Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I Appreciate Your Considering the Matter or I Appreciate You Considering the Matter?

This is a tricky one. I almost always got this wrong when I was young and most of the time I still deliberately misspeak because I don't want to sound uptight, but the correct answer is counterintuitive. Most of us want to say, "I appreciate you considering the matter" because we view this sentence just the way we view "I appreciate your consideration," but they are completely different. Why?


Because the latter, "I appreciate your consideration," emphasizes the term consideration. That's what I appreciate. Your consideration. But when I say, "I appreciate you considering the matter," I could be talking about one of two things – I could mean that I appreciate you and then the emphasis is on you, or I could mean that I appreciate you considering, in which case the focus is on the term considering.


So, if I' m focusing on you, it is technically correct to say, "I appreciate you considering the matter." But most of the time, what people mean is that they appreciate the considering, so the right way to say that would be, "I appreciate your considering the matter." It sounds stiff and formal, and because many grammarians consider both to be correct because they mean separate things, I wouldn't worry too much about it if you get it wrong.


Sigrid Macdonald is an author and an editor. You can find her at  


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Today's Writing Tip Is Slightly Unrelated to Writing

I usually confine my writing tips to topics that concern writers, such as spelling, grammar, word usage, punctuation, plot lines for stories, maintaining clarity, etc., but this week I've been thinking a lot about what to do when people I know mispronounce words. Is it rude or is it useful to correct someone who does that? Does it depend on the context of the situation – if it occurs in a business meeting or over coffee with a friend? What if that person has English as a second language? Are you helping them by correcting their improper pronunciation or making them feel foolish?

My conclusion – don't do it. Or ask yourself if you would like someone to correct you. I know someone who always pronounces the word inundate as “in-young-date” and someone else who uses the word irregardless, which is not really a word. But I never correct them. It seems elitist to me. Ditto for someone with ESL. Unless people ask me to help them with their English, I don't want to run the risk of embarrassing them, especially around other people, by pointing out their errors. Are there exceptions?

 For sure, this rule does not apply in print. If someone asks you to read their unpublished manuscript, by all means it is an act of kindness to point out typos and misspellings before this goes to print. After the book goes to print, it's a different story unless the book has been self-published and there is the possibility of going in to correct the mistake. But when somebody tells me that he has just finished reading Ayn Rand and pronounces Ayn as Ann, I just smile and ask how he liked the book because I hate it when people sound snobby and superior. That's me. What do you think?

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books including Be Your Own Editor. Find her at  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Today's Writing Tip Is on Poring or Pouring over Your Books

This is a phrase that has always confused me because both spellings look wrong, and neither verb seems at first glance to mean what we want it to mean. But the correct answer is pore: Stephen was poring over his laptop notes. If he poured over them, we only have to hope that it wasn't coffee!

Pour means to fill a glass or drink with something, or to flow in a steady direction whereas to pore means to reflect or meditate, stare at something intensely, or – the meaning we want – to read or study with great attention. Pore can also be used as a noun to refer to the pores on our face.

Just remember that there is no “u” in poring over your books (or that  "u" may not find it to be all that much fun).

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books. Find her at  


Friday, February 7, 2014

Today's Writing Tip Is on Clarity

Sometimes when we write quickly, we don't think about the way a reader may interpret our sentences. We know what we want to say, but readers don't necessarily. That can lead to confusion or inaccuracies. Take the following sentence:

"In the winter, my aunt has osteoporosis and is afraid of falling." Really? Your aunt only has osteoporosis in the winter? I'd love to know how she makes it disappear in the summer. Or is she just afraid of falling in the winter? Or she is more afraid of falling in the winter than at any other time of year? A better way to phrase that sentence would be like this: "My aunt has osteoporosis. She is afraid of falling, especially in the winter."

It's easy to catch these sentences if you reread your material and make clarity a top priority in your writing.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three full-length books and two short stories. She provides copyediting services along with manuscript evaluations and can be found at  



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Today's Writing Tip Is on What With

Lately I've been running into a number of sentences that use the term "what with." For example, "I've been super busy this semester what with taking care of the kids and doing my online accounting course." Or "I can't afford to take the family to a movie what with the high cost of admission and the price of popcorn and sodas. Better to stay home and watch a DVD, especially on these cold nights."

I don't see the point of adding the word "what" when the sentences will work perfectly well without it and will be much cleaner. For example, "I've been super busy this semester with taking care of the kids and doing my online accounting course." In that instance, you could also remove the word "with," making this sentence read, "I've been super busy this semester taking care of the kids and doing my online accounting course." But the second sentence reads better with the word "with." "I can't afford to take the family to a movie with the high cost of admission…"

Whenever you can make a sentence more concise and less wordy, do it.

Sigrid Macdonald is a manuscript editor and the author of three books. Find her at  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Today's Writing Tip Is on Women Criminals

The other day I heard someone talking about women criminals. The term is awkward for two reasons: first, it's wrong because we want to use the adjective female instead of the word women. Second, it implies, however subtly, that criminals are men.

This is not a matter of political correctness but rather of accuracy. The same could be said for Jewish dentists or teenage mothers. Sometimes clarifying one's ethnicity or age is crucial to our story, but other times it's irrelevant and can seem patronizing, sexist, or racist. Female driver is a good one since it is often used in the pejorative.

Before you specify someone's race, gender, age, or disability, ask yourself if it's really necessary for the reader to know that the grocer is Indian or the postal worker (can't say postman anymore!) is Asian. If it's essential information, you want to provide it, but use caution when employing these potentially hot button terms.

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor. Find her at  


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Today's Writing Tip Is on Double Negatives

Normally we don't want to use a double negative, meaning we don't want two words in a sentence that indicate that we don't want to do something. For example, "I don't want nothing at the store" reads much better as "I don't want anything at the store." But sometimes there are exceptions.

Often written dialogue sounds more realistic with double negatives, especially if you are quoting people who are deliberately misspeaking such as teenagers who know better but are trying to sound cool, or people who are accidentally misspeaking such as those with English as a second language.

The other time that I like double negatives for writers is for emphasis. I was listening to a song by Boyzone yesterday (yes, I know, a boy band, slightly higher on the totem pole than Backstreet Boys, whom I also like, for the record. So, shoot me.) and they sang the following line: "I'll never not need you." Those words kept going around and around in my head, not just because I'm a writer and an editor and double negatives pop out at me like a caterpillar crawling through a Caesar salad but also because of the impact the line made. Never not need you. It sounded so romantic, much more so than "I'll always need you."

So, double negatives aren't always taboo, but in general they are something we want to avoid. The trick about using them is to know the rule first – that they are not grammatically correct – and then feel free to break that rule if you have good reason.



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