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Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Language - From Simple Noun to Handy Partisan Put-Down - Leslie Savan,

Call it a vast linguistic conspiracy: proponents of the major conspiracy theo­ries of the day — the truthers, the birthers, the deathers — share a suffix that makes them all sound like whackdoodles.
“It looks like conspiracy theorists might acquire a permanent suffix in -er, just like political scandals now have a permanent suffix in -gate,” Victor Steinbok, a frequent contributor to the American Dialect Society’s online discussion board, observed recently in that forum. But unlike -gate, which merely names a scandal, he later noted, -er “makes fun of the participant” as an obsessive, “almost foaming at the mouth” advocate of a fringe political belief.
And so, in this article, Savan tries to answer this question about 'er:
What is it about the little appendage -er that can turn a simple noun into such a handy partisan put-down?
She writes:
Today’s -er groups are not -ists; their beliefs are not -isms or -ologies, theories of social organization like communism or fields of study like sociology. Nor are they -ites, devout followers of a domineering visionary figure, like Trotskyites, Benthamites or Thatcherites. The -ers, the caricature asserts, are not sophisticated enough for that. That is perhaps why -er words, long before truther, have been used to deride political opponents, as in tree hugger, bra burner and evildoer — not to mention the catch-alls for extremists, wingers and nutters (from wing nut).
This article is featured today (Aug. 25) in Footprints: Progressive Steps--available above at Progressive Politics and by free email subscription.

Words can and do break bones

A personal commentary on the misuse of language

Gary B. Larson
April 24, 1999; updated Sept. 17, 2001

Like many people, I cried recently while watching the evening news. The latest tragic killing of students hit me personally. A young Seattle man I know and love could partially fit the profile of some alleged killers in Littleton, Colorado, or in other school killings around our nation.

While in school, the young man I know often said or did things impulsively that were odd, unusual, wacky, silly or otherwise different from "normal" behavior. As a result, he was misunderstood, harassed, ridiculed and eventually ostracized by his peers. I saw it happen, and it badly hurt him--and those who really know and love him.

Fortunately, this young man, diagnosed years ago with attention deficit disorder and treated for it, has found relatively positive and productive though not mainstream ways to defuse the pain and anger inside him. And so, it appears, has the out-of-the-mainstream peer group he's developed. I have seen that happen too.

I condemn the actions of the alleged killers in Littleton; there is no excusable reason for the choices they made. But I think it's important for each of us to review our individual behavior and how our words and deeds can also hurt people and even help create people like the alleged killers in Colorado. I'm especially thinking of the behavior we model for our young people or accept in our children--not just hateful, violent, murderous behavior but also judging, unaccepting, taunting behavior and verbal abuse.

Besides suffering the discrimination and harassment of racism, sexism and homophobia in our society, too many people have suffered a form of elitism. If some people are different from us, we too easily judge them as less than us. It's an irrational attitude and behavior from which no race, religion, sex, age group, social class, political persuasion or geographic location is immune; I know I'm not. It's especially noticeable among the young, but I am sure it is insidious within the power elite of all groups.

The citizens of Washington state and some other states have decided, unfortunately, to ban government affirmative action programs. But perhaps we can partially replace them, especially in our schools, with "affirmation action" programs--programs that encourage people to be proud not only of their individual differences but also of the differences among their classmates, colleagues, relatives and friends. Excellent, essential diversity programs have been trying to do some of that, but it seems to me they have been constrained by focusing mainly on ethnic differences. The problem is broader and deeper than that.

With apologies, I have modified the following excerpt from a sermon given in various times and places by Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984, a Protestant pastor in Nazi Germany:

First they came for the blacks (and the Latinos and the American Indians and the Asians and the Arabs). I was silent. I was not black (or Latino or American Indian or Asian or Arabian).
Then they came for the gays and lesbians. I was silent. I was not gay or lesbian.
Then they came for the kids with cleft palates, missing limbs, speech defects and other physical or mental defects. I was silent. I had no such defects.
Then they came for the nerds, dweebs and geeks. I was silent. I was not a nerd, dweeb or geek.
Then they came for the fat, wimpy and ugly kids. I was silent. I was not fat, wimpy or ugly.
Then they came for the kids with attention deficit disorder. I was silent. I did not have attention deficit disorder.
And then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me.

