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.

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

 

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

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Follow Through vs. Follow-Through

follow through (verb): to press on in an activity or process especially to a conclusion
follow-through (noun): the act or an instance of following through
—Merriam-Webster

These two words can be tricky because one uses a hyphen and one does not. As a verb, follow through is two words with no hyphen. As a noun, follow-through is one word with a hyphen between the two parts.

Here are examples of follow through used as a verb:

The lizard will follow through with his plans of world domination.
Saul followed through with his idea of starting a clothing store for lizards.

 

 

Here are examples of follow-through used as a noun:

The lizard has lots of goals, but his follow-through is poor.
Denise’s follow-through earned her a promotion.

Hint: If you are wondering which word to use, look at the role it plays in the sentence. And remember: If it’s a verb, follow through has no hyphen. If it’s a noun, follow-through has a hyphen.

Quiz
Fill in either follow through or follow-through in the blanks. The answers are below.

1. Lizzy has good _______, and her organizational skills help.
2. Sally keeps saying she will start writing her book, but she doesn’t _______.
3. One criterion for the new position is level of _______.
4. Tina wants to become an accountant, and she knows she will ________ on that dream.

Answers:
1. follow-through 2. follow through 3. follow-through 4. follow through

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Quotation Marks Within Quotation Marks

When you’re working with only one set of quotation marks, using them is simple. In American English, just surround the sentence or words in double quote marks.

Example:
Hannibal said, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Quotes within quotes
When you have a quote within a quote, begin and end the main quote with double quotation marks. Surround the quote within a quote with single quotation marks.

Example:
Ronald said, “I can’t believe Hannibal said, ‘I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.’”

Note that the period goes before all three final quotation marks and that there is no space between the single quote mark and the double quote marks.

Here’s how it would look if the main quote continues after the quote within a quote:

Ronald said, “I can’t believe Hannibal said, ‘I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.’ That really creeped me out.”

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Works of art
If a quote has reference to a title of a work of art that requires quotation marks (and not italics), the title also uses single quotation marks. (For a refresher on which require quote marks and which require italics, click here.)

Example:
Hannibal said, “I heard Ronald’s favorite song is ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones.”

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.

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When to Correct People’s Grammar Mistakes

This paper says “TSP Report.” I think you mean “TPS.”

For Christmas last year, I got a T-shirt that read, “I’m silently correcting your grammar.” At first I thought it was a jerky gift (sorry, Jenny), but then I thought, “Eh, it’s true.” And now I kind of like it. As a copyeditor trained to spot every tiny error (Is that a hyphen instead of an en dash? No way, bugger.), I can’t help but see mistakes everywhere—on signs, in emails, in—gasp—news stories. I just can’t turn off the editor.

But when I spot an error in other people’s speech and writing, I usually silently correct them, instead of actually telling them they made a mistake. Correcting people’s grammar is a quick way to lose friends and become known as a stuffy know-it-all.

However, there are times when you should correct people’s grammar. I’ve outlined the whens and when nots below.

People learning English
If you know someone who is learning English as a second (or third or fourth) language, and they ask you to point out when they make mistakes so they can get better, then it’s okay. However, pay attention to their mood. If they’re talking about a fight with their boyfriend or a bad day at class, then that’s probably not the best time for a grammar lesson.

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Coworkers
Normally you should be hesitant about correcting coworkers’ mistakes. If you spot an error in a casual email, for instance, leave it. But, if you see a mistake that could have major consequences, politely point out the error when you have a moment alone with the colleague. One example of when it’s okay to explain an error would be if a co-worker asks you to look over a PowerPoint for a quarterly update meeting with the big bosses and you see they used affect when it should be effect.

Basically, if you fear a mistake will cause someone’s reputation to be at stake, point it out in a kind, nonjudgmental manner when you are in a secluded environment.

Significant others
I think it’s usually always okay to correct your significant other’s grammar—as long as they are allowed to make fun of you when you have to use a calculator to figure out a restaurant tip. However, if your partner asks you to stop, then do.

Friends and family
Don’t correct friends’ and family members’ grammar mistakes unless they ask you to. Otherwise, you may be minus a friend and stuck getting fruitcake at Christmas. If their mistakes really irk you, start a grammar blog and write about the errors there (wink, wink).

 

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.

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Inserting accent marks

There are times in writing when you have to deal with dreaded accent marks. I feel for you. I really do. I’ve typed enough French essays to cry cedillas. So here’s a handy list of accent mark names and how to insert the darn things in Microsoft Word.

Common accent marks:

  • á: accent acute
  • à: accent grave
  • å: bolle
  • ç: cedilla
  • â: circumflex
  • æ: ligature
  • œ: ligature
  • ø: streg
  • ñ: tilde
  • ä: umlaut

Inserting accent marks
When I’m working with accent marks, I use the old-fashioned long way of inserting them because I’m not one for memorizing a bunch of shortcuts.

The long way
In Microsoft Word, go to Insert, then Symbol. Select Advanced Symbol. A small screen will pop up with a list of letters with accent marks. Simply select the letter and corresponding mark you want and click Insert.

Of course, you can always use keyboard shortcuts, too.

For PC users, here’s a list of shortcuts:
accent acute: CTRL+’, the letter
accent grave: CTRL+`, the letter
æ ligature: CTRL+Shift+&, a, or A
bolle: CTRL+Shift+@, a, or A
cedilla: CTRL+(comma), c, or C
circumflex: CTRL+Shift+^, the letter
œ ligature: CTRL+Shift+&, o, or O
streg: CTRL+/, o, or O
tilde: CTRL+Shift+~, the letter
umlaut: CTRL+Shift+:, the letter

For Mac users, here’s what to do:
accent acute: Option+E, the letter
accent grave: Option+`, the letter
æ ligature: Shift+Option+’ (uppercase); Option+’ (lowercase)
bolle: Shift+Option+A, the letter (uppercase); Option+A (lowercase)
cedilla: Shift+Option+C (uppercase); Option+C (lowercase)
circumflex: Option+I, the letter
œ ligature: Shift+Option+Q (uppercase); Option+Q (lowercase)
streg: Shift+Option+O (uppercase); Option+O (lowercase)
tilde: Option+N, the letter
umlaut: Option+U, the letter