When to Say “Blest” and When to Say “Bless-ed” (Plus, a Little Quiz)

blessedFor our Wednesday post this week we are privileged to have a lesson on grammar while also incorporating a “word Wednesday” feature. That’s because today’s  GrammarBook.com lesson (sent by email to my box this morning) is on “Pronouncing the Word ‘Blessed’.”

“Blessed” is a familiar enough word to us – we hear people say all the time, ‘Have a blessed day” and we know the Bible uses this word frequently, as in Jesus’ Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” – but when do you pronouce it ‘blest” and when do you pronounce it “bless-ed”?

Let this grammar lesson help set us straight or keep us straight:

We received a number of inquiries from readers asking about the proper pronunciation of the word blessed when used in a way that we were not aware of when our original e-newsletter on this subject was issued on August 11, 2012. In order to provide what we hope is now complete coverage of the topic, today we are adding a fourth rule to our article:

Rule 1. When blessed is used as a verb, it is pronounced with one syllable (blest).
Example: Before we ate, our uncle Tony blessed [blest] the meal.

Rule 2. When the word blessed is used as part of an adverb (blessedly) or a noun (blessedness), it is pronounced with two syllables (bles-id).
Examples:
She hugged him blessedly [bles-id-lee, adverb] upon learning he had quit his bad habit.
The Eucharist is revered for its blessedness [bles-id-nes, noun] within the Christian faith.

Rule 3. When blessed is used as an adjective, it is typically pronounced with two syllables (bles-id). However, in certain cases, it may be pronounced with only one syllable (blest) as an isolated instance of inflection developed through familiarity with American English.
Examples:
Annie’s baptism was a blessed [bles-id] moment, particularly for her devoted grandparents.
Blessed [bles-id] are the poor. But The poor are blessed [blest, adjective].

Rule 4. When the blessed is used as a noun meaning “blessed one,” “people who are blessed,” or “those whose souls are in heaven” (Collins Dictionary), either pronunciation blest or bles-id may be used.
Example: They are the blessed [blest or bles-id] who live their lives selflessly.

And if you are up for the quiz, here you are (Don’t be overly critical of the way “blessed” is used in these examples; they’re just examples):

Pop Quiz

1. The priest blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) the candles at the ceremony.

2. The couple was blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) with a healthy baby girl.

3. I don’t have a blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) dime to my name.

4. The blessed (pronounced blest or bles-id) walk with the angels.

Published in: on June 6, 2018 at 10:20 PM  Leave a Comment  

Grammar Check! Churchill’s Speech, or Shall I or Will I Use the Right Auxiliary Verb?

Today’s Grammarbook.com email had an important quote and an important grammar lesson. The quote is from a famous speech of Winston Churchill (cf. box above and the article below), and the grammar lesson is on the proper use of “shall” and “will” as auxiliary verbs.

Here is the first part of the lesson; find the rest at the link below. As you will see, once again there has been a change in language use when it comes to these verbs too – and not always with increased clarity. Yet, while there is some flexibility according to the experts (and maybe some confusion!), we can still follow proper grammar in our use of “shall” and “will.”

Few will ever forget the words spoken by Winston Churchill in June 1940 under the thickening shadow of Nazi aggression:

“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

In a moment of such immortal conviction, none would have thought to question whether Churchill was using the correct auxiliary verb to express his nation’s resolve. His words are as powerful and inspiring today as they were almost 80 years ago.

Notwithstanding, if English teachers of the day had reviewed Churchill’s speech before he gave it, they would have alerted the leader to the usage of shall versus will:

• To express a belief regarding a future action or state, use shall. To express determination or promise (as Churchill was), use will. As a further example, a man who slips from a roof with no one around and hangs on to it by his fingers will cry, “I shall fall!” A man who climbs to a roof in order to fall from it will cry, “I will fall!”

• To simply communicate the future tense (without emphasis on determinationpromise, or belief) in formal writing, use shall for the first person (Iwe) and will for the second and third persons (you, he, she, they): I shall go to the store tomorrow. They will go to the store tomorrow.

Such established grammatical strictures once made discerning shall from will easy for English users. Through the years, however, the words’ functions have blurred; in common writing and speech, they are often interchangeable and seldom precise.

Adding to the matter, style and grammar sources offer differing views on when to use shall or will. The Harbrace College Handbook asserts the auxiliaries are transposable for the first, second, andthird person. It also declares will is more common than shallshall is used mainly in questions (Shall we eat?) and might also be used in emphatic statements (We shall overcome.).

