Not a Good Sign for Wednesday: Jelly’s

Holy cow. I’m having a crazy week. Sorry for the dearth of posts this week. I scheduled a bunch of photos to run all week, but I wasn’t paying attention and used the wrong dates, so we’ll just continue from here what was supposed to be a week dedicated to the Weekend Photo. Today’s is from the new Jelly’s store in Kakaako, where I got six very good CDs in the dollar-CD bin last weekend.

Jelly’s

Hope you’re livin’ larg this week!

Weekend Photo: Hawaii National Bank

This one was sneaky.  I took the photo one morning with my camera phone, but it came out bad, so I went back a few days later with my digital camera, but I had to read it three times before I saw the error!  I was like, “I know there was SOMETHING here to photograph, but what was it?”  This was on the ATM at Hawaii National Bank in Kapalama.

hawaii national bank

Friday Quiz: Surf Sample Sale

It’s time once again for the Friday Quiz. Take a look at this commercial for a sample sale and see if you can find the problem with its language. Then click continue reading below to see if your answer matches mine!

Get the Flash Player to see this movie.


Continue reading Friday Quiz: Surf Sample Sale

Mind-Webbing: A Non-Writing Use!

I noticed last weekend, while reading some of DailyWritingTip.com’s archives, that most of the entries focus on writing as if it were the product and not the process.  It’s true that I see a well-written letter, memo, or blog post as the end to the expression process’s means; however, it cannot be forgotten that writing itself is means, and sometimes the end is not communication.  Journal-writing, for example, is not usually meant to communicate anything, since most of us keep our writing to ourselves.  No, a journal entry is often a means of processing the day’s events or for dealing with feelings that need some kind of structure or organization.  If you’ve ever screamed into your pillow because you needed to get it out without bothering anyone, you know exactly what I’m talking about: There is no audience, but that doesn’t mean the scream did no good.

A very good friend of mine came up with the idea, many years ago, of using brainstorming mind-webs for coming up with gift ideas.  I’ve never liked the mind-webbing style of brainstorming for my own writing (there are many ways of brainstorming, and I find free-writing to be much more effective for the way I think), but I had to admit it was a heck of an idea.

The idea works like this.  You put the person whose gift you are brainstorming in the middle of a sheet of paper.  Think of maybe four or five interests or personality traits that come to mind.  Then, for each of those ideas, think of a few categories of gifts that might work for that interest or trait.  For example, if the person is interested in cooking, you might come up with a category like Fun Ingredients.   Click the thumbnail image below to see what I mean.

mind web

Then, for each category, think of a few specific gifts that might belong in that category.  For example, for the category Fun Ingredients, I came up with flavored olive oils, truffles, and saffron.  Truffles and saffron are very expensive ingredients, and a lot of people might love to cook with them if they had the chance, but many hesitate to spend that kind of money.  The thing is, as a gift, they are great ideas: You are buying something someone would LOVE but would perhaps never buy for him- or herself.

Often, you’ll come up with the perfect idea before you even finish the map!  If the mind-web leads you nowhere, put it away and try it again another day without looking at the original.  This works very well.

My birthday’s in the beginning of January, if you’d like to try it out on your favorite English teacher!

You Can’t Get More Unique Than Unique

I’m quite sure you already know this one, but I’ve heard it about ten kazillion times in the past few days, so let’s take a look at this. The link I’ve provided goes to a Google News search for the phrase very unique, as in these examples from the search results.

This is a very unique team, and they carried themselves extremely well.

Our sport is very unique in that all the guys seem to spend time at each other’s race track…

It’s a very, very unique feature, and an industry first.

Ramazan’s many traditions are also very unique.

These are the first four of more than eighteen hundred results! Imagine how many misuses we’d find if we also searched for “so unique,” “quite unique,” and “more unique.” The problem is that unique means one of a kind. If something is one of a kind, it cannot be very one of a kind, so one of a kind, more one of a kind, or quite one of a kind.

We’ve come to use this word as a synonym for different which it most certainly is not. I hear it so much that I’ve caught myself (much to my embarrassment and disappointment!) using it, too.

Remember, please: Unique means unique. There are no degrees of uniqueness.

…Such as What Have You, Etc.

In case you haven’t heard me say it before, good writing is clear first and elegant second.

He then had a string of box-office and critical flops, such as The Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Spy, Daddy Day Care, The Haunted Mansion, etc.

There are two big problems with this sentence, both contributing to its lack of clarity and lack of elegance. If you start a list with such as, there’s no reason to put etc. at the end. Such as implies that the list is incomplete, and etc. means that the list is incomplete, so this is a redundancy.

The other problem is the use of etc. at all. There is really never a time in formal writing (and very few good times even in informal writing) for etc. Remember a few weeks ago, when I said that good writing is economical, but it’s never cheap? This abbreviated Latin phrase is cheap. Begin your list with such as, if you like, but please don’t end with etc., no matter how you begin it.

I once admonished a whole classroom of students for using etc. in one assignment. I handed the papers back and asked anyone who’d used it to find a better way. Almost every one changed it to something like this.

He then had a string of box-office and critical flops, such as The Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Spy, Daddy Day Care, The Haunted Mansion, and more.

While I had to admit that this was better than the abbreviation, it doesn’t correct the first problem of redundancy. However, even without the redundancy, it’s not just the use of the etc. that I find objectionable, but the idea, and this and more is the exact same idea.

If a complete list is important, you should obviously include every element that belongs there. If it’s not important to include the whole list, why is it so important to tell us that it’s incomplete? Attention is drawn to the and more, rather than to the items in the list. Look at those film titles! Those are some appallingly BAD MOVIES, and that’s what you want your reader to notice. A much better fix would be something like

He then had a string of box-office and critical flops, including The Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Spy, Daddy Day Care, and The Haunted Mansion.

Phrases such as what have you, etc., and more, and just to name a few are weak. Take them out of your sentences and find strong, clear ways of communicating your thoughts. Don’t let your lists fizzle out with these weak, meaningless phrases!

Weekend Photo: Fort Street Mall

Oooookay! I almost contorted my body into a weird Cirque du Soleil pretzel-type figure as I hurried down Fort Street Mall toward what turned out to be a very disappointing order of deep-fried squid just to get a look at this window! Some of my body (my legs) continued to hurry squid-ward while my eyes lingered behind in order to confirm that what I was seeing was truly there!

fort street mall

How many bad apostrophes do you count, and which is the most appalling? My vote goes to “10’s of thousands.” Also, what do you think the reasoning was behind NOT using an apostrophe for mortgages in the first bullet, but using one for the same word in the second?

May you have an Olympic-sized weekend!