Bare with me: more misused pears

I was on live chat with a technician, and at one point he had to look something up. So he typed, “Bare with me.” Well! I’m pretty selective when it comes to either making that invitation or accepting it. Besides, it’s much more fun when we’re in the same room. Here’s another instance where a pear (oops, pair) of homonyms tripped someone up. He chose the wrong word. He meant, “Bear with me.” Bear as a verb has numerous meanings. Among others, it means to tolerate or endure. In this case, “put up with my absence for a while.” Bear … Continue reading

Going on a “which” hunt: choosing between “that” and “which”

[ad name=”Google Adsense 728×90″] Probably no one considers relative pronouns exciting. Maybe most people hardly consider them at all, but writers are not most people. Good writers must know the rules of good usage. Writers might on occasion have good reason to ignore the rules, but know them they must. So when should a writer use “that,” and when “which?” Although writers have been arguing for more than a century whether it matters, the most careful writers recognize that the rule is fairly simple. Use “that” to introduce a relative clause that defines or clarifies the meaning of the antecedent … Continue reading

Improve your writing by proofreading

Your first draft needs improvement. After all, it’s unreasonably difficult to decide what you want to say and find the clearest way to express it at the same time. Granted, sometimes it doesn’t matter. On the other hand, if you write to publish anywhere, turn it in for a school assignment, circulate it to colleagues at work, or otherwise send it to anyone who has a right to judge it, set aside your first draft for a day or two. Proofread it and revise it at least once. Professional publishers in the print world usually have copy editors to catch … Continue reading

Writing with active voice

[ad name=”Google Adsense 728×90″] Active voice brings writing to life. In active voice, the subject of the sentence does something. Active sentences are more direct than passive sentences, and usually shorter. Want to improve your English writing skills? Write with active voice. According to William Safire’s fumblerules, “The passive voice should never be used.” That’s not strictly true, of course, but in passive voice, whoever actually does an action is essentially left out of the sentence or is tacked on somewhere introduced with the word “by.” Active voice consists of a subject followed by a finite verb and perhaps a … Continue reading

Affect and effect: two spellings, four words

[ad name=”Google Adsense 468×60″] Two spellings, four words? Unfortunately, yes. “Affect” is usually a verb, but it can be used as a noun. “Effect” is usually a noun, but it can be used as a verb. Although they come from the same Latin root and differ only by their first letter, their meanings are practically unrelated. The accent on “affect” as a noun is on the first syllable. Both meanings of “effect” and “affect” as a verb have their accents on the second syllable. In speech they sound exactly the same. Both spellings take suffixes, which in turn create new … Continue reading