve written the whole content.

I’m not suggesting that you should edit each time you’ve finished a paragraph–that would just be tedious. What I’m telling is that you should first give yourself some time to finish the content prior to editing. Write away. Don’t edit yet. Don’t focus on the grammar yet. Don’t worry about the syntax, the synonym, the antonym or the order that you’re using.

Write for yourself, but mostly, write for your target audience. Write the message clearly and don’t be afraid to express your thoughts. Don’t censor yourself yet. Let the words flow. Don’t erase what you’ve written yet.

Right now, it’s all about expression, about art and about your imagination.

All the editing and the fixing will come later.

10. Write. All the time.

Good writing is simply always writing. Write when you’re sad. Write when you’re scared. Write when you don’t feel like writing.

 

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18 Common Words That You Should Replace in Your Writing

It’s a familiar scene: you’re slumped over your keyboard or notebook, obsessing over your character. While we tend to agonize over everything from structure to backstory, it’s important to weigh how you write something too. A perfectly constructed world is flat on the page if you use feeble, common words. When you’re finished constructing your perfectly balanced world, do your writing a favor and take another pass to weed out these 18 haggard words.

Good

High on any list of most used English words is “good.” While this word may appear to be the perfect adjective for nearly anything, that is precisely what makes it so vague. Try getting more specific. If something’s going well, try “superb,” “outstanding” or “exceptional.”

New

Another of the common words in English is “new.” “New” is an adjective that doesn’t always set off alarm bells, so it can be easy to forget about. Give your writing more punch by ditching “new” and using something like “latest” or “recent” instead.

Long

Much like “new,” “long” is spent, yet it doesn’t always register as such while you’re writing. Instead of this cliché phrase, try describing exactly how long it is: “extended,” “lingering” or “endless,” for example.

Old

“Old” is certainly one of those common words that means more to readers if you’re specific about how old a subject is. Is it “ancient,” “fossilized,” “decaying” or “decrepit”?

Right

“Right” is also among the common words that tends to slip through our writer filters. If somebody is correct, you could also say “exact” or “precise.” Don’t let habit words like “right” dampen your writing.

Different

Here’s another adjective that falls a bit flat for readers, but can also easily be improved by getting more specific. Saying something is “odd” or “uncommon” is very different than saying it is “exotic” or “striking.”

Small

“Small” is another adjective that is too generic for writing as good as yours. Use “microscopic,” “miniature” or “tiny” instead. Even using “cramped” or “compact” is more descriptive for your audience.

Large

Just like relying too much on “small,” we tend to describe large things as, well, “large.” Specificity is a big help with this one too: could your subject be “substantial,” “immense,” “enormous” or “massive”?

Next

Whenever we describe something coming “next,” we run the risk of losing our readers. Good options to make your reading more powerful include “upcoming,” “following” or “closer.”

Young

Another case of being too generic is what makes “young” a problematic adjective. If you want your writing to be more captivating, try switching “young” out for “youthful,” “naive” or “budding.”

Never

“Never” is also among common words to use sparingly. Not only is it a common, stale descriptor, it’s also usually incorrect. For something to never happen, even one instance makes this word inaccurate. Try “rarely,” “scarcely” or “occasionally” instead.

Things

“Things” is another repeat offender when it comes to worn out words. Another word where specificity is the key, try replacing “things” with “belongings,” “property” or “tools.”

All

Just like “never,” “all” is an encompassing, absolute term. Not only is “all” unoriginal, it’s not usually factual. Try using “each” and “copious” instead.

Feel

“Feel” is also in the company of common English words. Try using “sense,” or “discern” instead. You can also move your sentence into a more active tense: “I feel hungry” could become “I’m famished,” for example.

Seem

“Seem” is bad habit word we are all guilty of using. Regardless of how well you think your sentence is constructed, try switching “seem” out for “shows signs of.” “Comes across as” is another good option to give your writing more power.

Almost

Another easy adjective to let slip by, “almost” is a wasted opportunity to engage your readers. “Almost” is more interesting if you say “practically,” “nearly” or “verging on” instead.

Just

“Just making” it or “just barely” affording something isn’t very descriptive. To truly grab a reader, we must do better. Try “narrowly,” “simply” or “hardly” to give your phrasing more weight.

Went

Last but not least, avoid using the common word “went” to describe your subject. “Went” is a word that lacks traction. Try using “chose,” “decided on” or “rambled” to truly grab your readers.

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113 words for different things one could eat

These words generally end in “phagous“, from the Greek phagein, or “vorous“, from Latin vorare, both verbs meaning “to eat“. Which suffix you want to use depends on whether you feel like having souvlaki or spaghetti.