It's time we finally lay to rest the myth of the childhood nursery rhyme we all learned: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. We see far too often on the 5 o'clock evening news how untrue that is.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Plain English Writing Rules | Brian Scott, HubPages

Blogger Brian Scott's introduction to this blog article:
Learn how to write concisely,clearly, and meaningfully — With quotes from famous writers, best-selling authors, and the world's most influential thought leaders of past and present, I will reveal some of the most important techniques to write in plain English--the preferred writing style that all professional and successful writers and journalists use.
He explains that your readers will likely understand your content the first time they read it if you adapt a plain English writing style.

Followed in his blog with photos, quotations and further explanation, here are the Scott's 20 plain English writing rules:
Rule # 1: Know Who Your Reader Is
Rule # 2 : Have Something Important to Say
Rule # 3: Use Familiar Words
Rule # 4: Use the Right Word!
Rule # 5: Avoid Complexity
Rule # 6: Convey Your Intended Meaning to Your Intended Audience!
Rule # 7: Use as Few Words as Possible!
Rule # 8: Avoid Verbosity!
Rule # 9: Avoid Legalese and Jargon
Rule # 10: Pick Simple Words that Match Your Ideas
Rule # 11: Add Rhythm to Your Writing
Rule # 12: Use Concrete, Specific Words
Rule # 13 : Develop an Uncluttered Writing Style
Rule # 14: Omit Abstract Words
Rule # 15: Think Clearly to Write Simply
Rule # 16: Avoid Redundancy
Rule # 17: Hold the Reader's Attention
Rule # 18: Use Words that Your Readers Know
Rule # 19: Explain Your Point Crisply and Clearly
Rule # 20: Write One Thought Per Sentence
Rule # 21: Write Short, Strong Sentences
Rule # 22: Make Rewriting Count!
Rule # 23: Encourage Readers to Read
Rule # 24: Don't Ramble On...End the Ending!
He supports the rules with quotations by folks like Will Rogers, Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Blaise Pascal, Barbara W. Tuchman, Hippocrates, and Willa Cather.

For more information on this topic, visit Garbl's Plain English Writing Guide. It describes a seven-step approach to writing clearly and concisely to meet the needs of your readers.

100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English - The Plain Language Programme

This list originally appeared at Your There, the introduction says:
Here are the 100 words most commonly misspelled ('misspell' is one of them). Dr. Language has provided a one-stop cure for all your spelling ills. Each word has a mnemonic pill with it and, if you swallow it, it will help you to remember how to spell the word. Master the orthography of the words on this page and reduce the time you spend searching dictionaries by 50%.
It includes advice like this:
accommodate - Remember, this word is large enough to accommodate both a double "c" AND a double "m."
indispensable - Knowing that this word ends on -able is indispensable to good writing.
memento - Why would something to remind of you of a moment be spelled "memento?" Well, it is.
rhythm - This one was borrowed from Greek (and conveniently never returned) so it is spelled the way we spell words borrowed from Greek and conveniently never returned.
weird - It is weird having to repeat this rule so many times: [i] before [e] except after...? (It isn't [w]!)
This article is featured today (Aug. 24) at Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

The Human Cost of War on Iran | Elizabeth Murray, Consortiumnews

As Israel threatens to bomb Iran, U.S. pundits are again pontificating about the necessity of war and opining about military tactics. Left out of their frame is the certainty of mass human suffering, a reality forgotten since the days of the Vietnam War.
That's the synopsis of this article by former U.S. intelligence analyst Elizabeth Murray.

She refers to a "thought-provoking" paper commissioned in 2009 by the Center for International and Strategic Studies:
The study says that “any strike on the Bushehr nuclear reactor will cause the immediate death of thousands of people living in or adjacent to the site, and thousands of subsequent cancer deaths or even up to hundreds of thousands depending on the population density along the contamination plume,” adding that “Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will be heavily affected by the radionuclides. ”
In other words, the paper acknowledges that since the spread of nuclear radiation does not stop at national borders, civilian populations throughout the region, including those of U.S. allies, will be forced to suffer the horrific consequences of any Israeli military adventures in Iran.
She asks several essential questions under this heading: Human Empathy, Casualty of a War Culture?
Why is it that U.S. policymakers and those in the intelligence agencies and think-tank communities who support them seem to have so little compassion for the victims of their political and military decisions?

