Featured Articles

More Misspelled and Misused Foreign Phrases

Posted by on Jul 13, 2015 in Featured Articles | 2 comments

More Misspelled and Misused Foreign Phrases

So we’re back with part two of our misspelled and misused foreign phrases. I really hope you enjoyed part one and found some of the information helpful. Since I had so much fun with the word Kummerspeck, which, if you read part one, you’d know is German for the excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally translated, it’s grief bacon. Today’s phrase is l’esprit de l’escalier, which translates to “wit of the staircase” but is the perfect comeback you think of when it’s too late to reply. I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling. Goodness knows I am. Below is a continuation of the words or phrases we’ve seen misspelled or misused: En masse – misspelled as on mass: French for “in mass,” in English we generally use it to mean in one body or as a whole. En in French means “in,” but we find a lot of authors use the phonetic spelling instead of the French one. En route – misspelled as on route: In a similar fashion as en masse, en route is often misspelled with the phonetic “on” instead of the French “en.” French for “on or along the way,” we use it in English to mean exactly the same. Flak – misspelled as flack: Flak is a German acronym for Fliegerabwehrkanonen, an antiaircraft gun, in military terms, it can mean the gun or the shells fired from the gun. Generally speaking, in English we use it to mean “criticism or opposition one receives for their actions or opinion.” Ad nauseam – misspelled as ad nauseum: This is another phonetic misspelling editors see often. Ad nauseam is Latin for “to the point of nausea”; however in English we don’t use it as literally. Most often, we use it to mean something that is done to a ridiculous, extensive degree. Bona fide – misspelled as bonafide: Latin for in good faith, bona fide is used in a similar manner in English—valid, sincere, or in good faith. However, it is always two words. Ad hoc – misspelled as adhoc: Translated from Latin as “for this,” ad hoc is most often used in English to mean “for a specific purpose” or “fashioned from what is available.” Like bona fide, it’s always two words. Cul-de-sac – misspelled as cuddle sack: Yep, cuddle sack. Literally “bottom of the bag” in French, a cul-de-sac is a point where you can go no further. Most often used in terms of roads, it’s a dead-end street with a circular turnaround area. Tête-à-tête – misspelled as tet a tet: French for “head to head,” a tête-à-tête is a private, personal conversation between two people. In adjective or adverb form, it means “face to face.” All those accents are required. Yes, I’m sure. Verbatim – misspelled as verbatum: This one’s less of a foreign word than it is a derivative; verbatim is derived from Latin verbum, which means “word.” And since many pronounce the ending syllable “um,” it’s often misspelled verbatum Au contraire – misspelled as oh contraire: I saved this one for last because it was suggested by a reader, not a misspelling I’ve personally seen. Au contraire is French for “on the contrary,” and we use it in the same context in English. I can see how this confusion can happen, though, as au and oh have basically the same pronunciation. And there you have it—our list of misspelled and misused foreign words and phrases. I’m sure other writers and editors have come across many more. What phrases have you seen misspelled or misused? I’d love to read about them in the comments! Happy...