Word

Definition

allotriophagy craving for strange foods
androphagy cannibalism
anthropophaginian cannibal
anthropophagous (again) eating humans
aphagia inability to eat or swallow
apivorous eating bees
arachnivorous feeding on spiders
autocoprophagy eating one’s own feces
autophagy feeding on body’s own tissues
baccivorous eating berries
batrachivorous frog-eating
bibliophagist one who devours books, literally or figuratively
calcivorous feeding on or living in limestone
cardophagus donkey; something that eats thistles
carnivorous eating flesh
carpophagous fruit-eating
cepivorous onion-eating
chthonophagia eating dirt
comburivorous consuming by fire
coprophagous eating feces
creatophagous carnivorous; flesh-eating
creophagous flesh-eating; carnivorous
detritivore animal that eats decomposing organic matter
dysphagia pathological difficulty in swallowing
endophagy cannibalism within a tribe; eating away from within
entomophagous eating insects
equivorous consuming horseflesh
exophagy cannibalism outside one’s own group
foliophagous eating leaves; eating folios of books
formivorous eating ants
fructivorous feeding on fruit
frugivorous eating fruit
fucivorous eating seaweed
galactophagist milk drinker
gamophagia destruction of one gamete by another
geophagy practice of feeding on soil; dirt-eating
glossophagine eating using the tongue
graminivorous feeding on grass or cereals
granivorous feeding on seeds
gumnivorous feeding on tree saps
herbivorous eating only plant matter
hippophagy feeding on horses
homnivorous eating humans
hylophagous eating wood
hyperphagia eating too much
ichthyophagous fish-eating
insectivorous eating insects
kreatophagia eating of raw meat
larvivorous feeding on larvae
lignivorous feeding on wood
limivorous eating mud
lithophagous stone-swallowing; rock-boring; eating rock
lotophagous feeding on lotuses; indolent; lazy; dreamy
mallophagous eating wool or fleece
meconophagist consumer of opium or heroin
meliphagous feeding upon honey
mellivorous honey-eating
merdivorous dung-eating
microphagous feeding on small creatures or plants
monophagous feeding on only one type of food
mucivorous feeding on plant juices
mycophagous eating fungus
myristicivorous feeding upon nutmegs
myrmecophagous feeding on ants
necrophagous feeding on the dead
nectarivorous feeding on nectar
nucivorous nut-eating
omnivorous eating anything; eating both plant and animal matter
omophagy eating of raw flesh as a ritual observance
onychophagist nail-biter
ophiophagous eating snakes
oryzivorous rice-eating
ossivorous feeding on bones
ostreophagous oyster-eating
ovivorous eating eggs
ovivorous eating sheep
paedophage eater of children
pagophagia eating trays of ice to help offset iron deficiency
panivorous bread-eating
pantophagy omnivorousness
phthirophagous lice-eating
phyllophagous leaf-eating
phytivorous feeding on plants
phytophagous feeding on vegetable matter
piscivorous fish-eating
placentophagy eating of the placenta
plantivorous plant-eating
plasmophagous consuming plasma
poephagous eating grass or herbs; herbivorous
poltophagy prolonged chewing of food
polyphagous eating many types of food
psomophagy swallowing food without thorough chewing
radicivorous eating roots
ranivorous eating frogs
rhizophagous root-eating
rhypophagy eating filth
sanguivorous blood-drinking
saprophagous feeding on decaying material
sarcophagous feeding on flesh; carnivorous
saurophagous eating lizards
scatophagous dung-eating
seminivorous seed-eating
stercovorous feeding on dung or excrement
thalerophagous feeding on fresh vegetable matter
theophagy sacramental consumption of a god
toxicophagous eating poison
toxiphagous poison-eating
univorous living on only one host or source of food
vegetivorous eating vegetables
vermivorous eating worms
xerophagy eating of dry food; fast of dry food in the week preceding Easter
xylophagous wood-eating
zoophagy eating animals
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Avoid Gender-Based Language Traps

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Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Discussions of gender-based language can become heated and frustrating. Some people want to preserve language they consider traditional and appropriate. Others want to adjust language to fit our current world of work. I fall into that second category, preferring inclusive language and words that do not focus unnecessarily on a person’s gender. I recommend avoiding the language traps below. 



1. Avoid “man” words unless you are specifically referring to an adult male. Avoid expressions such as manpower, man hours, and chairman, which focus on men. Instead, use words that include both genders. For example, for manpower, use crew, staff, labor, or personnel. For man hours, use time or work hours. For chairman, choose a word that works for your group, such as chair, chairperson, leader, or convener. Do not be concerned about a word such as manager, which derives from the Latin word for “hand,”  or mandate, whose root means “entrust.”  


 2. Avoid words that communicate a “women-only” category. Use housekeeper rather than chambermaid, and ballet dancer rather than ballerina. Choose server rather than waitress, tailor rather than seamstress, and host or attendant rather than hostess. Baby boomers recall the challenge of remembering to use flight attendant in place of stewardess many years ago, but flight attendant comes to mind instantly now. Actor is appropriate for both genders despite the Academy Award categories of Best Actor and Best Actress. I bet we will soon see Best Male Actor and Best Female Actor Oscar winners.

3. Avoid “Dear Sir” or “Dear Sirs” as a greeting. It excludes the possibility of a woman as your reader. Instead, whenever possible, learn the reader’s name and use it. If you cannot discover your reader’s name, use a generic term such as “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Credit Representative,” or use “Dear Sir or Madam.” 


4. Think twice before referring to women as girls or ladiesGirls may suggest that women are not grown up or are immature, and ladies hints at delicacy that may not be appropriate in the workplace. I understand that this issue is controversial, and I encourage you to use terms that fit your industry and company. If you use girls, do you call men boys? If ladies is common usage at your company, do you also use gentlemen? For more on this topic, read my blog post “Women, Ladies, and Girls at Work.”  


5. Avoid using the pronouns he and his when you mean anyonenot just a man. For instance, do not write, “A manager should give feedback to his employees.” “His or her” is cumbersome, but the plural form often works well: “Managers should give feedback to their employees.” Read more about this topic in the blog post “His, Hers, Theirs, Yours–Gender-Neutral Language.”


6. Avoid using terms that focus on gender unnecessarily. For example, avoid “male nurse” or “lady animal trainer.” Do not single out a woman employee as a grandmother or a man as a stay-at-home dad. Do not refer to a transgendered individual as “formerly a man” or “used to be female.”


If you feel resistant to the suggestions above, talk with your male and female coworkers about them. Decide whether inclusive rather than gender-based language might work well for your company, your industry, your community, and your customers. Don’t be trapped in gender-based language habits. 
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