Rules in English

Rule #1: If you're writing with a fairly decent word-processing program, then use the spell-checker!! It's not foolproof--you'll probably have to add names of characters and technical terms--and it will be of limited help with synonyms. But it's the place to start for self-editing. (Did I run this article through a spell-checker? Yes, twice.) Rule #2: Be your own editor. Look things up! Use a dictionary--there should be one right there by the computer while you're writing; watch the credits of a show. Check a few other stories, or look at pro novels* to see how things are done. Don't let that "ST: Encyclopedia" gather dust on the coffee table. Learn from what you read. (Did I look things up as I was writing this? You bet I did. More than once.) (*Long aside: If you're going to use a Trek novel that's hanging around, don't pick up one by Diane Carey or Michael Jan Friedman. The former seems to rely on a really weird thesaurus [describing how a character was feeling anxious: "His hands were rosined with sweat." Hmm, last time I checked, rosin was a dry powder used to keep your hands from sweating.] Friedman doesn't seem to know what a thesaurus is...shall we count the number of times he used the word "grunted" in the "Day of Honor" novelization? Let's not. Look into Christie Golden's "The Murdered Sun" and "Marooned" to see how a decent author handles the mechanics of writing.) Rule #3: Ask for help. If you're not too shy to do it, get someone else to read your work before you publish it. I find it disconcerting and difficult to proofread on-screen; I still prefer the hard copy and a red pen. But you're bound to find a friend or fellow fan somewhere who can help out, and it's always a good idea to have another set of eyes look for glitches. Or, again, look it up. Try the "Elements of Style," "Essentials of English," or any basic grammar guide you can find in your library or bookstore. Rule #4: Read what you've written, and don't be afraid to revise. Your words are not etched in gold, nor are they carved in stone. Rewriting and correcting have become so much easier with word-processing, yet people seem less willing to bother with it now. Rule #5: Learn, Learn, Learn. It's no good finding out what mistakes you've been making, if you correct them in your current work, then go on and make them in future writing! Try to get it right every time, and you'll save time and effort.

Part One
Now, let's begin with some of the most common mistakes that can be found even in the best of stories: Its and It's.

SUNSAT The Perfect Team

and Their. color me embarrassed! I committed a major usage faux pas here.Rules in English This is probably the most common mistake writers make.. and who's going to fix them. Your.and am I glad I was the first one to catch it! The words described above and just below are not synonyms (words with similiar meanings)." "Tom there is our best pilot. "The dog buried its bone. Homophone is the more correct term. Whose and Who's. Possessive. such as record (the disk). and record (to make a recording). "We're going over there. "Whose weapon is this?" Who's." Well. Then there are homographs." "It's a nice day. "Have you lost your mind?" You're. Possessive." "It's been a long journey. No apostrophe. technically." Your and You're. some homonyms do have the same spelling. no apostrophe. and the other is a contraction. where the pronunciation differs." "I want to know who's been messing with the replicators. hers. They're. Addendum: Contractions (including ones like let's--short for "let us") always take an apostrophe." "You're going to get into trouble. Again. but is not as widely used. yours." "The starship lost its starboard nacelle. one is a possessive. Whose. words that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings! (Although. they're homonyms. Its is a possessive pronoun. Short for "Who is" or "Who has. those pesky pronouns! With the same rules as those above. no apostrophe." SUNSAT The Perfect Team . Homonyms can be such a bother! There is an adverb.. Corrections follow: There. theirs--likewise do not take an apostrophe. Oh. meaning at or in that place. Short for "You are." Other possessive pronouns that follow the "s" form--ours. often used as an intensifier." It's is a contraction for "It is" or "It has. Properly confused now? Just give me a slap upside the head for getting the terms mixed up.

