Tag Archives: Grammar
The Nitty Gritty
I have hundreds of recipes pinned to dozens of Pinterest boards, so I come across a wide range of offerings. Nowadays, the images have to be perfectly lit and photoshopped to make them look appealing; it’s like sugar in pre-packaged foods… we’ve gotten so used to the artificial visual flavour that if a photo were undoctored in some way, it would be glaringly out of place. But what is often missing is the same attention to detail in the writing. I’ve seen “tablespoon” misspelt a few ways, or the abbreviations as Tbs., tb, tbs, tbsp, T., etc. So which one is correct? And do the forms or the etiquette of choices differ between print and online versions?
I pulled out a cross-section of cookbooks in my library and thumbed through them; I took older, newer, American and British, and I scoured online recipe sites like Betty Crocker; here’s what I discovered:
- When writing a cookbook for a printed version, editors/publishers tend to write out the entire word [tablespoon, teaspoon, cup, pound, ounce, etc.].
- The two most standard contractions for tablespoon are Tbs. and tbsp. They can be ended with a period or not; I would tend to do it so that the contraction looks intentional and not a typo! I grew up learning Tbs. for tablespoon and tsp. for teaspoon. To each his own.
- Blogs that are a collection of recipes, or allow contribution from subscribers, will have a hodgepodge of abbreviations and contractions because it’s simply too difficult to keep on top of such issues. Even professional sites such as Betty Crocker have gotten sloppy about it; for example, they often (but not always) spell out words like tablespoon, and then suddenly revert to contractions for pounds and ounce within the same recipe. Consistency should be the golden standard if nothing else is.
- Recipe instructions are written in the imperitive mood (bake this, stir that, knead this, eat with that, etc.). You’ll never find 1st, 2nd or 3rd person pronouns within the instructions of a recipe; at most, you’ll find them in the short intro before a recipe begins.
- In a printed book, NEVER does a recipe instruction include the ramblings about the cat in the kitchen, or what you changed about the recipe, or what you’re doing that’s unrelated to the topic at hand. If you’re writing a personal blog, that’s a matter of personal preference; I tend to want the recipe itself streamlined to make it easier to read on the fly in the kitchen, but maybe that’s just pragmatic ol’ me. If there are additional notes or something I’ve changed about a recipe for my own blog, I tend to put that in the introduction and not in the actual recipe, but there’s not a set rule – it depends on where it’s warranted or relevant.
As with any kind of writing, some things are a matter of personal preference; at that point, where there is no one grammar rule to apply, the most important thing is to be consistent throughout the manuscript.
If you’re thinking of writing a cookbook (or any other manuscript for that matter!), I would recommend keeping what is called a style sheet; this is used in publishing houses where several people will have the manuscript in hand at some point; this sheet prevents someone else from undoing choices – they can look at the style sheet and know that it was an intentional decision, and leave it; otherwise the risk is that one man’s capital is another man’s lower case, and so on.
As an author, the style sheet is my running list of decisions to keep me on track as I write; it can include sections for punctuation (have I decided to go with British or American English punctuation for things like Mr / Mr.?), unusual capitalisations (for me, one issue was when to capitalise “sir” as a substitute for a proper name – I could always refer to my sheet when in doubt), abbrevitation/contraction choices, etc. It could also include a record of my choice of fonts, spacing between sections, indentations, and so on. I have a section for my “cast of characters” – to remember how I’ve spelled a name, or what I’ve named an infrequent cast member. I might include an abbreviated description of a character so that I don’t give them green eyes in chapter one, and blue eyes in chapter ten. What you can include in your style sheet is endless… foreign terms/spellings, reminders to check validity of hyperlinks, punctuations such as en- and em-dashes, how you’ve written specific gadgets (capitalised or not, hyphened or not, etc.). Below is a basic style sheet template to get you started.
No matter what you’re working on, hone your craft, and keep writing!
Have you ever wanted to compare two people, places or things in a pithy way, but couldn’t remember a particular saying, or think of a way to put it? For starters, what you’re looking for is called a “simile”, and they abound in English! A simile is a figure of speech used to compare one thing to another, usually using “like” or “as”. Some are obvious, some are quirky, and some must have a fascinating history. Here is a small selection using “as…as”; if you know of any others, please add them in the comments below! Have a great weekend, and keep writing!