Read More

Misspelled and Misused Foreign Phrases

Posted by on Jul 8, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

Misspelled and Misused Foreign Phrases

Using foreign phrases can be beneficial to your manuscript, not only because they add flair, but because sometimes they just sound better or more aptly fit certain situations in your novel. Not to mention that there are actually foreign terms for which there are no English words. Kummerspeck, for example, is German for the excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally translated, it’s grief bacon. What a great word, right? So it’s definitely fun to add a little je ne sais quoi to your novel, but it’s also imperative that these words and phrases are spelled correctly and used properly. Here are some of the foreign phrases we’ve seen misspelled or misused in our journeys as editors: Per se – misspelled as per say: Latin for “by, of, or in itself,” we tend to use this phrase to mean intrinsically. This is, by far, the most often misspelled phrase I come across. Chaise longue – misspelled as chaise lounge: This is a common misspelling due to the general misuse of the word lounger to describe a long chair that one can rest one’s legs upon. Technically, a lounger is one who lounges. What one lounges upon is a chaise longue. In French, chaise longue literally means long chair. Segue – misspelled as segway: Italian for “there follows,” this term is most often used to identify something that bridges or forms a transition from one item to the next. A cappella – misspelled as acappella: Italian for “of the chapel/in the style of the chapel,” a cappella is without instrumental music. It is always two words. Like a lot. And a little. Tchotchke – misspelled as chotchkey: Tchotchke is Yiddish and means bauble or trinket. Yes, the spelling is about as far away from phonetic as possible, but there you have it. Chotchkey is the most prevalent misspelling I’ve seen. Espresso – misspelled as expresso: There is no X in espresso. No X when you say it; no X when you spell it. Ever. Voilà – misspelled as viola: I cannot count how many times I have seen this misspelling. Voilà is a French term that is actually a contraction of vois là—literally see there. A general French-to-English translation is there is, however, it is used in English more often as an interjection of satisfaction or surprise when something appears or turns out the way it was intended to. Déjà vu – misspelled as deja view: Literally translated as “already seen” in French, Déjà vu is the sense that what you’re experiencing has happened to you before or a familiarity with something you have no reason to be familiar with. Yes, the accents over the E and the A are a required part of the spelling. And yes, it’s vu, not view. Stay tuned to next week for part two of Misspelled and Misused Foreign Phrases. Happy...

Read More

Working From Home: Mistakes People Make and How to Avoid Them

Posted by on Jul 1, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

Working From Home: Mistakes People Make and How to Avoid Them

I love working from home. For most of us, this sentence brings up an image of someone dressed in their pj’s, sitting in front of a computer, and has the time to spend with family. Sounds nice, right? After working from for home seven years, I’ve come to realize that I’m just as big of a workaholic at home as I ever was at the office. Keeping a clear division between work and home life is tough and not everyone is cut out for it. I’ve made some mistakes, neglected those I’ve loved, worked until I couldn’t stay awake. Why? Because I could. Working from home has also allowed me great flexibility with my home life as well. I don’t have to schedule time off for every school function and orthodontist appointment. I can also stay home when someone is sick and still get some work done. Regardless of whether you are a full-time author, an editor, book cover designer, book formatter or PR representative, working from home isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. I’ve come up with a list of mistakes people make working from home and how to avoid them. No Purpose Ask yourself what you expect to gain by working from home. Why work from home? The standard answers are not on the table for this one. You can’t say because I will cost me less or I get to stay home with my children or my carbon footprint is smaller. Make it personal. Why are Why are you working from home? Do you have that secret wish to become the next E.L. James but with fewer whips and chains? We all want to be the next biggest thing. And sometimes it’s nice to get lost on that fantasy. But if we never come down from Cloud 9 and get realistic about our goals, we’ll constantly be disappointed because we’ve set the bar too high. Are you writing to just to earn a paycheck? Is it less about the money and more about the art? Whatever your dream is, define it. The set a goal, set ten goals. Whatever you need to do to achieve it. If your goal is to be successful, define what success means to you specifically and then set goals with milestones The best way to do this is simple, really—take baby steps. Set smaller goals and build on those small successes until you get there. Ask anyone who has achieved success and they’ll tell you they didn’t get there with a pie-in-the-sky dream. It happened because they set realistic goals, did honest hard work, and persevered. Lack of Discipline If you’re going to work from home you’ll need to be a self-starter. There’s no boss to check your time card, no one to hand you a list of items to get done for the day, and no set time to be at work and then go home. Sure, you can wake up on a beautiful day and say, “Let’s hit the ski slopes.” or “Forget work. Let’s go to the water park.” But you can’t put off work like this on a regular basis or you’ll pay for it in the end. Working from home takes discipline. You still need to get up every workday (you can define your own) and actually work. The other side of discipline is recognizing when you have too much work. Don’t over work yourself because you bought into the idea that you’d have more time and be more productive because you don’t have the distractions of the office. This is a myth. You’ll have just as many distractions at home as you would in an office. They’re just a different kind of distraction. (Think cat videos and social media.) Doesn’t Prioritize Time Speaking of distractions… One of the biggest issues with working from home is the distractions. While it’s nice to be able to say you work in your pj’s, it’s also easy to lie around all day and watch television or surf the Internet looking for picture of Bill Murray from What About Bob for your blog article....

