Tag Archives: english language

By Request: Who verses Whom

Before I get on to this, I have an overall opinion (I know, shocking)

The English language is evolving rapidly.  Whom is one of those words that is unfortunately falling into the realm of obsolescence.  Mainly, this is from lack of use due to people not understanding how to use it.

Also, when you do use it, whether or not you use it correctly, you end up sounding “hoity-toity” because it is one of those words that has become synonymous with “upper class” for some reason.

So, if you don’t mind sounding hoity toity, and you can stop in the middle of a sentence to figure it out… this is what you need to do:

Decide if the “who or whom” is replacing the word “he/she or him/her”

He/she=who

Him/her=whom.

***Let’s explore this, shall we?***

Who/whom fed the dog?

Eric (he) fed the dog. (Chloe is a happy puppy)

He=who

Therefore, Who is correct.  “Who fed the dog?”

Who/whom should I ask?

Should I ask for he? (NO) Should I ask for him? (YES)

Him=whom

So, Whom is correct.  “Whom should I ask?”

(yeah, like anyone is actually going to say that, right?  Do you hear the hoity-toityness?

Here is an example from Grammar Girl:

We all know who pulled that prank.

But

We want to know on whom the prank was pulled.

Now, let’s be serious.  Does anyone see what I’m seeing?  If you tried to use the second “whom” example in your novel, unless you are writing Historical Romance, people would laugh at you.  Who in their right mind is going to say “We want to know on whom the prank was pulled.”?

You guessed it:  no one.

My suggestion?  Use who, even if it is not correct… especially if it is in speech.  Unless you have a character that is a grammarian, I see no reason to use the word “whom” in realistic speech anymore.

Sad, but true.  Goodbye, whom.  We will miss you.  Please say hello to “whilst” for me.

What stupid writing thing did your beta find this week? I bet you have a writing crutch, too.

Do you have a writing crutch?  Is there something you do over and over again, but you have no idea that you are doing it because it feels right?

Mine, apparently, is the use of commas.  SEE!  I just did it again!  I naturally place a comma anywhere where I would pause if I were speaking.

Funny, a beta called me on this last year, and I thought he was nuts.  Several other betas have corrected my commas here and there, but didn’t mention my overall addiction.

Recently, a new beta said (paraphrasing) “I’ve read your blog, so I expected you to overuse commas in your novel, but it really slows down the reading.”

I honestly didn’t even realize I was doing this.

Now I am looking for them like a hawk in my novel.

So, what about commas my blog?

I don’t know.  I might let them fly here.  When I type out a post, you should feel like you are talking to me.  If there is a comma there, I am probably taking a cyber-breath.

What do you think?  Do they annoy you?

I find this extremely funny, to be honest. (Tee hee, there is another one… they just fly out of my fingers.)

I’m not editing any of my natural commas out of this post, just for the fun of it.  This is how I speak.

Now, I just need to make sure all my character dialog and narration doesn’t suffer from my comma frenzy as well.

What do you do in your writing that shoots out of your fingers without you even realizing it?  (Gosh, do I want to put a comma in that last sentence, just to break it up a bit!  ARGHHHH!!!)

By Request: Lay Versus Lie

I have to admit:  this one gets me too.

I think the problem is that everyone out there who tries to explain it goes so stinking in-depth that they just make it more confusing than it needs to be.

I found articles that flung around transitive and intransitive… tenses… participles… Ugh!  Can anyone explain the English Language in ENGLISH, PLEEEEEEAAASE?  I mean, really… I am an English major.  I love words, but you need to be able to write so people can understand what you are saying!    (Sorry, that is a rant for another day.)

Anyway… in translating all these over-worded college professors… this is what I came up with:

A few common parenting faux pas have just reiterated the lay verses lie problem from the time we are children.  I have to admit I do this stuff too, but I am going to try to watch myself from now, on.

(By the way… There is no plural form of “faux pas.”  I thought it looked weird too.  I looked it up to check.)

Common child’s prayer:  “Now I lay me down to sleep”

Since this is in the present tense, it should actually be “Now I lie me down to sleep.”

What do you say to your dog?  “Go lay down.”