It further upholds the teaching of Churchill’s day to use shall in the first person and will in the second and third to express the simple future tense or an expectation: I shall stay to eat. He will stay to chat with us.

To communicate determination or promise, however, it slightly departs from the Queen’s classic English. Rather than always use will, it flips its order for the future tense or an expectation (i.e., will in the first person; shall in the second and third). Grammatical form for those intent on falling from a roof would thus be “I will fall!” (first person) or “You shall fall!” (second person).

Source: Shall I or Will I Use the Right Auxiliary Verb? – Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on May 2, 2018 at 10:41 PM  Leave a Comment  

Practical Punctuation: That Pertinent Period

well-tempered-sentence-gordon-1983Back in February we started to take a look at the importance of punctuation, using Karen E. Gordon’s fun little book The Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed (New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1983).

Let’s continue by considering part of her first section on the period – yes, that little dot (.) at the end of sentences and other significant parts of words and writings.

Most of what she includes here is obvious and already known. But there are two aspects to the use of the period that we (I include myself) often forget and misuse.

For our benefit, I post those here today, along with her helpful examples (the main points are in bold). I cannot, however, duplicate her fancy stem with leaves at the beginning of these points. You will simply have to picture them where the bullets are.

  • Do not use a period at the end of a sentence that is part of another sentence.
    The rage and irony in his voice (I could hardly fail to notice the scorn with which he addressed me) alternated with a solicitous smile.

    Le Beau’s remonstrance, ‘You are always late and unwelcome besides,’ made her apologize and cry.

 

  • Periods belong inside parentheses or brackets enclosing an independent sentence. If the enclosure is part of a larger sentence, the period is placed outside the parentheses or brackets. Periods go within quotation marks except when single quotation marks set off special terms.

    They were curled up beside their radio listening to Gustav Mahler’s “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart.”

    We were hard at work on the second revision when Samuel slapped my face. (He had shown such irrational devotion to his own opinions before.)

    She said, “I have just finished writing ‘The Treacherous Bend in the Rainbow.'”

 

These points and examples are found on pages 16-17.

 

Published in: on April 3, 2018 at 10:22 PM  Leave a Comment  

Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: Issue vs. Problem

To start this new year, GrammarBook.com has been focusing on proper use of words that are close in meaning but often confused. The differences between them can be subtle yet significant, as we saw last time with the conjunctions “as”, “since,” and “because.”

In today’s grammar lesson they focus on “another pair of tricky, freely swapped words” : “issue and problem”. What follows is the important distinction between these two, plus a little quiz to help keep us on the “straight and narrow.”

The primary meaning of issue is “a point or matter of discussion, debate, or dispute between two or more parties.” Other relevant definitions include “a matter of public concern” and “a misgiving, objection, or complaint.” 

Problem, on the other hand, communicates “a question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution,” “an intricate unsettled question,” “a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation,” and “difficulty in understanding or accepting.” 

Some dictionaries have helped blur the distinction by allowing the concept of problem to trickle into definitions of issue. Within dictionary entries, appearances of problem under meanings of issue range from near the top to much farther down. 

For example, the online American Heritage Dictionary introduces problem in its second definition of issue, immediately following the first and more weighted one. Conversely, the online Oxford English Dictionary does not mention problem as related with issue until the sixteenth definition. Merriam-Webster alludes to problem in definition six. Dictionary.com does not introduce the idea of problem at all. 

So what, then, do careful writers do when common usage and even dictionaries muddy our mission for precision? We recommend an even greater focus on using issue and problem as we’ve distinguished them here. This will help reinforce the exactness English offers us.

We acknowledge that issue and problem will still be exchanged in spoken communication. At the same time, now that we better understand the difference, we can lead more-accurate usage by keeping their intended primary meanings within our own speech.

And now here is your “pop quiz” to test what you’ve just learned:

Choose either issue or problem as it fits by its main definition in each sentence.

1) I think we have a serious (issue / problem) with the balance sheet. The numbers are way off.

2) Do you think he has (an issue / a problem) with his focus during meetings?

3) The main (issue / problem) here is whether we should allow the empty twenty acres west of Route 45 to be rezoned for commercial use.

4) The council will soon discuss the (issue / problem) of a proposed hike in water rates.

