Whether you are an attorney, manager or student, writing skills are essential to your success. The rise of the information age – with the proliferation of emails, blogs and social networks – makes the ability to write clear, correct English more important than ever. Daily Writing Tips is about that. Every day we publish a new article, with topics ranging from grammar to punctuation, from..
Veteran writers often advise aspiring writers to “kill your darlings.” Grisly, isn’t it, but they all say it.
William Faulkner wrote, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
Stephen King wrote, “…kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” Notice that King said “kill” three times, but then, we are talking about Stephen King.
According to Slate’s culture editor Forrest Wickman, this advice was originally given by more than a century ago by Cornish writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (his pen name was Q). In On the Art of Writing: Lectures Delivered in the University of Cambridge, 1913–1914, Sir Arthur Q advised:
If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.
Observe that Sir Q didn’t say murder your whole manuscript. And he didn’t tell us to ignore your darlings either. No, he encourages us to put our darlings whole-heartedly onto paper. Just don’t send that piece of paper to the publisher.
And how did our friend Q define “darlings”? As “a piece of exceptionally fine writing,” one that happens to have been written by yourself. A darling is not a wickedly appropriate plot twist or a subtle yet deep character insight. No, it is merely a purported example of “exceptionally fine writing.” Does it further the story or reveal character or do any of the things that truly fine writing does? Erm, no comment. My takeaway on this: if something helps your reader, don’t murder it. If it only make it easier to pat yourself on the back, lose it.
Sir Q didn’t really say to kill your darlings. He said… okay, he said murder your darlings.
No way am I going to write one thousand words encouraging you to murder a loved one.
So let me adjust the analogy. Nobody wants to think about losing a beloved child. We all want to keep our darlings.
But just because we love our darlings doesn’t mean that right here is the right place for them. Cute as a three-year-old daughter is, I can think of a lot of places in the house that she doesn’t need to be, and a lot of things she doesn’t need to be doing. We would never get rid of her, but often we need to say no to her. Her cuteness makes it hard to say no, but not less necessary.
I’m using the singular feminine when I talk about darlings, calling her “she,” because losing a favorite character or passage or idea can feel giving up a favorite daughter. Deliberately giving her up, by your own choice, seems even worse. Maybe you feel like you’re committing child abandonment.
Except it isn’t really like that. Once your book goes to press, your readers will never miss your darling. They will never know she is missing. Since she didn’t really belong in your book, you will never miss her there. Yes, she seems so precious. But having your writing called “precious” is not usually a compliment.
But what if your darling feels real to you, already a three-dimensional character in your mind or deserving to become one? What if you can’t give her up?
Fortunately, saying no to your darling this time doesn’t mean you can’t say yes to her later. Just cut and paste the passage into another file on your computer. Yes, you must remove your darling from where she doesn’t belong, but you don’t have to delete your darling entirely. Maybe she will fit beautifully in another story. She may become the centerpiece, the key to your new masterpiece.
By the way, that other file doesn’t need to be reserved only for deceased darlings. You should keep an idea file anyway, for all those ideas which you already know they don’t fit into your current project. I like to review my idea files sometimes even when I’m not particularly working on anything. It makes me feel more brilliant.
I have to recognize, however, that not all my darlings are simply misplaced beauties. Maybe that character isn’t as three-dimensional as I believed. Maybe I’m deceived about the truthfulness of that plot line. Maybe life isn’t really like that. Maybe my affection is misplaced.
Regardless, once you’ve done away with your darling, immediately fill in the hole she left. Read over the part just before the cut, and keep on going and writing from there.
How do you recognize a darling that needs to be removed? And where do you find the courage to remove her?
Well, we often find courage and wisdom in other people. A writer needs other people – alpha readers, beta readers, or a writing group. You need these intelligent, literate people to look into your story, to show you how well they appreciate the good parts (demonstrating their great insight), and to share with you how confused or apathetic they felt when they read the… other parts.
Inconceivable, isn’t it, that so many intelligent readers don’t appreciate something that is so obviously brilliant. If only one reader has trouble with it, maybe that’s his problem. If many readers have trouble with it, maybe there’s your problem. And you need to take care of it.
Essentially, your darlings are the beloved parts of your work that don’t advance your work. And you need others to help you see the truth, just some parents are incapable of seeing that their three-year-old is spoiled until others point it out.
Saying no to your darlings will make you stronger. Suffering tends to do that sort of thing. Accepting another point of view will increase your empathy. You’re giving up something you love out of deference to others. Doing so will make you less selfish – and a better writer.
This post details the function of various symbols that appear the top of a line of type to communicate additional information about the text.
The apostrophe signals that, depending on usage, one or more letters are missing or are being added to perform a grammatical function. An apostrophe
• marks omission of one or more letters (as in the contraction of cannot to can’t or, in an extreme case, of the substitution of fo’c’stle for forecastle)
• marks possessive case (as in “John’s hat” or “the girls’ smiles”)
• marks plurals of individual characters, as in “dot the i’s and cross the t’s.”
The primary use of double quotation marks (called, in British English, inverted commas) is to indicate direct quotation of spoken or written content. (Single quotation marks are used only to frame quotations within quotations, as in this section of this post, or in technical usage such as in linguistics texts.)
A self-contained quotation is capitalized (“She asked, ‘Where are you going?’”) A partial quotation is not capitalized when it is syntactically integrated into the framing sentence (“He explained that they ‘had some issues to work out.’”) They also frame meanings and definitions (“That sign means ‘Stop’”; “The definition of insanity is ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’”).
Quotation marks are sometimes employed as scare quotes and sneer quotes, which emphasize ironic usage (“After the bombing, no one remained alive in the village to celebrate its ‘pacification’”) or signal that a writer is using but not endorsing a term (“Beware executives who want to ‘leverage’ everything”). They are unnecessary when naming something, even when the term is slang used for a meaning other than its original sense (“The process of extracting digital content is called ripping”).
Use of so-called preceding a term in scare quotes is redundant.
Avoid use of quotation marks to set off clichés (“This behavior creates lethal ‘blind spots’ in an organization”).
