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Friday, June 16, 2017

Graduation Grammar: Alumn, Cum Laude, Ermeritus - - - And More

June is upon us. Greeting card racks remind us that graduation is here. But knowing the niceties of acceptable academic language is a skill that editors need year round.  Ahem!  I won't hurt the rest of us to bone up on it--and maybe retain it for the next cap-and-gown season.


Graduation Grammar: Alumn, Cum Laude, Emeritus … And More

Guestpost by Kathleen A. Watson, M.S. 

Spring brings graduations, along with confusion about use and misuse of related terms. Let’s clear up a few.

Do you say: “Seth graduated Harvard University last week.”

What about: “Becca will graduate Clemmons High School in May.”

Neither is correct. Why?

Because Seth is not graduating Harvard; he is not causing Harvard to graduate.
Nor is Becca graduating the school named Clemmons. Harvard University and Clemmons High School are conferring graduation status by awarding a degree to Seth and a diploma to Becca.

The correct way to express these accomplishments is:

Seth is graduating from Harvard University.
Beth is graduating from Clemmons High School.

Graduating with honor

There are three levels of graduating with honor (cum pronounced koom; laude pronounced loudy):


  • Cum laude: Graduating with honor (grade point average of 3.5–3.7)
  • Magna cum laude: Graduating with great honor (grade point average 3.8–3.9)
  • Summa cum laude: Graduating with highest praise (grade point average of 4.0+)
Post graduation

Moving on, once Seth graduates, he will become a Harvard alumnus.
When Becca graduates, she will become a Clemmons alumna.


  • Alumnus refers to one male graduate.
  • Alumna refers to one female graduate.
  • Alumni is the plural of alumnus, but it also can refer to a group of mixed-gender graduates.
  • Alumnae is the plural of alumna, referring to a group of female graduates.
  • A shortcut and easy way to avoid errors when using these Latin terms is to use alum for a graduate of any gender and alums for any group of graduates. However, I recommend using these generic terms only in informal contexts.

Post retirement


  • A retired university professor is referred to as a professor emeritus.
  • A retired female university professor often is referred to as a professor emerita.
However, not every retired professor is granted this honorific; the educational institution from which a professor retires decides to whom it grants this honor.
Nor does everyone agree that it is necessary to distinguish a male from a female when it comes to retirees from academia. Professor is a gender-neutral term, so some claim that emeritus is appropriate for any gender.

Note: Emeritus designation can be applied to other retired dignitaries such as a pastor, bishop, pope, director, president, prime minister and others.
As it does with other titles, Associated Press style suggests using capital letters for those that precede a name and using lowercase for those that follow a name:


  • Harvard University Professor Emeritus Seth Simon will address our group on Tuesday.
  • Seth Simon, professor emeritus of Harvard University, will address our group on Tuesday.

If your organization has a style guide, check it for recommendations. Gender designations are changing, and there might be updated ways to use these steeped-in-tradition Latin terms.

Honor & Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles, & Forms of Address will tell you everything you want to know about how to properly address those in society with titles. Author Robert Hickey has for decades been teaching at The Protocol School of Washington.

If you’re graduating this spring, sincere congratulations! If you’re attending a graduation, best wishes to you and yours. I’m sure your support has been vital to the success of your friend or family member.


And please don’t say or write that a graduate “received” a degree. Honor the accomplishment with the appropriate verb: Graduates “earn” a degree. 


ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she blogs weekly. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments: Kathy@RuthlessEditor.com



Kathleen A. Watson, M.S. 
Author: Grammar for People Who Hate Rules
NOW AVAILABLE ON Amazon
For FREE twice-monthly Killer Tips from The Ruthless Editor, 
send request to: Contact@RuthlessEditor.com








 MORE ABOUT THE BLOGGER

 Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor. Her latest is in the series is  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. Learn more on her Amazon profile page, http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfile . Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers is one of her booklets--perfect for inexpensive gift giving--and The Great First Impression Book Proposal, another booklet, helps writers who want to be traditionally published. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it will help them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart,and Tuned-In Editor (http://TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com). Her SharingwithWriters.blogspot.com blog focuses on the writing life and book marketing and promotion. It is a Writers' Digest 101 Best blogs pick. Carolyn is also
marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the award-winningest book in the series,  The Frugal Editor.t 101 Best blogs pick.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Frugal Editing and Writers' Conference Package!

Wow!  Until now, I had no reason to inform subscribers and visitors interested in editing, but now, Now, NOW . . .

