Why “I’ll pray for you” is not always nice. What to say instead.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

Scott Dannemiller’s excellent post, The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, about the misuse of the word blessing, got me thinking about other things that Christians say that we should probably re-think. One of these is, “I’ll pray for you.” We say it (usually) with good intentions. But to the unchurched, it can sound confusing or even divisive.

When to say it: Tell someone, “I’ll pray for you” if (1) you’re actually planning to pray for them (make sure you follow through), (2) you know they would be happy for you to pray for them, and (3) you think it will encourage them to know you’re praying.

If those three conditions are met, saying, “I’ll pray for you” makes perfect sense. Go for it. But here are some examples of inappropriate uses of “I’ll pray for you,” and what you can say instead. (You can still pray, even when you don’t say so.)

  • When you should be doing more to help. A friend tells you she and her husband are having marital problems, and really need to spend some time alone together. You say, “I’ll pray for you.”
    What to say instead: “Let me watch your kids over the weekend,” “Here’s a gift card to a restaurant,” etc. None of us has the resources to take on all the problems of the world, but when we see a need, and we have the means to help, we should help. (And pray, too.)Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16)
  • When you don’t know what else to say. A woman in your office tells you that she just got fired. You don’t know how to respond to her teary-eyed news, so you say, “I’ll pray for you.” Truth be told, you’re just glad you weren’t fired. The words roll off your tongue only to fill the empty space.
    What to say instead: “I’m here,” “What can I do to help?” (If you offer help, give it.) If you can’t take that on, try a simple, “I’m sorry,” coupled with a physical gesture, like offering a drink of water or a tissue.
  • To bring the conversation around to spiritual issues. You heard that your brother’s new girlfriend is not a Christian, and you want to talk with her about that. She’s talking about her educational goals, and you answer, “I’ll pray for you.” Now you’re on topic to talk about Jesus, right? No. Unbelievers are not inherently stupid. Most people see through that manipulation, and realize that you’re not interested in them as a person, but only as a soul to be “won.”
    What to say instead: If you care about someone and take an interest in their life, you earn the right to talk about such an intimate subject as faith. The most natural and unoffensive way to bring the conversation around to Jesus is to talk about what He means in your life. Talk about your faith as a natural extension of your life.
  • matthew-6-memeTo someone you know is anti-Christian. Most non-Christians, whether or not they believe in prayer, accept “I’ll pray for you” as an expression of good will. They may even welcome your prayers. But not everyone. Imagine your Wiccan neighbor telling you, “I’ll cast a healing spell for you.” Though it’s an expression of kindness, it might rattle some Christians to know that a spell is cast on their behalf. That’s how “I’ll pray for you” feels to some non-Christians who have strong feelings about Christianity.
    What to say instead:May I pray for you?” And if they answer no, don’t do it. God knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). Or just don’t say anything about prayer, and pray for them privately. God hears our secret prayers (Matthew 6:6).
  • To have the last word. As a Christian, I’m ashamed to even mention this, but too often, “I’ll pray for you” is Christianese for, “I disapprove of you and I will not listen to you.” Someone says you’re a simpleton for believing in the virgin birth or the Resurrection, and you come back with, “I’ll pray for you.” It’s smug and rude. Jesus said to pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:44), not to have the last word. Pray for them in private.
    What to say instead: This is a two-part answer. (1) If the person is sincerely trying to have a discussion, discuss. Discussion involves listening. Hear them out. You don’t need to feel defensive. The truth holds up under scrutiny. If you don’t know the answer to something, say so. Use it as an opportunity to find an answer and strengthen your own faith. Try to find common beliefs that you can build a relationship on. (2) If they’re just arguing, berating you, or showing off, you don’t have to say anything. Humble yourself. Like Jesus. Let them have the last word. Show respect, but disengage.

As Christians, we believe that when we pray, we approach the throne of God and enter into His presence (Hebrews 4:16), so let’s not treat prayer so flippantly. Let’s give it the respect it deserves.

What other Christian expressions have you heard used in a confusing or divisive way? How did you handle it?



This post is for procrastinating writers.

Manahoana, Writer Peeps!

Photo by Frank Vassen, CC BY 2.0

It’s been a week since I officially set aside copy writing and copy editing to focus on writing the words of my heart. My writing time seems more precious as my eyes grow out-of-focus and dimmer each day. My goal is to write my stories on days that I can see, for as long as I can see. It’s non-specific, but it’s still a goal, and I’m going for it.