Quotations also set off titles of components of compositions when referred to elsewhere than in the composition itself, such as references to the following:
• newspaper or magazine articles
• titles of chapters in a book
• titles of short stories or short poems
• names of episodes of television series
• titles of songs
• titles of speeches
In addition, quotations frame a term consisting of more than one word when the term refers to itself rather than to the concept the term represents (“What does “net neutrality” mean?); italicize single words used as words (“The word strike can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective”).
Avoid using straight quotation marks (“), which have a plain, primitive appearance. (But see below.)
A prime is a symbol similar to an apostrophe or a close quotation mark that in technical usage follows a number to denote a unit; in lay content, a single prime (′) most frequently represents feet or minutes, and a double prime (″) indicates inches or seconds (“The deck is 10′ 6″ by 12′”) or minutes (“The duration was 3′ 36″”). (There are also triple and quadruple primes.) Primes are sometimes indicated by simple straight quotation marks (‘ and “).
These symbols (which originated as miniature Roman numerals I, II, and III) are best reserved for informal use or in practical content such as text about woodworking, or in charts or tables. Otherwise, spelling out the terms the primes represent is recommended.
An ordinal indicator is a superscripted, or raised, number, letter, or other character used in text as a cross-reference to a footnote or endnote or a list of referenced sources. These are employed, especially in academic texts, to direct readers to additional information that would be distracting if embedded in the running, or regular, text. When encountering an ordinal indicator, readers can ignore it or can direct their attention to the cross-referenced material and then return to the position of the indicator and resume reading the running text. Superscript characters are located directly after the pertinent word, phrase, or sentence in the text, though they follow, rather than precede, punctuation (with the exception of a dash, which the indicator should precede).
The degree symbol (°), following a number, most often represents degrees of arc or of temperature, though it has other specialized functions. Usually, the symbol is appropriate only for technical usage or for charts and tables and should be replaced by degrees in lay content.
An asterisk (*)—the word is from the Greek word for “little star”—has various functions in scientific disciplines, but in general writing, it is used as an ordinal indicator when, because of the small number of notes in a text, a sequential system of numbers or letters are not required. (However, sometimes, when there are a handful of references requiring such indicators but numbers or letters are not used, other symbols such as the dagger and double dagger are employed in a traditional hierarchy.) Asterisks also take the place of bullets, frame a word or phrase to represent italic or boldface type when it is not available, and appear in a group of three centered on a page to denote a major narrative transition.
A bullet is a typographic mark, usually a solid dot but often represented by other characters, used in a vertical list when numbers are not appropriate because the list is not hierarchical or sequential. (See this post and others at DailyWritingTips.com for more information about vertical lists.)
A ditto mark is a close quotation mark used to represent a repeated number, word, or phrase, as in an inventory list in which the quantity of one item is identical to that of another item. It is generally not used in formal writing; in informal usage, the word ditto is shorthand for “the same,” as in the declaration “I’m hungry,” and the response “Ditto,” indicating that the respondent is also hungry.
A dagger is a typographical mark resembling a knife pointing downward, or a Christian cross. The dagger, and the double dagger, often appearing more as a plus sign stacked atop another, are sometimes used to signal a footnote when an asterisk has already been employed. The daggers also have distinct uses in notation for various disciplines and pastimes.
Today we are opening the 2018 edition of the Freelance Writing Course. Over 1,300 students have taken the course in the past and the feedback has always been immensely positive. This year we are implementing some changes that will make it even better!
The course aims to give you all the information and tools you need to start making money as a freelance writer. It’s a practical course; you will spend about 10% of your time reading the lessons and 90% working on the assignment tasks. The program lasts for 6 weeks and every week you get access to a new module. The 6 modules are:
1. Writing Productivity: You’ll learn how to become a prolific writer, which is essential if you want to make money writing.
2. Building an Online Presence: Setting up a website is not enough these days. You need to know how to promote it and how to reach the right people online.
3. Writing for the Web: Freelance writing is changing, and this module focuses on the differences you’ll face while freelance writing for websites and online publications.
4. Finding Clients: Probably the most important module. Here you’ll learn where and how to find your first clients, and how to obtain high-paying writing gigs over time.
5. Running a Writing Business: Freelance writing is like any business, and as such you’ll need to manage it efficiently if you want to increase your earnings over time.
6. Social Media: In this module you’ll discover tactics you can use to leverage social media sites to boost your career.
Here are the novelties for the 2018 edition:
50% discount for the first 50 students: the regular price of the course is $97. We believe its value is much higher. However, we have readers from all over the world, and many said that $97 is a lot of money in local currency, making it almost impossible to join. The beauty of freelance writing online is that you can do it from anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection. In order to make the course accessible to as many people as possible we decided to offer a 50% discount to the first 50 people who join (i.e. $49 instead of $97).
PayPal is no longer required: on previous editions creating an account with PayPal was a requirement to join. However, many people didn’t like that requirement, so we decided to change our payment processor. Now we are using Stripe, one of the largest and most reliable payment processing companies in the US. All you need to join now is a valid credit card, and you are still 100% protected because Stripe handles everything (we never get to see your credit card number, and we can’t store it).
Progress tracking: We implemented a simple system to allow you to track your progress over the assigned tasks where you place a checkmark on each task you complete.
New lessons: We have updated some of the existing lessons and added new ones to make sure that the course reflects the current market trends.
We still offer a 60-day money-back guarantee. If you find the course is not right for you simply send us an email and we will refund your money on the same day.
Probably you’ve never studied Conversational Viking, let alone claimed to speak it. But the language of the Vikings, Old Norse, has influenced the development of English more than any other language besides French and Latin. The Swedes, Norwegians, Icelanders, and Danes all spoke Old Norse in those days, usually called the “Danish tongue.” In the 11th century, Old Norse was the most widely spoken European language, ranging west with Leif Erickson’s colony of Vinland in modern-day Canada, east with the Viking settlers on the Volga River in modern-day Russia, and south with warriors battling in modern-day Spain, Italy and North Africa.
