Monday, August 17, 2015

Tossed Salad

or, Just a few words to the wise…

Okay, how many of you know what a tossed salad is?
Yep, thought so.
And why is it called a “tossed” salad?
Yes, you’re right — because you toss it with the serving utensils in order to mix the ingredients together, of course. Or, in some recipes, you put a lid on the bowl and shake the whole works.
So why would you write “He tossed the empty container in the wastebasket.”???
To me, that says he either picked up the wastebasket and shook it, or he used a stick or something similar to stir and “toss” or mix the contents.
That’s why I will edit that sentence to say “He tossed the empty container into the wastebasket.”
You write “She jumped in the car and slammed the door,” and I will edit it to “She jumped into the car and slammed the door” because otherwise you’re telling me she was hopping up and down inside the car (a convertible with the top down maybe? Or a child jumping on the seats?), whether slamming the door was a result of the jumping or simply happened with or after the jumping.
That’s just one of my picky little correction points.
Do you know the difference between “wave” and “waive”? (Besides the extra letter in the middle, I mean.) Apparently some authors — and editors, I’m sorry to say — do not know there’s any difference, because I’ve seen it numerous times in final galleys.

You can wave your hand at someone either to catch their attention or as a way of saying goodbye. If you were to waive your hand…Wow! I don’t think you really can do that, although Lady Macbeth would have gladly done so, probably. Dictionary definition of “waive” is “to officially say that you will not use or require something that you are allowed to have or that is usually required.” You can waive your right to a jury trial, or the committee may waive the requirement of a fee with your application. But to waive your hand would mean you want to throw it away, relinquish it voluntarily, or put off immediate consideration of it (as in, just ignore the darn thing). Hmmm. 

That leads us to “waver” and “waiver.” A ghost may waver in front of you, or a person unsteady on his or her feet might waver from side to side. Neither would waiver, because, first of all, “waiver” is not a verb; it is not something you do. A waiver is a noun, a thing, usually a legal document that puts aside some otherwise restricting rule or necessary step in a process.
Last but not least, let me make a recommendation. At some point before you say you’re done with a book and it has your approval, use the Search feature of your Word program and see how many times you have used the word “peek” — you might be surprised at how often it has crept in! And let me suggest that you try using “peer” in some of those spots if you really need to indicate to a reader that someone was sneakily looking somewhere or at something. Your homework for this evening is to look up the dictionary definitions for each:
Peek = ………..
Peer = ………..
And don’t you dare use “peak” or “pique” instead of “peek” — or vice versa.



GiniRifkin said...

Good review. Thank you.

Christina Hollis said...

I've only just spotted this post—as an English author, I know there are all sorts of words in our shared language that have different meanings, but I'd never have guessed "toss" was one of them! Yes, we toss salads in this country too, but a "full toss" is a delivery in cricket, so we also use it to describe throwing (or more correctly, bowling) things—at rubbish bins, or out of the way, for example. Point taken!

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I admire the way you present different words to the readers. Its pretty interesting way to give the readers a clear difference between the words usage and pronunciation. Keep it up.