We don’t say it, but we all kind of believe we’ll live forever, healthy, free, and with a sound mind, don’t we? So, with all the time in the world, we wait. Wait until the Muse plays nice. Until we get the perfect software. Until life gets easier.

Check out The Procrastination Rut by Flylady (Marla Cilley)
for inspiration on cutting procrastination and living the life you were meant to live.

I’m not used to budgeting my writing time if someone’s not paying me to do it, so I procrastinated came up with a couple of rules to stay on track. If you have any tips that work for you, please share. We’re all in this together.

  • Research first. Some writers get their stories out on the page, then fill in details with research later. As a procrastinator, I know I’ll be trying to bang out quality work as the deadline looms, so I put research first. I’ll check out stacks of library books, sit on my bed, and flip through each book. Index cards scribbled with questions or ideas go into the relevant passages. Because I procrastinate, more often than not, I slack on the task at hand and get lost in reading those passages. And I’ll read them whenever I get the urge to read for fun (often).With no conscious effort, my brain arranges and rearranges the information and considers various angles, essentially creating an outline while I hang out. By the time I have to start typing, the work is practically already written. Our brains can only work on information if we give it to them. So whenever you get the urge to procrastinate writing, just lean into it, and do your research right away.
  • Create accountability. As a procrastinator, I’m not good with self-imposed deadlines. When I work for clients, I can make their deadlines. With self-imposed deadlines, though, both the consequences of procrastination and the rewards for diligence are delayed and uncertain. It’s too easy to slack off.
    Original drawing from 1831 edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    What’s missing is accountability. This is where a writing group comes in handy. You can encourage one another to keep self-imposed deadlines. If you don’t have a group, pick a friend or family member that you can trust to ask about your progress, hassle you when you fall behind, and reward you with a mini-celebration only when you reach a mini-deadline, and a big celebration only when you reach a big deadline. Your accountability partner doesn’t have to be a writer, but they do have to be tough. This is one of those ‘whatever-I-say-do-not-let-me-out-of-the-room-with-the-monster’ situations.

Imagine how much richer our writing would be if we let research mull around in our brains and didn’t have to cram it all in at the last minute. Imagine how much more we could accomplish if we stopped procrastinating and moved forward.

The world needs your story. Get to it.


P.S. This song is very encouraging for us procrastinators. Lyrics in video or here.












Road Trip with Dad to Lincoln’s Birthplace

lincoln-log-cabin-replicaIn 1976, Dad and I took a road trip to Indianapolis. On the way, we detoured to Hodgenville, Kentucky, so we could visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. Dad’s ancestors, the Cradys, used to live next door to the Lincolns, and donated some of the land for that first Lincoln memorial. According to the history book, David Crady: Kentucky Pioneer by Evelyn Crady Adams, Thomas Lincoln summoned neighbor Sarah Crady one rainy night to help his wife Nancy as she struggled to give birth to baby Abraham. (I’m guessing he was a big boy.)

We’d visited the museum as a family when I was little, but I remember only disjointed images from that trip: Dad pointing out a plaque with the name Crady on it, a replica log cabin, like the one where a Crady helped her neighbor birth the future president, and a shiny log cabin made of Lincoln pennies, kept under glass.

Dad always started road trips around 3:00am, to get out of Florida and into cooler weather by the heat of the day. And also, I suspect, because I behaved only while sleeping. My older sister, Terry the Beloved, always behaved and always got carsick. In a transparent grab for attention, she’d throw up. But I aways wrestled the attention back. I’d feign car sickness too, so Mom would give me the concerned look, offer me sips of Shasta cola, and tell Dad to pull over and let me “get some air.”

On those trips, I slept curled around the hump of the carpeted backseat floor in our 1969 Buick Skylark, while the Beloved stretched out across the sticky vinyl benchseat. We didn’t use seatbelts. Mom and Dad would take turns driving. We’d stop long enough to use the restroom or eat breakfast, they’d switch places, and we’d get back on the road.