Have they become too far removed from suffering, as they are shuttled from meeting to meeting in their chauffeur-driven SUV’s and Town Cars? ...

Does the mainstream news media encourage a culture of war that conditions its citizens not to think about the human suffering of foreign citizens?

Could it be that our corporate-controlled media do not want Americans to care about the fact that the bodies of men, women and children in Iran will be torn apart by the massive bombings, air attacks, or deteriorate slowly and painfully from radiation-related sicknesses that will accompany exposure to depleted uranium from “bunker buster” bombs?

When was the last time that footage of the dead and wounded from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan came across the television screen? ...
And she concludes:
As the stakes rise for U.S. involvement in a reckless and ill-advised Israeli military adventure against Iran, let us not forget that those who advocate such wars are almost always comfortably ensconced in locations and lifestyles that ensure they will never have to see a battlefield, a mangled corpse, or a deformed child in their lifetime.
This article is featured today (Aug. 24) in Beyond Child's Play: Peace Now--available at the Peace Now tab above and by free email subscription.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why We Keep Getting the Same Old Ideas | Michael Michalko, The Creativity Post

When you change your thinking patterns, your brain makes new connections which give you different things to focus on and different ways to interpret what you are focusing on.
That's the synopsis of this article by Michael Michalko.

After providing a couple of useful analogies on this problem, Michalko writes:
[W]e tend to keep coming up with the same-old, same-old ideas. Information is flowing down the same ruts and grooves making the same-old connections producing the same old ideas over and over again. Even tiny bits of information are enough to activate the same patterns over and over again.
He explains that such routine thinking helps us cope with a complex world. They're especially useful when we perform repetitive tasks rapidly and accurately.

But such habits also reduce our awareness of other possibilities for doing things.

Fortunately, if we make the effort, we can overcome those habits by looking at things from different angles. Michalko writes:
These new connections give you different ways to focus your attention and different ways to interpret whatever you are focusing on. ... Creative thinkers get variation by conceptually combining dissimilar subjects which changes our thinking patterns and provides us with a variety of alternatives and conjectures.
He concludes with a stimulating example of trying to improve the common flashlight by combining it with a garage door opener:
You cannot get this kind of idea using your conventional way of thinking.
This article is featured today (Aug. 23) at Garbl's Creativity Connections--available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

Ask not for who the bell tolls | Mind your language | David Marsh,

Gad, the confusion about using who or whom continues--and the debate about whether the difference is worth arguing about also continues.

In this article, Marsh writes that the difference is important ... in written but not spoken English [emphasis added]:
If you don't understand such basic rules of written English – and it really isn't hard, as we are about to see – readers are entitled to wonder what else you don't understand, and with what authority you purport to write something you think they ought to read.
And he emphasizes the point made above:
Using these pronouns is so easy that there is no need to get them wrong ever again.
Marsh provides useful, clear advice, though I wonder if he's covering all the instances in which use of who or whom might come up.

I provide advice similar to Marsh's advice in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. But I wonder about my advice in the same way I wonder about Marsh's advice. And I also wonder sometimes if it would just be simpler to drop all use of whom. Marsh, I'm sure would disagree.
This article is featured today (Aug. 23) at Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

The Internet Doesn't Have to Kill but Can Instead Cultivate Writing, Good Writing | Grammar & Writing Blog | Grammarly

This blog article begins by noting a common feeling about that Internet these days: Because it's so easy to publish things on the Internet, more and more writers are not following standard writing rules or editing their writing before posting it.

But the Grammarly blogger writes:
Rather than focus on how degraded we think the language is becoming, we should be working on understanding how to use the Internet to make writing better. This can be achieved by using tools to improve English education as well as accepting and distinguishing between casual textspeak and proper, written English, while encouraging more writing and more reading.
After writing that the best way to improve writing on the Internet is to improve writing in general, the blogger lists various online sites that provide advice, especially to teachers.

The blogger also emphasizes that the Internet has increased the number of people who are willing to express themselves in writing. And critics shouldn't inhibit that interest by being overly critical of their writing. Rather, people concerned about good writing should offer tools and advice for improving writing for the Web.

