How to address holiday cards

Are you writing holiday cards this season? It can be a confusing process with too many cousins to keep track of and not enough stationery to go around. However, here’s a spelling tip for last names ending in S and S sounds to hopefully make the whole thing go a little smoother.

The rule for addressing Christmas cards to families with last names ending with S or S sounds is to pluralize the last name like any other noun. This means adding -es for names ending in “s” or “z” or “x” and adding -s for everything else.

Here are some examples.

The Williams clan→ The Williamses

The Rodrigez family → The Rodrigezes

Tim and Harry Lewis → The Lewises

A note about possessives

The plural is different from possessive versions of these names. People often make the mistake of adding an apostrophe when making the names plural, such as making it the “Bush’s” when it should be the “Bushes.”

Here’s an easy chart to help you keep track of the different forms of the words.

Singular names: Fox, Kirk

Singular possessive names: Fox’s, Kirk’s

Plural but not possessive names: Foxes, Kirks

Plural possessive names: Foxes’, Kirks’s

You are now empowered to write “Merry Christmas to the Joneses!” on your Christmas cards!

Quiz

Let’s do one one last self-test to see if you’ve got this down. Make each name plural.

  1. The Knox family
  2. The Hernandez family
  3. The Whitney family
  4. The Nixon family
  5. The Brooks family

Answers:

  1. The Knoxes
  2. The Hernandezes
  3. The Whitneys
  4. The Nixons
  5. The Brookses

This post is by Jacquelynn Lyon. She is a story coach at Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

Follow Dot and Dash on social media.
Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dotanddashllc

What is etymology and why is it important for writers?

“Etymology” is the study of the origin of words and phrases and how their meanings have changed throughout history. Etymology is important for many reasons. But, for writers, it helps establish authenticity and believability and sets the scene in your fiction story.

Problems arise when writers use a word or phrase in a scene that takes place before people actually started saying it in real life.

Think about a novel set during the Plague. A person approaches someone wearing one of those spooky, pointy beak masks and proclaims, “That’s some far-out headwear!” Unless that character is a time traveler, the dialogue doesn’t fit. There’s an incongruence because “far-out” originated in the jazz scene in the 1950s, not with everyday Europeans of the 1300s.

This example is, of course, pretty obvious. Most cases of a word or phrase being used before it actually entered the lexicon are subtle and easy to miss. For example, in a book I edited recently, I spotted a slang term that people didn’t start to use until nine years after the book takes place. That’s not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, but it was enough to make the dialogue feel off and inauthentic.

When everything else in a scene (clothing, cultural references, etc.) fits with the time setting, then there is a word that’s out of its era, it sticks out. Small details like this can make or break a scene. Gather enough that are off their mark, and they can make or break the whole book.

How to check etymology

I always recommend using the Online Etymology Dictionary. It’s a quick, easy-to-use, and vast resource. Here’s its entry for “far-out,” as an example:

Another quick-and-easy tool is Google Ngram. Type in a word or phrase, and it will search texts and show you when it became popular. Below is what the ngram search for “far-out” looks like. Unfortunately, it only goes back to 1500, so if people were using “far-out” during the Plague, it wouldn’t show it. However, it should work for most of your purposes.

Remember: As you write, you will focus on the words you use. But also focus on when those words arose. This is just as important as other details of your scenes to establish authenticity.

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

Follow Dot and Dash on social media.
Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dotanddashllc

Free Sample Edit on your book
Claim your FREE sample book edit and learn more about my editing packages here: https://www.dotanddashllc.com/editing-evaluations

List of prefixes and suffixes with their meanings

a tan and mint green background. one side says "prefix," and the other says "suffix."

Ever wonder what those prefixes and suffixes we link up to words actually mean? Native English speakers use these letters that go before and after words all day long, usually without a thought to their definitions. But we do use them for a reason: they alter the meaning of the word.

For instance, if someone is being careless, a native English speaker would be quick to say, “Hey, stop acting carelessly,” without hesitating to recall that the suffix –ly means “in the matter of.”

But, oh those poor English learners. It takes time to memorize all of our prefixes and suffixes and learn which to attach to what word. (A unicycle is quite different from a tricycle, you know.) It also doesn’t help that English, being that it is the bastard child of multiple European languages, adopted its prefixes and suffixes from Latin, Greek, and Old French.

But, alas, here we are.

To brush up on your skills, below is a collection of prefixes and suffixes and their meanings.

