The Ubiquitous @

March 7, 2016

Aside from its obvious email application, how many of us have ever really considered the “at” symbol – @? It’s been around for centuries, yet it was largely ignored by all but those in the math or accounting arenas much of that time. For years, this unassuming character languished above the 2 on our typewriter keyboards, snubbed by virtually all except folks who included it in their grawlixes.

With the advent of electronic communication surfaced the ingenuity of one Ray Tomlinson, an American computer engineer (who, incidentally, passed away over the weekend at the age of 74). In 1971, Tomlinson drew the humble @ into the spotlight as a central figure of his recently developed “electronic mail” system.

Of course, you can also use the @ symbol to send electronic roses to your sweetheart… —-^–^-<@ – but you’ll have to kind of squint and look sideways to make it look like a long-stemmed rose with thorns.

As for what the ubiquitous @ is called in other languages, check out this article. Personally, I prefer the Armenian ishnik and the Danish snabela. What about you? What’s your favorite other-language moniker for @?


CAPA-U 2011

May 5, 2011

This Saturday, May 7, I’ll be speaking at the eighth annual Connecticut Authors & Publishers Association professional-development day for writers. CAPA-U (short for CAPA University) will be at the Hartford Steam Boiler Conference Center, One State Street, Hartford, CT.

I’ll be part of a panel discussing what to expect when working with an editor, and how to get the most from the author-editor relationship. We’ll likely touch on word choice, style, punctuation, spelling, grammar… perhaps even the funny side of the editing process – and, of course, we’ll set aside time to answer your questions.

Your admission gets you the day-long conference, complete with a choice of fifteen different workshops, keynote address, agents’ panel and a one-on-one meeting with a literary agent to discuss your work. A delicious buffet lunch is included… as is secured, indoor parking on site. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet and talk with other authors, hear some informational and inspiring speakers – and possibly win a refund of your registration fee. Not a writer but know someone who is? A ticket to CAPA-U makes a great Mother’s Day present!

There’s still time to sign up for CAPA-U… but don’t delay; registrations are filling up fast! Hope to see you there!


Mother’s Day? Mothers’ Day? Mothers Day? Which is correct?

May 7, 2009

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. That’s right. Not Mothers’ Day. Not Mothers Day. And certainly not mothers day. Mother-apostrophe-ess: Mother’s Day.

A number of folks have asked me via email, “How do I know when to capitalize Mother (or Mom) and when to leave it lowercase?”

Great question. Here’s the quick-and-dirty answer:

If you were writing, for instance, “I went to visit my mother; we played canasta,” the lowercase form of “mother” would be appropriate. However, if you were to write, “I went to visit Mother; we played canasta,” you would capitalize “Mother,” because that is the name you call her.

Have other questions? Just leave a comment.

Oh, and whether you’re currently overrun with young’uns or your kids are grown and gone – or even if you’re someone’s godmother or favorite auntie, Happy Mother’s Day to you!

And, if you happen to be among the women for whom motherhood was cut short, this is your Mother’s Day, too. Take time to honor yourself and your departed child(ren) this Sunday. Remember to be gentle with yourself… and, above all, know there will be better a Mother’s Day for you in time.


CAPA-U… Seven Days and Counting

May 2, 2009

Next Saturday (May 9, 2009), I’ll be taking part in an editors’ panel at CAPA University, a day-long professional-development day for writers; I’ll be part of a three-member panel of experts. This sixth annual event is sponsored by the Connecticut Authors & Publishers Association.

Some of the topics we’re sure to discuss will be word usage, spelling, grammar, punctuation, general editing and proofreading.

What are your thorniest proofreading/editing concerns? If you were to attend this panel discussion, what burning question would you most like answered or addressed?


When to use “They’re,” “their” or “there”

April 12, 2009

Question: Which sentence is correct?

“There putting they’re stuff over their.”

– or –

“They’re putting their stuff over there.”

Answer: The second one is correct.

I was going to put “Obviously” at the front of that sentence, but it’s all too clear that the answer isn’t obvious.

It seems so simple, yet it’s an issue that continually plagues everyone from middle-school students to business executives. Let’s tackle this one with a few simple examples.

Basically, if you’re attempting to replace the words “they are,” you’d use “they’re,” which is a contraction of those two words.

If you’re giving directions, that one’s easy. Just think of it this way: “I just have to put a “t” on the beginning of ‘here’ to get to ‘there.'”

And “their” is a possessive pronoun. So “their stuff” means “the stuff that belongs to them.”

With that in mind, our second sentence could be reworded thus: “They are putting the stuff that belongs to them not here, but in that place.” Or something like that.

What are your spelling bugaboos? Have you got a word you chronically misspell? Talk to us… maybe we can help you come up with a simple solution to remember the correct spelling.


I’ve Had It!

April 1, 2009

I’m giving up.

I’m threw with this.

They’re doesn’t seem two be any point, too going on. People dont change there spelling, speeking and punctuation just because some crazy woman harps incessantly about it. I wish I would of considered that before I wasted my thyme; putting up this sight. Their are to many other things I could of focused my energies on.

Im going two look into being an an elevator operator… but I’ve herd even that has it’s ups and downs.

Good buy crewel whirled.


These Guys Are My Heroes!

March 23, 2009

This recent article from Reader’s Digest details how Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson have made it their business – nay, their calling – to wipe out typos from all public signage. They’ve formed a group called the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) and have traveled around the country correcting editorially offensive signage – now that sounds like my kind of organization!

I doubt they do it as a public service; if they’re anything like me, it’s more of a compulsion than any attempt at re-educating the faultily learned masses. Quite simply: they can’t help themselves.

There’s also – if you can believe it – an Apostrophe Preservation Society – founded by Englander Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (which is a delightfully funny, if somewhat acerbic, read).

According to Beth Quinn, who wrote in the Times Record-Herald of Middletown, NY (several years back) of Truss and her book:

“In her rather militant way, she pickets businesses that have apostrophe errors in their signage. Off she goes with a great big apostrophe on a stick and marches around in front until the business owner is shamed into correcting his punctuation.”

Now all we need is a Society for the Prevention of Hyphen Abandonment. I’ve got this little plastic box sitting on my desk – a box filled with stray hyphens – which I find myself accessing on a more regular basis lately as I read. It seems people just don’t know what to do with their hyphens, so they fling them about all willy-nilly, giddily hoping they’ll land in some functional configuration (appropriately wedged between two parts of a compound modifier, for instance). Sadly, though, that generally isn’t the case and they end up falling into words that should never be hyphenated – like “never-the-less.”

What’s your favorite maligned punctuation? Hackneyed strings of exclamation points employed by hyper-enthusiastic email correspondents? Interrobangs? (Still considered to be non-standard punctuation, the interrobang combines an exclamation point – or “bang” – with a question mark.) The oxford comma? (This is a comma that precedes the “and” near the end of a list of items.)

Let’s hear from you…