Four centuries after the Anglo-Saxons began emigrating from northern Europe, Danish Vikings began raiding Britain and had begun settling down by the year 876, plowing the land. The 14 shires dominated by Danish law in northern and eastern England were called the Danelaw. In 1016, King Canute the Great became ruler of all England, even before he became king of his native Denmark. Danish kings ruled England almost until William the Conquerer sailed from Normandy, France and became the first Norman king of England in 1066. When he did, more Norse words entered English. What did William the Conquerer have to do with the Vikings? Because Normandy means “land of the north men,” colonized by people such as William’s ancestor Rollo, whose real name was Hrólfr. See a pattern?
Today Old Norse words are most common in the Yorkshire dialect, but the Danelaw included the East Midlands, York, Essex, Cambridge, Suffolk, Norfolk, Northampton, Huntingdon, Bedford, Hertford, Middlesex and Buckingham.
Old Norse words used in modern English
When it comes to English words for which we are indebted to Old Norse, let’s start with they, their and them. It’s true. If it weren’t for the Vikings, we might still be using the Old English words hîe, heora and him instead. Or maybe not – when him and them mean the same thing in a language, you know it’s time for a change.
In fact, English received many really, really common words from Old Norse, such as give, take, get, and both. And sale, cake, egg, husband, fellow, sister, root, rag, loose, raise, rugged, odd, plough, freckle, call, flat, hale, ugly, and lake.
Another Old English word that was quickly replaced was the very short word æ, which meant law. Today we use a longer and less ambiguously-spelled Old Norse word: law.
Many English words that begin with sk or sc came from Old Norse, such as skin, sky, score, scant, scrub, scathe, and skill.
Old Norse words that feature two-letter blends and a high consonant-to-vowel ratio just sound Viking to me, especially if you pronounce both letters as the Vikings originally did: knife, snare, snub, wrong, bread, dwell, bask, dream, steak, stammer, and especially thwart.
Old Norse words that meant something slightly different
English word, with original Old Norse meaning
anger – trouble, affliction, which can make a person angry bait – snack, food eaten at work. Now means food used to catch fish, wild animals, and susceptible people. bask – similar to the Old Norse word meaning “to bathe” berserk – either from bear-shirt (frenzied warriors wearing a bearskin shirt) or bare-shirt (frenzied warriors wearing no shirt) blunder – to shut one’s eyes; to stumble about blindly bulk – partition; cargo, as in the nautical term bulkhead crawl – to claw. Crawling up a steep slope may require clawing. dirt – excrement. Appropriately so. gang – any group of men, as in modern Danish, not necessarily dangerous gawk – to heed, as in paying too much attention gift – dowry, a kind of wedding gift. In modern Danish, gift means wedding. haggle – to chop. It amuses me to imagine how this word came to mean vigorous bargaining. hap, happy – chance, good luck, fate. Apparently the Vikings didn’t believe that “happiness is a choice.” lake – to play, which is what many people do at a lake. A famous Danish toy manufacturer is called Lego. litmus – from the Old Norse words litr (dye) and mosi (moss), used as a chemical test for acidity and alkalinity. muck – cow dung. An English dairy farmer may say he needs to muck out, or clean, his barn. muggy – drizzle, mist. Today it means severely humid. rive – to scratch, plow, tear. A poet might write about his heart being riven in two. scathe – to hurt, injure. Only the opposite word, unscathed, is common. Gang members never say, “You come near me, I’m gonna scathe you.” seem – to conform. Think about that for a while. skill – distinction. If you are skilled, you might earn distinction. sleuth – trail. The sleuth is always on the trail for clues. snub – to curse. When you’re snubbed or ignored, you might feel cursed. sprint – to jump up, one of the keys to winning in a sprint. stain – to paint. Not the same thing at your paint store. stammer – to hinder; to dam up, as in a flow of words steak – to fry. Could the Vikings have introduced chicken fried steak to the American South? No. thrift – prosperity. If you have thrift, perhaps prosperity will follow. thwart – across, which has kept a similar meaning for sailors window – “wind-eye” or in Old Norse, vindauga. A treasure of a word.
Old English words that meant something different before the Vikings
bread – In Old English, bread meant “bit, piece, morsel” but in Old Norse, bread meant… “bread.” We get our word loaf from the Old English word for bread which it replaced. die – Before the Vikings, die meant “starve” dream – Before the Vikings, dream meant “joy, mirth, noisy merriment,” even “music.” dwell – Before the Vikings, dwell meant both “go astray” and “tarry.” I’m still trying to figure that one out.
Writing essays can be tough … and sometimes you need all the help you can get.
The great news is that there are plenty of online tools that can help you write the best essay you can – and I’m going to be running through ten of the best.
Before we get into the list, though, here’s a huge caveat.
DO NOT use websites that write your essay for you.
When I researched this blog post, I found (to my horror) lots of lists of “essay-writing tools” that linked to essay mills as if those were legitimate writing tools. These essay mills are websites that sell essays for $200 – $500 each.
Let’s be very clear: if you pay someone else for an essay and hand it in as your own work, that’s cheating. You could get into serious trouble – maybe even thrown off your course. Plus, you might get horribly ripped off.
None of the tools in this post will help you cheat. All of them will help you write the best essay you can.
Here are ten tools that could help you with your next essay. I’ve split them into different categories of tools to help with planning and research, with writing, and with editing.
Tools to Help You Plan and Research Your Essay
Before you start to write an essay, you need to plan it (and probably do some research, unless you’re writing about a topic that you’ve already learned about extensively in lectures or in class). These tools will help you with the planning stage of the writing process.
I’m a big fan of planning in advance – and this tool walks you through the process of planning an essay. You’re a bit limited by the format (three main ideas, each with three subpoints) – but if you’re new to planning, it could be a great place to begin.
You can save your finished map onto the computer, If you prefer to work on paper, you can also print a blank map to fill in.
Tip: This basic structure: introduction, conclusion, and three key points, each with supporting evidence, could work for other forms of writing too – like a blog post or article.
Evernote is like a set of online notebooks – where you can keep anything you like, from written notes to photos to videos. I keep all my work-related notes there, plus lots of administrative bits and pieces – it makes it really easy to find what I need.
