Thursday, July 02, 2009

The long and short of it

I came to a screeching halt while reading Texas Heat by Debra White Smith. It happened several times during the course of the book, but when I hit one particular sentence I couldn't go on and packed it in for the night. Ms. White Smith has over fifty books in print and even she got it wrong. It could be because she likes the word and uses it frequently or maybe she didn't take the time to edit her work, but someone of the many people who read and edited the book from manuscript to printed stage should have caught it.

Page 138:"For some reason Charli Friedmont had dumped him for a looser."

For looser what? Bonds? Clothes? Grammatical senses?

The word is LOSE. There is no substitute and it's not a matter of mixing up tenses (past, present, future, future perfect, etc.) He didn't want to LOSE her.

So many people make the same mistake, but for some reason they always switch LOOSE with LOSE. It's a simple fix and doesn't need to be an issue. When editing, read your work out loud and you'll hear what's wrong when your eyes are glazed with lack of sleep and poring over printed page after printed page. Spell check won't find it because it's spelled right, so you'll have to be more careful about that.

LOSE is from the verb TO LOSE.

They LOSE.
We/They LOST.
You are going to LOSE all credibility if you keep misusing LOSE.

LOOSE has many grammatical jobs.

Your pants are so LOOSE you might LOSE them if you don't get a belt.
You're going to LOSE credibility as a writer if you let your hold on grammar get LOOSE.
She is going to LOSE that LOOSE tooth.
Let LOOSE of my arm or I'm going to LOSE my temper.

It's simple to see the difference and even simpler to hear it. If you're unsure, or just a lazy typer, read your sentences aloud and make sure you have the right number of Os in your words.

Lose and loose aren't the only ones to give some people problems. There are also CHOOSE and CHOSE. The difference here is that they are present and past tense of the same verb: TO CHOOSE.

I, you, we, they CHOOSE.
I, you, we, she, he, they CHOSE.
I, he, she was CHOSEN.
We, they, you were CHOSEN.

You CHOOSE to make mistakes, but I CHOSE to fix them.
I CHOOSE to write about grammar and I CHOSE these words because the are so often misused.

I wonder if the letter "O" is what gives people so much trouble and that's why they make mistakes. I don't think it's a mistake in spelling or typing, but a mistake in understanding, and possibly a pandemic case of laziness. Three words that sound alike and mean something different (homonyms) are: TO, TOO and TWO. A lot of people mix them up.

TO is a preposition, an adverb, a noun and is usually combined with other words as a verb.

I am going TO the store.
You are driving me TO drink.
Get this right or I'm taking you TO the woodshed.

TOO can be used as an adverb or adjective.

Are you TOO lazy or is it TOO hard to remember which word to use?
You are just TOO funny for words.
I want TO go on vacation, TOO.

Two can be an adjective, pronoun or noun.

I've just TWO words to say: bite me.
There are more than TWO ways to do this.
More than TWO mistakes were found.
She chose the TWO of cups.

Grammar isn't that difficult, most of the time, and it can be fun. Grammar is also your best friend if you want to be seen as an intelligent, well read, careful and often read author. It takes so little effort to do it right. So, when in doubt, read it out. Repeat after me. When in doubt, read it out. It takes less time than trying to find mistakes by reading and it's a lot more accurate. You're also less likely to miss something that will make your readers groan and throw your book across the room even when there's no spider or insect to be squashed.

Texas Heat has quite a few more problems hiding in the prose, but that's a subject for the review I'll write later. You can check out my reviews at The Celebrity Cafe (six years and counting) where I wax philosophic about grammar, tortured prose, plot and characterization.

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