This time, though, it was just Dad and me. I was twelve. We started out from Tampa 1969-buick_skylark-public-domainaround 3:00am, as usual. I stayed awake as long as I could. Even though we were heading north, the car felt warm and the monotonous highway made me drowsy. Just about the time we reached Hodgenville, I was out. Dad woke me, but I refused to budge. I slept in the car while he visited the museum without me.

I used to wish that I’d taken an interest in the museum, and in my family’s fleeting connection to one of the greatest men of American history. I used to feel guilty for sleeping through what could have been a good father-daughter bonding time. But Dad just kept teasing me.

He teased me about that trip for the rest of his life. Every chance he got, he told people, “She ain’t interested. I drive miles out of my way to expose her to a little history, show her a little bit of her roots, but she don’t care. She’d rather sleep.” And he’d wink at me and laugh.

Parenting a twelve-year-old can be challenging. I’m so thankful that Dad gave it a try, and that he laughed at me about it for the next thirty-nine years. It was a good father-daughter bonding after all.

Happy President’s Day,






When and When Not to Write On Spec


Original photo by Karen Arnold


Kon’nichiwa, Writer Peeps!

On spec. As a writer, you’ll hear that a lot. It’s short for “on speculation,” and it means that you write an article, a short story, a screenplay, book, whatever, with no contract and no promise of publication. You send it in and hope the editor wants to publish it.

It’s a gamble, for sure. You can increase your odds of getting that contract, though, if you know when to roll the dice.


  • When you’re just breaking in. If you don’t have experience or prior publications, but you know you did a good job, your best bet is to let your work speak for itself. And I mean that. Do not (NO!), do not tell the editor that God wants your story to reach the world, that your manuscript is a great opportunity for them, or that you can see it made into a feature film. All those things might be true. Do not say them.
  • When an editor answers your query and asks for more. The first couple of articles that I ever got published were in Home School Enrichment magazine. I first queried the editor, expressing that my experience and philosophy matched the magazine’s focus, and that I’d been doing volunteer writing for my local homeschool group. I pitched a few ideas, and he asked to see specific finished articles on spec, which I then wrote furiously, because the editor was clearly interested. The magazine published a couple of my articles, and that led to re-publishing at Crosswalk.com. And, just like that, I had publishing credits to list on my query letters to other publications.
  • When you have no samples to show. Are you seeing a theme? When you’re just breaking in, writing on spec can get your foot in the door. There’s no risk to the publisher, and you get the opportunity to show what you can do. Sometimes the editor even takes the time to comment on specifics about your manuscript, and that’s free professional advice.
  • When you already wrote what you’re selling. One of the articles that I’d written on spec for Home School Enrichment, and that was rejected, I sold to another homeschooling magazine that accepted unsolicited manuscripts. (If I remembered which one, I’d tell you, but I know it was a national glossy.) The thing is, once you’ve already written an article or short story, or even a screenplay or novel, you can pitch it without taking up a lot of time or effort. While you’re pitching it, keep writing the next piece.
  • When your piece is short. Most short pieces have to be on spec. An editor cannot tell how good or suitable your poem, short story, or essay will be by your credentials, even if they’re stellar.
  • When you haven’t gotten anywhere with queries. We’ve all heard stories about writers who were getting nowhere by following all the rules, so they just went for it, and sent unsolicited manuscripts. This is a Hail Mary pass. Your manuscript will most likely end up in the recycle bin, but if you write an enticing cover letter and a compelling hook, you just might get noticed.

    Original photo by George Hodin


  • It will take a long time. If you have an idea for an article, for example, that will take a lot of time and research, and you have not written any of it yet, it’s probably not worth it. There are exceptions. If the payoff is extraordinary, if the editor asked to see it, and if you can sell it to another publisher if this one declines, it might be worth it.
  • It cannot be sold in any other market. If you plan to write something that is based on copyrighted material (eg, writing a companion workbook for a specific textbook), or that fits only a small niche market, you probably should get a contract before writing, because you will not be able to sell or use the work if the publisher declines.
  • It’s time sensitive. If you’ve written something about current events, or a speculative work about a possible event that will come to pass quickly, you don’t have time to offer it to one publication after another on spec. Strike while the iron’s hot. Self-publish or send out query letters instead.
  • When the publication specifically says not to. If you’re looking at writer’s guidelines and you see the words Absolutely no unsolicited manuscripts! don’t send an unsolicited manuscript.


