Excerpt From: GRAMMAR FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE RULES by Kathleen A. Watson

What Was John Wayne’s Maiden Name?

Legendary for his rugged masculinity, actor John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison. Can you imagine a reporter interviewing him and asking him what his maiden name was?

Consider Merriam-Webster’s definition of maiden name: a woman’s family name before she is married

According to dictionary.com, maiden name is: a woman’s surname before her marriage

Do those definitions not smack of the assumption — or at least the implication — that all women eventually marry?

We’re in the 21st century. There are better, more gender-neutral, more inclusive — or simply more accurate — terms: childhood name, original name, or my preference,
birth name.

Some sources suggest family name or father’s family name.

 Times change, maiden name persists
The outdated descriptor maiden name still is used in everyday conversations, by writers, and on forms both men and women complete for any number of official uses.

Consider this June 2015 headline in The New York Times:

Maiden Names, on the Rise Again

The article reports that roughly 20 percent of women retain their birth name after marrying, rather than legally becoming known by their husband’s family name. Another 10 percent or so hyphenate their name or legally change it while continuing to use their birth name professionally.

Political correctness and sexism aside, it makes sense to use the more inclusive and gender-neutral term birth name when inquiring about or referring to anyone’s original name. It can apply to men as well as to women — or to spouses of any union.

If you work in human resources or have forms in your company that request a maiden name, I hope you’ll encourage those who oversee that department to consider a more inclusive term.

Were he still around, I’ll bet John Wayne would concur.

√ Killer Quote: “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say  too much.” — John Wayne


Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in both corporate and academic worlds. She has taught business people how to fine-tune their communication style, college students how to strengthen their writing, and Ph.D. candidates how to polish their dissertations. Kathy also has experience as a fiction and nonfiction book copy editor, working with a mix of new and experienced authors.

In addition to writing her own book on grammar, she blogs at RuthlessEditor.com, sharing weekly tips on how to write to get the job you want, earn the promotion you’ve worked hard for, and artfully explain your best ideas.

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SHARE: TRANSMUTED @ 99¢ Until 7-11-17

YAY! Kindle Press, TRANSMUTED ebook publisher, is running a .99¢ promotion on selected books from their catalog starting today through Tuesday, 7-11-17. I have no control over TRANSMUTED ebook pricing, so take advantage of this promotion while it lasts, and please share.  Buy on Amazon now, or read the free preview first.

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QUANTUM SPACE by Douglas Phillips: The Oreo Cookie of Hard Science Fiction

That crunchie, chocolate cookie goodness is the fact-filled quantum physics that Phillips knows so well (think Arthur C. Clarke). And the rich creamy, makes-your-teeth ache center is the gripping, quarky, fast-paced plot (definitely Dan Brownish). You get the picture . . . but wait, I’m gonna take this one step further. That glass of cold milk? That glass of milk is the cast of three-dimensional characters (there’s a joke in there which you’ll get if you buy the book) who are both smart and hot, and who speak like humans. There! Now I’m done. You’re welcome.

All cookies aside guys, QUANTUM SPACE (4.5*) is one great read. Check my feed and you’ll see I don’t recommend lightly. In fact, this is the first book I’ve recommended (except my own, of course) all year. If you love hard science, you will eat this book up (there I go again), and if you’re a little queasy, don’t worry, the science is described in layman-friendly terms. You don’t have to be a physicist to understand it.

Just a taste of QUANTUM SPACE to get your juices flowing (once I get started, I cannot be stopped) from the description on Amazon:

High above the windswept plains of Kazakhstan, a Russian Soyuz capsule drops toward Earth. Onboard are three astronauts returning from the International Space Station. A strange shimmer in the atmosphere, a blinding flash of light, and the capsule vanishes in a blink as though it never existed.

On the ground, stress levels spike as evidence points to a catastrophic reentry failure. But more than an hour later, a communications facility in Australia picks up a voice transmission that sounds like one of the astronauts. The voice of a dead man?

See, what I said, right!  Read the free preview.  Buy QUANTUM SPACE.

Now for the bonus (which one might call “double stuff,” but I will refrain). Mr. Phillips also wrote a separate, short and intriguing prologue to QUANTUM SPACE, titled QUANTUM INCIDENT, just to whet your appetite. Read the free preview to QUANTUM INCIDENT.  Buy the book.

Whether you start with QUANTUM INCIDENT (99¢) or QUANTUM SPACE ($2.99) I guarantee you’re going to want to read both. And I guarantee goodness along with tight, well-edited prose. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a quick trip to the corner market.

