Posts Tagged ‘writer’

Writing Tip ~ Pour/Pore/Poor and Plain/Plane

More simple words that are often confused when writing our family histories – pour/pore/poor and plain/plane.

Writing confusing words

The cowPour/pore/poor

To pour something, is to empty liquid from one container to another – as in, “Grandpa’s farm girl once tried to pour milk from the bucket into Grandpa’s mug, but she was short-sighted and missed the mug. The left-over milk in Grandpa’s boots didn’t smell good after a while.”

Pore used as a noun, is an opening in the skin or in plant leaves – as in, “Mother said the day was so hot that the pores on Grandpa’s nose grew large and shiny.” Pore as a verb means to examine something – as in “I pored over the tiny writing on the old certificates, trying to read Great-grandmother’s last name.”

When a person is poor, they don’t have enough money – as in, “Great-grandfather Potts had twelve children, and they were so poor that he couldn’t afford shoes for them all.”


The word plain can either mean ordinary, or it can mean a flat stretch of land – as in, “Great-grandfather Potts’ second child, Elspeth, was a kind, plain-looking girl who married a farmer from the Canadian Plains.”

A plane is a tool used to smooth wood – as in, “Great-grandfather Potts’ third boy, Mahonri, was a gifted carpenter. When he worked with wood, it looked like the plane was gliding over butter.”


Genealogy Quote of the Week ~ Shirley Abbott

Our genealogy quote today is by magazine editor and writer Shirley Jean Abbott Tomkievicz (born November 16, 1934).

Shirley Abbott

Shirley Abbott

To quote from The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, “Shirley Jean Abbott Tomkievicz . . .  has achieved her greatest fame for her three volumes of memoirs, which detail the story of her family history and her own coming of age in Hot Springs (Garland County): Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South (1983), The Bookmaker’s Daughter: A Memory Unbound (1991), and Love’s Apprentice: The Education of a Modern Woman (1998), all written under the name Shirley Abbott. Critics have lauded her books as well-written examinations, not only of her own life, but of the South in an age of transition.

“Though now a resident of New York, Abbott continues to write about Arkansas for a wide audience in magazines and newspapers. She once commented, “I learned to respect and love history from being born a Southerner. To come from a definable place and to seek understanding of that place are incentives for the writer’s imagination . . . In 2005, Abbott received the Porter Prize, which is presented annually to an Arkansas writer of recognized literary excellence, for her nonfiction works, and, in 2008, she published her first novel, The Future of Love.”

Genealogy quote from Shirley Abbott

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.

Writing Tip ~ Lead and Led & Rain, Reign, Rein

Our writing tip this week explains the words lead/led, and rain/reign/rein – again, sounding similar, but writing these words in your family history needs care to get them right. 

Writing confusing words


Lead can refer to grey metal – as in,”The bullets in Billy’s old rifle were made of lead.”

Or, if lead is pronounced leed, it means to direct by example, or guide – as in, “Amy’s Uncle Charlie in London knew how to lead the local marching band. The only trouble was . . . he couldn’t stand the noise.”

Led is the past tense of the verb to lead, as in, — “So Uncle Charlie stuffed his ears with candle wax and led the lads through rain, fog and the occasional burst of sunshine.”

Rain/reign/reinKing Canute

Rain is that wet stuff that falls on our heads when we forget the umbrella – as in, “My friend’s ancestor, King Canute, loved getting wet in the rain. He wasn’t so fond of the tide when it wouldn’t obey his command to stop.”

Reign is something a King’s does when he rules a country – as in “It was King Canute’s right to reign England in 1016 after centuries of Viking activity in northwestern Europe. His accession to the Danish throne in 1018 brought the crowns of England and Denmark together.”

A Rein is a length of narrow leather attached to the bit on a horse’s bridle. The rider uses the rein to guide the horse – as in, “Freda’s great-uncle was shot in the arm in the Crimean War. He dropped the rein and his horse bolted, then fell, killing them both.

Writing Tip ~ Who/Whom and Accept/Except

This week’s writing tip clarifies some everyday words that we use without thinking – and can easily get wrong.Four little words

Four little words


Who is a relative pronoun, and can introduce a question (“Who is there?”), or relative clause (“Grandad made wooden plates for people who were tired of tin.”)

