Reigning in misused pears

mistakes with homonyms--fun with homonyms
fun with homonyms

Mismatched pear of shoes?

Some writers have trouble making the right choice between two similar words.

I like it when I catch one choosing the wrong word. I can pass some fun with homonyms along to you.

Someone riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn carriage reins in the horse to control its direction. Elizabeth II reigns in the United Kingdom.

So what does the following come-on for a marketing instruction program mean?

“How to help reign in your online audience and 
keep them from doing price comparisons when 
considering your product or service.”

Is the marketer supposed to control the audience like so many horses? Or be its monarch? I suspect someone put in the extra letter because it looks more impressive, or something.

Rein and reign are not simply a pear, um, pair of words that can be misused. It rains. It rains in places that have had more than enough rain and not in places that really need it.

It rains. What is “it”? Can’t “it” be persuaded to do its thing where it’s wanted and needed? But we can’t rein in the Lord who reigns on high and rains (or not) on the just and unjust, can we?

But wait, there’s more!

Continue reading

USFAS: United States Federal Alphabet Soup

alphabet soup -- writing skills

alphabet soupI was poking around the federal government’s web portal looking for something to explore when I noticed “Abbreviations and Acronyms.”

That looked interesting. The link took me off site to something called GovSpeak, a library guide posted by the University of California at San Diego.

So this post is not, as I intended, a look at the information made available by various agencies of the federal government. Instead it highlights the equally valuable resources provided by university libraries. Continue reading

Write Good Online Content and Reuse It (Without Making It Dizzy)

ebook coverYou can get my latest ebook, Write Good Online Content and Reuse It (Without Making It Dizzy), free for the next five days (May 29 through June 2, 2013). If you’re reading this post after that time is over, it costs only $2.99.

My regular readers know that I am a stickler for proper word usage, good grammar and correct spelling. While all good writing requires clarity, reading online is enough different from print that writers must achieve clarity a little differently.

Writers of print content seek a publisher, who handles all of the marketing and distribution of its books, magazines, newspapers, professional journals, etc. Online writers are their own publishers. Connecting with readers entails, among other things, repurposing content to post it in more than one place.

It’s one thing to take a piece of prose and make, say, a video from it. It’s quite another to find a new home for it as prose. Search engines actively punish duplicate content. Authors can still publish basically the same ideas on multiple sites, but each version must be unique.

Software exists that will “spin” an article and produce any number of copies that are not exactly alike. Just as an electric dryer spins clothing, and sometimes winds up mashing it all together so that it gets all wrinkled, word spinners can do horrible things to a piece of prose. Good writing goes in. A dizzy mess stumbles out.

If you are a writer, or if you are interested in the differences you see between what you read online and offline, or if you just appreciate me and want to help me out, please download the book now. And then, if you like it, write a review on Amazon to tell the rest of the world how fun and informative it is.

Also, please find the announcement on the All-Purpose Guru Facebook page and like it there.
Thank you very much for your support.

Notice to online writers: proofread!


WritingWhen I was first starting out in this writing business, I read a lot about how to make money from writing. One person in particular kept stressing over and over that writing online is a business, and must be taken seriously as a business. Great advice, but all of her articles were riddled with typos and simple grammatical errors.

I tried to make allowances; English is not her first language. But then it wasn’t Vladimir Nabokov’s first language, either. Lolita may be a disgusting story, but he tells it with gorgeous prose. Perhaps you’re saying that his publisher provided a copy editor to catch and correct errors.

And that brings up a big problem with writing online. There are no copy editors. We writers must either proofread carefully ourselves or get someone else to do it for us. Continue reading

Presidential Libraries of the United States

George Bush Library

George Bush Library

George [H. W.] Bush Library, Texas A&M University

Now that the George W. Bush Library and Museum has opened, every former President from Herbert Hoover onward has a presidential library established in his name.

For all the snarky humor about whether the new Bush library has anything but picture books, a presidential library isn’t a library in the normal sense of the term. Whatever books it has comprise only an insignificant part of its holdings. (President Bush has written a book, so his library certainly includes that one!)

Although they are called presidential libraries, they are more museum and archive than library. The Office of Presidential Libraries of the National Archives and Records Administration now oversees 13 presidential libraries. Continue reading