Playing With Words

March 19th, 2013 WordPlay Posted in Grammar, Just For Fun, Vocabulary and Spelling, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools Comments Off on Playing With Words

playing with wordsIf you enjoy writing, you must like words. The typical English speaker has a vocabulary of around 2,000 words, and those with a university degree may have around 4,000. Still, that’s not an enormous number. William Shakespeare used something like 20,000 words in his writing, but Shakespeare had a dirty secret. He made up thousands of those words himself.

This might sound like a pretty bad idea. After all, words are there to be understood, and if you invent words yourself, how can anyone understand what you mean? Good question, and yet if it worked for Shakespeare, it can work for you. Often Shakespeare turned nouns into verbs, added prefixes or suffixes, joined words together, or borrowed parts of words from elsewhere. He invented words like eyeball, frugal and gossip.

Do you think I’m just confoozling you? Or do you find preconfabricated words hard to understand? Well, ermahgerd!

These days, corporations have whole departments dedicated to making up words (not to be confused with the departments dedicated to making up numbers – that’s Accounts.) Think iPhone. Think Wii. Think Youtube.

It’s all good, clean fun.Inventing new words, like incanderous or fediciously (don’t ask me what they mean) is easy. So why be stuck for the right word again? Just make up one that sounds like the kind of thing you need. And far from dumbing down the language, it opens up opportunities to say something new. I think that must be a good thing, surely?

About the Author
Steve Morris expounds, articulates and wrestles with words and thoughts at Blog Blogger Bloggest.

Content Writing for Other Sites and Blogs

June 13th, 2012 WordPlay Posted in Blogging, Tips and Tools, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 3 Comments »

How to be a guest author and content writing consultantWhen you’re creating written content for yourself, it’s pretty easy. It can get hard, though, when you undertake content writing for other people, for other websites or blogs. Writing for someone other than yourself can make you a freelancer, a copywriter, or a ghost writer, or all three of them at the same time. It can also make you just a guest author, which is what I am today and I’m going to tell you how I tend to proceed.

Research about the Subject at Hand
Most of the time, I’m invited to write an article or two. I usually decline if I know nothing about the subject or if it’s going to take me more than a day to research it. On the other hand, if I find the subject interesting, whether it’s for a specific niche or not, I’ll usually go out of my way to create something unique and informative, regardless of how long it takes me to do the research.

Most of what I do is ghostwriting, which means my name and links to anything I do are not attached to the article at all. I’ve written articles for small fees and sometimes for free because it’s someone I know. I prefer guest articles because then I can get a link back, which is usually worth more than any fee.

How to Research
It’s hard to describe, so I’ll use an article about an old movie as an example. The first thing I would do, if I hadn’t seen it, would be to watch it somehow.

The next step would be to glean as much information as possible about it at IMDB and Wikipedia. Plagiarism isn’t my thing and that information is used only to give me ideas on what to focus on.

If there isn’t a lot of information about a specific topic available at well-known sources, I’ll fire up Google and perform a kind of search and destroy mission. The destroy part is when I have to ignore the spammy websites to get to the gold, so to speak.

There are people who are never satisfied. I tend to deal with people like that one time and one time only. If you’re writing to earn a living, it’s one thing. When you’re not, you can be choosy.

Rewriting what you’ve written shouldn’t be an issue if it’s a sentence or two. You should always put yourself in the shoes of the person reading the content and if it doesn’t make sense to you when step away and read it later, it won’t make sense to them either.

If something you’ve written requires a complete rewrite, every time, then you may want to consider writing for yourself only. Not everyone is cut out to be a writer for other people. On the other hand, practice makes perfect if you’re trying to turn it into a freelancing career.

About the Author
RT Cunningham writes for himself at RTCX.NET as well as a few other places. You can find him all over the place if you search for his name using Google. You’ll know it’s him if you see a picture of him and his wife next to the results.

