Woah vs. Whoa

flower cat

Well, how obviously amazing is this cat?!

Well, how obviously amazing!

That’s my mnemonic device to remember how to spell “whoa.”

Well
How
Obviously
Amazing

It works because something that is obviously amazing would make you stop and say “whoa.”

It is common to misspell this as “woah,” with the H at the end. Don’t feel bad if that’s what you used to do. I know a certain editor who writes a certain grammar blog who may or may not have also made this mistake. For years. We’re only human . . . even the editors among us (though I suspect authors sometimes think otherwise). And now you know the correct way to spell it. Well, how obviously amazing is that?

Erin Servais is a longtime book editor who is friendly and won’t make you feel dumb, even if you make a silly spelling mistake. To learn more about her services, visit her website: www.dotanddashllc.com

* Okay. Technically . . . the Oxford English Dictionary lists “woah” as a secondary spelling. However, Merriam-Webster has come out publicly against this spelling, and I have personally been dinged rather embarrassingly in public for using it, so I really suggest you stick with “whoa.”

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Bring vs. Take

take

When determining whether to use bring or take, consider movement.

Use bring when moving something toward a specific place or person.

Sally brings the potato salad to Jerry.
Frieda is bringing her salsa-dancing skills to the stage.
The dog brought his human to the park.

Use take when moving something away from a specific place or person.

Dolly takes the books from the library.
Marge is taking her favorite sweater back from Nina.
Larry took advice from his boss.

Casual speech: When speaking with friends and others using informal speech, bring and take are often used interchangeably. However, it’s good to know the difference when the situation calls for formal speech or writing.

Quiz:
Choose either bring or take to fill in the blanks below.

  1. In the past, Marty always ______ his famous nacho cheese dip to the party.
  2. The dog ______ her leash to her human when she wants to go out.
  3. “I can’t stand Charles anymore,” she said. “All he does is ______ things from me!”
  4. Tracy is _______ what she learned in the classroom and is _______ it to the real world.
  5. Layla ______ her second-place trophy from the award table.

 

Answers: 1) brought 2) brings 3) take 4) taking, bringing 5) took

Compound Modifiers with Words Ending in -ly

doughnuts with pink and blue accents

We’re also talking about doughnuts today because why wouldn’t we?

A compound modifier consists of two words that act together as one unit to modify a noun.

Here are some examples:

The sweet-smelling doughnut made my tummy grumble.
(Here sweet and smelling work as one unit to describe the noun doughnut.)

He had to wash his mud-covered ninja outfit.
(Mud and covered work together to explain the noun outfit.)

Their favorite wand was the glitter-speckled one.
(Glitter and speckled are one unit modifying the noun one.)

You’ll notice that in the examples above, all of the word sets are hyphenated: sweet-smelling, mud-covered, glitter-speckled. But there are times when the word sets aren’t hyphenated.

Compound Modifiers Ending in -ly
Compound modifiers that include an adverb ending in the suffix -ly do not get hyphenated. Why is this? Here is how The Chicago Manual of Style (the rulebook people use to edit books) explains it in section 7.86:

Compounds formed by an adverb ending in -ly plus an adjective or participle (such as largely irrelevant or smartly dressed) are not hyphenated either before or after a noun, since ambiguity is virtually impossible. (The -ly ending with adverbs signals to the reader that the next word will be another modifier, not a noun.)

For the non-editors reading this, what that means is the reader will know instinctually that the word coming after the -ly is working with the -ly word to describe something. So it doesn’t need the hyphen to help readers understand it is a word pair.

Now let’s look at some examples:

The cowboy sauntered into the dimly lit saloon.
(Dimly and lit both work together to explain saloon. But since dimly ends in -ly, it doesn’t use a hyphen. A reader should automatically understand lit goes with dimly.)

The professor’s terrifyingly large stack of papers to grade made him anxious.
(Here terrifyingly and large work together but do not require a hyphen to link them.)

His awkwardly long tie made people question his fashion sense.
(Awkwardly works with long and does not need a hyphen.)

Now you know when to use your trusty hyphen with compound modifiers. Go forth and hyphenate correctly!

Erin Servais has been slinging hyphens as a book editor for ten years. To learn more about her and how to hire her for your book project, go to her website: www.dotanddashllc.com.

Is “Everyone” Singular or Plural?

crowd of people on a beach

Photo by Micaela Parente on Unsplash

When considering the word everyone, it makes sense to think of many people in a group. The natural conclusion then is to believe everyone is plural. It’s not. Everyone is singular.

One way to think about it is that everyone refers to each individual in a group.

Take this example:

Everyone who is attending the Ice Creams of the World festival likes ice cream.

It would be odd for a person who loathes ice cream to go to a festival celebrating that dessert, so it’s safe to say each individual person in that group enjoys it.

Because everyone is singular, it takes a singular verb. Look again at our example sentence above. The verb in it is “likes,” which is singular and would be used with singular pronouns, such as “he” and “she.”

Here are more examples:

Everyone dances uniformly in ballet class.
Everyone under five eats free.
Everyone needs to file the form in triplicate.

Each sentence has a singular verb because everyone is a singular pronoun.

Erin Servais is a book editor with ten years of experience in publishing. Contact her to learn how she can help you with your next project: www.dotanddashllc.com

May vs. Might

wish I may

In casual usage, people interchange may and might. However, there is a slight difference that is useful to know.

May means something is more likely to happen.
Might means something is less likely to happen.

Examples:
There may be food at the party.
There might be someone dressed in a killer whale costume at the party.

What’s a party without food? It’s very likely there would at least be hors d’oeuvres there; that’s why we use may. But, I know I have never been to a party where someone was dressed as a killer whale. It’s safe to say you’d be less likely to encounter that (unless you were going to a killer whale costume party), which is why we use might.

Think of degrees of likelihood. The closer the situation is to “will happen,” use may. The closer it is to “won’t happen,” use might.

Note that this does not apply to past tense. The past tense of may is might. Why? Because English loves to be confusing! So, if you are writing or speaking in the past tense, always use might.

Quiz:

Choose may or might for each sentence.

1) I’m feeling lucky today. I _____ win the big jackpot.
2) I _____ eat a cookie today, just as I do every day.
3) There _____ be a huge asteroid careening toward Earth that will land on my front lawn.
4) Eight hundred higher-qualified candidates applied for the job, but Clyde _____ get the position.
5) Clyde is the only person who applied for the job. He _____ just get it!

Answers:
1) might 2) may 3) might 4) might 5) may

Erin Servais is a book editor who can make your manuscript look polished and professional. To learn more about how she can help you, visit www.dotanddashllc.com.