Sunday, October 30, 2011

Today's Writing Tip Is When to Use I Think and I Feel

People often use the term "I feel" when it's inappropriate. Feelings relate to emotions, such as sorrow, rage, or jubilation. "I feel excited" or "I feel worried" is correct. Feelings can also relate to body temperature. "I'm freezing. I feel so cold!"

Thoughts are part of our internal dialogue. "I think, therefore, I am," the great philosopher Descartes said. You can use the word think when you're talking about anything mental. Here's an example: "I think the snowstorm that just bombarded the north-eastern US may be on its way to Canada." You don't want to say, "I feel the snowstorm in the US may be on its way to Canada."

Using "I think" and "I feel" correctly is just a matter of paying attention. When you're aware that you have a tendency, as many of us do, to write "I feel" rather than "I think," you'll be more apt to be on the lookout for this construction.

Meanwhile, I hope that none of my readers were affected by that storm!

Sigrid Macdonald is a manuscript editor and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor, currently available on Amazon Kindle.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Today's Writing Tip Is When to Use Male and When to Use Man

Sometimes it's hard to know when the word male or man would be a better choice. Generally, male is better used as an adjective and man as a noun. Here are some examples:  

The male soccer team performed well last year.


At the party, the men stood on one side of the room and the women stood on the other.

Can you say that the males stood on one side of the room? Yes, because male is also a noun, but Grammar Girl recommends using men for people and males for scientific purposes or when referring to animals. In that case, you can say, “The giraffes couldn't reproduce because the zoo only had males.”

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor available on Amazon Kindle: .

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Today’s Writing Tip Is on Misplaced Modifiers

I’m a big fan of Christopher Hitchens, a controversial British writer who happens to have fourth degree esophageal cancer. In his last book, which served as his autobiography, he gave a tip to writers: he said, “Don’t say that as a boy your grandmother used to read to you unless she really was a boy at the time, in which case I think you have thrown away a much better intro.”

So, how do we rewrite that sentence? We don’t want the phrase “as a boy” to be qualified by the term “grandmother.” Let’s try this – “When I was a boy, my grandmother used to read to me.” That works. The phrase “when I was a boy” is followed immediately by “my,” the proper pronoun for boy instead of grandmother.

Thanks for this, Chris. And I’ve appreciated all your other messages, political and otherwise, over the years. I hope you have several more books in you.

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