Web Content: Tips for Getting Something on the Page

May 12th, 2008 WordPlay Posted in Blogging, Cartoons, Clip Art, Free Clip Art, Free Images, Free Photos, Tips and Tools, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 7 Comments »

blank papersI’ve been conducting research and compiling images for a comprehensive review of a great free online imaging tool. But you’re not going to read about that now, because I woke up with a cold. Instead, I’m going to refer you to some tips for getting something on the page on the days when the content just ain’t happening.

Tip #1
Create a resource list using other people’s work. This post is an example. I found some posts that address finding inspiration for blog articles and voila ! Instant blog post.

Tip #2
Scan this exhaustive (and when you have a cold, exhausting) content resources list from Lorelle on WordPress that will surely have an idea or 10 that will point you in the right direction for content creation.

Tip #3
Check out these 18 types of blog posts from Darryn at ProBlogger. One of these ideas might jar your thinking process a bit so you can come up with something new.

Tip #4
Use Zemanta. If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog and you don’t already use Zemanta, you might want to start. Once it’s installed, simply go to the editing area of one of your old posts you think might be expandable (preferably a long one so Zemanta will have a good idea of the subject) and see which articles Zemanta recommends. One of these might inspire a new idea or give you stories to link to for your very own post like this one: a resources list. Read our Zemanta review for more information about how it works.

Tip #5
Use social networking sites to see what’s hot. You can get a quick idea of the latest buzz by seeing what everyone else is writing about. If you write book reviews on your blog, check out social networking sites devoted exclusively to book lovers.

As always, it’s a good idea to make things look pretty by using images in your posts. Images can also do wonders if you don’t have time to write a lot. You can use Zemanta for this. But if Zemanta doesn’t have what you need, see our free clip art collection, free cartoons or Stock.Xchng review for links to lots of quality free images. (The image in this post is from B S K of Stock.Xchng.)

I hope this resource list helps you stay on top of your content!

If you’re interested in relevant anchor text links for your content, visit R.T. Cunningham’s ConnectContent.

Mother’s Day Gifts for Moms Who Blog

April 8th, 2008 WordPlay Posted in Gift Guide, Photography, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 7 Comments »

Need a last-minute gift or card for a Mom?
Check out these free Mother’s Day certificates and free printable vintage Mother’s Day cards.


As we know, bloggers are a special breed who work hard. How moms who blog actually pull off caring for children at the same time, I have no idea. My hat’s off to them. To honor the fact that they live double lives so effectively, here’s a guide to Mothers Day gifts for moms who blog. The products range in price and type; some are serious, some are silly. But any of these gifts will allow you to support her creative passions this Mother’s Day!


Verilux lamp Verilux Natural Spectrum Deluxe Clamp Lamp
This is the perfect gift for a mom with bleary eyes from spending too much time at the computer. The lamp can be clamped on a desk or monitor to allow the simulated natural sunlight to illuminate her workspace, reducing eye strain and making the whole world look sunnier.

ORDER Verilux lamp _________________________________________________________________

Chicago Manual of Style The Chicago Manual of Style
This is the quintessential resource for sticklers who want to get every detail right. Originally created to establish editorial standards for writers of academic works, the scope of its recommendations now cover the world of cyberspace — which makes it perfect for blogging moms!

ORDER The Chicago Manual of Style


Eats, Shoots and Leaves Eats, Shoots & Leaves
This hilarious book is like Mary Poppins’ proverbial spoonful of sugar that helps the plea for better punctuation to go down. Combining a joking militarism about correct punctuation usage with a great sense of humor, Lynn Truss educates while she entertains.


ORDER Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Canon cameraCanon PowerShot A590IS 8MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom
Whether she wants to capture the kids in action or create photos for blogging, this is the perfect gift. A serious camera at an affordable price, its easy operation allows even moms who know nothing about photography to take great pictures.

ORDER the Canon Powershot

The Elements of StyleThe Elements of Style
This skinny little volume covers the basics every writer needs to know. In fact, many writers read it once or twice a year, just to brush up. If you know a mom who blogs and doesn’t have this book, you might want to do her a big favor and get it for her.