So, how did you do? If not so well, are you facing an issue or a problem? 🙂

Source: Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: Issue vs. Problem – Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on March 21, 2018 at 10:22 PM  Leave a Comment  

Constructive Conjunctions: “As”, “since”, and”because”

grammar-I-and-meToday’s Wednesday email from GrammarBook.com contained a profitable lesson in the proper use of some familiar conjunctions – “as,” “since,” and “because” – showing the importance of stressing the reason for something and the result of something in our sentence structure.

Here’s today’s grammar lesson (our second this month!) – read and learn!

 

Tackling More Tricky Word Choices:
As, Because, and Since

American English is a rich, expressive language. At the same time, it includes words that sometimes appear to be alike but have slight distinctions. Without recognizing those subtleties, we might use one word when we mean another.

As, because, and since are three conjunctions that introduce subordinate clauses (those that cannot stand alone in sentences) connecting a result and a reason. A closer understanding of these words helps us write with greater clarity and emphasis in achieving this.

We use because when we want to focus more on the reason. We use as and since when we wish to center on the result.

Most commonly, the because clause emphasizing the reason ends the sentence; the as or since clause stressing the result starts the sentence. 

Examples 

Result: She got the promotion over four other candidates.
Reason: She knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the reason with because clause: She got the promotion over four other candidates because she knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the result with as clause: As she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

Sentence emphasizing the result with since clause: Since she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

The placement of the because, as, or since clause can be changed in the sentences above. Some writers might contend that only the shifted because clause maintains effective fluency while the repositioned as and since clauses sound more stilted. Moving the clauses will also change the emphasis by switching the order of the result and the reason.

Because she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, as she knew the system best.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, since she knew the system best.

Because is more common than as or since in both writing and speaking, suggesting we typically emphasize reasons more than results. As and since also are considered more formal in usage.

Looking at the details of these conjunctions polishes another tool in our quest to be writers of precision and eloquence.

Published in: on February 21, 2018 at 10:31 PM  Comments (1)  

“Whether you like it or not, you’ve got to punctuate.” ~ Karen E. Gordon

You know my love for words, word books and etymology (the study of word origins and roots). You also know I have to pay attention to proper grammar, and so from time to time we have a grammar lesson together.

well-tempered-sentence-gordon-1983

Today on this Wednesday we will also start to pay attention to punctuation, using Karen E. Gordon’s fun little book The Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed (New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1983).

Her “Introduction” includes these great lines:

Reader, I have finished with this little farrago which you are only now about to begin. I have lowered the final period and parentheses into place, have dusted and resharpened my claws. What is a comma but a claw rending the sheet, the asthmatic’s gasp? What is a question mark but what’s needed to complete this thought? Punctuation: what is it, after all, but another way of cutting up time, creating or negating relationships, telling words when to take a rest, when to get on with their relentless stories, when to catch their breath? (And you – you are breathing, are you not, in the same rhythm that creates words?)

We don’t really know who invented the comma, but a typical Roman sentence couldn’t make it with fewer that ten of these metrical incursions which are the tics of prose. The Egyptians had no use for commas (or periods, semicolons, or question marks – and exclamation points were the exclusive domain of priests), but they scratched their ideas and drew them and were not too troubled with sound. Hieroglyphics, it is true, are coming back (see your TV screen or any bathroom wall if you doubt it), but words haven’t died out of the language yet; and whether you like it or not, you’ve got to punctuate. Punctuation marks are a part of the vocabulary of civilization; a misunderstanding can be created or erased by them. Be brave: it is less difficult than you might suppose.

Are you ready to pay attention to punctuation? “Be brave: it is less difficult than you might suppose.” 🙂

Published in: on February 7, 2018 at 6:44 AM  Comments (1)  

Grammar Quiz Review – Resolved to Learn More in 2018

hero-blue-bookFor our Wednesday post this week we will return to grammar, compliments of GrammarBook.com, only this time to take a quiz – a jumbo pop quiz! – to use the words of the website.

They call it a “year-end” quiz, since the 25 questions review various grammar lessons posted last year. But let’s call it our year-beginning quiz, part of our New Year’s resolution to use better grammar in speaking and in writing.

This is how GrammarBook introduces the quiz:

In 2017 we explored an array of ways to enhance your grammar and writing. We hope what you learned follows you well into 2018 as you continue your aim to communicate with even greater precision and eloquence.