Concluding, the blogger writes:
[T]he Internet is an equalizer; people from all strata of society are free to explore various kinds of writing as never before. This is a great thing.

We should let these communities thrive as they will, discouraging intellectual finger-pointing and encouraging context-appropriate writing along the way.
This article is featured today (Aug. 23) at Garbl's Style: Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription.

Shall We Abandon Shall? | Bryan Garner, ABA Journal

After telling a cute, relevant story about learning contractions in elementary school, renowned language expert Bryan A. Garner gets to the meat of this article: the use and misuse of shall, mostly in legal documents.

He writes:
No American says shan’t [the abbreviation for shall not]. I had heard a television character use it—the very English Mr. French in the 1960s series Family Affair.
Nor do Americans use the positive form, shall, except in two expressions: We shall overcome and Shall we ... ? Otherwise, this modal verb isn’t really a part of normal American English.
Yet it's ubiquitous, Garner writes, in all kinds of legal documents, including the U.S. Constitution. He explains that in law school, students learn that shall means "mandatory," and may is "permissive."

Yet shall isn't used consistently and clearly in real legal life. Garner calls it a "chameleon-hued word." Depending on the legal writer, shall is used variously to mean should, will or even may.

Garner's column answers the headline of the article with a strong affirmative: yes! And he reports some good news, at least at the federal level:
With one exception, shall has now been purged from all four major sets of federal rules, including evidence.
I think Garner's preference is to use must instead of shall in most cases--or, when that word seems too domineering, to use will instead of shall. At least that's my preference for non-legal documents.

But Garner concludes:
My own practice is to delete shall in all legal instruments and to replace it with a clearer word more characteristic of American English: must, will, is, may or the phrase is entitled to.
BTW, Garner has written what I consider the most comprehensive and best contemporary guide to writing style and usage: Garner's Modern American Usage, now in its third edition. It also covers basic grammar, punctuation, spelling and idiomatic phrases.

This article is featured today (Aug. 23) in Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oh-oh ... hidden links in My Garblog!

After getting an email from a former colleague on Tuesday, I realized that the main link to websites, articles and other blogs I mention or describe in my blog might not be obvious to all readers.

The heading or headline of my blogs about another site, article or blog is the link to that site, article or blog. But since that's not always obvious, I'll be adding the link to key text near the beginning of my blog articles. 

I realize this fix won't clarify links in all my past blog articles (which I don't plan to fix). But I'll do better from now on!

Thanks to Sarah for asking the question that prompted this fix! Perhaps this insight and fix will benefit other bloggers who read this note and do what I have been doing. 

The Imagined Lives of Punctuation Marks | Jen Doll, The Atlantic Wire

This article describes a different, amusing way to figure out how to use our punctuation marks: Consider them as individual people who should each be treated in unique ways.

Of course, as with any advice on human relationships--and writing--you'll probably need to spend some time deciphering Doll's descriptions and applying the advice to your circumstances--written, human or otherwise.

Doll writes:
Since punctuation marks can't talk, though, we could only imagine the personality traits and characteristics of a few of our other favorites.
Here are some examples:
The Em-Dash. Em-dash is complicated, and she's not about to let you forget it. It takes three keys to create her, after all. ... She is something of an attention-grabber, and can be a bit touchy-feely, but she only means to help people connect. She's a lover—not a fighter.

The Exclamation Point. The Exclamation Point is the punch in the gut of punctuation and a bit of a loose cannon, but in the best possible way: She's a fun punch in the gut! ... Loves horror movies! And comedies! Yay! Eff you! Sometimes she travels in packs!!!

The Question Mark. Highly insecure, the poor Question Mark only wants answers, and yet, never can muster enough authority to determine what those questions actually are. ...
Doll also describes the colon, semicolon, period, comma, parentheses, emoticon, ampersand, interrobang, and symbol for an obscenity.

For traditional explanations about how to use punctuation mark, visit Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. I don't have anything there (yet) on the emoticon, interrobang or symbol for obscenity.

The Undeniable Allure of Potential :| Christian Jarrett, 99U

In larger, bold type, Jarrett begins his column on potential:

There's a chance I'm about to write the most useful article you've read this year. Intrigued? If so, your reaction is consistent with a thought-provoking new study that shows we're fascinated and impressed by claims about what a person might achieve. In other words, we're seduced by potential.