Allot." "There's been an incident in the mess hall. Unfortunately. Phase means a stage of development. assign or apportion." "Loosen up. The Dis Words. "This uniform feels loose." "We're losing the link. "You're going to lose that bet. "I will lead my people to victory." Lead and Led." Phase and Faze. Try to avoid it." Loose (rhymes with noose) is the opposite of tight." The past tense of "to read" is pronounced. means to give. Tuvok. a part of a cycle. "Alright" is not a word. ""The aliens have lost their weapons. however. A lot to remember? There is no such word as "alot. but these two are not homonyms! Lose (pronounced Lew's) is the opposite of find or win." "The moon is in its waxing phase. "We're in phase one of our plan." "There's the ship. SUNSAT The Perfect Team ." "They thought the lieutenant was a loser." It's not alright. It's the incorrect spelling of all right. but not spelled "red. Ah. "The potential for danger did not faze him." Their is a possessive pronoun." Faze means to bother or disturb." Lead pronounced "led" is the metal. The past tense of the verb "to lead" (rhymes with bead) is "led" (rhymes with bed). it's come into more common usage lately. "The protective case had a lead lining." "They're going to lose that battle.) Lose and Loose." They're is a contraction for "they are." That's a misspelling of a lot: "The ship was in a lot of trouble." "He led his people to victory. a recurring form." (See above for the plural rule on theirs.Rules in English There's is the contraction for "There is" or "There has.

There is nothing more annoying than reading a fan story wherein the author got the name of a major character wrong.. Oh. (The question mark doesn't mean the sentence ended! It ends with the period after Janeway. B'Elanna led the captain to the control panel. Don't capitalize pronouns (or verbs!) that follow quoted dialogue.. You can find the correct spelling in the credits. disapprove and disappear have one "s" and two "p's. or TV Guide. This will usually turn out to be a judgement call." She indicated the suspect readings. or a reference book!! I can't even count the number of ways I've seen "B'Elanna" and "Kathryn" misspelled on the 'net! And they've been right up there in the opening credits of Voyager for four seasons. (Ha--knew there was a catch. "There's a problem with the warp core.) However. unless it can be referenced somewhere. unless the quote ends a sentence. with a sentence after it that begins with a pronoun. no trouble. lack or invalidation. the only pronoun that's always capitalized is "I.. that's a different story.) "Are you sure?" asked Captain Janeway. however. there are some words spelled with "diss"--if you're not sure. Don't capitalize the verb!) "There's a problem with the warp core?" she asked.") Examples: "There's a problem with the warp core. It's harder to know how to deal with alien names and technobabble. look it up!! Character names. not the question mark." not the other way around! The prefix "dis" means negation. (Comma. (Same as above--the sentence ends with the period." she said.Rules in English Disappoint. didn't you?) If you let a quote stand alone. Bear with me as I try to explain. Don't capitalize the pronoun!) "There's a problem with the warp core!" she exclaimed. Yes. (Same as above--the exclamation point does not end the sentence. Punctuating Quotations. (Of course. "They've been fluctuating for hours." she SUNSAT The Perfect Team . It's the punctuation at the end of the quote that tends to confuse people. this is a tricky one.

. Commander." But. they are directly addressed as "Commander." "A pleasure to meet you. See how that works? And watch out for proper nouns. it never takes an object." "She lay in the hammock yesterday. laid: principal parts of the verb which means "to put (place) down. Articles follow the pronoun rule: "Can you help?" the lieutenant inquired. Dax. Lie." Lie is an intransitive verb.. lain: principal parts of the verb which means "to recline or repose. it takes an object. especially ranks and titles! "What caused this problem?" Commander Chakotay asked. Worf." "She is lying in the hammock." (Not "Lieutenant. however: "Ambassador. (Oops! Another catch. Lay." "I have laid the rug. I can't blame anyone for getting this mixed up.Rules in English continued. he could say.) If Captain Sisko wanted someone to find Dax. "Locate the commander.." "She has lain there all afternoon." Lay is a transitive verb. Two very easily confused words." "I laid the rug. that is. or in position." "I shall lay the rug." as they let Seven of Nine do in what--two episodes??) The person can be introduced or referred to as Lieutenant Commander. since they have a hard time getting it right in any Trek series! If someone holds the rank of Lieutenant Commander (Data. laid. Tuvok). would you?" See? Part Two Lay and Lie. this is Lieutenant Commander Tuvok. Speaking of ranks. for instance.. SUNSAT The Perfect Team ." "She will lie in the hammock. lay.