The conference I will be speaking at in Philadelphia in November #IndieAuthorsCon is now adding a 15% off on editing services (and you know how I am about editing!)  in addition to earlybird discount of $99 for a three day conference. LESS my 10% discount using "Carolyn" code. This makes it the best bargain I have ever seen for a three-day day writers' conference!  You must do this before June 15 to apply all the discounts. 

Here's the sign up page for #IndieAuthorsCon:    


PS: I would love to meet you there. If you decide to come, be sure to introduce yourself to me!  

PPS: No, I am not an affiliate. I just believe in supporting anything that will help authors with their careers! 

MORE ABOUT THE BLOGGER

 Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the award-winning second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor. Her latest is in the series is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. Learn more on her Amazon profile page where all her books--from poetry to the Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers is one of her booklets--perfect for inexpensive gift giving--and The Great First Impression Book Proposal, another booklet, helps writers who want to be traditionally published. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it will help them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart,and Tuned-In Editor and you can subscribe while you are here! Her SharingwithWriters blog focuses on the writing life and book marketing and promotion. It is a Writers' Digest 101 Best blogs pick.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Great Dialogue Help: In Case You Didn't Know Americans Speak Different Languages

Because people in America speak different languages--even when they are speaking English--they may not understand each other. East or West Coast. Buffalo, Orleans, or Chicago. Phoenix. I've lived in them all and, trust me, I've had my linguistically challenging moments. 

When I moved from my home state (Utah)  to work as a publicist in New York, there were days when I thought I spoke an entirely different language than New Yorkers. Perhaps it was vice versa. That was several decades ago, but apparently, that hasn’t changed. Josh Katz lists a few definitions in his Speaking American that makes those east of the Mississippi think those of us in the West “talk funny”—and vice versa.  Here are a couple from his book:

·       In the East they say “sneakers.” Westerners call them tennis shoes.
·       In the East they say “scrap paper.” Westerners say “scratch paper.”
·       Easterners say “skillet.” Westerners say “frying pan.”

Back in my New York days, I had to remember to say “light bulb” rather than “light globe” if I expected to find one at the grocery store and to say “highway” rather than “freeway” because the big roads around New York City were most decidedly not free.

PS: If you write fiction or use dialogue in your nonfiction, you need Katz's book. You can buy Katz’s book on Amazon.




MORE ABOUT THE BLOGGER

 Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor. Her latest is in the series is  How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. Learn more on her Amazon profile page, http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfile . Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers is one of her booklets--perfect for inexpensive gift giving--and The Great First Impression Book Proposal, another booklet, helps writers who want to be traditionally published. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it will help them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart,and Tuned-In Editor (http://TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com). Her SharingwithWriters.blogspot.com blog focuses on the writing life and book marketing and promotion. It is a Writers' Digest 101 Best blogs pick. Carolyn is also
marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the award-winningest book in the series,  The Frugal Editor.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Micro Rant on Generational Differences and Vocabulary Words

I had an article criticized because "young folks won't know what you mean by Rolodex." 

Here's the thing. "Rolodex" makes a dandy metaphor for a group of contacts related to a specific subject. So, does it hurt if we use a word that people have to look up now and then? Isn't it possible to use "Rolodex" in a context that people can quickly grasp its meaning without looking it up? And aren't words more than so much use-and-toss garbage? Take "Rolodex." It's an example of a brand name that vividly brings to mind what we do with one. It rolls and it's a kind of index for personal or business use. 

About the idea of ascertaining the meaning of a word by its context. Most writers do that frequently. Khaled Housseini uses whole sentences in several Afghani languages in his novels and I'm assuming his readers mostly figure out what was said. It's called technique and we writers should know how to do that. We used to teach analytical skills in school, didn't we? We shouldn't give up on that, either.

What if we just discard the word and any others our grandkids don't get? We could start a list of words my grandson might not get--starting with "typewriter." If we start eliminating from our dictionaries what those from prior generations don't remember, we may also have to eliminate some of the greatest books of all times.

Is this rant moving from "micro" to "mini?" Sorry about that.