  • Always follow writer’s guidelines exactly. Something as simple as the wrong font can make the difference between an editor reading your manuscript and tossing it. Remember that editors are detail oriented. They notice.
  • Make sure you know what the publisher wants. Read recently published articles to tell you not only the subject, but the tone (friendly, emotional, factual, etc.) and the vocabulary (reading level, profanity, etc.).
  • Know the targeted reader to know if your submission is a good fit. Studying the publication’s advertising is useful for getting to know the reader. If what you’ve written is a close fit, but not quite right, tweak it to fit better before submitting.
  • Include a cover letter. Find out the name of the editor of the department to which you’re submitting, and address a cover letter to that specific editor. You can usually find the editor’s name and contact information on the publication’s website. If you’re not sure, call and ask the receptionist. If you don’t know the gender of the editor, or you don’t know how the editor wishes to be addressed, don’t guess. Don’t use slashes, like Mr./Ms./Mrs., or any variation of that. Instead, use the full name. For example, “Dear Robin Jones,” or “Dear E.S. Smith.” Under no circumstances should you address your cover letter to “To Whom it May Concern.” Don’t do it. Just don’t.

Boiling it down to its essense, the guideline is: Does the benefit outweigh the risk? If so, go with God. I’m in your corner, too.

Have you written anything on spec? How was that experience for you? Let’s talk about it in the comments. We’re all in this together.





Valentine’s Day Celebrations that Don’t Require a Second Income

weird-and-wonderful-romance-meme-i-madeThis week, Frazierhead (my husband) said one of the most romantic and loving things I’ve ever heard: “Do it. Write what you want.”

I will still write about writing and grammar and Jesus and holidays and whatever else I want to on this blog. But after nine years of writing what other people want me to write, editing what other people have written, and prioritizing paid jobs over my own creativity, I am pleased to announce that I quit. Now I can start. I’m following my dream.

This decision is a leap of faith for both of us. I always say, “My husband pays the bills and I buy the chocolate.” That is, we can live on his income, but my income gives us wiggle room for luxuries and unexpected expenses. Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, my writing income will resume (and increase) when I finish and sell my own work in progress. Until then, we’re bracing ourselves for inevitable changes.

Valentine’s Day is our first test. To celebrate this new chapter in our lives, I searched for Valentine’s Day celebration ideas that don’t require a second income. We don’t need a babysitter, but our teens are still home, so I’d kind of like to get out of the house. Which of these would you suggest?

  1. Coffee and dessert  Maybe we’ll eat dinner at home, then go out for dessert and coffee.
  2. bayshore-blvd-public-domain
    World’s Longest Sidewalk — Tampa, Florida

    Local scenery  The sidewalk along Bayshore Boulevard is the longest unbroken sidewalk in the world (the world!!). At night, I think it’s Tampa’s most romantic spot. I’m nursing a foot injury, so walking is out, but the bayside rail has built-in seats.

  3. Jammin’  One of our favorite couple things is to drive with the windows rolled down and the music cranked up, and sing as loud as we can. (That’s right. It’s us that you’re cursing.) It’s as close as either of us gets to the feeling of a roller coaster.
  4. Card game  I learned how to play the card game Uno when my husband and I were dating. He taught me his cutthroat tricks for winning only after we tied the knot. It’s an at-home idea, but whenever we play Uno, it brings back those new-love feelings.
  5. Sorta Romantic Movie  Another at-home idea. Frazierhead and I are not really fans of the romance genre, but we both love good movies, even if romance gets slipped in. See my Sorta Romantic Video Picks for Valentine’s Day. (Bear in mind that list was written before we saw Zombieland, which is obviously the best sorta romantic movie ever. For grownups only. It’s gory. ) I’m open for suggestions for this year’s pick. We could use a feel-good movie.

Even though these offers look like paid links, they’re not. They are–from my heart–offers I thought worth sharing with you. Which ones would you choose?