Because you can login and access it from any computer or device, Evernote could be a great place to keep ideas and rough plans for your upcoming essays. You can search all your notes for a particular word or phrase, so it’s easy to find things that you wrote weeks or even years ago.
JSTOR is an online archive of lots of different academic journals and books. Most universities have a paid subscription to it, so you can access it for free using your university credentials.
You can search JSTOR by author, subject (keyword), or title. You can see a screenshot above of the first couple of results for my search for “Samuel Richardson” (my favourite 18th century novelist).
Tip: If you don’t have access through your institution, you can sill access public domain resources on JSTOR for free, plus up to six articles per month – or you can pay for a “JPASS” for $19.50/month.
Tools to Help You Write Your Essay
Once you’ve got a plan for your essay, and you’ve gathered some useful books or journal articles to reference, it’s time to write. These tools will help you get that first draft down.
This app and website blocker lets you block specific websites – great for when you want to focus but keep getting distracted. If you need access to the internet for other tools, that’s no problem: with Freedom, you can block specific sites (like Facebook and Twitter) or apps on your phone. You can also block the whole internet, if you want to.
Once you’re running a Freedom session, if you try to visit a blocked site, it simply won’t show up.
Freedom costs $6.99/month or $29/year: there’s a trial version available so you can give it a go before you buy, and there’s also a money-back guarantee. You can use Freedom on multiple devices at no extra cost.
Tip: If you want a free alternative to Freedom, Cold Turkey is a good option (as is StayFocusd, but that only works on Chrome).
EndNote is one of the best-known reference managing tools and you can use it online for free. You can search online databases / library catalogues (the free version only gives access to ones from the British Library, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, and PubMed) or you can create a reference manually by filling in a form.
If you have a number of different essays on the go, you might want to organise your references into different groups. Other students can also share their groups of references with you – useful if you want to collaborate with coursemates.
Tip: You can pay for a full version of EndNote (or your university may provide it) if you want to use advanced features, like accessing far more research database and attaching the full text of PDF sources to your reference database.
If you study literature, linguistics, or any subject where you want an authoritative take on the origin of words, the Oxford English Dictionary is a fantastic tool. You need to login and access it online – which you can usually do through your university or local library.
Otherwise, you can purchase a monthly subscription as an individual – but it’s pretty pricy ($29.95 in the US, or £56+VAT for three months in the UK). So definitely check with your university or local library first, to see if you can access it through them.
Tip: The OED provides a lot more information than a standard dictionary, and entries might look a bit overwhelming at first. You can “Hide all” quotations, which makes them a bit more manageable if you don’t need the quotations or if you’re hunting through a few different words to figure out which one you want!
It can be really tough to stay focused when you’re writing, even with distracting websites blocked. Sitting down and planning to write for a whole morning or afternoon doesn’t work well for most people – you simply can’t concentrate on an essay for that long at a stretch.
I like to use timers when I’m writing, to keep me focused and to break my writing session into short chunks. Around 30 – 45 minutes works well. (If you’re on a roll, you can always set the timer for another writing burst straightaway). While the timer’s running … you’re writing!
To set a timer in Google, simply search for “set a timer for X minutes” – e.g. “set a timer for 10 minutes”. The timer will appear on the screen and start automatically. WriteToDone has a bunch more tips on time management for writers.
Tools to Help You Edit Your Essay
Once your essay is written, you’re not done … you still need to edit. It’s a very good idea to separate the drafting process from the editing process, and if you’ve done that, your first draft may well be a little rough and ready in places. These tools will all help you get it into shape.
Grammarly uses artificial intelligence to help you with grammar, spelling and style. You can turn it on and use it as you write – which can be very helpful for things like emails – but if you’re writing an essay, you might prefer to draft first then use Grammarly afterwards.
It’s available as a Chrome plugin, and as a download for MS Office, so you can use it online or offline. Grammarly will flag up mistakes (like typos) but it’ll also spot places where you’ve used more words than you need or where you’ve used vague language.
As you can see above, you can click on an underlined work to see Grammarly’s recommendation for fixing it – clicking the “See more in Grammarly” link gives you more details about what’s wrong, helping you to get things right next time.
The Hemingway app works in a similar way to Grammarly, though with a focus on style and readability rather than on spotting typos and misused words. It’s named after the American novelist Ernest Hemingway, who was known for his clear, concise writing. You can access the app without logging in, simply by going to the website: copy or type in your chosen text.
It encourages you to avoid overly complex words and sentence structures: don’t feel that you need to change all of these (particularly in an academic essay, where a certain level of complexity is desirable!) – but do check any flagged words or sentences to make sure you’re happy with them, and that you don’t want to switch to a simpler alternative.
Tip: You can download the Hemingway app for PC or Mac, rather than using it online – but it’ll cost you $19.99.
Do you ever struggle to find quite the right word? It happens to me a lot: I know what I want to say, but I can’t think of the very best way to say it. Or, I’ll have used a particular word already and I want to avoid using it too often (the principle of elegant variation).
A great way to broaden your vocabulary is to use a thesaurus to look up words with a similar meaning to the not-quite-right one that you’ve already got. Do make sure, of course, that you don’t simply pick a different word that you like the sound of: you want to get the one that precisely conveys your thoughts.
Tip: If you want to find some options for the opposite of a word, Thesaurus.com can do that too – scroll down past the list of synonyms to the antonyms.
What tools do you use to help you write better essays? Have I missed something off the list that you’d highly recommend? Pop a comment below to tell us about it.
Market and attendant words, deriving from the Latin verb mercari, meaning “trade,” are listed and defined in this post.
Market, referring to a place where goods are sold, migrated to English through an ancient Germanic language, and by extension it now also pertains to a geographic region or a demographic targeted for selling of certain goods or services, or an opportunity for selling or a supply of or demand for goods or services. As a verb, the word means “sell” or “make available for sale.” Mart is a synonym as both a noun and a verb, while a supermarket is specifically a large grocery store. Marketplace is a synonym for market in its various meanings, though it may also refer to competition for dominance among various ideas or ideologies.