ORDER The Elements of Style

So there you have it; some lovely gifts I’m sure the blogging moms in your life would be happy to get.

Don’t forget, Mother’s Day is coming up quickly, so order soon!

And if Mother’s Day puts you in the mood for a good film, here’s a list of 10 movies about moms you might like. Also, if you’d like to make a free vintage art card for Mother’s Day, visit Vintage Holiday Crafts.

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Book Review: Punctuation Clarified with Humor in “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”

March 9th, 2008 WordPlay Posted in Book Review, Grammar, Punctuation, Reviews, Vocabulary and Spelling, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 4 Comments »

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

By Lynn Truss

You’d be surprised how punctuation affects us all!

I used to live in Los Angeles, which has famously become a melting pot. I’ll leave it to more profound minds to discuss the ramifications and benefits of the blending of so many cultures in one place. I’ll just confine myself to the effect that blending has had on the language: I don’t like it and I’ll tell you why. It has nothing to do with xenophobia (an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or of that which is foreign or strange). In fact, I loved having access to so many cultures. What bothered me was the effect that multiple converging languages had on signage.

Petty? Probably. But I just couldn’t help extrapolate the effect signs written by non-English speakers — and left unchecked by sign company proofreaders — would have on future generations.

So you can imagine my joy at finding a book devoted to this and other niggling grammatical worries. Not only does Eats, Shoots & Leaves author Lynn Truss share my concern over errors made on signage; she’s raised the correction of them to high art. The subtitle of the book is “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” and she isn’t kidding. If you’ve ever cringed at a sign that read “Banana’s for Sale” (which of course should be the apostrophe-less “Bananas for Sale”); you’ll love this book.

A clue to the content of the book can be seen in its title, which comes from an old joke:

A panda walks into a restaurant, sits down and orders a sandwich. After he finishes eating, he pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter. He then stands up to leave.

“Hey!” shouts the manager. “Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn’t pay for your sandwich!”

The panda yells back at the manager, while throwing a badly punctuated wildlife manual at him, “Hey, I’m a panda! Look it up!”

The manager opens the manual and sees the following definition for the panda: “A large bearlike mammal with characteristic black and white markings, native to certain mountain forests in China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

This just shows you how much trouble one lone comma can create. Had the comma after “eats” been omitted, the panda would have just stuck to eating shoots and leaves and there wouldn’t have been any gunplay.

Truss is so hopping mad about the abuse of language; she has stopped just short of advocating gunplay herself for language abusers. But she does it with such wit and insight; she makes you want to join in.

Here are just a few examples from the book that explain how we get ourselves into trouble with punctuation:

Commas run amuk

A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.

In the first example, the poor hypothetical woman doesn’t amount to much without a man around. In the second, the man is the one left wanting. The meaning is completely reversed simply by replacing the first comma with a colon and moving the second comma.

Misplaced apostrophes

A sign hangs in front of a large children’s playground that reads “Giant Kid’s Playground.” Truss points out that it’s no wonder no one uses the playground. The misplaced apostrophe strikes fear in the hearts of neighborhood children by announcing the presence of the Giant Kid who owns the playground.

Although Lynn Truss advocates for all of us to become soldiers in the punctuation war by packing correction fluid and stickers to both cover unwanted punctuation and introduce punctuation that’s missing; it’s all done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. That’s what makes this book so special. Like the proverbial spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, Eats, Shoots & Leaves uses humor to distract us while poking us with a stick to jar us awake.

Buy this book

We hope you enjoyed this book review of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. You might also want to read our other book reviews:

The Elements of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

You might also be interested in these holiday gifts for writers.

