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 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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Courage vs. Bravery

Today we’re discussing two words that are often connected to heroism: courage and bravery. Now the words are used interchangeably, but a look to their history reveals an important difference.

First let’s look at current definitions.

Bravery is the “quality or state of being brave,” and Merriam-Webster, in its unabridged online version, defines brave as “resolute in facing odds; able to meet danger or endure pain or hardship without giving in to fear.” The unabridged dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength enabling one to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty firmly and resolutely.”

It’s worth noting that here Merriam-Webster also defines brave as “having or showing courage.”

Etymology
The current definitions are very similar. Yet, when we look at how courage and bravery came into the English language, a distinction shows.

Merriam-Webster notes that courage is linked historically to cœur, the French word for heart. Brave, on the other hand, comes from the Italian word bravo, meaning “brave, bold.” Bravo, interestingly enough, originally meant “wild, savage,” says the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Meaning
There is a quote that goes “The line between bravery and stupidity is so thin that you don’t know you’ve crossed it until you’re dead.”

That’s the main takeaway when you consider the etymology. Bravery can be the split-second decision to run into a field filled with flying arrows. Bravery can be dangerously close to stupidity, to wild and savage.

Courage, however, takes something deeper. It takes heart. Courage is donating a kidney to your sister because you love her so deeply. Courage is a doctor or a nurse choosing to work in an Ebola-stricken region because they want to relieve human suffering.

Bravery is eating an earthworm sandwich because your buddy dared you.

What do you think?
Is there a difference between courage and bravery? Or should we use them interchangeably? Let me know in the comments.

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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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.

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

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Oh My: Gerunds and Possessives

Pretend you just got on the bus and the only open seat is next to a woman who sat her enormous purse on the empty seat. You want to ask politely if she could move her purse so you could sit beside her. Which question would you ask:

Do you mind me sitting here?
Do you mind my sitting here?

The second sentence is correct. If you picked the first sentence, don’t stress. People make this mistake so frequently that the correct way can often sound wrong.

But why is the second sentence correct? To understand, we first have to learn about gerunds.

What is a gerund?
A gerund is a word that looks like a verb (because it ends in –ing) but acts like a noun. In the example above, sitting is the gerund.

Here are more examples. In these sentences, the gerund is in italics.

The waiting is the most difficult part.
His chattering is driving me crazy.
Your quizzing him is helping his test grades.

Gerunds and possessives
Because gerunds act like nouns, a possessive (my, your, his, her, their) goes before them. Think about regular nouns and how they use possessives.

my hat
your cat
his bat

Gerunds work the same way. Let’s look at the gerund dancing:

My dancing won first place.
Your dancing won second place.
Her dancing won third place.

Miscommunication
When you don’t use a possessive in front of a gerund, there can be a miscommunication. Let’s go back to our bus scenario. If you asked, “Do you mind me sitting here?” the emphasis is placed on me instead of the act of sitting. Essentially, you would be asking the woman whether she minded you personally. However, if you ask, “Do you mind my sitting here?” the emphasis is placed on sitting and not on you.

Likewise, look at this example:

You snoring makes me want to poke my eyes out.
Your snoring makes me want to poke my eyes out.

In the first sentence, it sounds like you, personally, are why the speaker wants to hurt herself. In the second sentence, it sounds like it’s the snoring, and not simply you, that is causing the annoyance.

Remember
Gerunds look like verbs ending in –ing, but they act like nouns. Like a noun, a possessive goes before a gerund.

More examples:

I appreciate your taking the kids to school.
I think my vacationing was a good idea.
Do you mind my staring at you?

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.
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