The quiz includes twenty-five sentences addressing a range of subjects. Choose your answers and then check them against our answer key that follows the quiz. For your convenience and reference, each answer in the key also includes the title and date of the article that focused on the topic.

OK, now, go ahead and get started! Have fun, do well, and keep learning! You’ll be glad you did. 🙂 You will find that answer key at the link provided above.

Jumbo Pop Quiz: 2017 in Twenty-five Questions

1. Jennifer is still choosing [between / among] three job offers: bank supervisor, financial analyst, or portfolio manager.

2. The principal has [appraised / apprised] us of the changes to school policy.

3. The coach [substituted / replaced] the bigger, slower player [with / for] a smaller, quicker one.

4. My uncle owns a [40-foot / 40-ft.] house boat.

5. The salesperson gave us three [choices / options] of current LED TV models to pick from.

6. My favorite book is [“To Kill a Mockingbird” / To Kill a Mockingbird] by Harper Lee.

7. Robert is an [honest, hard-working / honest hard-working] man.

8. The due date for the invoice is [September 1 / September 1st].

9. When hiring website developers for our company, we always look for [experts / trained experts] in JavaScript and SQL.

10. I [made the decision / decided] to attend grad school after earning my bachelor’s degree.

11. Jason is averse [to / of] doing the military press in the weight room because it’s adverse [against / to] his right shoulder.

12. By holding an auction for rare memorabilia, the VFW raised more than $60,000 [on behalf of / in behalf of] families of deceased or wounded veterans.

13. Between you and [I / me], I think the restaurant is way overpriced.

14. Please return the supplies you don’t use to Mark or [me / myself].

15. [Young people / Youth] today have to contend with more distractions.

16. The review panel found the film to be an [exploitive / exploitative] treatment of postmodern feminism.

17. Crystal composed her essay much (differently from how / differently than) Christian wrote his.

18. The house across the street belongs to the Sanchez family. The SUV in the driveway is the [Sanchez’s / Sanchezes’] car.

19. The lack of voter participation [affected / effected] the outcome of the election.

20. The band eventually left their rented practice space because of the [continual / continuous] drip from the ceiling. It never stopped while they tried to play.

21. The crowd [is / are] so large that the city may need to request extra security from the neighboring town.

22. For the following sentence, identify whether the verb used is a transitive or intransitive verb and whether the pronoun is a direct or indirect object:
Mrs. Johanssen likes to bring [transitive / intransitive] us [indirect / direct] freshly baked cookies every Sunday after church.

23. Peter is always ready to help [whoever / whomever] might be struggling with the assignment.

24. Which salutation punctuation would be appropriate for informal correspondence between good friends?
a) Dear Susan,
b) Dear Susan:

25. [Most importantly / Most important], her credit cards weren’t in her wallet when she lost it.”

Published in: on January 10, 2018 at 10:29 PM  Comments (1)  

Summer Grammar Check! Verb-Car Passengers (Those Important Particles)

hero-blue-bookIn a recent GrammarBook.com post verbs were featured once again, only this time what are called verbal particles. Or, continuing the car/driving figure, they are referred to as “verb-car passengers.”

So today, as a follow-up to that previous post on verbs, we feature this one. Because, yes, though it is the middle of summer, we must still keep our grammar straight. No grammatical slouching allowed! Buckle-up, here we go!

Understanding Verb Particles

As noted in a recent GrammarBook e-newsletter article, verbs form both the engine and the steering wheel driving our language. They determine the direction and speed of a sentence.

Sometimes, we’ll spot other words riding with them in the passenger seat. They’re not verbs, but they still attach themselves with seat belts secured. We accept and use those words because we know the main verb needs them for where we want to go in expressing ourselves.

These verb-car passengers are referred to as verb particles. Verb particles are the add-ons in verb phrases with idiomatic meanings—i.e., their definition is not obvious from the words creating the phrase.

Consider a sentence such as “She looked up the number in her cell phone’s contact list.” The verb is “looked.” The verb particle is “up.” A literal, non-idiomatic reading of the words alone would lead us to think she was physically looking up, perhaps toward the sky or a ceiling. Idiomatically, however, we understand she is retrieving the number from her phone.

Some other common verb particles are “in,” “off,” “down,” “over,” and “out,” as used in the following examples:

Facing constituent pressure, the governor gave in to the Senate’s proposed legislation.
Would you please break off a piece of that chocolate bar for me?
Analysts agree the company’s bold marketing campaign will beat down the competition.
That’s a tough question. Let me mull over my answer for a while.
Will you be checking out of your room soon?