A marketer is someone involved in promoting or selling a service; the profession is called marketing. Something possessing qualities that make it amenable to being sold, or someone whose qualities will make him or her appealing to employers or the consumer public, is said to be marketable.
Aftermarket refers to the system of providing accessories and parts for a product or to a system for reselling a certain type of products, as well as the general market for stocks.
A farmers’ market is a place where produce and sometimes homemade foods (and even crafts) are sold informally, while a flea market is where people sell goods informally, including used products but often new and sometimes self-produced manufactured products as well; both are usually held outdoors.
The stock market is a system in which trading of securities for investment purposes is conducted.
A black market is an informal network of trade of restricted or prohibited goods; occasionally, the phrase may refer to an actual location where such goods are sold. As black-market, the term is a verb referring to buying or selling in the black market. A seller is called a black marketer or black marketeer, and the action is black marketeering.
The adjective upmarket means “appealing to the wealthy” or “of high quality” (it also serves as an adverb); down-market pertains to low-income consumers or low quality.
Mercer, a British English term for a dealer in fine fabrics, also survives as a surname. Mercenary, meaning “one who serves for wages,” usually refers to a soldier-of-fortune, but as an adjective, in addition to referring to one who enlists in a foreign army or fights for a private client, means “greedy” or “venal.”
A merchant is a shopkeeper or trader, although occasionally the word serves as slang referring to someone with a particular talent, such as in the phrase “speed merchant” for a fast sprinter. It also is an adjective pertaining to trading or used as in the phrase “merchant marine,” which denotes, collectively, the commercial ships of a particular nation or the crew members of these ships. (Merchantman is an obsolete synonym for merchant; it was also used during the Age of Sail to refer to a ship carrying goods for trade.) The adjective mercantile, meanwhile, means “pertaining to trading,” while merchandise refers to goods that are sold (while a merchandiser is someone who sells goods), and the the word also serves as a verb meaning “buy and sell” or “promote.” The act or practice of selling goods is merchandising.
Commerce is the large-scale buying and selling, generally involving transportation over long distances (though the word also has rarer senses of “exchange of ideas and opinions” or “sexual intercourse”). The adjective is commercial, which also functions as a noun to denote an advertisement using moving images, sound, or both. Online buying and selling is called e-commerce, where the e is an abbreviation for electronic, as in email (sometimes styled e-mail).
One word unexpectedly related to mercari is mercy, from the idea of a price paid. Mercy is compassion or leniency, a fortunate occurrence, or a divine blessing. (The term is also sometimes uttered as an oath of pleasure of surprise, as in “Oh, mercy me!” though it is old-fashioned.) To be merciful is to exhibit compassion or forbearance, and the adverbial form is mercifully; mercy itself occasionally serves as an adjective, as in the phrase “mercy killing,” referring to killing a person or an animal to end suffering.
Another is Mercury, the name of the fleet-footed Roman messenger god, who was also the god of commerce—and travel and, ironically, theft—and that of the planet named for him. The name of the element mercury, which in its liquid form moves very quickly, was also inspired by the swift Roman deity.
Hard rules are a good thing for writers sometimes. The sonnet is one of the strictest forms of poetry, but some of the world’s greatest poems are sonnets. A haiku form is even stricter, seventeen syllables in three lines. Hard word counts force a writer to overcome his or her natural laziness by editing ruthlessly. Because writers have no choice but to keep on ruthlessly editing and shortening until the piece is short enough, their job becomes easier, paradoxically. With fewer choices, decision-making becomes faster. There is only room to make one main point, and once you decide what it is, there’s no need to struggle to fit any others in.
Tighten Your Writing
Ruthless editing becomes a necessary skill because some short writing opportunities have very hard word count limits. For example, each of my monthly allotment of academic journal abstracts could never exceed 150 words, After I completed them, they were loaded into a searchable database – your local library may have a subscription to it. The database included fields for the author, title and publication, each with limited lengths, but the abstract field in the database could only hold 150 words. So I had to keep editing and reediting until my abstract was less than 150 words. It was a hard rule that could not be broken.
Builders talk about load-bearing walls. When you’re remodeling your house, if you want to open up the floor plan or provide more space, maybe you decide to remove a wall. That’s fine, unless the wall is a load-bearing wall. If you remove a load-bearing wall, part of the building will fall down. As you remove sentences or words, parts of the sentence or paragraph that used to be cosmetic become load-bearing. This is a good thing: it makes you pay more attention to what you’re writing. It requires your writing to be more efficient. And that makes your writing easier to read, because there is less fluff to read through, and it makes your writing more powerful.
Ruthless editing can lead to honest evaluation. Summarizing your work in a shorter form, as in a pitch letter or synopsis, provides you a reality check on what you wrote. If you can’t briefly present your work without sounding ridiculous, maybe (I gently suggest) maybe it is ridiculous.
Help the Reader
Besides the invigorating, astringent benefits to the writer learning to edit ruthlessly, brief writing benefits the reader too. The human mind can only hold so many thoughts and words at once, just as a computer screen or the page of a book can only hold so many words. So for example, academic researchers need abstracts to be brief so that several can be compared on a single page or computer screen. Short summaries let readers get a taste of the writer’s ideas or many writers ideas in a small space and time.
By limiting the number of ideas in the summary, the writer also limits the number of ideas that need to fit into the reader’s head at one time. With fewer ideas to focus on, the reader has more room to think about them. With fewer words to move around in your head, words can be moved around more easily, compared, pondered and felt. Which is more effective: a single powerful, precise word or a string of twenty words that mean exactly the same thing and add nothing more?
Here are some tips for editing ruthlessly:
Set a goal for yourself, if your editor hasn’t already, to cut 10% from your draft. But why stop there? Choose a paragraph and cut out one-fourth. Or take a risk, let the adrenaline flow – and cut it down one-half. You’ll be surprised at how often the passage still works. (Often it won’t – that’s why it’s called a risk.) If it doesn’t work, simply restore the cut passage from your recently saved draft.
Some reasons why such ruthless cutting often works:
You may find you had more fluff than you thought. The passage still works because the cut part never did.