. Oh. I just--want to get out of here.) More exceptions. Punctuation can be especially tricky when publishing on the 'net. (A dash can also separate parenthetical ideas." "Will they accept the terms of our offer?" Except means "to leave out. a dash indicates halting or hesitant speech:) "There's nothing wrong. a single short line. you substitute a double hyphen: There was nothing to indicate--at least as far as she sould see--that there was a problem with the controls. where special typographic characters play hell with text files.). this would appear as a single.. Smart quotes (ones that turn in and out) are verboten.Rules in English Oh. A hyphen ( . long unbroken line. (In dialogue." "They agreed to everything except the final provision.. Therefore.and how was she lying in the hammock?? Supine means lying on the back. Here's a problem I've encountered in several stories lately: the confusing of a dash with a hyphen." Dash it all. and certain servers won't accept italics for emphasis (most people then rely on asteriks). Ordinarily. and a person can also be lying prostrate (face down or full-length) but not prostate (which is a problem only men have to worry about." she explained anxiously. To indicate a sharp or sudden break in the normal or expected flow of narrative or dialogue. or with the face upward.. Prone means lying with the front or face downward. The ship was flying smoothly--or so it seemed. or joins compound words: SUNSAT The Perfect Team . a dash is required. These two words are often confused: Accept means "to receive. yes. divides words that wrap around lines. But it usually can't be reproduced outside a word-processing program. or ones used as afterthoughts:) His first view of Voyager--tethered to the docking pylon--was breathtaking.

"They were married before the altar. except in psychological terminology." SUNSAT The Perfect Team . "We baited the hook. to lessen the force of." (It's never used as a noun." "Will the damage affect our progress?" Effect as a noun means "a result. for effect.." "The effect of the explosion was catastrophic.. or the established parameters for a television series." Alter means "to change or modify." Other usages: special effects.Rules in English twenty-something high-pressure And that's all for today's lesson.) "The ship was affected by the plasma storm." "We have to alter our course." Mindy: "What?" Mork: "Bated breath. "They waited for the news with bated breath. It's only used as a verb to mean "accomplished or produced. to take effect. effectiveness. in effect." Bait/Bate You trap someone or something with bait. Link below for more! Affect/Effect Affect is a verb which means "to have an influence on." "The bullies baited the cadet with vicious taunts. or the way something influences an object. here's an old joke from Robin Williams: Mindy: "I'll be back soon.") Canon/Cannon Canon means an established law or rule. "Most fan fic deviates from canon." Altar/Alter An altar is a table or elevated surface before which religious ceremonies are enacted." Mork: "I'll be waiting with worm-on-tongue." "His studying effected an improvement in his grades." Bate (abate) means to take away." (To further confuse you. as in church doctrine.

" A compliment is an expression of praise. or "to advise" (as a verb). SUNSAT The Perfect Team . as in the reins you use to direct a horse." Sense/Scents/Cents So simple: Sense is a function of perception or feeling. which is an adverb relating to time. Rain/Rein/Reign We all know what rain is. I counsel you to plead not guilty.don't confuse any of those three with since. "Fire the laser cannon!" she ordered. of course. Scents. or centimeters (but then it's pronounced "sahnts." (to advise) Hangar/Hanger Aircraft or shuttles are stored in a hangar." "Commander Troi offered a counseling session. You hang your clothes up on a hanger." Counsel means "advice" (as a noun).. makes whole." Council/Counsel A council is a group that acts in an advisory or decision-making capacity.") BUT. one that Captain Janeway would love. or a sense of humor. "His personality was a complement to hers. Complement/Compliment A complement is something that completes. "He complimented her on her dress." A monarch or ruler reigns. And cents are pennies. "You may have to seek legal counsel." "They called a council to make plans for the future. "She reined in her temper. are odors.Rules in English A cannon is a really big weapon. as in the five senses. don't we? But these are the tricky ones: Rein means to hold back.. or brings to perfection.. "The king reigned over vast lands. "The city council met to discuss the proposal." (advice) "As your lawyer.

