Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Don't Think That Means What You Think It Means

I love to do crossword puzzles, but I avoid the Friday New York Times puzzle. There’s no point. At most, I’ll get two. Do you know the Volstead Act opponents?

I love to watch TV, but I avoid the remote controls. I already know that whichever button I press will not produce a screen filled with Don Draper, Roger, and Peggy; it will produce either a blank blue screen or static.

And I love to write, but I avoid using the term “beg the question.” I don’t know exactly what “beg the question” means, but I do know that it doesn’t mean what I think it should mean.
It seems like it should mean “raises the question.”
For example: 

She doesn’t know how to use TV remote controls. That begs the question: how does she watch TV?

(Answer: “Honey, can you come here a sec? I have an emergency!”)

But it doesn’t mean that. According to Wikipedia, begging the question is “a type of informal fallacy in which an implicit premise would directly entail the conclusion. Begging the question is one of the classic informal fallacies in Aristotle's Prior Analytics. Some modern authors consider begging the question to be a species of circulus in probando (Latin, "circle in proving") or circular reasoning. Were it not begging the question, the missing premise would render the argument viciously circular, and while never persuasive, arguments of the form ‘A therefore A’ are logically valid because asserting the premise while denying the self-same conclusion is a direct contradiction.”

Now do you see why I avoid it?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This Is Not 'Nam. This Is Bowling. There Are Rules.

You never know where life will take you. For example, some friends and I joined a bowling league last night. I never really envisioned a bowling league would be part of my life. A book club, maybe. A ceramics class, perhaps. But never a bowling league. 

I did learn a lot about myself, though. Well, I guess learn is the wrong word. I confirmed something about myself that I’ve always suspected: I am a terrible bowler. I consistently got the lowest score. I threw the ball the wrong way (and scared the shit out of this poor guy, which was actually pretty funny). And on my last game, when I had 97 points at the end of the ninth frame, I exclaimed in excitement, “I’m actually going to break 100,” and then I bowled two gutter balls.

When I am feeling down on myself for my lack of prowess, my favorite thing to do is bring attention to others’ shortcomings. And who better to pick on than an organization that dedicates itself to helping the youth?

I saw this sign a Starbucks today advertising the Boys and Girls Club’s tutoring program:

It says they have tutoring everyday. What they actually meant was that they have tutoring every day

(Maybe don't enroll in the English tutoring.)

We use everyday when we mean daily or commonplace.

Example: This hot pink bowling ball with fluorescent green flames is my everyday bowling ball.

We use every day when we mean each day.

Example: I am going to practice bowling every day

(At least until I throw the ball the right way 65% of the time.)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

More Than Grammar

There is no law that prohibits dating a friend’s ex.  You won’t go to jail if you drink your roommate’s last Diet Coke. There is no commandment that states that men shalt not wear mock turtlenecks.

However, just because these practices are technically permissible, it doesn’t mean that we should do them. 

The same rule applies to our writing. Just because something we write is technically grammatically correct, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best way to express it. Here are a couple of examples:

(The apostrophe is inserted correctly.)

 (The comma is correct and Nike is appropriately capitalized.)

The writers of these headlines were trying to convey messages about politics and golf, but here I am wondering if Obama's package is big enough to raise the debt ceiling on its own.

When we proofread our work, we have to do the best we can to see our writing through our readers' eyes. This is challenging because we know what message we are trying to convey. Therefore, even if proofread our work, we might not notice that we've inserted male genitalia references into our writing. 

Have you ever made a similar error?
What are your most successful proofreading techniques?