  1. Free Printable Cards  Greetings Island has a variety of free customizable, downloadable, printable, Valentine’s Day cards.
  2. Heart-shaped Doughnuts Dunkin Donuts is making heart-shaped doughnuts for Valentine’s day, and they’re also running Valentine’s Day promotions on Instagram and Facebook (click http://tinyurl.com/zd5k9xm for contest). And, for us old timers, every day Dunkin Donuts offers a free doughnut with the purchase of a large drink to AARP members. (This just might be our dessert date.)
  3. Heart-shaped Pizza This Valentine’s Day, Papa John’s is offering a medium, thin crust, one topping, heart-shaped pizza and brownie for $15.
  4. Uno I found an Uno game at Walmart.com for $4.16, with free in-store pickup.
  5. Free eBooks If you’re planning to stay home alone this Valentine’s Day, why not cuddle up with a good book? Go to Amazon.com and search for Free Kindle Romance books. I found hundreds of free titles.

What do you think? Have you taken a leap of faith to follow your dreams? Do you have fun and thrifty (PG-rated) Valentine’s Day ideas? Do you know of a great, sorta romantic movie that we can watch on Netflix? Please share your ideas in the comments. We’re all in this together.


Top 10 Perfectly Nice Words that Sound Offensive

b-word-memePeace, writer peeps!

Last month’s crazy response to my using a single word (shh…it was feminist) got me thinking about David Howard, and the trouble a single word made for him.

In February of 1999, David Howard, an aide to Washington DC’s then-mayor Anthony Williams, publicly used the word niggardly. Niggardly means “stingy.” Williams used the word in that context, in a conversation about government funding. The word comes from an old (c.1300 CE) anglicized word nygart,  and it has no racial connotations and no racially-linked etymology at all. But because it sounds similar to an offensive word that Howard–a public advocate and a white guy–shouldn’t say, offended semi-literates protested, and Howard was compelled to resign from his job! That really happened!

I’ve got your back. I don’t want what happened to David Howard to happen to you. To help keep writers out of trouble with the outraged ignorant, I’ve compiled a Top Ten list of Perfectly Nice Words that Sound Offensive, along with their true meanings.

vintage-keep-mum-posterBut first, The Non-Optional Apology: I sincerely apologize if I used a word that you did not know. I am only in my fifties and we all do stupid things at this age.

*drumroll please*

Top 10 Perfectly Nice Words that Sound Offensiveoh-my-takei

#10  honking – making a sound like the call of a goose, often with a car horn
That honking bird should’ve stayed with his flock.

#9  homophones– words that sound alike, but have different meanings and spellings
See? Their, there: They’re homophones, just as I told you.

#8  thespian – a dramatic actor
Mary Tyler Moore was a talented comedy actor, but did you know she was also a thespian?

#7  twite – a type of finch, a little bird
When you purposely make that noise, you sound like a twite!

#6  homogeneous – made up of like parts that are evenly distributed
The school board deliberately broke up homogeneous groups of students with rezoning.

#5  peniaphobia – the fear of poverty
Marcy could afford to live on her own, but her peniaphobia drove her to share a home with Patty.

#4  beanie – a small hat
Marcus nervously twisted his beanie in his hands.

#3  idiom – a cultural expression that cannot be understood by literal translation
That idiom is a flash in the pan.

#2  niggling – slight anxiety or unease
I have a niggling feeling that this list of naughty-sounding words might get me into trouble.

And…*drumroll*… the #1 Perfectly Nice Word that Sounds Offensive……

asp – a venomous snake
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay away from that asp’s hole.

*cue wild applause*

WARNING! Think twice before saying any of these words. And maybe gather a committee, hire a lawyer, and do some market research before actually publishing them.

Or you could taunt the shocked and offended with your right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Whatever floats your boat. (Just remember, enough wind can capsize a boat.)

Have any good words ever gotten you into trouble? Do you have more to add to this list? Let’s hear ’em! Or, you know, read ’em in the comment section. Stay safe out there, writers! We’re all in this together.




What if you were holy?

This is an edited version of a post I published February 19, 2016.

Whoever you are, right this minute, imagine that God accepts you, and that He calls you “holy, pure, and blameless.” And not because He’s tolerant, but because you are holy in his sight. Not after you clean up. Not after you deal with some things. Right now. This minute. What would that feel like?

Now imagine that whatever you have to offer to God, however flawed, imperfect, or rejected in this world, what if that offering turned into–in truth–a holy, perfect offering, highly valuable. How would that feel?

Photo by Junior Libby

In the days of Moses, and the Ark of the Covenant, and the Tabernacle, God established a priesthood to stand as the go-between for His Spirit and regular folks like you and me. The priests were required to wear a seal upon their foreheads, which made the guilt of the people go away, and made their gifts acceptable to God.

“Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the Lord.” Exodus 28:36-38, NIV

In those days, if an offering was brought to God by a guilty person, the priest absorbed that guilt, and the person was no longer guilty. The priest’s seal was worn continually, so there was never a time when a person’s guilt could slip by. Whatever gift a person brought for God, that gift became acceptable and holy.

Jesus took on the role of priest and go-between between God and us. As our go-between, Jesus absorbs our guilt, and whatever your gifts may be, they are acceptable to God. You too can be sealed: HOLY TO THE LORD.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel [good news] of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV

God’s seal for us is not made of gold. It is made of His own Spirit. And He continually stays with us, absorbing our wrongdoings, making us truly guilt-free, making all of our gifts acceptable to Him. There is never a time when guilt can slip in.

The seal of the Holy Spirit is a deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven. When you believe in Jesus, your fate is sealed forever.

Jesus said: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:2-3, NIV

Right this minute, in the quiet of your own mind, ask yourself if you have believed in Jesus. If you never have, now is the time.

Original photo by Hana Chramostova

Once you believe in Jesus, you are sealed. You don’t have to imagine anymore. You are HOLY TO THE LORD. If any guilt lingers or recurs, it is absorbed by the seal of God. It is not yours to bear. And your offerings to God, whatever they may be, are acceptable.

If you want to talk about this, or you have questions, feel free to comment and I will answer.

Hugs, Kathy

Functional Shifting in Grammar: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

“Misunderstood” by artist Man Ray. Scanned from Abbate, Francesco, ed. (1972), American Art, London: Octopus Books, ISBN 0706400283, originally published by Fratelli Fabbri Editore, Milan (1964). Fair Use.

Hi Writer Peeps!

Today’s blog is about words and phrases that usually identify as one part of speech, but step out and play another role from time to time. I like to think of these as “transgrammars.” Other grammarians–stuffy sorts–call them functional shifts.

The thing about functional shifts is that we get used to seeing a word or phrase in a specific role, so when it takes a new identity, we might not recognize it. If we don’t recognize functional shifting, we make wrong assumptions about the word, about its antecedents, the sentence’s parallelism, and the whole situation just gets awkward. So awkward that we don’t even know which slot to let it use in the sentence diagram.

Functional shifts show up everywhere–not that there’s anything wrong with that. This post can’t cover every possibility, but in order to promote grammatical understanding, I’ll give you some examples of functionally shifting words, so you’ll get the idea.

NOUNS AS ADJECTIVES  You know a noun as a person, place, thing, quality, or idea. But when it describes another noun, it functions as an adjective.

Their office romance heated up in the meeting room next to the water cooler.
Before my coffee break, I gathered a file folder and some notebook paper.

Original word cloud art by Vera Kratochvil

ADJECTIVES AS NOUNS  Adjectives modify and describe nouns and pronouns. But once in a while, an adjective likes to break out and become a noun.

Only the rich could afford a collectible like that.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” –Jesus (as quoted in the Gospel of Matthew 5:5.)

ADVERBS AS NOUNS  Adverbs are swingers. They modify verbs, adjectives, clauses (We’ll talk about clauses in another post), or other adverbs. They have to do with place, time, manner, circumstance, degree, or cause. Most words that end in -ly are adverbs (slowly, loudly, suddenly), but not all adverbs end in –ly (very, almost, ever). We’ll go over adverbs in more depth in another post. For now, let’s look at some adverbs that function as nouns.

Make plans for tomorrow, but enjoy the here and now.
“I believe in yesterday.” –John Lennon, Paul McCartney (from the song,”Yesterday”)

NOUNS AS VERBS  When nouns are used as verbs, we call it verbing. The word verbing is itself a functional shift, a noun turned into a verb. Neat, huh? (I love this stuff!) With common usage and time, verbing changes the language, and the word gets declared a bona fide verb.

The rest of the team brainstormed while Gene googled* cheesecake recipes. He said, “I just can’t adult right now.”

*FYI: When used as a verb, the word Google may be–but does not have to be–capitalized, per 2017 Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

VERBS AS ADJECTIVES  Verbs are fickle. Verbs show action (I sprang from the bed) and states of being (I am a little teacup). But they like to take on other roles. Here, verbs function as adjectives.