Here are several more verbs that include particles to achieve their meaning:

bog down shape up
break away single out
burn down sleep in
flip out sum up
head out wind up
hold up wrap up


As shown here, the verb particle is often needed to convey the right idea. At the same time, we need to watch for particles that seem like they belong but make the phrase a tautology—e.g., continue on, close down. These examples would not lose meaning or clarity without the particle and thus are not idiomatic.

In certain other cases, a particle might create a tautology, but we still need it for proper writing and speech. One such instance involves the verb “sit,” which by definition does not need the particle “down” for clarity. However, imagine using “sit” instead of “sit down” when addressing a person instead of a dog.

It’s always easier to use and ride with a particle in your verb car when you know what it is, why it’s there, and, equally important, if it belongs. Just determine if together the verb and particle are idiomatic and not tautological. If so, leave them connected and keep your content cruising along.

If not, pull over, let the passenger out, and wish it the best in finding another good sentence.

Grammar Check! “I” vs. “Me”

Today’s GrammarBook.com email (June 21, 2017) about writing and proper use of English grammar focuses on the right use of the personal pronouns “I” and “me”, though it includes other pronouns too.

Since this is always a sticking point with writers – and especially speakers (we get even lazier when we speak)! – we should work on getting this right, both in our writing and in our speaking.

I remember my dear mother correcting me over and over on this as a child, until it was drilled into my stubborn Dutch noggin. Today I thank her for those daily grammar lessons. I believe they finally sunk in. Check my grammar in the previous sentences. 🙂

If you visit the blog post on this at the end of this post, you can even take a pop quiz to check yourself.

Source: I vs. Me – Grammar & Punctuation | The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Verbs as Engines and Steering Wheels: How Does Your Car Drive?

hero-blue-bookLast week’s GrammerBook.com email (May 10, 2017) about writing and proper use of English grammar focused on the healthy use of verbs. Employing the metaphor of a car, the grammar lesson spoke of verbs as the “engine and the steering wheel driving our languages.”

Today as you speak and as you may sit down to write something, think of how you use verbs, and how you can use them better. After reading this “lesson” I am sure we will all think of ways to make our verbal cars run well and steer better.

Tightening Verb Phrases for Making an Engine That Purrs

Imagine the English language as a car that can keep its body and performance pristine if driven and maintained correctly.

Think of nouns as the wheels that keep it rolling; adjectives as the chassis riding the wheels; adverbs as the paint job (some say the less flashy the better); and all other parts of speech (prepositions, conjunctions, etc.) as the vehicle’s other components (e.g., windows, trunk, mirrors, hood).

That leaves us with verbs, which form both the engine and the steering wheel driving our language. Without them, our language, like a car, would sit still and take us nowhere.

For this reason, verbs need tune-ups for optimal function. You can achieve this by tightening verb phrases.

Opportunities to do so appear throughout our writing:

Substitute a single word for “is” phrases that can be instantly shortened  Instead of writing “he is in violation of,” go with “he violates.” Rather than express “the petition is a representation of the community’s wishes,” state “the petition represents…”

Pare verb-object phrases to the core verb   Have you ever written that you “made the decision”? “I decided” is leaner and so will use less gas in taking your sentence further more quickly. Perhaps you’ve expressed in an e-mail that “the meeting came to a close” and “all who attended took the matter into consideration.” If so, next time you can adjust your linguistic belt a notch and write “the meeting ended” and “all who attended considered the matter.”

Delete redundant modifiers   We don’t need to write “hoist up” and “plunge down” when a simple “hoist” and “plunge” will do. Likewise, why use page space to say we “mix together” ingredients and “merge together” documents? The careful writer confesses the two words just don’t belong together. (These verb phrases also can be defined as tautologies; to learn more about this topic, review our recent article (Striking the Surplus from Tautologies.)

Choose the right verb to shorten an idea   Did the book “give the people hope”? You could write that it “inspired” them and buy room you might need elsewhere on your page. Someone sharing a passionate opinion might say a statement “flies in the face of” the facts. He could also state that it “counters,” “contradicts,” “refutes” or “opposes” them and lessen the risk of flying spittle.

Use these techniques as your tools for your tune-ups. If you apply them often, you’ll find out just how far and fast your writing can go.

Published in: on May 17, 2017 at 6:38 AM  Leave a Comment