Word Wednesday: Further vs Farther

Road

Even though I’m an editor enforcing many grammar rules, I know I don’t know it all.

Case in point: further vs farther.

At a previous job, I allowed the use of “farther” in an ad campaign, thinking it was completely interchangeable with “further.”

Boy, I could not be further mistaken.

The client questioning the wording was a global client, meaning it would’ve been translated into different languages. That was my first real-life introduction into learning that “farther” represents physical distance and “further” means metaphorical distance.

Sally ran farther in the marathon than Sam.

“Don’t dream it; do it. Take your business further.”

Grammar Girl provides a simple trick to remember which ones to use when—”far” refers to physical distance so you’ll always want “farther” when speaking literally.

Beware: This is an AMA-style blog

AMA manual

I’m an editor of medical and pharmaceutical materials. In my industry, the predominant style manual is American Medical Association Manual of Style with the Chicago Manual of Style as a backup. As a result, my writing (and editing) is influenced by the AMA manual. On my blog, you’ll find the following:

  • Lack of punctuation use with certain words (vs, PhD, etc [unless it ends in a sentence])
  • Not defining a person by their condition (cancer patient vs patient with cancer)
  • Use of en dashes when necessary (non–small cell lung cancer)
  • Use of Arabic numerals for 1-9 instead of spelling it out
  • Not using a comma with numerals in the thousands, eg, 1000, 5000, 9999 (ten thousands and on get a comma)
  • Lack of hyphens when using prefixes, such as anti-, co-, over, pre-, post, or under (unless it makes words ambigious or awkward, eg, re-coveranti-abortion

Of course, this is a blog, informal writing, therefore, I’ll deviate from some of those rules at times (healthcare as one word; period after Dr.; a sentence beginning with an Arabic numeral), but for the most part, grammar and punctuation use that seem foreign may actually be intentional.

But all style manuals agree: The word “data” is plural, eg, data are, data were…

Nerve-racking (or wait, is it nerve-wracking?)

woman working girl sitting
Photo by Alexander Dummer on Pexels.com

Nerve-racking vs nerve-wracking is a word I have always messed up. I tend to think that it’s spelled nerve-wracking but it’s actually spelled without the “w.” Think about how nerve-racking it is not to use a W.

Grammar Girl also has a great post on differentiating the two:

The “mental torment” meaning of “rack” in “rack your brain” and “nerve-racking” comes from the idea of the physical torment of stretching bodies on the rack. Those are both spelled R-A-C-K.

 

Grammar Girl also notes the using “wrack” is archaic. “Wrack” is a sister of the word “wreck,” which is in relation to ships. So, unless you want to nerve-ship, use nerve-racking.

Your story is not over yet. ;

For years I’d been wanting to get a semicolon tattoo ever since I’d been introduced to the Semicolon Project. Not only am I a grammar nerd but I also love what the semicolon represents on a deeper level.

What’s the Semicolon Project?

The Semicolon Project was founded by Amy Bleuel in an effort to combat suicide and raise awareness about suicide. While Amy unfortunately succumbed to taking her own life, her work lives on.

Why does the Semicolon Project resonate with me?

I’ve been dealing with suicidal problems since I was 12. I remember being fascinated with a knife in the middle of the night, daring myself to either slit my wrists or plunge it through my abdomen. I did neither of those things at the time but it kicked off a lifelong obsession with death and taking my own life.

Suicide has always seemed to be the answer to everything. Are kids making fun of me? If I jump off the balcony, that’ll end that. Is work going terribly? Walking into oncoming traffic will solve that issue. Have my emotions plunged into the abyss of nothingness, never to resurface? Well, why don’t I just bring my physical self to where my emotions already are?

Enter the semicolon.

I tried explaining the meaning of the semicolon to my therapist who simply thought I got the tattoo because I love grammar so much. That’s the surface reason; but I love the fact that there’s a deeper meaning to it that reflects who I am.

What did I try telling my therapist?

A semicolon joins 2 complete thoughts. What really could’ve been a period, indicating finality, is replaced by a semicolon, which represents an interruption—a brief pause in the middle of a story.

Consider the placement of the semicolon. The first thought is complete and can stand alone. If someone wanted to, they could end their story (that first thought) right there. But the semicolon indicates that there’s more to the story—there’s more to come. A semicolon represents a “blip,” if you will, in the middle of the sentence. The sentence (like my life) could’ve ended there but it didn’t. The semicolon means that my story can continue, that the second half of the story (the second complete thought) can happen before a final ending (the period).

My story will end eventually (period), but the semicolon reminds me that I don’t have to be the one to end it. That I can continue my story. That whatever I’m going through is only a blip—an interruption—and that there’s more to come.

I suppose I suck at the layman’s terms for this. Basically it means “your story isn’t over.”

Word Wednesday: Project Semicolon

Something a little different today. Translating grammar into real life.

Project Semicolon is an organization that was founded by Amy Bleuel to raise awareness about the prevention of suicide. Per the foundation:

Our work is based on the foundation and belief that suicide is preventable and everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide.

Being someone who has dealt with suicidal thoughts and tendencies since I was 12, Project Semicolon is an organization that is near and dear to my heart.

I searched high and low for other black people who had a semicolon tattooed to their wrist but all I found (TBH) were images of no one but white people. So the picture above is of my wrist. It’s in black and white, but it reflects my skin undertone and quite frankly…me.

But why the semicolon? Why not some other form of punctuation?

Project Semicolon’s tagline is “Your story isn’t over yet.” As I have heard it explained, the reason the semicolon was chosen is because, in grammar, it connects two complete thoughts. It’s sort of a blip in the midst of a sentence. It’s not a period that indicates finality (the end of a sentence), and it’s not a comma (just a pause). The thought that comes before a semicolon can stand on its own. It could be the end. But it’s not. There’s more to the story; there’s more to come.

The semicolon (through Project Semicolon) reminds people around the world that whatever they’re going through is merely an interruption. It could be the end of their life story but it doesn’t have to be. I identify with this thought. So many times I have wanted to end my life. But that semicolon reminds me that all of these tough moments are “blips.” My story isn’t over yet. I don’t have to end it.

word wednesday

A new word for me: fungible. Definition?

1 : being something (such as money or a commodity) of such a nature that one part or quantity may be replaced by another equal part or quantity in paying a debt or settling an account
2 : capable of mutual substitution
3 : readily changeable to adapt to new situations

Synonyms for fungible include interchangeable and flexible. I like to think that this blog’s content is fungible.