You may find that the cut part wasn’t as necessary as you thought. Only when it’s gone do you realize you can live without it. It was pulling some weight, but not so much. If you want, take the best words from it, use them elsewhere, and move on.
You may find that your reader doesn’t need the cut part to figure out what’s happening. When a character leaves the room, your reader will assume the character went through a door without being explicitly told.
Make Less More
Even if I increase it to 1,000 or 100,000 words, I still can’t improve on the classic six-word-novel:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn
No one is saying that War and Piece would be improved if it were edited down from 587,287 words to 1,000 words. If you want to deal with five families and the Napoleonic War, you will need a lot of words. But a key to ruthless editing – and having the heart to do it in the first place – is being able to see when you have gained more than you’ve lost by cutting words.
Maximize Your Space
If you have a limited number of words to work with, make each word carry its weight. For example:
The river flowed through the river bed, making a sound like thunder.
We can cut some of those words without losing any meaning. Rivers always flow, usually through river beds, and thunder is always a sound. Changing it to “The river thundered” or “The thundering river” says as much in three words as the original sentence did in eleven – really, it says more. Now I have to find a new, sleek sentence to put them into. It will take a little work to make the most of them, just as it takes a little work to make the most of the garlic chives I just harvested from my garden. But should I give up a good thing because it takes work?
Are we going to see computers writing the next Great American Novel?
Probably not … at least, not any time soon.
Over the last decade or so, though, AI (Artificial Intelligence) has become increasingly sophisticated … and it’s influencing the world of writing in a number of interesting ways.
What is AI, Anyway?
AI is all about machines learning and adapting. Instead of simply being programmed in minute detail with everything they need to know to accomplish a particular task, they’re programmed with instructions that allow them to learn from their experience (just as people do).
AI systems will typically demonstrate at least some of the following behaviors associated with human intelligence: planning, learning, reasoning, problem solving, knowledge representation, perception, motion, and manipulation and, to a lesser extent, social intelligence and creativity.
Here are six key ways in which AI is changing the face of writing … and reading.
#1: Translation from One Language to Another
In the past, if you wanted to translate a passage of text from one language to another – say from English to Spanish – you needed to find someone who spoke both languages.
Ten years ago, you could use a service like Google Translate, which essentially ran all the words through an English-Spanish (etc.) dictionary … with questionable and sometimes hilarious results.
In 2016 Google Translate had a major upgrade. Instead of translating word by word, it now translates more accurately by phrase or sentence – through an AI system. It even invented its own language to help.
Writers could potentially use Google Translate to translate their whole book into another language for free. (Note: I’m not recommending you do this, unless you have a native translator lined up to do some extensive editing!) As the technology develops further over the years to come, this could be great news for publishers and self-publishing authors … but worrying for professional translators.
#2: Automatic Editing and Proofreading
You’re probably very familiar with the red squiggly line in Microsoft Word (and other word processing programs) that marks spelling mistakes. There are lots of tools out there, though, that can go far beyond helping you spot typos.
Software like Grammarly, for instance, uses AI to spot overly wordy phrases, vague language, instances of the passive voice, stylistic issues, and much more.
This is great news for writers, particularly non-native speakers, who may need an extra helping hand with what they’re working on – whether it’s an essay, a blog post, or simply an important email. It’s potentially less great news for professional editors – but so far, no tool is able to provide the big-picture substantive editing that a good editor can offer.
#3: Checking for Plagiarism
One problem that universities and publishers deal with is the possibility of plagiarism. While a quick Google search for a couple of lines from a document can be enough to spot egregious forms of plagiarism, if a student or writer has changed, say, one in every five words, it’s a lot tougher to spot.
When it comes to students’ essays, they might be plagiarising from another student’s (unpublished) work, rather than a published source. This could be easy to spot within one institution – but not if the student has borrowed, or even bought, an essay from a friend at another university.
There are solutions out there, like Turnitin, that check submitted work against their vast database, flagging up cases where there’s a match between the submitted work and existing sources.
But AI is also increasingly being used in this area, with an AI bot called Emma Identity (reported on here by LifeHacker) being used to figure out the authorship of a piece of text. While this is essentially just a fun tool for now, it could eventually be used to combat plagiarism.
More worryingly, though, this type of technology could potentially be used to unmask authors writing under a pen name, if they’ve also written under their own name – or to uncover the authorship of anonymous posts on internet forums.
#4: Searching Through Audio Files
Although more and more content has been produced in video and audio format over the past decade, YouTube channels and podcasts haven’t diminished the amount of text online.
One huge advantage to text has always been that it’s searchable – and video and audio aren’t. If you want to find out a specific fact or dig into on a particular point of interest, text is definitely the easiest medium to work with.
However, audio search is becoming a reality – through the power of AI. Computers can increasingly decode sound – think of Siri, for instance, or Alexa – and audio search takes this further. Apps are already available: Castbox, for instance, bills itself as “the search engine for spoken audio”.
What does this mean for writers? It’s not necessarily bad news. Newer types of text, like scripts for videos or outlines for podcasts, might become increasingly important. But as well as helping with audio search, AI could lead to even better dictation apps – potentially making it much faster to create written content, too.
#5: Crafting Breaking News Stories
You might be wondering by this point if AI can be used to actually write. Yes … but it’s not going to be producing works of literary wonder just yet.
Over the past couple of years, some breaking news stories have been written by AI, and there’s a great account of that in Wired here, explaining that a particular story was created by AI:
The dispatch came with the clarity and verve for which Post reporters are known, with one key difference: It was generated by Heliograf, a bot that made its debut on the Post’s website last year and marked the most sophisticated use of artificial intelligence in journalism to date.
The advantages for newspapers and websites are obvious: if AI can report on breaking stories, it makes it possible to get an article published almost instantly. No human needs to type a single word.
There’s a darker side to this use of AI, though: it could not only put journalists out of work, but it could also lead to a lot of low quality, derivative content – similar to content produced by low-paid “content spinners”.
#6: Influencing Readers’ Book Buying
Major online book retailers, like Amazon, rely on complicated algorithms to predict what books someone might be interested in, based on what they’ve already bought. If you’ve ever bought a book on Amazon, I’m sure you’ll have seen this in action!