Book Review: The Chicago Manual of Style

December 14th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Book Review, Free Photos, Grammar, Punctuation, Reviews, Tips and Tools, Vocabulary and Spelling, Writing 2 Comments »

Chicago Manual of StyleAvailable in print and versions, this resource is a practical guide to editorial style for writers. It’s hard to overestimate the influence this writing tool has had on wordsmiths everywhere. Although it was created to establish editorial standards for writers of academic works, the scope of its recommendations now cover the world of cyberspace.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) book and Web site are divided into logical categories, which cover all aspects of writing and grammar, from punctuation to split infinitives to how to capitalize the president of the United State’s title. (And no, you don’t get to decide that based on your opinion of him.)

Some examples of the questions the CMOS answers:

  • Which is correct: Web site, web site, website or Website?
  • Should there be a comma after website in the question above?
  • Which is correct, Boston Tea Party or Boston tea party?
  • What is the proper format for citing an information source?

Although the online version offers quick answers to a lot of questions that can pop up while writing, it doesn’t address all of them. You need the print version for that.

The Chicago Manual of Style online version is based on an annual subscription, but there is a 30-day free trial. Also, they offer a free FAQ that answers common grammar questions and doesn’t require registration to access.

Buy this book

We hope you enjoyed this book review of The Chicago Manual of Style. You might also want to read our other book reviews:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

The Elements of Style

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home

You might also be interested in these gifts for writers.

Contest: Word Manglers Welcome

November 27th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Cartoons, Contest, Reviews, Vocabulary and Spelling, Writing 3 Comments »

Blog Review: WordPlay Café Neologisms Contest

What do you call a baseball player who keeps adjusting his
batting glove for the 28th time, backing in and out of the
batters box, checking his grip, etc.?

The ump’s ire? Maybe Ruth? A lumbercheck?

Any of the above new terms for one of the more fidgety boys of summer is known as a neologism. Who would have thought one of the more serious vocabulary words I’ve ever heard could be so fun?

Dictionaries define a neologism as a recently created word, sometimes resulting from a combination of words. Since inspiration and insanity are close cousins, it’s not surprising that The American Heritage Dictionary also incorporates this little ditty into their definitions of neologism: “The invention of new words regarded as a symptom of certain psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.”

But you don’t have to be crazy to come up with neologisms. Just ask illustrator Michael Kline, who has made a successful career out of mangling words. He’s the illustrator of many children’s magazine articles and 25 books, including WordPlay Café, which teaches children to have fun with language. He also authors and illustrates the WordPlay Café Neologisms Contest Blog, which runs a weekly contest that encourages people to come up with their own neologisms to match his illustrations.

The results of people’s manglings are quite clever. Here are last week’s winners:

Attachment disorder
What do you call it when you forget to attach
a file to an important e-mail?

1st place: Mailnutrition
2nd place: Filefaux pas
3rd place: Dettachments
Honorable mention: ADD: Attachment Deficit Disorder

WordPlay Cafe coverIf you’d like to try your hand at mangling a few words, you can enter the contest (or just look at the past entries) by going to WordPlay Café. The first-place winner gets his or her choice of a copy of the WordPlay Café book, or an original, autographed sketch of the illustration on which the winning entry was based.

You also can contact Michael at WordPlay Café for permission to use his illustrations on your blog or Web site and to find out about the terms of use. (Ed. note: No taking without asking first, please.)

Copyright 2007

Using Famous Quotations to Punch Up Your Blog

November 19th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Famous Quotations, Photography, Tips and Tools, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools Comments Off on Using Famous Quotations to Punch Up Your Blog




“Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll buy a funny hat. Talk to a hungry man about fish, and you’re a consultant.”
Scott Adams


Let’s face it, sometimes the well is dry and you don’t know what to write. At times like that, borrowing a famous quotations can help get the ball rolling. If used to reinforce your blog’s topic, the quote could even make good reading. (Don’t go off-topic unless there’s a good reason. Unless you have a reputation for covering a variety of subjects, your readers are there for your expertise on one topic.)