Read More

Commonly Confused: Ascent/Assent and Descent/Decent

Posted by on Jun 17, 2015 in Commonly Confused, Featured Articles | 2 comments

Commonly Confused: Ascent/Assent and Descent/Decent

In this episode of Commonly Confused, I’m going to discuss the commonly confused pairs ascent/assent and descent/decent. Although dissent may have seemed a more likely choice, given its meaning, I find it’s not misused nearly as often as decent is in this situation. Let’s start at the bottom. From Merriam-Webster, ascent is the act of ascending or rising; a moving or mounting upward. In layman’s terms, an ascent is a climb or an upward motion. “Fred stared at the mountain knowing his ascent would be slow and arduous.” “Jillian’s ascent from the mailroom to the boardroom was nothing short of astonishing.” On the other hand, assent is agreement or acknowledgment of a truth. “Wrapped up in the conference call, the CFO gave a nod of assent and gestured for his assistant to enter his office.” On paper, the meanings of these words couldn’t be less similar. But due to the close spelling, it’s understandable how they are often confused. The trick is to remember that ascent is the noun form of ascend, which means to rise. And assent has nothing to do with either of them. So unless you’re talking about climbing or moving in an upward motion, it’s not ascent. Working our way down, let’s look at the work descent. Without even checking with Webster, I can tell you that a descent is the opposite of an ascent and, therefore, is a downward motion or an act of descending from one level to another. “The captain came over the loudspeaker and told the passengers they were about to begin the descent into Dallas.” Unfortunately, very often this word is misspelled as decent, which of course has a completely different meaning. Well, actually, a series of meanings. Paraphrasing from Merriam-Webster, decent is socially acceptable or proper, tasteful and appropriate to circumstance, fairly good but not excellent, adequately clothed, or marked by goodwill—not cruel. “She made decent time on the drive home, but she would have been here sooner if it hadn’t been for that flat tire.” “It was the decent thing to do—he couldn’t leave the poor woman stranded on the side of the road, could he?” In the same way assent and ascent are confused, descent and decent are confused simply because of the similar spellings. So you just need to remember that descent derives from descend, and it needs that S. If something’s socially acceptable or good enough, it’s decent. What other commonly confused pairs have you stumbled upon? Let us know! Happy...

Read More

The Three-Act Structure in Novels

Posted by on Jun 10, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

The Three-Act Structure in Novels

What is the three-act structure? It comes from Aristotle and is the basic plot structure for Greek tragedies. The simplest definition is, it is a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. A large majority of the good stories out there have this same structure. Why? Because it works. We recognize it as good storytelling whether we are aware of it or not. It has become so ingrained in us that we expect stories to follow this same structure. Let’s talk about what typically happens in the three-act structure. Act 1: Beginning The beginning or the first act is used to introduce the main and secondary characters of the story. Their relationships, motivations, and their environment are established. Often, this is when the characters’ voices are revealed, we discover what’s important to the characters, and what the characters’ strengths and weaknesses are. The main goal is introduced along with the main obstacle standing in the protagonist(s) way. This part of the story is usually light on the backstory until the characters are established and the plot is well under way. The first act typically ends with the inciting incident. This is the event that sets the characters on their course of action and eventual climax and resolution. Act 2: Middle The middle, also called rising action, is the meat of the story. Conflict is a major factor as the goals of the protagonist and the antagonist collide. We see the twists and turns the players must navigate as they work through a series of obstacles as the story progresses. And the protagonist fails at many of the attempts to make things right. Each obstacle is progressively worse and raises the tense a notch or two as the story nears the climax. Act 2 is where we see character growth. While the protagonist is not always equipped to handle each situation, the secondary characters oftentimes lend a helping hand. Regardless, the characters should learn from each failure and become stronger. In other words, they basically learn how to rise to the occasion. Act 2 ends with the lowest point in the story. That moment when all seems lost and the antagonist is poised to triumph. Act 3: End The end, also called resolution, is where climax reaches its pinnacle. This is the most exciting part of the story. Once the climax is reached, the plot and subplots achieve a resolution. The protagonist comes to a new self-awareness, having risen to the challenge and discovering that they are more capable than they realized.   There are variations of this model with any number of scenes and acts, but at the core, these still follow the fundamental three-act design. There are some out there who don’t think the three-act structure is a good model for all novels, and common sense would have to agree that it can’t possibly be the best plot for every novel out there. But for the majority of books, including most best-sellers, the three-act model is a solid foundation to build a story around. What type of structure does your story follow? Do you think the three-act structure is the only way to go or do you have a difficult time sticking to Aristotle’s outline? Let me know! Now… go write something! Related Articles The Five Basic Elements of Plot How to Use Subplots Plot and Genre Storyboarding Plot...

