Is it Towards or Toward?

A couple times I’ve stumbled on this word while reading, thinking it was a mistake. Turns out it’s not. Toward and towards mean the same thing, but one is British English while the other is American.

The British spelling, towards, always seemed correct to me. You can say

She headed towards the woods.

but it means the same thing as

He ran toward the car.

though, I think the latter version is clunkier.

 

This is the same with check and cheque. In American English, the word check has several meanings; the main two being to verify, but it also refers to a bank money order. British English reserves only one word to mean a bank order, cheque. Even as I type this, spellcheck is informing me that “cheque” is not a word. Either are correct, but I suggest you be consistent or else you’ll confuse people.

 

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How to Tell if a Rejection Letter is Form or Not

I’m going to veer a bit off topic on this one; my scathing grammar commentary can wait a few days.

For any of you who are writing and attempting to get work published out there, you might be familiar with rejections. Form, personal, or even an acceptance, these are all the possibilities you have when you send your work out. Though it doesn’t matter in the end, people like to know whether they’ve received a form or personal rejection letter. You’d think it was clear, but it’s not. There’s ambiguity in how personal some markets make their form rejection letters and not everyone can tell.

Now, I only started sending work out a few months ago, but I’ve received my share of rejection letters, though not necessarily a large variety. The typical form rejection letter looks something like this:

Your Typical Form Rejection Letter

These are short and sweet, clearly form and very bare bones. This is a nicer example, less blunt than some of them can be. Basically, literary magazines send these out in tens everyday.

Dear Writer,

Thank you for the opportunity to read “Your Story”. Unfortunately*, we’ve decided it wasn’t right for Our Magazine. Best of luck in placing this elsewhere.

Sincerely,

The Editor

* – I’ve found “unfortunately” to be a recurring term in a few of my own form rejections.

Your Confusing Form Rejection Letter

These are form rejection letters, but they always contain that last bit of information as a reason, a sort of reassurance to the reader that, though meant well, can confuse us to bits. I haven’t received too many of these, but I’ll try my best to recreate an accurate example.

Dear Writer,

Thanks for letting us read “Your Story”. We receive many submissions on a daily basis and are unable to accept as many stories as we would like. We hope you’ll consider submitting more work in the future.

Yours truly,

The Editors

Your Atypical Personal Rejection Letter

I’ve received a few personal rejections, which I welcome more than a form, although in the end, it’s still a no. Personal rejections aren’t typical, there’s not one way to do it, but here’s a vague sort of example.

Dear Writer,

Thank you for submitting “Your Story” for inclusion in Our Magazine. *We’ve read it carefully*, but have decided to pass on it. We enjoyed the flying octopus and the lost banana, but found that the story was not enough for us, overall. Best of luck in placing this elsewhere.

Best regards,

The Editors

* – This is also a common phrase in form rejection letters. Remember, it’s only personal if they actually mention some detail from your work.

Your Typical “Tricked Ya!” Personal Rejection Letter

I don’t expect this to be something everyone can relate to. I felt the need to include it anyways as it’s happened to me.

Dear Writer,

Thank you for your submission. Formformform. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, formformform. Form, best of luck, form.

That said, I did like the language here and the box of bribe chocolates you sent me. I hope to see more (chocolates) from you in the future.

Sincerely,

The Editor

I may have embellished it a little (I write stories, y’know), but this is essentially a rejection that I’ve received before. Nothing amazing, but it’s nice to get a little note inviting you to keep them in mind. It’s to say “hey, this wasn’t total rubbish” and I’ll take that if I can.

I will end this post on a positive note: In my experience, personal rejection letters have proved even more useful than acceptances. A quick “We’ll take it” doesn’t benefit your writing as much as a “We liked this, but this was not quite right.”. Keep collecting those rejections, and save them for a rainy writing day. That sounded cheesy… Anyways, they didn’t publish your work, but at least it left an impression on them. And if not, revise, revise and try again.

If you want to find out if your rejection letter was form or not or what tier, head over to the Rejection Wiki.

Quick Notes: “A lot”

“There are a lot of elephants in this zoo.”

Hear that? Pronounced “ey lot” not “alot”. This is technically a phrase because it’s two words, not one. There is a great amount, a great number of something. There is a whole lot.

