One of my Favs: Mark Nichol’s Daily Writing Tips

One of my favorite internet subscriptions is to DAILY WRITING TIPS. I signed up for the e-mail version over a year ago, and have loved it. Today’s post is a good example of why I so appreciate this daily writing lesson. Being from Indiana, where the English language seems to be, shall we say, a work in progress, today’s tip was especially useful. (Since I’m promoting his site, I hope creator Mark Nichol doesn’t mind that I repost this one entry.)  Be certain to visit his site and get your own subscription – he’ll even send you a free basic English grammar e-book!

Here was today’s tip:

Is That Even a Word?

by Mark Nichol

No authoritarian authority exists that determines whether a given word is valid or bogus. In any language, there’s a complex and imperfect vetting procedure; at least in English, most serious writers agree on the correct or preferred form of a word that is one of two or more variants or on whether a word is acceptable at all. Here’s a list of words that have been under scrutiny in this approval process:
1. Administrate: A back-formation of administration and an unnecessary extension of administer
2. Commentate: A back-formation of commentator and an unnecessary extension of comment
3. Dimunition: Erroneous; the correct form is diminution (think of diminutive)
4. Exploitive: A younger, acceptable variant of exploitative
5. Firstly: As with secondly and thirdly, erroneous when enumerating points; use first and so on
6. Heighth: Rarely appears in print, but a frequent error in spoken discourse (Why isn’t height modeled on the form of depth, length, and width? Because it doesn’t shift in spelling and pronunciation from its associated term, tall, like the others, which are derived from deep, long, and wide, do. Neither do we say or write weighth.)
7. Irregardless: An unnecessary extension of regardless on the analogy of irrespective but ignoring that regardless, though it is not an antonym of regard, already has an antonymic affix
8. Miniscule: A common variant of minuscule, but widely considered erroneous
9. Orientate: A back-formation of orientation and an unnecessary extension of orient
10. Participator: Erroneous; the correct form is participant
11. Preventative: A common and acceptable variant of preventive
12. Societal: A variant of social with a distinct connotation (for example, “social occasion,” but “societal trends”)
13. Supposably: An erroneous variant of supposedly
14. ’Til: Also rendered til and till, an clipped form of until that is correct but informal English; use the full word except in colloquial usage
15. Undoubtably: An erroneous variant of undoubtedly

They say writing is a journey. And it is…on so many levels. There is the journey of telling a story from start to finish, and going from thinking you’d like to write a book to becoming a published author. There’s the journey that writing takes you on as a person, a journey to find the “real you.” And all of those are important and a big part of writing. But for me, the best journey of all is the one my stories take me on. The journey I travel as I write and get to visit foreign lands and ancient times and future worlds. The journey that I set off on every time I sit down to write or come back later to read what I’ve written. I love to write novels because I get to go on the same journey as a writer that I go on when I read a good book. The only difference – and it’s a big one – is that I get to decided where the journey will take me next. And that’s the best part of all.