He explains that the traditional methods for self-promotion or promoting a business might not be as effective as we believe. Traditionally, we boast, "Look what I've done" as we list our experience, education and awards. 

But, he writes:
[N]ew research shows this strategy could be wrong. We should consider boasting not only about what we did in the past, but also about what we might be capable of tomorrow and after.
I've heard advice like this before, but I haven't read much about the basis for the advice. Jarrett describe related experiments conducted by researchers at the Harvard Business School.

For example:
They found that people playing the role of basketball coach preferred a rookie player with great potential over an established player with a great record. They were also willing to pay more for the promising rookie ....
The researchers think that hearing about a person with potential is more intriguing and compelling than hearing about a person who has already achieved because it prompts deeper reflection about them. ...
This leads us onto to a major caveat in the lessons we can take from this research. Claims about great potential won't fly unless they're backed up with credible evidence. ...
Jarrett concludes by giving some suggestions for self-promotion based on the research findings:
  • If we're to exploit this effect for our own benefit, in our resumes and website bios, we need to ensure that our claims are realistic, backed up with evidence, and phrased with subtlety.
  • Another way to avoid coming over as defensive or big-headed is to seek favorable claims of potential from third-parties – perhaps our clients or former employers. 
  • Liberate yourself by forgetting momentarily what you did well yesterday; reflect instead on what you could achieve tomorrow.
This article is featured today (Aug. 22) in Garbl's Simple Dreams--available at the Simplicity tab above and by free email subscription.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The 10 most commonly misunderstood words in English. - The Plain Language Programme

This posting is a handy graphic suitable for hanging. It lists what many people ("You," in the graphic) think each word means and what each word actually means.

Here they are, without the incorrect and correct definitions in the graphic:
  1. enormity
  2. nonplussed
  3. bemused
  4. redundant
  5. plethora
  6. unique 
  7. fulsome
  8. noisome
  9. ironic
  10. literally.
This posting is featured today (Aug. 21) in Garbl's Plain English Paragraphs--available at the Plain Language tab above and by free email subscription.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Facts. Huh! What are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing. | Paul Buchheit, NationofChange

As a writer, editor, (temporarily) retired professional communicator, and progressive political junkie and activist, I like this column.

Buchheit cites as inspiration George Lakoff, who's written provocative books and articles about using appropriate language to frame (progressive) issues so they are most meaningful to the target audience. He also refers to another writer, Joe Romm, who I blogged about recently.

Buchheit writes:
George Lakoff is right. Republicans are winning the language wars. As half of America is charmed into voting against their own interests, we progressives keep telling them the facts. Instead, we should be concerned about what Joe Romm calls "language intelligence," the ability to convince people of something by moving them both intellectually and emotionally. The Republicans do it so well. They've hijacked the big issues with inflammatory phrases like "class warfare" and "death tax." We have to learn to fight back.
His suggestions, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I think:
  • class carnage--inflicted by the super-rich
  • ancestral theft--by modern-day entrepreneurs who profit from products developed through public research.
  • earned benefits--to replace "entitlements"
  • quadrillionaire's fee--to replace "financial transaction tax"
  • medikillers, billionaiders, jobbywackers--names for Republican candidates like Romney and Ryan
  • "Swindle or Dwindle"--a new Wall Street slogan
Or, finally, a modernized adage for "a new gilded age":
Nation in plight, banker's delight,
slapped with a warning: nation in mourning.
I'm sure there can be others!

My Pet Peeves: From the H Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the eighth in my alphabetical series of pet peeves -- from entries in the H section of Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. My style manual covers editorial issues like abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, English grammar, Internet terminology, numbers, plurals, possessives, punctuation, spelling and word usage. It focuses on U.S. standards for spelling, punctuation, definitions, usage, style and grammar.