" Taut means "tight." "She admired the lean. or a backhanded compliment. Part Three Oops! Another overzealous error! SUNSAT The Perfect Team .Rules in English or. Plague/Plaque Plague (sounds like vague) is an illness. as in "Take a deep breath. "They were plagued by continuing problems with the warp core." Rogue/Rouge A rogue (sounds like vogue) is a scoundrel or a rascal. something to hang on the wall. like that stuff on your teeth?) is an award. or a curse. for red." A plaque (you know. It can be used as an insult. taut lines of his body. "Each starship has commemorative plaque on the bridge. stupid. Taught/Taut Taught is the past tense of "teach." (Obscure Looney Tunes reference." Breathe (that e on the end makes it sound like heave) is a verb: "Breathe! You forgot to breathe again. depending on how roguish the person is! Rouge (from the French. Breath/Breathe Breath (how ironic. tense. as a conjunction. which means to tease or torment. it rhymes with death!) is a noun. or in trim shape. pronounced with a long u sound and soft g) is a cosmetic coloring (blusher) or a powder for polishing jewelry. means because. an affliction. Breaths and breathlessly do not. AND still get mixed up on a regular basis. Here are some words that have similar spellings but different pronunciations." "They taught him a lesson he wouldn't forget." Note: Don't confuse either of the above with taunt.) Breathed and breathing also have the long e sound.

Weird and strange. "It was past midnight when they returned." (Also: An exam can be passed. to go beyond. to move or turn at an angle. "The events were past their comprehension. Angle. Bizarre--think Outer Limits or Twilight Zone. (1) beyond time. "It happened in the past." "The days passed quickly. long a. "They waved at us as they walked past. Bazaar/Bizarre A bazaar is a place for the selling of goods. or an aspect from which something is viewed. isn't it?) As a preposition. former experiences." Angel/Angle Angel. "It was the first door past the turbolift. Passed/Past Passed is the past tense of the verb to pass: (1) to beyond or farther than. As a verb: to get something by trickery or artful means. "Paris was a man with a past." (4--told you it was busy!) beyond the amount of." As an adverb. good or bad.Rules in English Awhile is an acceptable spelling! (But I'm not backing down on "alright. short a." All ready means that everyone is prepared to do a given thing: "We are all ready to make the trip." (3) beyond the scope or extent of." (2) beyond in position." Or. "We passed that planet three days ago." (Busy little word. "Those are past events. as in triangle." SUNSAT The Perfect Team ." As a noun. means over or finished. as in Touched By One. hard g: a geometric figure. as an adjective. "The boy could not count past 20.") Already/All ready Already means before or by a certain time: "They had already left the ship when the message came through. like on the Mari homeworld. the time before the present.) Past. or the pirate planet where the Da Vinci hologram had such a good time. soft g: a celestial being or a really nice person. as can judgement or a law.

It also refers to the outer fabric covering of a dirigible or hot-air balloon. or the enclosing membrane of an organ. towards. More confused words and phrases: Breach/Breech Breach refers to the act of breaking. An envelope (rhymes with cope) is of course the paper case for a letter or document. a preposition: in the direction of. promise or legal obligation. too?" Two. the number 2. in contact with. etc.Rules in English To/Too/Two To. or hide something from sight. an adverb: in addition." "May we come. The classic reference from Shakespeare: "Once more unto the breach!" The classic reference from Star Trek: "Warp core breach imminent!" Breech. or the leaping of a whale from the water. "Let's go to the holodeck. also. an Old English word for the lower part of the body (think breeches=pants). the breaking up of friendly relations. or the violation of a contract. Envelop/Envelope Envelop (verb--the last syllable rhymes with cup) means to wrap or enclose. It also refers to the part of a gun or cannon behind the bore or barrel. "It's too late." Too. very. SUNSAT The Perfect Team . It also means a gap or break (think of that "ea" in each word) in a wall or fortification. where a baby is born bottom first. Part Four Spelling: There is no "d" in congratulate or congratulations. and breech birth. Obviously. There is no "a" in definite or definitely. There is only one "p" in apologize.

