Idioms: Idioms II

September 19, 2002: Issue 36

SIM STYLE: Is a bathroom without a tub a full bath?
Yes, if it has a shower. We no longer use the term 3/4 bath in SIM. A powder room, or half bath, consists only of a toilet and a sink. A full bath also includes a shower or a tub or both, and may include many other amenities.

GRAMMAR: More Idiom Soup
Do you know these idioms? Explanations are by Paul Brians, a Washington State University English professor.
• Deep-seated (not “seeded”)
The expression has nothing to do with a feeling being planted deep within one, but instead refers to its being seated firmly within one’s breast:
“My aversion to anchovies is deep-seated.” Compounding their error, most people who misuse this phrase leave the hyphen out. Tennis players may be seeded, but not feelings.

• Beyond the pale (not “pail”)
In medieval Ireland, the area around Dublin was within the limit of English law, everything outside being considered as wild, dangerous territory. The boundary was marked by a fence called “the Pale” (compare with “palisade”). The expression “beyond the pale” came to mean “bizarre, beyond proper limits.”
• Sleight of hand (not “slight”)
“Sleight” is an old word meaning “cleverness.”
• Row to hoe (not “road”)
Out in the cotton patch, you have a tough row to hoe. This saying has nothing to do with road construction.
• One and the same (not “in”)
The old expression “they are one and the same” is now often mangled into the roughly phonetic equivalent “one in the same.” The use of “one” here to mean “identical with each other” is familiar from phrases like “Jane and John act as one.” They are one, they are the same.

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Numbers: 9/11/ground zero

September 12, 2002: Issue 35

SIM STYLE: How should references to the September 11 terrorist attacks be treated in SIM copy?
Granted, we don’t deal with this often. But with Americans’ emphasis on home and family in the last year, references to the attacks will continue to creep into our magazines. These situations are best dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
• Evaluate whether any reference is necessary to begin with. If so, make sure it’s clearly pertinent and could not be seen as trivial, given the subject matter of our magazines.
• Keep references general. Readers need no reminder of the details. A simple “9/11” or “the attacks,” or even “recent events,” will usually suffice.
• If you must be specific, avoid references to only the World Trade Center if you’re really talking about all the attacks.

Also note: No mainstream stylebook accepts “9/11” when referring to a date, yet the term is now standard usage in most American newspapers and magazines. That’s because it has come to refer to the events of the day, rather than the date itself. It probably always will. “D day” is technically a generic term, but to most it now refers specifically to June 6, 1944. In the same way, the date will come and go in future years, but “9/11” will likely hereafter refer specifically to the events of September 11, 2001.

GRAMMAR: Ground zero: Leave it to history
In the past, the term “ground zero” might have been perfectly acceptable as a casual reference to a chaotic decorating, building, or landscaping project, or even to describe an especially messy teen’s bedroom. But no more. The term was redefined by 9/11 and has now become synonymous with the World Trade Center grounds in New York City. It’s hard to imagine “ground zero” ever again being used in any other context than referring to the WTC or an equally catastrophic human tragedy.

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Inclusion: Inclusive writing II

August 29, 2002: Issue 33

SIM STYLE: More on inclusive writing
“Your kids will thank you.”
What’s wrong with this sentence? Technically, nothing. But SIM style strives for language that doesn’t exclude any reader. One word here does that: “your.”

Not all readers have kids at home, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be interested in the information—they may have grandchildren, nieces and nephews, godchildren, or friends to whom it applies.

The fix is usually easy. Here, simply delete the word “your,” or change it to something more general, such as, “Any kid will thank you.”

The change may seem insignificant. But consciously or otherwise, readers notice patterns. Sprinkle a few “your kids” sentences throughout one magazine, and childless readers—for some reason they can’t quite pinpoint—may begin to feel that magazine doesn’t speak to them personally.

Some other demographics that should send up red flags include race, sex, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, and marital status. Do the words you choose unnecessarily assume all readers are white? Married? Female? Remember, even if 80 percent of readers fall into one category, the remaining 20 percent represent tens of thousands of readers—customers—who don’t.

Inclusive writing doesn’t mean catering to a relatively small portion of your readership at the expense of your target readers. Nor is it a matter of political correctness. It simply means that, where possible, no reader should be excluded from the get-go.

For more information, see Nonsexist Writing section in the SIM Stylebook or Issue 11 and Issue 62.

GRAMMAR: What’s the difference between anxious and eager?
Both refer to anticipation, but anxious implies nervousness or anxiety.
correct: The homeowners, who said any change is a good change, were eager to see their new living room.
correct: The designer, who covered the walls with straw, was anxious about their reaction.

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Spelling: Wrack/rack

August 1, 2002: Issue 31

SIM STYLE: The more things change …
Please write in these recent SIM style changes in your stylebook.
• Feng shui is no longer italicized.
• Northern California is capitalized, as is Southern California.
• One-of-a-kind is hyphenated in all uses.
• Icemaker is one word.
• Change pom-pom to pompon on your word list in all uses. This solves a discrepancy with botanical usage.
• Sashes, not sash, is the preferred plural form of sash.

GRAMMAR: Is it rack or wrack?
If something is causing you stress or strain, it’s racking your nerves. You may also be racked with guilt. Wrack implies devastation (think “wreckage”). If you’re absolutely at the end of your rope and there’s no hope in sight, you’re facing wrack and ruin. Incidentally, racket (not racquet) is the preferred spelling for the piece of sports equipment—even if you’re playing racquetball.

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Lists: State names

November 29, 2001: Issue 1

SIM STYLE: When do I abbreviate state names?
Unless the state designation is part of a full postal address, always spell out state names and set them off with commas
in text.
incorrect: The Lawrence, KS home
 correct: The Lawrence, Kansas, home

In full postal addresses, use standard two-letter postal abbreviations.
For more information, including a list of abbreviations, see addresses.

GRAMMAR: “Try and” or “try to”?
We may say “try and” all the time, but writing is more precise than speech, and “try and” is poor grammar. When someone is attempting something, the person is not trying AND doing; the person is trying TO do. Therefore,
introduce the infinitive with the preposition “to.”
incorrect: She said she will try and meet the deadline.
correct: She said she will try to meet the deadline.

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