Earlier blogs:

A peeves
B peeves
C peeves
D peeves
E peeves
F peeves
G peeves

half-mast, half-staff On ships and at naval stations ashore, flags are flown at half-mast. At other government facilities and elsewhere ashore, flags are flown at half-staff.

hanged, hung Sometimes misused. Hung is the past tense of hang for most uses. Pictures, coats and sometimes juries are hung. When writing about capital punishment (but not accidents, murders or suicides), use hanged. When hanged by the government, a person is "put to death by tying a rope around the neck and suddenly suspending the body to snap the neck or strangle the person."

harass, harassment Commonly misspelled. One r and two s's.

hardly Commonly misused. A negative meaning is built in to hardly. So drop the redundant 't from can't hardly and not from not hardly--or try using barely or scarcely. No not before those words either. Also, change without hardly to almost without. And consider using simpler cannot instead of can hardly

has no Wordy. Simplify. Try replacing with lacks.

have an effect on Wordy. Simplify with a form of the verb affect.

he or she, he/she In avoiding the outdated use of the generic hehe or she is much preferred over he/she, as are his or hers over his/hers and him or her over him/her. Of course, the pronoun order can be reversed: she or he, hers or his, her or him. To avoid overuse of he or she and its other forms, use a plural construction: All participants must supply their own tools instead of Each participant must supply his or her own tools. See his, his/her entry below.

her Do not use this pronoun to refer to nations or ships, except in quotations. Use it instead.

highfalutin Ridiculously pompous or pretentious, often expressed in high-flown unimportant or meaningless language. If you want to communicate well, banish highfalutin language (and behavior).

hippie, hippy Although followers of the counterculture in the '60s and '70s [like me] are now middle-aged, they probably prefer hippie to hippy. Save hippy for writing about someone with big hips, whatever the chosen lifestyle.

his, her, his/her Avoid using the singular pronouns his or her in generic references. Also avoid the awkward construction his/her. Instead, rewrite the sentence. Changing singular pronouns to plural pronouns often works well. Change: A chef should taste his/her creations before serving them. To: Chefs should taste their creations before serving them. See he or she, he/she entry above.

historic, historical, history Use historic for places, things and events of great significance, that stand out in history. Any occurrence in the past is a historical event. Avoid using historic to describe events that have little or questionable historical importance. Past history is redundant. Also, because the consonant h is typically sounded in these words, the article a comes before them, not an.

hoi polloi, hoity-toity Sometimes confused or misused. Use the hoi polloi to refer to "the common people," though it's considered patronizing and contemptuous. People who are hoity-toity -- arrogant and condescending -- are likely to refer to the hoi polloi.

hold a meeting Wordy. Replace with meet or describe a particular action. Change: The committee will hold a meeting Nov. 16. To: The committee will meet Nov. 16, or The committee will consider the proposal Nov. 16.

holocaust, the Holocaust Lowercase when writing about any event with vast or total destruction of things and people, especially by fire. Capitalize when writing about the methodical Nazi killing of more than 6 million European Jews before and during World War II.

home, house Not interchangeable, or as the saying goes: "A house is not a home." House is more precise when referring to a building in which people live, while home is more precise when referring to households or places of residence--which can include apartments, trailers, condominiums and bridge underpasses.

hopefully Ignore the rapidly dwindling number of style gurus who think it is incorrect to modify the meaning of an entire sentence by beginning it with the adverb hopefully. As other style experts note, adverbs such as apparently, fortunately and obviously are already used correctly to modify entire sentences. And hopefully can be used that way too! Thus, go ahead and use hopefully to mean "it is hoped, let us hope, we hope" or "I hope" when describing feelings toward the entire sentence: Hopefully, the war will end quickly with few civilian casualties.

Hopefully may also be used to mean "hopeful or with hope or in a hopeful manner" when describing how the subject of a sentence feels: Hopefully, the dog sat by the dinner table. (The dog is hopeful.)Hopefully, Carlos emailed his request for a vacation. (Carlos is hopeful.)

host, hosted Acceptable as a verb but consider using synonyms like organize, hold, give and entertain.

however When using however to mean "nevertheless" at the beginning a sentence, always follow it with a comma: However, an alternative solution might be better. Using but instead is simpler and correct, but no comma is necessary after but. As an alternative, consider pausing early in the sentence and inserting however between commas: The buses, however, carried more people than they did last year. 

When using however to mean "in whatever way" or "to whatever extent", do not follow it with a comma at the beginning of a sentence: However most people think, he'll probably do what his advisers suggest.

hyphen [Please see my earlier blog on this punctuation mark.]