Whom is a relative pronoun that functions as an object  (receiver) of something, not the subject (“doer”)—as in “Grandpa Jones didn’t know whom to contact.”


Accept is a verb and means “to receive or come to terms with”—”Great-Grandfather accepted the pumpkin.”

Except can be used as a preposition, where it means “excluding” – as in “Grandma Blake liked all fruits except apples.”

Feel free

Feel free to add further clarification to these writing tips in the comment box below. My UK English is occasionally at odds with US English, so I’m always happy to hear another viewpoint, explanation, or correction.

Writing Tip ~ Cutting Excess Words

Excess words can clutter our family history writing. Read how editor and author Genevieve Graham deals with this problem.Genevieve Graham-Sawchyn

Economical writing

Get rid of or replace unnecessary and/or meaningless adjectives and adverbs in your writing.

Writing such words as really, very, and quite

Consider these words: really, very, quite, somewhat, good, nice, fine. What do they add to a sentence? Seriously. Unless you feel it is  important to stress something, leave it out. That’d be a good idea, huh? Use better words.

really pretty ——–> gorgeous
very costly ———-> expensive or (just) costly
quite tired ———–> exhausted or weary
good time ———–> enjoyable experience
nice person ———> amiable, considerate, friendly individual

Writing that combines words

Combine excessive words to form a more concise statement.

Incorrect: Susan thought the red paint was very bright and cheerful. Mike said the same thing. Julie really liked the happy mood the red paint brought to the room.
Correct: Susan, Mike and Julie liked the bright red paint.

Redundancy in Writing

Consider each word individually. Is the word redundant within itself? For example:

(advance) warning
collaborate (together)
could (possibly)
each (and every)
evolve (over time)
whether (or not)

The terms “Redundancy”, “Pleonasm” and “Tautology” all refer to the needless repetition of words. Trying to differentiate the terms is (to me) similar to splitting hairs: it gives me a headache, and it’s not important.

Basically, “Redundancy” is made up of both “Pleonasm” and “Tautology”. I tried to divide them, but I might have some mixed up. The fact is that using either is bad.

“Pleonasms” use more words than are necessary to describe something. “Tautology” repeats the same thing by using superfluous words or phrases.

Lists of redundancies are endless, so I’m only pointing out a few that you might have used in your own writing. I have to admit that since I’m somewhat of a grammar geek, I get a giggle out of some of these. Yes, I’m simple that way.

Examples of Pleonasms

at this moment (in time)
square (shape)
large (size)
short (in height)
return (again)
eight a.m. (in the morning)
reiterate (again)
nodded (his head)
shrugged (her shoulders)
(the end) result

Examples of Tautology

true (fact)
free (gift)
foreign (import)
close (proximity)
return (to where he came from)
all alone (by myself)
(in my opinion) I believe
Suddenly,(all at once)
“You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.” (Yogi Berra)
“Either ghosts exist, or they don’t.”
“Your missing shoes have to be somewhere.”

A few favorites

A.T.M. machine. Automated Teller Machine machine.

P.I.N. number. Personal Identification Number number.

R.S.V.P. please. R.S.V.P. stands for répondez s’il vous plaît, which means respond, please. So if you say Please R.S.V.P. or R.S.V.P. please, you’re saying please respond please or respond please please. Sounds a bit desperate, don’t you think?

And in Canada, we have the N.D.P. party. New Democrat Party party. That’s a lot of party.

Genevieve Graham

Genevieve Graham has her own editing company. Details of her pricing and testimonials are on her site at Writing Wildly. She also has a Bachelor of Music in Performance degree (oboe); a Black Belt (in Chito Ryu karate); and a decade of working in advertising/marketing/promotions. She has an interest in Scottish history and has volunteered for both the Calgary and the Halifax Highland Games.

Berkley/Penguin US will publish Genevieve Graham‘s first book, Under the Same Sky, in January 2010. This is an historical romance set in the year 1746. Genevieve’s second novel, Sound of Heart, follows in September 2012.

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