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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Choosing the Right Words by Tristi Pinkston

We've all heard the advice, "Wear clean underwear in case you have an accident." My entire life, this statement made no sense to me. If you had an accident, wouldn't your underwear just be dirty again?

It wasn't until I was being rushed into surgery for an emergency c-section that it all finally made sense. I wasn't being told to wear clean underwear in case I had an accident - I was being told to wear clean underwear in case I was in an accident. One little word change, and the entire meaning of the phrase changes. Yes, that was a weird time for that bit of knowledge to come to me, but hey, the mind does hysterical things when it's under stress.

The point is, one incorrectly used word can greatly change the meaning of what you're trying to say. Sometimes an incorrectly placed comma will do the same thing, giving the reader one message when you mean to give another. As you self-edit and as you have others edit for you, be especially careful for those instances where your meaning might be hidden behind unclear wording. And be especially careful when your wording might indicate something crass or inappropriate.

10 comments:

Luisa Perkins said...

Excellent point, vividly made! I'll be chuckling over that all day (not the C-section part, of course).

L.T. Elliot said...

I hate to say it but now I'm terrified to be in an accident. Or misuse a comma.
=P

Lori Nawyn said...

I, know, I, always, misuse, commas, but I do make it a point to wear clean underwear.:) Great post!

Tristi Pinkston said...

Somehow, I have a feeling you'll all think of me whenever you change your underwear from now on. That's rather an odd thing to be remembered for, but I guess I set myself up for it. :)

Rebecca Talley said...

:) Love this post!

Shellie said...

Great advice, Tristi!

Rachel said...

This made me laugh!! Great post!

berlinwritergirl said...

Having spent all week editing my novel, these wise words of advice have appeared so true!

Nichole Giles said...

Too true, too true. Even the wrong punctuation often completely changes the meaning of a sentence.

But I promise, I will NOT be thinking of you when I change my underwear. (And I hope you're glad for that.)

Nichole

Tristi Pinkston said...

I am really glad about that, Nichole!