Nope.  Start telling them to “Go lie down.”

(I am saying dog there because I realized that I tell my kids to Lie down, but I tell my dog to Lay down.  My kids are hearing it both ways.  Yeah, I’m not screwing them up too much.

I found this spreadsheet on Grammer-Worksheets.com. I think it does a pretty good job of laying it all out (no pun intended.)

Base Form

Past Tense

Past Participle

Present Participle

lie (to stretch   out, recline) lay lain lying
lay (to place, to   put) laid laid laying

Now, do you notice what I notice?  Look at the past tense of “Lie”

Let’s not make it too confusing now!

I wrote a post yesterday saying “As I lay on the table”.  I was reading up on all this and I thought, “Crud, I didn’t lay on the table, I guess I lied on the table.—No, maybe it’s lie.”  I was all ready to go back and change it while I was researching this, until I found this chart.  You can lie down on a table, but two days ago, you lay on the table.  I was actually right the first time.

What I suggest you do if you struggle with this, is copy this chart and print it out.  Tape it to your wall.  When you run into the Lay/Lie conundrum, think:  “Am I reclining or stretching, or am I placing an object somewhere.”

If you place the salt on the table, you lay it on the table. If you are going to bed, you lie down.

Easy enough, right?  Until you switch it to past tense and screw yourself all up anyway.

Ah, the joys of the English Language!

Confusing Me and I… Ahhh the never ending quandary of a writer

There was a great article on Dictionary.com this week about confusing “I” and “me”

Click over here if you’d like to take a look.   http://hotword.dictionary.com/youandme/

Misuse of these two words is really common.  I hear people do it all the time.  Even in my own house, which I try to keep as grammatically correct as possible.

The words “I” and “me” get my husband and me into a rumble once in a while.  He will correct one of my sons, and then I will correct him, because my son was right.  In our culture in the USA, there is so much “overcorrection” of the word “I” that it is starting to sound right when people use it incorrectly.

Let’s take the first sentence in the previous paragraph.  “The words get my husband and me into a rumble.”  It sounds wrong, doesn’t it?  I actually typed it incorrectly the first time (yeah, I am admitting it) because “I” just sounded right.  I then went back and corrected it.

How can you tell if you are wrong?  Take out the other person, and leave the sentence the same.  Let’s try it.

The words get my husband and me into a rumble

The words get me into a rumble.

The second sounds correct, so we did it right.  In this example, “My husband and me” is correct.  Now, let’s do it incorrectly

The words get my husband and I into a rumble.

The words get I into a rumble.

Oh!  That didn’t work too well, did it?  In this case “My Husband and I” is incorrect.  If you are ever unsure, just take out the second subject and see how it works out.

Need an example when “I” would be correct?  Well, ask and ye shall receive!

George and I should have dinner sometime

I should have dinner sometime

That sounds good.  Okay, how about “Me?”

George and me should have dinner sometime

Me should have dinner sometime.

Oh, Yuck!  That didn’t work at all.  So, in this example, “I” is correct.

The problem is, that “You and I” has been so OVER-CORRECTED, that the word “I” almost always sounds correct.  Even to me.  In the first example, I really wanted to write “My husband and I.”

This is a case of English being an evolving language.  As a writer, you need to make a choice to follow the natural progression of language, or to adhere to “correctness”.

Honestly, between us… your reader probably won’t even notice.

The questions is— which camp your editor/publisher is in?

Ahhh… the quandaries of a writer.

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Annoying Words, and a Lesson about “Trendy Words” in your novel

Every year, Lake Superior State University releases a tongue in cheek list of words that are misused and overused and have become generally useless in the English language.  Here is the list for 2011:

LSSU’s 2012 List Of Banished Words

1.                               Amazing

2.                               Baby Bump

3.                               Shared Sacrifice

4.                               Occupy

5.                               Blowback

6.                               Man Cave

7.                               The New Normal

8.                               Pet Parent

9.                               Win The Future

10.                            Trickeration

11.                            Ginormous

12.                            Thank You In Advance

To see lists from previous years, visit lssu.edu/banished.