as a noun. faring) means how something is going: "He fared well in the tournament. "She was in a fit of pique over the way she was treated. as if by cutting. Intents (from intend. Likewise. in a just or legitimate manner. thunder or trumpets." It also means the sum paid for travelling--air fare. the shears used for cutting. to look sick or dispirited: peaked.. laughter.) Peek means to take a quick or furtive look at something. SUNSAT The Perfect Team .Rules in English Fair/Fare Fair has many meanings: light in coloring. "He had an intense longing for her. "He had a penchant for getting into trouble. it means to stimulate or arouse. to keep an eye peeled means to be on the alert." Peal/Peel Peal refers to long or loud sounds: a peal of bells. or the maximum development of something. bazaar or carnival-like event.. or a food menu--bill of fare." As a verb. or to move through. meaning to plan or design) refers to having a reason to do something. and removing the same (or removing any sort of covering. Pension/Penchant You get a pension when you retire. legal (particularly in sports). likely or promising." Shear/Sheer Shear means to remove fleece. including clothing!). strength or size. "Her story piqued his interest. A penchant is a strong inclination or liking for something.) Peak/Peek/Pique Peak is a high or projecting point. attractive in appearance. "For all intents and purposes." (See below. Pique. means a feeling of irritation or resentment. Peel is the skin of a fruit. (Also. satisfactory or acceptable. to peel off is to veer off in a flight formation for a dive or landing. It also refers to a large exhibit. such as a mountain or its summit. Intense/Intents Intense means extreme in degree. or deeply felt. hair or the like by cutting. Fare (fared.

perpendicular or steep.. but some of the wording and phrasing in the descriptions of episodes and aliens is a bit odd. McCoy and Scotty discussing the cure for the Interphase Madness encountered in "The Tholian Web": Scott: "What is it?" McCoy: "It's a deluded theragen derivative. (Not throws. Heck.Rules in English Sheer means to swerve or deviate from a course. but it is fandom-related. (Hyphens included. (And it's spelled toeing. a very tiny allowance--the width of a hair. that is. If someone is making an effort to conform to rules. it was done to all intents and purposes. I haven't collected any Trek merchandise (barring a few Voyager articles) in ages." The good doctor's Georgian accent aside. not tow it. they are said to toe the line. I broke down around Christmas and decided to subscribe to The Star Trek Universe Fact-File Cards. as in tossing something. but that theragen stuff was diluted! Spare the Poor Bunny! If a person accomplishes something by a narrow margin. (Not intense.the victims of the interphase may have been acting deluded or delusional.. or done in a routine manner. so I thought I'd indulge myself. if need be. "They made a hair's-breadth escape SUNSAT The Perfect Team .) If something was done deliberately. a fine. Phrases Explained: If someone is eager or anxious to do something. pure or undiluted. they are said to be champing at the bit. usually pluralized thusly: the throes of childbirth.) Part Five The Weirdest Mistake I've Seen Lately! It wasn't in a piece of fan fiction.) A violent pang or pain is a throe.) If something is prepared in advance. the throes of passion. They're pretty nifty. or a collection of afghans. not chomping. transparent fabric. But this was the funniest thing I saw: A "Memorable Moment"--Spock. it is done by a hair's-breadth. it is cut-and-dried.

by piercing a hole in a keg or container--which relates back the use of the word as a noun: a tool used to shape or enlarge a hole. past tense of the verb choose: "He chose not to follow his father into the service. a verb." Choose (sounds like chews). make a decision: "They need to choose a date for the wedding." "You will have to choose between one or the other. When you're shopping in K-Mart. Broach/Brooch Broach (sounds like poach). Isle is a poetic short form of island. You do the same thing in church when you're about to be married. but not the description of it. a noun: "They made the right choice when they picked that car. he broached the subject of their son's engagement. "Cautiously. Ensure and insure can both mean to make secure from harm. Assure refers to people. "The society matron wore an attractive diamond brooch to the party." Sometimes also written hairsbreadth or hairbreadth.. reassuring." Chosen (sounds like frozen). However.don't write it as hare's breath! A bunny's very rapid respiratory rate might be the reaction to a narrow escape. Aisle/Isle Both of these rhyme with I'll.Rules in English from the Kazon ship. but only insure refers to guaranteeing life or property against risk.. you walk down the aisle. when it is a variant of the word: Brooch (usually pronounced like pooch)." Chose (sounds like goes). to begin to talk about. as in putting someone's mind to rest about a concern or fear--giving confidence. SUNSAT The Perfect Team . Assure/Ensure/Insure These three words all mean to make secure or certain. to select. past participle of choose: "The crew has chosen to stay behind and defend the ship. a large decorative pin or clasp. as in an insurance policy." Choice/Chose/Choose/Chosen Choice (sounds like Joyce)." It can used to be described someone selected for a special purpose. as in the Chosen People." To draw off a liquid.

