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.

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How to Write Stuttering

stutter photo

Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

I recently edited a book in which there was a character who stuttered when he became anxious. (I happen to do this myself.)  There are guidelines about how to write stuttering and the best way to handle these characters and situations.

Here’s how you do it: write the first sound, and then repeat it one or more times, separating the sounds with a hyphen.

Example: He c-c-collected silly t-ties.

The first sound can be the first letter, as with the example above, or it can be two letters.

Example: I don’t think Holden Caulfield is a ph-phony.

Example: She dr-dr-dreaded the dance party.

Less often, stuttering happens in the middle of a word (typically with a consonant), but it follows the same rules.

Example: The cat ate the can-n-nary.

Is It a Stutter or a Pause?
If they pause and repeat a whole word, that’s not stuttering; that’s just a regular pause. In those cases, use ellipses to show the break.

Example: She said, “Wow, those khakis look so . . . so amazing on you.”

Don’t Overuse
Be sure to use stuttering sparingly so the text doesn’t get tiring (and annoying) to read. This also means limiting the number of characters who stutter. Really, any more than one can walk on the edge of overuse.

Erin Servais is a book editor who knows all the little tips and tricks that will make your manuscript look good. Learn more about how she can help you here.

New Post on Dot and Dash

Some of you may know that I run my own editing business, Dot and Dash LLC. Over at the Dot and Dash blog, I write about writing tips and industry news. I recently wrote about sensitivity reading. What is sensitivity reading, you may ask? It’s a relatively new form of manuscript evaluation that checks whether characters are portrayed with authenticity and ensures books avoid harmful stereotypes and problematic language that don’t serve a purpose in the plot. If you want to learn more about what it is, what it’s not (spoiler alert: it’s not the PC police), and whether you should hire one for your project, head on over to this link: sensitivity reading post.

Immigrate vs. Emigrate

passport

To immigrate means to enter a different country to live permanently.

To emigrate means to leave one country to go live in another country.

Remember: immigrate is about coming and emigrate is about going.

I live in the United States. Let’s pretend I decided to move to Canada. Then I would be immigrating to Canada and emigrating from the United States.

Notice that to comes after immigrating and from comes after emigrating. That’s one way you can figure out which word to use. To goes with immigrate. From goes with emigrate.

Erin Servais is a professional book editor, sensitivity reader, and fact-checker. To learn how to hire her for your next project, visit her website: www.dotanddashllc.com.

Penultimate vs. Ultimate

Many people use “penultimate” to mean “more than ultimate,” but the word actually has a very narrow (and different) definition. Here’s what Merriam-Webster says:

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 9.06.18 AM

So in a list, “penultimate” would refer to the next-to-last item. On a train ride, it would mean the next-to-last stop.

chickens

And in this photo of fantastic chickens, the chicken on the left would be the “penultimate chicken.”

What Does “Ultimate” Mean?
Ultimate,” however, has multiple meanings.

One is “final.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” destination is Mars.

Another is “eventual.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” goal is universal domination.

It also means “fundamental.”
Example: Harry’s “ultimate” nature is pure evil.

Now you know, and you can correct your friends much to their chagrin (just like I do)!

Erin Servais is a book editor who can help your book be the ultimate. Contact her today about your publishing goals: www.dotanddashllc.com.