Tuesday, May 29, 2007

We are weird

Ah, mnemonic devices. Here are some of my favorites:

weird: "we are weird"; useful if you tend to transpose "ei" in this word

accommodate: the word is gracious enough to accommodate two C's and two M's

stationary/stationery: E for "envelope": the spelling with an E is the one that refers to writing materials

vacuum: "uuuuuuuu" is like the sound of a vacuum, which should help you remember that it's just the U that's duplicated

battalion: "battle lion": adding an extra L is a common error; this should help you remember which letter is duplicated

cemetery: E for "eternity": this word is often misspelled with an A (cemetary); remember that it's all E's for this word

Friday, May 25, 2007

The lady and the Lakers

Laker cheerleader? Cub player? A proper noun shouldn't change form just because it's used as an adjective. If you're referring to a player for a team called "the Cubs," then the player is a "Cubs player."

Let's venture outside the world of sports for some examples. You wouldn't call a fan of The Beatles a "Beatle fan" or a Darth Vader action figure a "Star War toy." The same logic should apply to a fan of the Dodgers. So “Dodgers fan,” if you please.

And now the bad news. Don't change a misused word if it appears as part of phrase that is itself a proper noun (e.g., "Laker Girl" or "Dodger Stadium"). Just as I could change my name to Mud Fence, sports teams are free to give cheerleaders and ball fields whatever titles they want. So enjoy a Dodgers game with a crowd of Dodgers fans, but if you're writing up your experiences for the day, don't forget to refer to the stadium by its Dodgers-given name, no matter how illogical that name may be.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Don't abuse bemuse

"Bemuse" isn't a synonym for "amuse." It means to confuse or to occupy the attention of.

Another duo that trips people up is "affect" and "effect."

The verb "affect" means to influence:
Your constant chattering affects my ability to concentrate.

The verb "effect" means to bring about:
If we campaign hard, we may effect change.

The noun "effect" refers to a result:
When I wear earplugs, your noise has no effect on me.