As likely as not
As long as your arm
As loud as thunder
As mad as a hatter / a March hare
As mad as a wet hen / a hornet
As mean as a snake
As meek as a lamb
As merry as a cricket
As mild as a dove / a lamb / milk / May
As much use as a handbrake on a canoe
As mute as a fish / an oyster / a statue / a stone
As naked as a jaybird / the day they were born
As nervous as a cat (in a room full of rocking chairs) / pig in a packing plant
As nutty as a fruitcake
As obstinate as a mule
As often as not
As old as the hills / Adam / Methuselah
As pale as a ghost / death / ashes
As patient as Job / an ox
As plain as a pikestaff / day / the sun / the nose on your face
As playful as a kitten
As pleased as punch / a dog with two tails
As plump as a partridge
As poor as a church mouse / a rat / Job / Lazarus / dirt
As pretty as a picture
As proud as Lucifer
As proud / pleased as punch
As proud / vain as a peacock
As pure as a lily / (the driven) snow
As quick as a dog can lick a dish / a wink / lightning / a flash
As quiet / still as a mouse / whisper
As red as a rose / a cherry / beetroot / a lobster / a turkey-cock / blood / fire
As regular as clockwork
As rich as Crassus / a Jew
As right as rain / nails / a trivet
As round as a barrel / a ball / an apple / a globe
As safe as houses / the Bank of England
As scarce as hen’s teeth / ice water in hell
As scared as a rabbit
As sharp as a tack / a needle / a razor
As sick as a dog / a parrot
As silent as the dead / the grave / the stars
As silly as a goose / a sheep
As slim as a willow
As slippery as an eel / ice
As slow as a snail / a wet week / molasses in winter / molasses in January
As sly as a fox
As smooth as butter / oil / silk / glass
As snug as a bug in a rug
As sober as a judge
As soft as butter / down / silk / velvet / clay / wax
As sound as a bell
As sour as vinegar
As straight as an arrow / a ramrod
As steady as a rock / the Rock of Gibraltar
As sticky as jam
As stiff as a poker / a ramrod / a board / pikestaff
As still as a mouse / death / the grave
As straight as a die / an arrow / a poker / a ramrod
As strong as an ox / a horse / a bull
As stubborn as a mule / a goat
As sure as death and taxes / death / taxes / a gun / eggs are eggs
As sweet as honey / sugar
As tall as a steeple / maypole / a skyscraper
As thick as thieves / blackberries / pea soup
As thick as two (short) planks
As thin as a rail / paper / thread / a stick
As timid as a deer / hare / rabbit / mouse
As tired as a dog
As tough as old boots / nails / leather
As tricky as a monkey
As true as steel / flint
As ugly as sin / a scarecrow / a toad
As useful as a chocolate teapot
As vain / proud as a peacock
As warm as toast
As watchful as a hawk
As weak as a kitten / a baby / water
As wet as a drowned rat
As white as a ghost / a sheet
As white as snow / chalk / milk
As wide as the poles are apart
As wise as Solomon / an owl
As yielding as wax
I’ve been editing, tweaking, editing, and tweaking this week; not to mention editing. Over the years I’ve used a wide variety of tools, such as Scrivener, but have found that, for me, the best combination is MS Word and my brain.
One of the tools I’ve also been using recently is a new one for me: The Grammarly app in Word. I’m of a mixed opinion about it. Do any of you use this app with your manuscript? If so, what is your experience/impression?
So far, the app is batting less than 1 out of 10; in other words, of 10 “critical errors” that it points out, only 1 of them is legitimate. I’d say the average is more like 1 out of 15 or 18. There is also a version of this app, which requires a monthly or yearly subscription, that will expand its range of editing suggestions; but before I go that route I want to know that the app actually works in the free version. So far, it’s more static than editing aid.
Now to be fair, my manuscript is not the average; it’s got words like en queue (the hairstyle of men in the 18th century), and odd terminology to do with nautical actions or environments. But some of the errors that it points out, such as those to do with commas, are actually correct (e.g. pointing out the second comma of a parenthetical phrase as out of place). Most of the time the suggestions that it makes are just downright wrong in the context; it proves that language is a fluid concept, and nearly impossible to intelligently simulate in a computer program. It also means that we are far better off becoming fluent in grammar rather than relying on ANY program to correct our writing!
Having said that, I still appreciate it because it forces me to think through a decision, whether that be sentence structure, punctuation, or phrasing. Sometimes it sends me in search of confirmation for a grammatical assumption I’ve made; rarely am I surprised by what I find, but it nevertheless helps to solidify the right way of writing something in my mind. For the most part, I have the app turned off (a great function – the only reason I still use it!), just running it through sections at a time as my other editing nears an end.
Are there any programs or apps that you use for editing? If so, what is your experience? Please share in the comments below!
These are priceless examples of creativity gone awry. I don’t know who originally wrote these gems or compiled them; if you know, please tell me so that I can give credit where credit is due!
21 Analogies Used by High School Students in English Essays
- “When she tried to sing, it sounded like a walrus giving birth to farm equipment.”
- “Her eyes twinkled, like the moustache of a man with a cold.”
- “She was like a magnet: Attractive from the back, repulsive from the front.”
- “The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one long slender leg behind her, like at dog at a fire hydrant.”
- “She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli and he was a room temperature Canadian beef.”
- “She had him like a toenail stuck in a shag carpet.”
- “The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.”
- “Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.”
- “Her eyes were like the stars, not because they twinkle, but because they were so far apart.”
- “His career was blowing up like a man with a broken metal detector walking through an active minefield.”
- “The sun was below the watery horizon, like a diabetic grandma easing into a warm salt bath.”
- “From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.”
- “It was as easy as taking candy from a diabetic man who no longer wishes to eat candy.”
- “She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes before it throws up.”
- “Their love burned with the fiery intensity of a urinary tract infection.”
- “It’s basically an illusion and no different than if I were to imagine something else, like Batman riding a flying toaster.”
- “If it was any colder, it would be like being in a place that’s a little colder than it is here.”
- “Joy fills her heart like a silent but deadly fart fills a room with no windows.”
- “The bird flew gracefully into the air like a man stepping on a landmine in zero gravity.”
- “He felt confused. As confused as a homeless man on house arrest.”
- “The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.”