Tag Archives: usage

Keep Up, Keep Up!


Moore’s Law says that computing power doubles every two years.

That premise has led to an explosion of technological advances to bring simplicity and convenience to our lives. In the old days when Radio Shack sold it’s first personal computers, the device was boxy and cumbersome. Cell phones were non-existent. One used a land line or payphone. Cameras used film, and sharing pictures with family required an envelope and postage stamps. To keep from getting lost, one went to AAA for a trip planner or carried maps in the car. When away from home, travel guide books explained what sights to see and what restaurants were good and cheap. All this stuff took up storage space.

Now I am amazed: a smart phone, the size of a deck of cards, handles all of those tasks via the Internet, GPS, and any number of applications.

I hear that the next big thing will be a device combining the word processing and spreadsheet capabilities of the laptop computer with the operations of the smart phone. Likely that device will also have an application to monitor my blood pressure, heartbeat and blood sugar levels, too.

Right now my husband’s pacemaker stores what’s happening in his chest in a microchip until, in the middle of the night, his telemetry unit remotely downloads the data from his pacemaker, connects to the land line and sends the information off to a medical office for interpretation. As advanced as that system is, it relies on my husband sleeping in his own bed AND having a land line telephone. In the future, my husband’s smart phone will house the ability to read and send his medical information to his doctor, allowing his condition to be monitored wherever he is, even afloat in the Chesapeake Bay.

How is this relevent to an author? I’ll explain.

On my radio, I enjoy listening to one of my favorite singers Adam Levine of Maroon 5. However, the lyrics of the recent Maroon 5 hit “Payphone” made me laugh out loud when I first heard it.

Payphone, I thought. When was the last time I saw one of those? Come on, Adam. Payphone?

Okay, okay. I realize the song is about an egomaniac loser oblivious to his useless state; the irony of his having to use a payphone is lost on his grey matter. In the song, the device of the payphone serves a purpose.

But as a writer, be aware the reader will also laugh out loud AT YOU if you use old technology, old-style language or anything else that is out-of-date in the story; UNLESS, as in “Payphone,” the “old” serves a purpose.

One helpful technique to spare yourself embarrassment: have a twenty-something read your manuscript and point out its flaws. Correct them before sending the work off to the editor.

What To Do with Vocabulary


Recently, one of the local writers group members read one of my sudden fiction pieces.  He highlighted the word “obscure” and suggested I use the word “hide” in its place. He had reasons for his suggested word change.

For one thing, he felt the word was too elevated for the genre. For another, he felt many readers wouldn’t know the word. It wasn’t a conversational word, he said.

I argued to keep the word. I felt the meaning of the word obscure more aptly described what was happening in the story. To “hide” something implies intent. One can “obscure” something without intending to hide it. In the story, a face is obscured, not purposefully hidden.

His comments about usage raised points to consider.

Is there language that is suitable or unsuitable for a specific genre? Sudden fiction may be considered “low brow” compared to the novel, or even the 3,000 word short story.  Obviously, that opinion is subject to debate.

How does one balance vocabulary usage with one’s readership?

Some argue that today’s society needs the stimulation of mental challenge. Others say that today’s society doesn’t have time to stop and look up words every few minutes when reading.

As a writer, I thanked my friend for his input. His remarks were helpful.

I haven’t settled on an answer to the questions his remarks generated. I’d love to hear what you think about using big words in short, short stories.

Paraprosdokian


Normally, I don’t share personal e-mails. However, this message from a member of the local writers group warrants sharing.

Dear All,

Thought you’d be interested in increasing your vocabulary–and getting a few chuckles.
Mom, Oma, Karel
Here is the definition: of “paraprosdokian”:

“A figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence  or phrase is surprising or unexpected;
frequently used in a humorous situation.”
“Where there’s a will, I want to be in it,” is an example of a paraprosdokian. My version: Where there’s a will, there’s someone to contest it.”
Ok, so now enjoy!

1. 
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not beating everyone over the head with that fact.
2
. Sunflower oil is made from sunflowers. Peanut oil is made from peanuts. Baby oil is…