Sunday, February 27, 2011

Today's Writing Tip Is on the Difference between Contrary and Contradiction

When should you use the word contrary and when should you use contradiction?

Contrary means argumentative. “You say yes, I say no. You say stop and I say go, go, go, oh no. You say goodbye and I say hello, hello, hello.” Hard to imagine someone being contrary to the Beatles, but there you go. When people are contrary, they disagree.

When people are contradictory, they may say one thing but do another. Their actions or words are inconsistent or incongruous. John Lennon was a man of contradictions; he advocated peace in his music, but wreaked havoc in his personal life, particularly in his first marriage. Contradictory is the adjective and contradiction is a noun. A contradiction is something that we find difficult to understand, like when Rev. Jesse Jackson ministered to Bill Clinton after Clinton confessed to having an affair, yet later the public discovered that Jackson, a married man, was the father of a love child (I promised I would give equal time to teasing Democrats in today's writing tip).

Learn more about word usage in my third book, Be Your Own Editor. When should you use between or among, further and farther, or complement and compliment? Find out in BYOE, available on in print and on Kindle.

Sigrid Macdonald is a book coach, the author of three books, and a manuscript editor.

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