Prefix Meaning Example
a- not atypical
anti- against antifascist
bi- two biannual
counter- against, opposite counterfeit
de- remove, reverse deregulate
dis- opposite, reverse, not disagree
extra- beyond, outside extraterrestrial
fore- before forefather
in- not invisible
inter- between intermingle
mal- bad maltreatment
mis- not, wrong miscomprehend
neo- new neoconservative
non- not nonstarter
over- excessive overspend
post- after postscript
pre- before precolonial
proto- first, primitive prototype
re- repeat reread
sub- under submarine
tele- distant teleport
trans- across transcontinental
tri- three tricycle
un- remove, reverse untie
uni- one unilateral

 

Suffix Meaning Example
-able capable of inflatable
-ant type of person assistant
-athon long-lasting marathon
-cide killing infanticide
-dom state of being freedom
-er doer of an action worker
-ery type of work bakery
-ess female of heiress
-esque reminiscent of picturesque
-ette small version of kitchenette
-fest indulgence in chatfest
-fy to make electrify
-hood state, quality childhood
-ible ability reliable
-ish a little squeamish
-ism condition or doctrine feminism
-ist type of person florist
-less without penniless
-ly in a manner of quickly
-ous full of joyous
-wash changing the appearance of whitewash

 

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

Follow Dot and Dash on social media.
Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dotanddashllc

What is a homonym? (plus examples)

Homonyms are two words that are spelled the same and/or sound the same but have two different meanings.

An example is “bat.” A bat is the hunk of wood used to hit baseballs, and it is also the name of the arguably adorable winged creature of the night. These two words are spelled the same and sound the same.

bat

An example of a word that is spelled differently but sounds the same is “son” and “sun.” “Son” means a person’s child, while “sun” means that gigantic orange thing in the sky.

Here are more examples of homonyms that are both spelled the same and sound the same:

  • address: to speak to / location
  • arm: a part of the body / a part of a company
  • band: a musical group / a ring
  • bark: the outer part of a tree / the sound a dog makes
  • bright: very smart / filled with light
  • current:  up to date / the flow of water
  • die: to stop living / a cube labeled with numbers one through six
  • duck: a type of bird / to lower oneself
  • express: something done quickly / to show your thoughts
  • fly: a type of insect / to soar through the air
  • kind: a type of something / caring
  • lie: to recline / to not tell the truth
  • pound: a unit of weight / to beat
  • right: the correct answer / left’s opposite
  • rock: a type of music / a stone
  • rose: to have gotten up / a type of flower
  • spring: one of the seasons / coiled metal
  • tire: to become fatigued / a part of a wheel
  • well: the opposite of sick / a source for water in the ground

 

Here are more examples of homonyms that sound the same but are spelled differently:

  • berry / bury: a type of fruit / to cover in something
  • brake / break: to stop / to injure a bone or to rest
  • cereal / serial: a breakfast food / to do something repeatedly
  • eye / I: a body part / the opposite of you
  • groan / grown: an unhappy sound / to have become big
  • hear / here: to experience sound / opposite of there
  • hi / high: a greeting / up above
  • him / hymn: opposite of her / a type of song
  • feat / feet: an accomplishment / a body part and unit of measurement
  • flower / flour: a type of plant / an ingredient in baking
  • flew / flu: to have traveled through the air / a type of sickness
  • knight / night: a medieval soldier / the opposite of day
  • know / no: to understand / the opposite of yes
  • meet / meat: to be introduced / animal flesh
  • one / won: the number before two / the opposite of lost
  • pail / pale: a type of container / the opposite of dark
  • pair / pear: a couple / a type of fruit
  • rap / wrap: a type of music / to cover something
  • see / sea: to look at something / a big body of water
  • weak / week: not strong / seven days in a row

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

Follow Dot and Dash on social media.
Twitter: @GrammarParty
Instagram: @dot_and_dash_llc
Facebook: facebook.com/dotanddashllc
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dotanddashllc

 

 

Free Sample Edit on your book

Claim your FREE sample book edit and learn more about my editing packages here: https://www.dotanddashllc.com/editing-evaluations

The difference between “peel” and “peal”

Two cartoon bananas and the words

What’s the difference between peel and peal? Peel can be used as both a noun and a verb, and peal can be used as a noun. It’s easy to get these two words confused, so read this post to learn the difference.

Definitions
peel (verb): to strip off an outer layer of
Example: Lawrence peeled the skin off of his apple.

peel (noun): the skin or rind of a fruit
Example: Becky threw her potato peels in the trash.

peal (noun): 1) the loud ringing of bells; 2) a loud sound or succession of sounds
Examples: 1) Gina heard the peal of the church bells from across town.
2) Ryan let out peals of laughter at his buddy’s lunchroom antics.

Etymology
Peel comes from the Latin word pilare, which means to remove the hair from. It came into English in the thirteenth century.

Peal is short for appeal, which in Middle English meant a summons to church service. It came into the English language in the fourteenth century.

Quiz:
Fill in the blanks with either peel or peal. The answers are below.

  1. Grace slipped on a banana _______ and broke her nose.
    2. Stan grew excited when he heard the _______ of the day’s last school bell.
    3. Grandma _______ed eight pears for the pie.
    4. ____s of loud sobs escaped from Sammy when he learned a dragon ate his cat.

 

Answers:
1. peel (noun) 2. peal 3. peel (verb) 4. peal

free author coaching session

Claim your free author coaching session here: https://www.dotanddashllc.com/coaching