Wendy Knuth Author of Moore Zombies, blogging about the human experience.

The Wonderful World of English

I thought I knew English.  It is my first language.  I speak some Spanish and have learned those rules are much easier than English.  English has iffy rules.

You might be able to start a sentence with “and”.  But, starting a sentence with “but” is iffy.  But we speak like that all the time.   Do you walk towards the tree or do you walk toward the tree?  It depends on which country you live in or rather, which country one’s writing is intended for.  One can often tell the origin of one’s writing if there is “our” instead of “or”, such as colour and color.  Then there is theater and theatre.  In the United States of America, however, we use both.  You can go traveling in the United States.  However, you go travelling outside of the U.S.  Note how I underlined those words for emphasis.

In my Moore Zombies: Zombie World book, I have a couple of attractions inside the park.  (Incomplete Sentence Alert.)  For instance Creepy Show and the Become a Zombie areas.  I looked up rules for names and a long list of things to be italicized or emphasized.  Was there an attraction on the list?   Nope.  I also bring up the fact that Frankenstein is the name of the scientist in the book Frankenstein, (underline book names) and not the name of the monster.  Same problem.  In bringing attention to the name itself, do I refer to it as Frankenstein, “Frankenstein” or Frankenstein?  I decided one way, then the other, then back again.  I found I had caps in one area, italics in another section of the book and quotes in other areas.  How confusing.  Change it all to “just normal” I finally decided.  I think.  I could be wrong.  Read the book.  (Pluggy, pluggy.)

One thing that I have recently learned is one is supposed to put a comma after an introductory hello.  Hello, Sir or Maam.  Why the pause?  I have been writing letters all of my life with “Hello Jane”, not “Hello, Jane”.  I’m going to have to attend counseling sessions now.   Speaking of pauses. . .  Suddenly, the black cat jumped in front of me.  If it was suddenly then there shouldn’t be a pause!

Did you know there is a difference between onto and on to?  If you walk on to the next attraction, you are going there.  If you walk onto the next attraction, that would be incorrect because you are not really “on” the attraction.  What about off of?  I hear it all the time.  She jumped off of the table.  I discovered a great argument against this practice.  One wouldn’t say on of, therefore you can’t use off of.  Now it becomes:  She jumped off the table.

Now that on and off are easily understood, I would like to tell you about a confusing conversation my husband and I once had about the alarm.  Is the alarm set?  Yes it is on.  Does that mean the alarm is sounding?  No, if the alarm were sounding, then it would be going off.  So the alarm is off if it is not set to on, or you have turned the noise off.  If the alarm is on, it is not really on, it is only set to alarm.  Try explaining that to someone who is learning English.

If you think I have mastered the language, reread this blog to find that I use quotes here, italics there and underlines elsewhere.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.  Luckily, that is often not entirely incorrect in the wonderful world of English.

Wendy Knuth, author of Moore Zombies picture and chapter books

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