31 May 2007

27 Steps: #23-25

23: WATCH YOUR SPELLING! Keep a dictionary at your elbow. A structural linguist (you will encounter quite a few of that deadly species in your life) might arguer that it’s all right for spelling to be chaotic because it’s the “meaning” that’s important, but a crusty, cranky traditionalist like me must insist that bad spelling is one of the plagues of humankind. A few commonly misspelled words: separate, accommodate, dissension, occurred, blatant, definite, dominant, predominant, ascendant, descendant, decadent, proceed, precede, secede, receive, perceive, prominent, influential, insistent, resistant, inadvertent, prevalent, consensus, ambience, camaraderie, collectible. Common confusions: Complement-compliment, imminent-eminent-immanent, infer-imply, affect-effect, secede-succeed. A computer spell-checker can be helpful, but remember that computers don’t know proper word usage and can’t help you all with homonyms—words that sound alike but spelled differently and have different meanings—such as plain, plane; course, coarse; tail, tale; oar, or; bale, bail; sale, sail; pail, pale; sight, site.

24: “Quote” is a verb; the noun form is “quotation.” So that one “quotes” (verb form) and what one quotes is a “quotation” (noun form). I admit that this is probably another of the many losing battles against incorrect usage.

25: Please DO NOT use “impact” as a verb or adjective as in “It will impact our situation,” or “Our situation has been impacted.” “Impact” is a noun, as in “It had an impact on our situation,” but even then much overused and best forgotten about—unless you are dealing infected wisdom teeth or lower-intestinal tract distress.

PS: In regards to #25, here's a fun game: Listen for the word, "impact." You'll start hearing it everywhere. Sometimes several times in one sentence. I watched a political debate last year and counted "impact" ten times in five minutes.

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