The ceramic owl became a running gag between roommates.
Eighty-nine percent of US children had at least one working parent in 2015.

VERBS AS NOUNS (GERUNDS) When a verb functions as a noun, we call it a gerund. Gerunds always end in -ing.

I prefer swimming over jogging or skating.
Janet passed up the pool for snorkling in the gulf.

VERBS THAT FUNCTION AS NOUNS BUT ARE ALSO PARTICIPLES THAT LOOK LIKE GERUNDS (I’m just showing off now.) Here’s where verbs go wild. A verb that functions as a noun or an adjective is a participle. That’s fun because the present and progressive tenses look just like gerunds, complete with the -ing ending.

Dressing for his date, Mark felt excited but nervous.

buffalo-diagram-memeSo, how can you tell the difference between a gerund and a participle? In a nutshell: if it’s the object of a preposition, it’s a gerund; if it can be modified with an adverb, it’s a participle. But you probably won’t need to distinguish them. They’re both verbs that act as nouns.

For a more in-depth look at the difference between gerunds and participles, check out Grammar Girl’s Participles and Gerunds at QuickandDirty Tips.com.

I could go on and on, but my husband, who just read that last bit glassy-eyed, suggests that I might have already gone on too long. I know you’re still with me, though. You love words as I do, don’t you? In a way that he could never understand.

Now that we’ve shared functional shifting, I won’t have you pre-judging words by their appearances. You and I must vow to get to know words as individuals, and show respect for the functionally shifting. For grammar’s sake.

Can you think of more examples of functional shifting? Are you puzzling over a functional shift, or trying to identify a part of speech? Share your words with me in the comment section. We’re in this together.


On a Complaint of Loneliness, by Guest Blogger Devra Carmical

Kathy here: I’ve been married to my best friend for 32 years, but I’m not immune to loneliness. We all know that feeling. Sometimes we feel lonely for a specific person who is no longer with us, sometimes we’re lonely for a friend we can trust, or for a companion who shares our interests. In this season leading up to Valentine’s Day, for so many, loneliness for a life partner feels especially painful. Guest blogger, Devra Carmical, wrote the following word of truth and encouragement for the lonely. Take it away, Devra!

Photography by George Hodan

On a Complaint of Loneliness
(not for those gifted to be eunuchs):
by Guest Blogger, Devra Carmical

I can relate. People telling you that you’re not alone doesn’t really help, either, even though it really is true (that you are not alone). I know what you mean about being alone. I’m going to share something with you from the understanding that you are a Christian, which I think you are, but if you aren’t, please don’t be offended. This comes from a place of love.

Here goes:

When Adam was in the garden of Eden, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

People will tell you that you are not alone because of many passages that speak of God’s presence with us: that He will not forsake us, never leave us, etc.

That is all true; God will never leave us, even if our mother and father forsake us, He is walking with us, even when we reject Him for a season or don’t feel Him there. We are challenged to trust Him even more at those times when the feelings aren’t there.

Getting back to what God said about Adam, that was said before the fall of man. Adam was still in perfect unity with God, walking with Him in the cool of the day, one on one. Can you imagine? There was no sin, no death, no suffering of any kind, no hard work yet, and God was right there, but still God said it was not good for Adam to be alone. Pruning that down a little, God said that Adam was alone. People who tell you that you are not alone are disagreeing with God. Read that again. Let it sink in a second.

You’re talking about something human and they’re talking about something else altogether and really missing the point, but even worse, in a way that puts you down a little, as if you aren’t being spiritual enough. Blech! This just makes me feel even less understood and more isolated. Why do people do that? It’s all they know how to do because they don’t have an answer and they want to have the answer. It’s our nature. They mean only good.

If Adam was alone before the fall, in perfection, before sin separated him from God, then we certainly can be alone in the same way.

Alone in that context speaks of not having human companionship; a human to help us bear the many burdens of this life, which are much greater today because of sin, sickness, decay, and death. More than that, a partner with whom to share the many joys and memories of life and God’s blessings! Because it was not good, God created a perfect partner for him and you know the rest of the story.