I mean, I guess it would be excusable to use alot if you wanted to be indecipherable. For example,

SotheotherdayIwenttothegrocerystoreandboughtalotofstuff.ThenIwenttothemovies;itwasalotoffun.Ihadalotofpopcorn.Maybetoomuch.”

Hard and fast rules don’t require much explanation. Alot is wrong. A lot is right.

Compliment vs Complement

These are confusing, but one word is usually more common than the other in everyday use.

A compliment is a noun, a man will give a compliment to woman. A compliment is an expression of praise or admiration; it can also be a sign of respect or regard by giving a gift or favor. “He paid us the compliment of a personal tour.” It can also mean “thanks to”; “this wine is complimentary” or “on the house”.

A complement is a noun for something that adds to and completes another thing. “Those shoes complement your dress.” Something that completes another thing is said to complement it.

Quick Notes: “intensive purposes”

“For all intensive purposes…”

What? Do you even know what you’re saying?

For those of you who are often mistaken, the real phrase is “for all intents and purposes”. This is another one of those misheard/mistyped phrases that are so common but often twisted around. The actual phrase means essentially, or ‘under normal circumstances’.

To save myself the time, you can find a definition of “for all intents and purposes” here.

How Not to be an Annoying Critic

People who create things, whether it be art, stories, or music, like to put their stuff out there and receive feedback. And since the days of the Internet, people have been all too happy to give that feedback, but brainlessly and without explanation. There are few places and people from which you can receive constructive criticism these days and bad critiquers are only fainting the well.

This is a combined list of pet peeves and general no no’s for critique etiquette.

  • Do not hang onto the same few overused “writer’s rules” and point them out in every single piece of criticism you give. Why? Because it is annoying and takes from your credibility as a critical reader. If you can’t treat each story like an individual piece of fiction and you feel the need to “mark with the same rubric” every time, I fear I may have to pass on your feedback. You’re not seeing my story and you’re certainly not thinking critically.
  • Do not write the story for someone. This is tricky ground because it’s helpful to give examples of re-phrased lines or better descriptions, but don’t presume that you can write better than someone because of it. Keep the “Mommy knows best” attitude away from it.
  • Do not bring your own beliefs or morals into it. The author will immediately think less of your critique because you seem more interested in judging the author than helping to improve the story. Also, you sound less professional. What kind of reader feels the need to judge a writer halfway through their story? One who doesn’t fully understand the concept of “fiction”.
  • Do not think that fluffy compliments and vague criticisms constitute a critique. Things like “I like this.” with no explanation as to why can be irritating to the author looking to improve. Even worse, things like “You’re telling too much and not showing enough” are vague criticisms without any information to validate the claims. If I don’t see a because in there, it makes it harder to take that person seriously. Most critiques are accurate in pointing out issues such as that, but sometimes the claims look as if they’ve been thrown around, willy nilly. You don’t want to sound like you don’t know what you’re doing or that you’re taking any old nitpick and throwing it in sans reasonable proof.

I admit, these were all do nots; a crossover between a rant and a how to. Oh well, next time I’ll address the rest of it in a post that goes along the lines of How to Write a Helpful Critique or something.

Affect vs Effect

Affect– verb, meaning to influence something; to act on.

Effect– noun, pertaining to the influence of one thing on another; the end result or consequence.

Examples:

Side Effects– are things that happen as a result of medication, not intended to occur or not in correlation with the purpose of the medication.

to affect an accent- to assume or take on an accent

For Example:

To elaborate, pretend that this is a conversation between a psychiatrist and his patient.

Dr. Joe: So tell me, Mr. Bob, have there been any side effects with your medication?

Mr. Bob: Yes, actually. I think it’s affected my mood and I seem to be eating more.

Dr. Joe: That’s the actual medication working, then. That’s the intended effect. Does this affect your energy levels?

Mr. Bob: No. I don’t know what the effects of the side effects are, but it hasn’t really affected my everyday life at all.

Dr. Joe: Well, let me know if you experience any changes in your mood again, it not only affects you, but it will affect your family, too.

No need to applaud me for my literary creativity. It’s a natural talent.