curiously. Inquiry: the act of inquiring. for emergencies. Inquire (Enquire) Inquire--to put or ask a question. especially on a joint intellectual effort. "Neelix kept a secret hoard of coffee beans." Discrete--Separate or individual things." Curious/Curiously/Curiousness/Curiosity It's not so much the meanings." Hoard/Horde Both sound like "board. Bashir was accused of collaborating with the Dominion." A hoard is a hidden or stored fund or supply." Corroborate is a synonym of confirm--to strengthen or support other evidence. Discreet/Discrete Discreet--having or displaying respect or reserve in one's speech or behavior. the crew seemed divided into two discrete groups--Starfleet and Maquis. Enquire and enquiry are simply variations of the above. he acted discreetly at the wedding. unconnected distinct parts. Historically. and curiousness all have a "u" and that inner "us" sound--but curiosity does not. guarded for future use." It also can mean to cooperate treasonably. "They called upon another witness to corroborate the victim's testimony. animals or insects. to look into or investigate. the Mongol Horde. Curious. "They collaborated on the design plans for the new shuttle.Rules in English Collaborate/Corroborate The former means to work together. Leach/Leech SUNSAT The Perfect Team . but the spelling of these words that creates a problem. with an enemy occupying one's country. to attest the truth or accuracy of a statement. of people." A horde is a swarm or throng." "Captain Janeway asked the Doctor for corroboration of the alien scientist's findings. "Dr. "At first. "Despite his reputation for rowdiness.

Silent. Lightening (light-EN-ing) is to make lighter or brighter. with lightning speed. or relies too heavily. "Neelix was the self-appointed morale officer on Voyager. The little button on the remote that deletes the sound. It pertains to the judgement of goodness or badness of human action or character. unresolved. having been previously settled. Or without legal significance." Moot/Mute Moot--sounds like boot.) To mediate (MEE-dee-ate) is to resolve or settle differences by acting as an intermediary agent between two or more conflicting parties. leaving him pale and frightened-looking. as in a load or burden. to move very fast. Pore/Pour Homophones--they sound identical. as in illumination. Meditate/Mediate Meditate (ryhmes with medicate) means to contemplate. Subject to debate. incapable of speech. "They had a moral obligation to assist the aliens in the void. or to make less troublesome or oppressive. is a large electrical discharge in the atmosphere. making a comeback as a viable medical treatment for certain conditions! It can also refer to a person who preys on. or to make less heavy. of only academic importance. on another. As an adjective." A leech is a bloodsucking worm. to ponder or reflect upon. (Tuvok likes to use his meditation lamp. Morale (sounds like corral) refers to the state of the spirits of an individual or group. In literary usage. to be removed." Moral/Morale The adjective moral sounds like floral. Mute--sounds like cute. SUNSAT The Perfect Team . of course. arising from conscience or a sense of right and wrong. a moral is a lesson contained in or taught by a story or parable.Rules in English Leach refers to the removal of soluable matter from a substance by a percolating liquid. but have different meanings. "The president hoped to mediate a peace accord in the Middle East. arguable. "The color leached from his face. it has come to mean to wash or leak away. Lightning/Lightening Lightning." As a noun. Vulcans do it a lot.

to study or read carefully." Regulate/Relegate/Delegate I once saw these three words misused in the same story. especially to an obscure place or position." Delegate: A person authorized to act on behalf of others: a country's delegate to the U. "Commander Chakotay spent many hours poring over the crew reports. It also means to gaze steadily or intently. Regulate: To control or direct according to a rule. To appoint or assign others to complete a task." "The enemy forces poured into the city.Rules in English Pore--a minute opening or orifice. "Neelix was pouring coffe for the captain when the attack began. Relegate: To send or consign. "He was relegated to performing minor tasks in the cargo hold." It's that last meaning that gets mixed up frequently with different tenses of pour--which means to make or send forth a stream or flow. such as the pores of the skin. Think Rules and Regulations.N. SUNSAT The Perfect Team . or to a adjust (a device) for proper functioning.

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