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Weekly Excerpt From: GRAMMAR FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE RULES by Kathleen A. Watson

[We must all strive for perfection. @Giraffedata, you know who you are.]

Grammar Stickler Banishes
comprised of From Wikipedia

When I came across an online story headlined “One
Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake,” I of course had to find out who this fellow grammar stickler was and which error had become his obsession.

A software engineer writing as Giraffedata, this stickler edits Wikipedia reports for the incorrect use of comprise.
He 
claims to have made 47,000 corrections since 2007.

I’d had comprise vs. compose on my list of potential topics
for years, but so many people use comprised of incorrectly that I’d considered it a lost cause.

Here are examples of comprise as well as words with similar meanings.

Comprise means to contain, to include, to consist of:

  • Congress comprises 435 representatives.
  • His car collection comprises eight Model T Fords.
  • The committee comprises six women and eight men.

Compose means to form in combination, to make up, to constitute:

  • Congress is composed of 435 representatives.
  • His car collection is composed of eight Model T Fords.
  • The committee is composed of six women and eight men.

Consist means to be formed of or made up of:

  • Congress consists of 435 representatives.
  • His car collection consists of eight Model T Fords.
  • The committee consists of six women and eight men.

Constitute means to make up, to be components of or to be elements of:

  • Four hundred thirty-five representatives constitute Congress.
  • Eight Model T Fords constitute his car collection.
  • Six women and eight men constitute the committee.

When you use comprise, you first mention the whole of something and follow with its components:

  • Congress … 435 representatives
  • car collection … eight Model T Fords
  • committee … six women, eight men

When you use constitute, you first mention the components of something and follow with the whole:

  • 435 representatives … Congress
  • eight Model T Fords … car collection
  • six women and eight men … committee
  • Killer Tip: Something can be composed of or can consist of elements, but it can’t be comprised of or constituted of elements.

Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in both corporate and academic worlds. She has taught business people how to fine-tune their communication style, college students how to strengthen their writing, and Ph.D. candidates how to polish their dissertations. Kathy also has experience as a fiction and nonfiction book copy editor, working with a mix of new and experienced authors.

In addition to writing her own book on grammar, she blogs at RuthlessEditor.com, sharing weekly tips on how to write to get the job you want, earn the promotion you’ve worked hard for, and artfully explain your best ideas.

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The Mummy . . . not that bad after all

The Mummy is only 17% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. I didn’t think it was that bad. Obviously, it comes nowhere near Wonder Woman. Had it been released at a later or earlier date, I believe it would have reviewed better. So . . . it wasn’t scary. The action and CGI were good (especially the plane scene—which I understand wasn’t CGI), and it makes a nice prologue to the Dark Universe. People should just back off and let it do the job it was meant to do without being harassed and criticized before it even has a chance . . . wait . . . I think I’m off topic.

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10 Things I Loved at Phoenix Comicon 2017 (maybe 9, I didn’t really count) . . .

#PhoenixComicon 2017 is in the can, as they say—though that’s an expression open to interpretation. This year was interesting in many ways.

Security went from none to overdone quickly, when a man calling himself “The Punisher,” showed up wearing body armor and carrying loaded weapons. He was determined to take out the #GreenPowerRanger, a/k/a #JasonDavidFrank (as well as a few cops while he was at it). Why the Green Power Ranger, nobody knows. The incident could have been a nightmare scenario for all, but the pathetic mental case posted his intentions online. Someone from California saw his posts and contacted the authorities. Had Thursday’s security been tighter, the incident might have been avoided. As you can imagine, on Friday, the lines wrapped around the convention center with a two to three-hour wait for bag checks and wands (not the Harry Potter kind). Fortunately, Saturday and Sunday went slick as snot on a gold tooth. (I know that’s disgusting, but it’s a quote from my book, TRANSMUTED. Had to be done.) Otherwise, a great con as usual.

The highlight for me (my blog, my opinion, my, my, my . . . we’ve discussed this before guys), was literally (using the old definition) back-to-back writing workshops which spanned the four days. So many I was forced to choose between different topics sharing the same time slot. About a 50/50 split between free and $10 at the door. I attended all that I could, and all were worthy.