I have to admit that I must have been living in a box, because I haven’t even heard most of these.  I’ve heard baby bump, but that’s been around for years.   Amazing has been around, too…  but I don’t see either one as a problem.  Pet parent?  Is that a dog lover or something?

I guess everything in the news is about “Occupy Wall Street” and “Occupy Philadelphia”.  There were notes about people now using “occupy” in slang, but I haven’t heard it (Although I spend all my time in a boring office building)

“Thank you in advance.”  What?  Are people thanking people they meet in the street before a conversation?  I’ve only seen this in the closing of a query letter.

There are a few words that have crept into my house this year that I am completely fed up with.

  Stop!  PLEEEEESE.

There is nothing epic about your origami project not folding correctly!

  Please stop saying seriously.  This is one my husband picked up from somewhere.  Every time he sees something he doesn’t like (which is often with three children) he says “Seriously?”   Frequently it is combined with “Come on…  Seriously?” It was okay the first ten times.  All of the sudden it has become a bad habit.  It makes my skin crawl.  And my kids are starting to say it.  I realized this was a larger social phenomenon over Christmas when I heard my older brother say it.  Ugh.

What makes you hear a stupid word, even if it’s misused, and start adding it to your own vocabulary?  Does it make you feel cool?  Is this about an acceptance factor?  I guess it’s like cursing.  If you are around it all the time, it inches in to your normal speech just because it is familiar.

The neat thing about language is that it is constantly evolving.  The items on this list, like “Occupy” are relative to the social and political issues of the year.  That is what makes words so cool.   Next year, (hopefully) no one will even remember the words on this list.  I just pray that Seriously and Epic disappear with them.

As a writer, you should take care to note things like this.  For instance, I read a beta recently where a teenage character said “Epic Fail”  (I nearly puked).  Anyway… what happens is this seriously 🙂 dates your novel.  Be very careful using speech that is “trendy”.  It may be good for your “voice”… but think about this…

You finish your novel.  You query it for a year.  Even if you are lucky and get a contract right away, it could be 1-2 additional years before your novel hits the bookstores.  The “trendy voice” is now dated, and your target audience won’t be able to relate.

Similarly, if you self-publish— yes… you are getting your novel “out there” while it is still trendy.  But what happens in a year?  Do you still want to be trending upwards?  Of course!  Do you want people thinking “Oh, this is so last year!”   Hmmmmm.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

My suggestion is to be very careful of dating your dialog by being too trendy.  Trust me.  In three years, no one will have any idea of the significance of “occupy”… or worse.  It could mean something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

If you are writing for magazines, though… GO FOR IT.  Magazines are immediate, and a one-time read.  After that month (or whatever the publication period), no one will be able to purchase it anymore.  When writing for magazines, feel free to be as trendy as your genre can stand.

What words annoyed you last year?

Lesson Four from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: And Then there was a Conjunction, or Was There?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

Originally, I was going to skip over this, because I thought it seemed a little obvious.  But then I thought, maybe not.

This publisher simply hated the idea of “and then”.  They said: “And then is not a proper conjunction.  And is a proper conjunction… use for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so which are considered “proper” conjunctions.”

I did a search in my own manuscript, and found 73 instances of “and then”.  Honestly, I was a little surprised to find so many in my story.  The more I thought about it, every instance is like a laundry list “tell sequence”.

Matt did this, and then he did that, and then he did that. (It was not quite so blatant, but you get the idea) If you think about it, it’s kind of funny.  I know when I was beta reading the manuscript for my BP, the “and then’s” did pop out here and there, but I just figured it was writing style.  I didn’t particularly like it, but I let it go.  I didn’t even realize I was doing it myself.  Now that I’m re-reading with these comments in mind, they are popping out and blaring:  No No No!

So, my advice is, do what I did:  Do a search/replace on your manuscript just for starters.  Search for “and then” and replace with “and then” (just make sure you spell it correctly)  It won’t change anything, it will just give you a count of how many times you did it.  If it’s a lot, search again and start editing!

This is an easy fix.   I’m not saying this will bother every publisher, but if it’s a pet peeve of one publisher, it will probably bother another one, or two, or three.  Personally, I’m not willing to take a chance and let them go now that I realize what I’ve done.

Happy editing!