Tmesis

girl with hand covering her mouth

What-the-frig-ever is a tmesis?

Fan-freaking-tastic! Whoopde-damn-doo!

These are examples of tmesis. Tmesis is when a word is divided into parts, and another word is inserted inside of it, often for comic effect or emphasis. It comes from the Greek tmesis, meaning “to cut.”

A classic example of this is from the Shakespearean play Richard II: “How-heinous-ever it be.”

Another example is a-whole-nother, which often gets decried as being poor English. What-the-heck-ever. Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say in defense of this word.

Erin Servais is an abso-bloody-lutely good editor. To learn how she can help you with your next editing project, check out her website: Dot and Dash site.

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Trick-or-Treater OR Trick or Treater?

trick or treat photo

I don’t care about your stupid mask, lady. Put the candy in the bag.

How do you spell the name of those adorable (menacing) little children (vagrants) who knock on your door asking for (demanding) candy on Halloween night? Is it “trick-or-treaters” or “trick or treaters”? Hyphens or no hyphens?

The answer is: hyphens. The correct way to spell it is “trick-or-treater.”

But what about “trick or treat,” you say? Hyphens or no hyphens there? This one is a bit more complicated.

Let’s look at the two ways you can use “trick or treat,” as a verb and as a noun.

Verb: Sally dressed up as an amoeba to trick-or-treat.

Noun: As Sally dragged her candy sack home, she thought the trick or treat was successful.

When I wrote “trick-or-treat” as a verb, I used hyphens. Hyphens are always the answer when you use it as a verb. But when written as a noun, “trick or treat” can go either way, says our friends at Merriam-Webster:

screen-shot-2018-10-26-at-11-47-57-am.png

Now go forth and eat candy, friends! A happy trick or treat to all!

Erin Servais is a book editor who specializes in young adult literature. She also has a sweet tooth. To learn more about how she can help you with your writing project, visit her website.

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.”

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

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