This is generally seen as a positive use of AI: it helps readers to discover books that they’ll hopefully enjoy, and it helps authors to be discovered by readers who might not otherwise have come across their work.
Even so, it could be a drawback for, say, independent book stores and librarians: why consult an expert about what to read if an algorithm can recommend books to you automatically?
Whatever you write, there’s a good chance that AI will become more and more a part of your writing experience as time goes by – even if you barely notice it. Perhaps you’re already using a tool like Grammarly, for instance, or maybe you rely on dictation software to produce content quickly.
How do you think AI is changing writing? Do you think it’s a net positive or negative for working writers, editors, publishers and journalists? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
This post lists words derived from words in other languages as a result of folk etymology, a process by which speakers adopt the foreign terms after revising them by using existing elements from their native language.
bumblebee: This word stems from the Middle English word humbul-be, but by association with bombeln, meaning “boom” or “buzz,” the initial sound changed.
caterpillar: The word for a butterfly or moth larva stems from the Old French word catepelose (“hairy cat”); the alteration of the third and fourth syllables to -pillar (from Middle English piller, meaning “plunderer”) may have developed from the notion of its destructive effect on plants.
cockroach: This word is derived from the Spanish term cucaracha and employs two words that, when combined, sound similar to the original word.
cockatoo: This bird’s name is from the Malay word kakatua by way of the Dutch term kaketoe.
crawfish/crayfish: Although these are variations of a name for an aquatic animal, the second syllable in each is not equivalent to the word fish; the entire word, ultimately from a Germanic language, stems from the Anglo-French term creveis by way of the Middle English word crevis and is related to crab (and perhaps to carve).
geoduck: This name for a Pacific Northwest clam, which comes from a local Native American term, has nothing to do with ducks—or with the Latin prefix geo-, meaning “earth”; also, the spelling of the first two syllables is inexplicable, since they are pronounced like gooey.
greyhound: The first syllable of this word does not refer to the dog’s color; it is from the Old English term grieg, referring to a female dog.
lapwing: This word for a species of bird started out as the Old English term hlēapewince (“leap wink”), inspired by the bird’s flapping mode of flight.
mandrill: This word for a type of baboon derived from attempts of English speakers to pronounce the name of the animal in an African language.
mongoose: The animal’s name stems from mamgusa in Prakrit, an Indic language. (It has nothing to do with geese, so the plural is mongooses.)
muskrat: This animal is a rodent, but its name is not derived from its scent or its kinship with rats; the word from which it derives is of Algonquian origin.
peacock/peahen/peafowl: The first syllable of these words comes from pavo, the Latin (and Spanish) name for it. Peafowl is redundant, while peacock and peahen denote the male and female of the species.
polecat: The first syllable of this name for a mammal in the weasel family (also an alternative name for the polecat’s relative, the skunk) is derived from the French term poul (the base of poultry), from its barnyard depredations.
popinjay: This older term for a parrot, now exclusively applied to an arrogant person, is ultimately from the Arabic word babghā’.
quahog: This word for a type of clam stems from poquauhock, from the Narragansett language, and has no relation to pork.
sockeye: The name for a type of salmon does not refer to its eyes; it originates from an attempt to pronounce a Native American word for the fish.
wheatear: This thrush was originally called a wheatears; that name is a euphemism for “white arse,” a reference to its light-colored rump.
white rhinoceros: White, in the name of this animal, is not a reference to its color; it stems from the Afrikaans adjective weit, meaning “wide,” a description that distinguishes its wide upper lip from the pointed lip of the black rhinoceros.
woodchuck: This alternative name for the groundhog derives from the assignment of two English words whose sounds resemble those of a Cree word.
Writing a resume can be really tough. You know you need to convince an employer that you’re the best person for the job – but how exactly do you do that?
It can be especially hard if you’ve been out of the job market for a while, and you feel that you’re not sure what’s required from your resume – or if this is the first resume you’ve ever written.
Don’t worry! We’re going to quickly recap the basics, before digging into some crucial tips for writing a winning resume.
What Is a Resume Anyway?
A resume is a document that lets employers know about your work history, your educational achievements, and your key skills. If you’re in the UK, a resume is commonly called a “CV” (curriculum vitae). (Note that in the US, you may hear “CV” used to refer to a long, academic resume.)
It’s normally unwise to do anything clever or cute with the format of your resume: employers want to get information clearly and easily from it, and you don’t want to risk standing out in a bad way.
Your resume should include the following information, in this order:
Personal Details (name, address, phone number, email address) – this goes right at the top of the first page. Normally, you should put your name in a large font as the title for your resume.
Personal Profile (optional) – a high-level summary of who you are and what you’re looking for from a job. This has become popular in recent years, though it’s not absolutely essential.
Core Skills (optional) – immediately beneath your personal profile, you can opt to include a bullet-pointed list of your core skills, so your prospective employer can quickly see what you’re good at.
Career History – list your past jobs, in reverse chronological order (the most recent job should come first on the page). It’ll usually be appropriate for your most recent job to have the most details.
Education and Qualifications – this should come after your career history, unless you’re fresh out of school / college – in which case it might make sense to give it greater prominence.
You can also include information about volunteering on your resume, especially if you have few or no previous jobs to write about.
Of course, you probably already know that you shouldn’t use coloured backgrounds, lots of unusual fonts, or anything else that makes your CV look odd and hard to read.
So how do you write a winning resume in 2018?
Tip #1: Tailor Your Resume to Each Position You’re Applying For
If you only follow one tip from this list, make it this one: your resume should be carefully tailored to the position you’re applying for.
Don’t view your resume as a document that you write once then forget about. Of course, you won’t be restarting from scratch every time – but you should make appropriate tweaks to highlight how exactly your past experience matches up the role you want to be considered for.
You’ll almost certainly find it helpful to …
Tip #2: Use the Job Advert to Guide You
Whatever job you’re applying for, there’ll be an advert detailing what the company is looking for. Use this to help you make it very clear that you have exactly what they need.