MORE ABOUT THE BLOGGER

 Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the award-winning second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor. Her latest is in the series is How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically. http://bit.ly/CarolynsAmznProfile. Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers is one of her booklets--perfect for inexpensive gift giving--and The Great First Impression Book Proposal, another booklet, helps writers who want to be traditionally published. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it will help them convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com. She also blogs at all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at The Frugal, Smart,and Tuned-In Editor (http://TheFrugalEditor.blogspot.com). Her SharingwithWriters.blogspot.com blog focuses on the writing life and book marketing and promotion. It is a Writers' Digest 101 Best blogs pick.
Learn more on her Amazon profile page,

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Ditch Tattletale Words in Your Marketing Materials, Résumé



People in all walks of life work mightily on perfecting their résumés and other career-building documents and then forget one vital step. An editor. Preferably an editor versed in all the elements of writing including grammar, punctuation, storytelling…wait! Storytelling?

Yes. And some other surprises like marketing—and a little knowledge about psychology won’t  hurt either.

The list is long but it can be shortened by thinking “experience.” A broad range of experience. So, no, your high school English teacher may not be your best choice. Nor, your mother who “did really well in English.”

There are a whole lot of tattletale words you shouldn’t use in your résumé or related documents like biographies, proposals, query letters, and media kits. All of these documents are designed to convince the reader of your ability to do the job—your expertise—and to nudge your career (or product) toward success.   

So what are those words? And how do they relate to storytelling?

Ambitious is one of the most frequently used tattletale words. It seems like a wasted word doesn’t it. A couple more that mean little because of overuse or are downright laughable are highly motivated or responsible. That you are writing this document is an indication that you are ambitious.

This is where that storytelling thing comes in. You tell a little story that subtly shows the responsible, ambitious, or highly motivated aspect of your work habits. Using the age-old writers’ motto, “show, don’t tell,”  will keep your reader from asking—often with a touch of irony—what makes you ambitious. King Midas was ambitious. Maybe your reader assumes your father got tired of seeing you playing video games and you got ambitious only when it looked as if the couch would no longer be a good place to park yourself.

So what is your story? Tell about the upward movement in your chosen career or even between careers—how one informs the other and gives you knowledge and a dimension that no other applicant is likely to have.

Hardworker and go-getter seem as useless in a résumé or query letter as ambitious. It’s like tooting your own horn. The person reading it might ask, “Who says?”

Overblown adjectives. Words like exciting and amazing—even when they describe results or projects—are anathema. They have the same problem as hardworking above. I call this the awesome syndrome. They are words that tempt a reader to scoff. Instead tell a story about the extra effort you put into a project and the difference it made. Or quote one of the rave reviews you received from one of your supervisors in a periodic assessment, recommendation, or endorsement.

Team player has been a cliché for decades.. Instead choose a group project you’ve worked on and tell about your contributions. Or just list some of the ways you might have helped another department or division. And, because human brains have been wired for stories since we sat around the fires we made in caves, make it into an anecdote if you can.

Think out-of-the-box is also a cliché-ridden no-no. It’s storytelling time again

Microsoft Word. I’m proud that I can produce an entire book using Word from its Contents to its Index to its Footnotes. I love that I don’t have to spend time learning another program. But there’s no point in telling people that I’m an expert at Word. Everyone is. Of course, I can use it prove another point like how well I have managed to adapt its features to new, advanced project and tell how much time I saved by doing that rather than learning a new program. I might mention how much more professional it looked even as I saved that time. And I might mention that my project got rave reviews.

Some frequently used words like synergy have become a way to insert some humor into a résumé and that has become as much of a cliché as the overuse of the word. Marco Buscaglia picked this word out of the hundred (if not thousands) of popular words I call business-ese. You can avoid them by reviewing your copy and purging anything that sounds officious including most words with more than three syllables.

Think in terms of relationships, colleagues in other departments, associates in competing companies, respected academicians, mentors beyond your teachers. Though a good story can take even that kind of mentorship out of the humdrum and into an Aha! Moment.

Before you send off your paper, go over it. Find all the weak verbs—is, be, do—and use your thesaurus to strengthen them and to make them more accurate.

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MORE ABOUT THE BLOGGER

Carolyn Howard-Johnson was an instructor for UCLA Extension's world-renown Writers' Program for nearly a decade and edits books of fiction and poetry. She  is the author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers including The Frugal Editor  and The Frugal Book Promoter. They are both USA Book News award-winners and both have won several other awards. Her How To Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career.is the newest book in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Her The Great First Impression Book Proposal is a booklet that can save anyone writing a proposal time reading tomes because it can be read in 30 minutes flat.


Carolyn is the recipient of the California Legislature's Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award and was honored by Pasadena Weekly for her literary activism. She is also is a popular speaker and actor. Her website is www.HowToDoItFrugally.com.

Great Editing Is Great Marketing

Your First Marketing Offense: Write and Edit Great Query Letters