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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Love Letter (of Sorts) to My Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition

 

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Every seven years, The University of Chicago Press releases a new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. As it says on the cover, it is the essential guide for writers, editors, and publishers. When I edit a client’s book, this manual is my bible. It’s how I decide where and how to place every period, ellipsis point, italicized letter, hyphen, and en dash. My copy of the new edition came in the mail last night. I have feelings about this.

This is the third edition during my career. The fifteenth edition I only had for a few years, but the sixteenth and I were together for the full seven. That’s almost one-fifth of my lifetime. When it came out, I had only recently met the man who became my husband, and I was still in my twenties (cough). I was a different person with a different life. Now that I’ve gotten to hold the new edition and flip through its pages, I realize how worn the sixteenth had become. The binding is loose. The pages are dog-eared. The dustcover is faded. But the aging was earned. I haven’t kept exact count, but it has helped me copy edit and proofread hundreds books—even a couple of best sellers.

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To be honest, what I’m going to miss most is all of the highlighting. (That’s my cat, Gene Vincent, in the background. He was “helping” me as I took the photo. He’s “helping” me as I write this, too.)

So I thought it fitting to take some time today to memorialize my copy of sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style. My copy, in many ways, became like a family bible. My mother and grandmother would stick odds and ends in their bibles–usually papers from funeral and wedding ceremonies—bits that represented important moments in the lives of their loved ones. Mine’s not quite like that, but I do use a piece of the edging of my baby blanket as a bookmark.

This marked the page that explained how to write how tall a person is. I can never remember whether to write “feet” or “foot.”

And I found a flower I had pressed from my mother’s garden in Ohio, plucked during one of my trips home when I had planned a visit but I also, inconveniently, had a deadline.

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The sixteenth edition was also my external brain, holding all of the detailed information I wasn’t able to remember. And I see how I would use anything I had handy to underline and highlight so I could find the answer more easily next time.

Sometimes I actually had a highlighter.

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But other times it was a humble pen I used.

This must have been a rough day. I’m a black ink gal. I imagine I would only use blue in an emergency. A quotation mark emergency this must have been then. We editors can have those.

Apologies to all of the librarians out there (including my mom), but there were times necessity called for me to bend the corners of a page, in hopes the next time I could flip right to that section without consulting the index.

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Bibliography information. What you can’t see in this photo are the faded tear stains on the pages. But a bibliography, when it is formatted correctly and, mostly importantly, finished, is a beautiful thing.

When the seventeenth came in the mail, I was surprised how emotional I was about it. The sixteenth and I had a good ride. (And the highlighting! Oh that beautiful neon ink…how I will miss you.) But I understand our time has come to an end, and I know one day, when it is properly highlighted, the seventeenth will be as good to me, as helpful, and as referential as the sixteenth was.

When the eighteenth edition comes out. I will be forty years old. I imagine my life will be different, just as it was different when the sixteenth was released. What I hope will be the same, though, is that I will be editing books that I love and helping authors reach their dreams—and inserting every missing serial comma along the way.

Hanger vs. Hangar

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This spooky aircraft rests in a hangar when it is not flying in super secret missions.

A hangar is an enclosed shelter used to house something, such as airplanes.

A common mistake is to misspell hangar with an E.

However, a hanger is the item used to hang things, such as clothes.

Examples:

  • Jim Bob piloted the mysterious, abandoned UFO into the hangar.
  • Cathy arranged her clothes hangers evenly in her closet.
  • The billionaire’s hangar held both his jet and his helicopter.
  • The driver used a bent hanger to coax the locked car door open.

 

Erin Servais is a book editor who enjoys teaching writers along the way. To learn about hiring her for your next project, please visit her website: Dot and Dash LLC.

Ahoy, Matey! Here’s How to Format Ship Names

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I hope you’re visiting Grammar Party today because you just bought a yacht (or a speed boat or a canoe or a spaceship) and you want to invite me on a trip. (I happen to be a pretty good time—and I rarely get seasick. Just an FYI.)

But . . . if you’re visiting to learn how to properly format ship and boat names, you can learn that here too.

First things first. Let’s learn the difference between a “boat” and a “ship.”

  • A boat is a watercraft of any size. However, it usually means a smaller craft. So, you probably wouldn’t call a cruise ship a boat.
  • A ship is a large watercraft. Think of a cruise ship or a big navy vessel.

How to format ship names:
According to The Chicago Manual of Style section 8.115, “Names of specific ships and other vessels are both capitalized and italicized.” Here are some examples:

  • Lady Princess’s Floating Palace
  • Stan’s Ocean Behemoth
  • Ship Happens
  • Divorce Paper Dinghy

How to format military ships:
If you are writing about a specific military ship that includes either HMS (British) or SS (United States) before the ship name, do not set these abbreviations in italics. However, put the rest of the name in italics. Here are examples:

  • HMS Beagle
  • HMS Bounty
  • USS Enterprise

I hope this helps. And . . . let me know about that boat or ship ride.

Erin Servais is a freelance book editor who enjoys spending time on some of Minnesota’s ten thousand lakes. To learn how to hire her for your next project, check out her website: dotanddashllc.com

 

 

Fairy tale vs. fairy-tale

 

fairy tale (noun): a story (as for children) involving fantastic forces and beings (as fairies, wizards, and goblins)

fairy-tale (adjective): characteristic of or suitable to a fairy tale, marked by seemingly unreal beauty, perfection, luck, or happiness

—Merriam-Webster

It’s finally feeling like summer. The wind is carrying lovely, flowery scents (unless you live in a city—then it’s most likely pee smell). Either way, this is the season to daydream and think of fairy tales. Now let’s make sure you are using the term correctly.

When used as a noun, fairy tale is two words without a hyphen.

Example: Mom told me a fairy tale about a princess who turned into a fairy.

However, when it is used as an adjective to describe a noun, it has a hyphen and looks like this: fairy-tale.

Example: Her fairy-tale wedding must have cost a fortune.

(Here, fairy-tale describes the noun wedding.)

Quiz
Check your understanding with this quiz. Fill in either fairy tale or fairy-tale in the blanks. The answers are below.

1) Every day as he sat in his cubicle, Ralph dreamed of a new life, a _______ life.

2) The _______ involved goblins and mean elves, so Susie thought it was scary.

3) Al had a new car, a new wife, a mansion, and a raise. Could this mean his _______ was coming true?

4. The cake had chocolate chips, frosting, strawberries, and fudge. It was basically a _______ dessert.

 

 

Answers:
1) fairy-tale (adjective describing life); 2) fairy tale (noun); 3) fairy tale (noun); 4) fairy-tale (adjective describing dessert)