The Grammarphobia Blog | Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman

Here's an excellent blog on grammar, etymology, word usage and other writing topics that's co-written by an author I respect. O'Conner wrote Woe is I, Words Fail Me, and Origin of the Specious, and she co-wrote You Send Me with Kellerman.

They've been writing this blog every day for six years, usually responding to questions about writing. Most of their advice is backed up by various resources and their own experience in journalism.

The blog site also includes useful and interesting sections on frequently asked questions and myths of writing. Their blog is available on Twitter and Facebook.
Their Grammarphobia blog articles are listed often in my daily only "paper": Garbl's Style: Write Choices. It's available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subsscription.

Nonverbal Communication: The Importance of Eye Contact | Dr. G. Jack Brown, The Language Lab Blog

I think most of us have learned that making eye contact with a person you're talking with--or want to talk with--is important. It strengthens the connection between the participants.

But this article (by a physician who's apparently an expert in body language) provides some useful insights about making eye contact. Brown writes, for example:
When it comes to body language, people often ask, “Does good eye contact mean I have to look the other person directly in the eye all the time?” (or some variation of it). The short answer is definitely “NO.” Here’s the long answer: If you stare directly into one eye of a person- or switch back and forth between her/his eyes, it quickly becomes too psychologically intense. It is almost always interpreted (depending on the other signals and the context) as predatory behavior, anger, sexual attraction or deception.
He defines "healthy" eye contact:
looking semi-randomly in an area whose borders surround the eyes by about two centimeters. This would be between 30 and 70 percent of the time.
Not being very familiar with the metric system, I'm not sure how large an area is 2 centimeters. But Brown writes that staring at the forehead can be intimidating, and staring at the mouth can signal sexual interest. I need to consider this advice for myself. Not for sexual interest (consciously anyway), I think I often look at a speaker's mouth, as well as eyes; after all, that's where the words are coming from!

Here's some other advice that caught my attention, that I need to consider for my conversations (emphasis added):
Generally the speaker has a natural decrease of this “eye contact” – closer to 30 percent; the listener, on the other hand, experiences an eye contact crescendo – closer to 70 percent, most of the time. If we want to build and engender rapport, we need to be aware of and avoid this tendency to decrease eye contact when our role changes to speaker.
Since my wife and I are traveling more, we also need to consider Brown's advice about making eye contact in other cultures (though it's not new advice for me):
Although an example of an exception, in certain cultures a lack of eye contact is considered a sign of respect. Yet in many countries, very little or no eye contact during an encounter, is a signal of extreme disrespect. Sometimes, it is an effort to avoid an escalation of negative emotions.
Brown also writes about making eye contact when shaking hands and smiling.

America’s Generosity Divide - How America Gives - The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Middle-class Amer­i­cans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities than the rich. Households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more.
That's one of the findings in a new study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The study is based on the most recent available Internal Revenue Service records of Americans who itemized their deductions. According to the study, taxpayers who earned $50,000 or more in 2008 donated a median of 4.7 percent of their discretionary income to charitable causes.

The website includes many fascinating interactive maps in which you can narrow your curiosity about charitable giving by state, city, even ZIP code. And you can narrow it by income level and various demographics within those geographic areas.

Some other revealing findings:
  • Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities. When people making more than $200,000 a year account for more than 40 percent of the taxpayers in a ZIP code, the wealthy residents give an average of 2.8 percent of discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for all itemizers earning $200,000 or more.
  • State policies that promote giving can make a significant difference. At least 13 states now offer special tax benefits to charity donors. ...
  • Religion has a big influence on giving patterns. Regions of the country that are deeply religious are more generous than those that are not. Two of the top nine states—Utah and Idaho—have high numbers of Mormon residents, who have a tradition of tithing at least 10 percent of their income to the church. ...
Although I didn't see background information on this explanation, the article at the link says:
The reasons for the discrepancies among states, cities, neighborhoods are rooted in part in each area’s political philosophy about the role of government versus charity.
But that makes logical makes sense to me. The article quotes Bruce Katz, vice president at the Brookings Institution and "an expert on the nation’s cities":
Mr. Katz says local governments should be thinking hard about how to encourage giving because “we don’t have the welfare programs that we have had in the past. The need for individual giving is greater than it has been in modern memory.”
Some data reported at the site is available only to paid subscribers of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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