My favorite was the best-selling/award winning author, #TomLaVeen “Sizzling Dialogue” workshop. He brought his acting chops to make his presentation fun as well informative. I don’t think I’ve generated as much energy over my lifetime as he exerted in one hour. And I have two pages of great notes for my future writing reference. If you have an opportunity to attend a Tom LaVeen workshop, don’t hesitate—even if you’re not a writer.

Next up for worthy content was the NYT best-seller, #MichaelStackpole workshops (many, many, many of them throughout the con). He tends to cover the basics of each topic in a uniform delivery mode. Sometimes you have to check to confirm which of his workshops you’re in at the moment. But I always find a jewel among the pebbles. I wish he’d throw in an intermediate or advanced presentation once in a while.

Some of the “workshops” were simply author panels (always free) discussing particular aspects of their genres and careers. At times you can learn as much from the panels as you would glean from a workshop presented by, perhaps, a more prominent author. Regardless, the author panelists are always entertaining.

I attended writing-related programs exclusively except for one celebrity panel and two #LegibleScrawl live script readings (and the Kids Need to Read charity poker tournament which I won’t mention, except to say my $$$&$ went to a good cause).

#AlanTudyk Spotlight Panel was great. As with #NathanFillion, Alan usually gives a signed promotional item from his movies or Con Man to each person who asks a question. This year he forgot his bag of goodies and was signing his hotel room soap, shower cap, shampoo, miscellaneous receipts, old boarding tickets, etc. It was funny. I also stood in line two hours to get his autograph on his cover issue of the Serenity #DarkHorse comic. Note: Alan Tudyk is habitually late to every event. But his lines are sooo long that you still have to get there early and wait, and wait, and . . . still waiting.

#LegibleScrawl panels are becoming some of my favorite events of the con. Legible Scrawl is a local theater group whose members write original fanfic scripts to read live (and they have a podcast). Unfortunately, I could only make two of the four offerings this year, and more unfortunately, I tossed my program before making a note of the panel titles. One, I know, was “Doctor Who-se.” Doctor Who wanders from one fan universe to the next at the direction of the audience. Believe me, it was a lot funnier and entertaining than my description. Another was a Harry Potter-related mystery, also hysterical, and with an ending that begs a sequel. Check out their website: http://www.legiblescrawl.com.

That’s it for Phoenix Comicon 2017. My guess is, at well over 100,000 attendees, discounting the gun-carrying nut case on the first day, a great time was had by all.

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Weekly Excerpt From: GRAMMAR FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE RULES by Kathleen A. Watson

Dangling Modifiers:
Confusing to Downright Silly

I know, I know … I’ve heard all the jokes about dangling modifiers. But when it comes to grammar, they are no laughing matter.

A dangling modifier is a phrase that either is in the wrong place or modifies the wrong thing. These misplaced or poorly worded phrases can create confusion, or they can totally change the meaning of what you intend to say.

Or they can sound darned silly.

Having finished eating dinner, the dishes were loaded into the dishwasher.
problem: The dishes did not eat dinner; people ate dinner.
better: Having finished eating dinner, we loaded the dishes into the dishwasher.

Without knowing her phone number, it was impossible to contact her.
problem: Who didn’t know her number? It?
better: Without knowing her phone number, I found it impossible to contact her.

At age 7, Josh’s father entered the Army.
problem: No one’s father could enter the Army at age 7.
better: When Josh was 7, his father entered the Army.

Buried in an old cedar chest, Kia found her cheerleading sweater.
problem: Kia wasn’t buried in the old cedar chest, her sweater was.
better: Buried in an old cedar chest was the cheerleading sweater Kia had worn.
better yet: Kia found her cheerleading sweater buried in an old cedar chest.

Walking home last night, the porch light was visible a block away.
problem: The porch light was not walking home last night.
better: As I walked home last night, I saw the porch light from a block away.

To avoid dangling modifiers, pay attention to the order of your words and to the doer of the action.

√ Killer Quote: “Miscommunication lies at the heart
of most unhappy situations.” — George Davies


Writing and grammar expert Kathleen Watson, fondly known as The Ruthless Editor, has nearly three decades of experience in both corporate and academic worlds. She has taught business people how to fine-tune their communication style, college students how to strengthen their writing, and Ph.D. candidates how to polish their dissertations. Kathy also has experience as a fiction and nonfiction book copy editor, working with a mix of new and experienced authors.

In addition to writing her own book on grammar, she blogs at RuthlessEditor.com, sharing weekly tips on how to write to get the job you want, earn the promotion you’ve worked hard for, and artfully explain your best ideas.

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