If you can combine the quote with a photo, so much the better. As you can see in this post, the photo makes it hard to miss the quote. Don’t know where to find photography? See our review of Stock.Xchng free photos for a great source of quality free images. Or, use your camera phone or digital camera to create images uniquely suited to your blog’s topic.

Here are some tips for using quotations:

  • Use quotation marks around the quote.
  • Make sure to attribute the quote to the appropriate author.
  • Don’t change the quote, even if there’s an obvious error.

Here are some good sources for quotations:


“In the business world, the rearview mirror
is always clearer than the windshield.”

Warren Buffett


Fish photo by Pam Roth

You might also be interested in these related posts:

Copyright 2007

Book Review: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

November 10th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Book Review, Grammar, Punctuation, Reviews, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools 1 Comment »

Elements of StyleBy William Strunk and E.B. White

The Elements of Style manages to condense all the important rules of grammar into a package so small, you could mistake it for a drink coaster. Well, maybe it’s not that small. But small enough to give the impression that it wouldn’t cover enough territory to be worth buying. But it does and it is. That’s why writers have loved it since it was published for mass distribution in 1959.

When Professor William Strunk self-published the original version in 1919, it was even smaller than it is today. E.B. White (of Charlotte’s Web fame) was a student in Strunk’s Cornell University English class at the time, so he had to read The Elements of Style along with the rest of his classmates. After graduating, he promptly forgot about the book. He couldn’t have known then that 38 years later Macmillan would ask him to revise it for the college market and general trade.

A master of economical writing, White used not one word more than was necessary to spruce up Strunk’s original take on grammatical style. And that’s exactly the point of the book; it advocates a lean economy. Thankfully, it also allows for flexibility. The book still counsels to omit needless words and to use concrete, specific language instead of the abstract, but it also gives advice on using colloquialisms and avoiding fancy words. And the glossary alone is worth the price of admission. Especially for those of us (ahem) who can’t seem to remember the names of all the parts of speech.

The book covers a vast array of grammar questions, although White insists in his forward that The Elements of Style isn’t meant to be comprehensive. The topics it covers are too numerous to mention, but here are some:

  • Commonly misused words and expressions
  • Nouns used as verbs
  • Writing in a way that comes naturally to you
  • Not taking shortcuts at the cost of clarity
  • The number of the subject determines the number of the verb

White’s plainspoken authority intimidated me when I first read the book years ago. It helped me relax, though, when I read the forward in the fourth edition by White’s stepson, Roger Angell. He tells of observing White’s weekly efforts to come up with copy for the “Notes and Comments” page of The New Yorker. Angell said that sometimes after the copy was in the mail from Maine to New York, White would say, “It isn’t good enough. I wish it were better.” Experiencing this fundamental anxiety writers are prone to led him to infuse The Elements of Style with practical, no-nonsense advice. He probably even needed the reminders himself.

Although White died in 1985, his little book is still among a writer’s best friends. This is due in no small part to his understanding of a wordsmith’s plight.

Buy this book

We hope you enjoyed this book review on The Elements of Style. You might also want to read our other book reviews:

The Chicago Manual of Style

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

You might also be interested in these presents for writers.

Copyright 2007

Grammar Myth #2

November 9th, 2007 carlajc Posted in Grammar, Writing, Writing Tips and Tools Comments Off on Grammar Myth #2

You can’t begin a sentence with and or but.

Grammar mythsBut of course you can. This is an example of another worn-out rule that needs to be debunked. I don’t even know how this one began, because people have been beginning sentences that way since the 10th century.

One caveat: even people who support the use of and and but to begin sentences believe that overuse leads to monotony. But what is overuse? Personally, I never begin a sentence with and and but more than once each in a paragraph. It’s my experience that more frequent use gives the writing a droning quality. And if I can go several paragraphs without using them in that way, so much the better. When used properly, however, beginning sentences with and and but can actually introduce a continuity and colloquial feeling to your writing.

Also, see grammar myth #1: You can’t end a sentence with a preposition.

You might also be interested in these related posts:


Copyright 2007