Read More

Gimme More—Using Creative Narrative Instead of Dialogue Tags

Posted by on May 27, 2015 in Featured Articles | 0 comments

Gimme More—Using Creative Narrative Instead of Dialogue Tags

If you’ve read my series on dialogue tags—or if you know me, have met me, or have ever been in my general proximity—you’d know that I’m a student of the “Less is More” school of dialogue tags. I’m not a fan of creative dialogue tags, and I’m a firm believer that unless you have a room full of clones talking haphazardly to no one, you can use creative narrative in such a way as to identify your speaker so that you’d hardly need to use dialogue tags at all. But before I go any further, let me just clarify—I am not suggesting authors use no dialogue tags at all. That would be quite the challenge unto itself, and when you’re writing your novel, well… that’s really challenging enough as it is without giving yourself the unreachable goal of REMOVE ALL THE DIALOGUE TAGS! What I think you should aim for is a mix of dialogue tags and creative narrative. A quick little tag to keep a fast-paced scene moving along is not only good, it’s necessary, and the old adage that the word said is invisible to readers is pretty much true. However, you can’t write your novel with every line of dialogue tagged he said or she said. And if your writing contains an overuse of dialogue tags modified with adverbs or short phrases, your editor will most likely ask you to revise or expand on them in order to give more visual to the reader. What do I mean by “an overuse of dialogue tags modified with adverbs or short phrases”? Those would be lines of dialogue that are punctuated with tags like he said or she said yet also modified by an adverb or a short descriptive phrase. Over and over again. Here’s a few, for example: “They’re all stupid, anyway,” Suzy said and she laughed. Mom called happily, “Dinner’s ready.” “That’s just too bad,” Dex said angrily, dropping into his chair with a huff. So, what’s wrong with them? The first sentence has a dialogue tag/short phrase combination, but the phrase doesn’t show the reader much at all. The second sentence has a dialogue tag modified by an ly adverb. I’m going to use the last example since it gives an example of everything. In this sentence, we’ve got the adverb angrily, which tells us how the character feels but doesn’t show us anything. The second part of this sentence—the short phrase—isn’t a mistake so much as an opportunity. Dex is angry and drops into his chair with a huff. His words match his tone pretty well, so it all seems to work. But as an editor, I want more. I want you to show your readers. First, ask yourself a question. Do you need to write Dex said at all in this sentence? I’d say no. The same goes for the first sentence. The rest of the action identifies the character with enough clarity to remove the dialogue tag. But back to Dex; what about that action? Dex dropped into his chair with a huff. You’ll notice we’ve removed the angrily from the sentence. If you’re having a professional editor work on your book, it’s what we’ll ask you to do. Cut back on your ly adverbs. Why?  Tell, tell, tell. Don’t add back in an angry fashion, either. We’ll ask you to remove that, too. But now that it’s gone, his mood is not as clear. It’s up to you to set the scene. This is where creative narrative is used. Different verb choices could express his anger more clearly: Dex kicked his chair with a huff. Okay, that’s more descriptive, but I’m not sure that action matches his words or tone. So maybe a different sort of action could better describe his emotions: Dex slammed the phone down and shoved away from his desk. That gives a little more indication and shows more of his anger. Now’s the time to step back and consider what it is you’re trying to convey. Is anger the only thing you want to show the reader?...

Read More