For instance, if the advert says they need someone “who’s adept with Microsoft Word”, you might include Microsoft Word in your core skills, or mention it in the description for one of the jobs you’ve had in the past. If they ask for someone with “experience managing a team”, you’ll want to make sure you emphasise this in your career history … even if it was only a relatively small part of one of your roles.
Tip #3: Present Information Chronologically
Although some people think that a “functional” CV can help show you in your best light, if you have an unconventional work history, this will lead employers to wonder what you’re hiding! As Allison Green puts it in “here’s the right way to format your resume” on Ask a Manager:
Functional resumes – which are focused on one long list of skills and accomplishments rather than connecting them to a chronological work listing – are widely disliked by employers, since they make it difficult to understand what the candidate’s work progression has been.
Stick with the standard reverse-chronological order instead.
Tip #4: Give Appropriate Weight to the Various Sections
Normally, it makes sense for your most recent roles and achievements to take up the most space on your resume. You don’t need to go into lots of detail about a job that you had for six months ten years ago … it’s not likely to be very relevant to your employer.
The same goes for your educational qualifications: if you’ve graduated college, your high school classes and GPA are no longer very significant. You can include them briefly, but don’t spend half a page of your resume on them.
Tip #5: Include Examples to Back Up What You’re Claiming
It’s not enough to say that you have “excellent time management skills” – it doesn’t mean anything, and it’s the sort of phrase that almost any candidate can use. Back up your claims with concrete examples. For instance, you could write:
Excellent time management skills: managed heavy workload in a busy department, prioritising and dealing with customer emails (frequently over 50/day).
Where possible, give figures: for instance, if you took on the task of writing newsletters to your company’s client base and this resulted in 10% more sales to customers on the newsletter list – say so!
Tip #6: Don’t Be Cutsey About Your Stay-at-Home Parenting
One rather cringe-worthy trend with resumes is for stay-at-home parents (both moms and dads) to describe their time parenting in terms of a job. For instance, James Wilkinson from Advice from Super Dad writes that:
If I was to include my stay at home dad role on a resume it would probably look something like this:
STAY AT HOME DAD
July 2011 – Present Responsibilities /Achievements
Primary child care duties.
Design and implementation of household operational procedures.
Supervising, training and managing children and their needs.
Household bookkeeping and finance management
Additionally you may have had to learn to meal plan and cook, to do cleaning and washing duties or a myriad of other assorted essential household and child rearing skills.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that being a stay at home parent is hard work – it’s a whole job and a half, at least. I’ve every respect for parents. But this sort of entry does not belong in your work history.
It looks silly, it makes you seem a little desperate for something to put on your resume … and it could also come across as quite insulting to a potential boss who may well have children of their own (and all of these duties to handle in addition to their job).
So what should you do?
The safest professional approach is to simply leave those years out of your work history: you can write a sentence in your cover letter to explain “from July 2011, I’ve been a stay at home parent”.
Tip #6: Keep it to Two Pages Maximum (Unless You’re an Academic)
In today’s digital age, you might think that it really shouldn’t matter if your resume doesn’t fit onto two sides of a sheet of paper. But it does! If your resume goes on for three or four pages, no-one’s going to want to read the whole thing … plus it makes you look like someone who’ll ignore professional norms.
If you absolutely need to fit in an extra paragraph or two, it’s better to go onto a third side than to squeeze all your text so that it’s tiny.
The main exception here is if you’re applying for an academic role, where you might well be listing your publication history, presentation experience, and so on in a longer CV. In this case, it’s often expected that your CV will run to three or four pages.
Tip #7: Use Bullet Points Where Appropriate
If you’re fresh out of school, you might think that bullet points look informal and odd. But in a business context, it’s completely normal to use bullet points to summarise information and to make it easy to take in.
You can find plenty of examples of resumes here on Live Career – this should give you an idea of how often bullet points are used!
Some key areas to include bullet points on your resume are:
Your core skills (probably in a list with two or three columns, rather than a single long list that leaves a lot of white space on the right hand side of the page).
Your duties for each of the previous job roles you’ve held
Your educational history and qualifications
Tip #8: Don’t Include a Photo of Yourself
This might seem like a strange tip, but it’s something that employers have increasingly mentioned as an issue – perhaps with the ease of taking and inserting digital photos.
You do not need to include your photo on your resume … however fantastic you look! Employers don’t (or shouldn’t) care what you look like, and it looks weird and unprofessional to put a photo of yourself on your resume.
(The main exception here is if you’re applying for a modelling or acting role, when of course it is appropriate to include a photo.)
You should avoid including any other images in your resume, too: for instance, don’t put in company logos from the places you’ve previously worked. You might think it looks slick, but it can cause problems with formatting, and it’s frankly a waste of your time. Stick to text alone.
Tip #9: Use a Professional-Looking Email Address
This might seem like a tiny thing … but your email address matters. If you’re using firstname.lastname@example.org, it’s not going to create the best impression.
A free email address is fine, but make sure it’s something sensible (probably involving your name, and perhaps a number if no version of your name is available).
Some people – and I’ll admit I’m one of them – feel that a Gmail address looks better than Hotmail or Yahoo, because Gmail users tend to be a little more tech-savvy. The name of your email provider, though, really isn’t likely to make a lot of difference.
Tip #10: Triple-Check Your Spelling and Grammar
There aren’t many situations in life when a typo can be ruinous … but sending out a resume is one of them.
While most people would forgive you a tiny typo, a resume with several typos, or significant typos (like a misspelled company name) will inevitably make you look bad.
If possible, get a second pair of eyes on it too: ask a friend to look over it and make sure you’ve not made any mistakes.
This is also a good opportunity to make sure that you’ve been consistent with formatting (e.g. that all your headers are the same size, font and style), and that everything looks polished (e.g. that you don’t have a single paragraph running over the page break – if you do, insert a manual page break to neaten it up).
I know there’s quite a bit to take in here, and you might feel overwhelmed before you’ve even begun on your resume.
One of the best ways to tackle any daunting writing project – resumes included – is to start with a small step. You might open up a fresh document and type in your contact details, for instance … then you’ve made a start.
I wish you the very best of luck with your job search, and I hope you find and land the perfect role for you.