When I’m feeling alone,

I remind myself that God has a perfect plan for my most sinful self and all my mistakes, my broken, lonely life. He knew back in the garden everything you and I would do and suffer, and He already had a plan for our reconciliation with Himself and our comfort and joy on this earth. The promises aren’t all about eternity – He cares for you here and now, too! I remind myself that He really is with me, helping carry my burdens, arranging things to provide for me before I even know about a need. I thank Him for every little thing: I have food to cook and errands to run, a job to do, and people to love and serve, etc.

Photography by Maliz Ong

This is a key:

There are lots of promises associated with thankfulness and praise. When Job lost everything, the first thing he did was worship, and God restored him beyond anything he could have asked. God is doing more for me (and for you) than any human partner can do. (As a matter of fact, not long ago, I realized I might not even want a partner because so many men think of a household as a hierarchy, where they are somehow closer to God than the woman and I asked God to only bring me one if that partner wouldn’t try to wedge himself between myself and Him.)

Anyway, I talk to Him just like I would talk to a husband or a good friend, even getting totally ugly sometimes, open and honest, crying out, asking questions, reminding Him of His promises to me to change me and deliver me from every time of trouble as I learn to trust Him more. People love the Psalms that are nice and pretty, and they are precious and holy, but some of David’s Psalms aren’t so “nice” – they’re full of crying out and even complaint (not the kind of complaining the Israelites did in the desert of Sinai – that brought about terrible things). You’re not telling Him anything He doesn’t already know, but it’s good to get it out. Ask Him to change you and your desires, if necessary.

He knows exactly what you need and He will do it, whatever it is. Ask in faith and watch with expectation for the coming of your answers. They are already on the way. Imagine God working behind the scenes bringing about everything you need, things you haven’t even imagined or asked for! Lift your head! Let Him prepare you for these things, so that when they come, you’ll be ready to fully receive and ready to handle them in a way that will bring prosperity and deep joy. The testimony can only be as great as the test!

We don’t have to be strong all the time.

Rely on His strength. I imagine myself on a roller-coaster sometimes, about to go down that big hill. I have no control. I have to trust the engineers that designed the ride, the mechanics who maintain it, even the teenager at the control panel. So it is with God, when you’re in a situation you don’t control. Do good whenever you get the chance, then sit back and enjoy the thrill of the ride! You’re in good hands. Learn to relax. Put relaxing on your to-do list and do it, just as if it were something someone else needed.

Kathy here again. Thank you, Devra! 
Readers, how do you handle loneliness when you see it in others? How do you handle it when you feel it yourself? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


In language, mob rules.

Salut, Writer Peeps!

Original photo by George Hodan

For those who forgot, and for new readers, Monday blogs are about writing and editing and books and reading and all things word related.

In my house, I force my kids to listen to me lecture we enjoy lively discussions about etymology, the history of words. I enjoy thinking about how each generation tweaks the English language to reflect its own cultural experiences. I especially like comparing the way my children perceive and use words with how I did at their ages.

When my teens like something, they call it swag. When I was a teen, swag was the fabric that hangs over the window. When I call League of Legends a “video” game, my kids tease me. To them, video games are simply games. It’s the other types of games that use a descriptor (eg, board games). My daddy used to hate it when his kids used the word gross. Gross, to him, was a math term, and he said I sounded ignorant when I used it as a descriptor (eg, Palmetto bugs are so gross!). He didn’t like grody any better, but by the eighties, he’d given up on trying to control teenage slang.

Writers, especially us AARP members, sometimes dig in and refuse to deviate from the English of our younger years. Lots of writers tell me, “I won’t dumb down my writing,” and “If we write the way some people talk, it will corrode the language.” That sounds all noble and whatnot, and if that’s your thing, more power to you. If you’re writing for a modern reader, though, you might want to pay attention to how language changes.

One writer asked, “So if a word is misused long enough, that misuse becomes the accepted definition, and that’s that? Mob rules?”

The answer is yes. Mob rules. That’s how language works.

Personally, I’m on a mission to get the word internet (lowercased) into common usage, because it seems stupid to keep capitalizing it. So I purposely break that rule of capitalization whenever I reference the world wide web. (See what I did there?)

Or we can stubbornly hold to the English we know is correct. Like this:

   God cwæþ to Abrahame: ‘Nim þinne sunu Isaac, and far to þæm dunum, and geoffra hine þær uppan dune.’
   Þa aras Abraham on Þære nihte, and ferde mid twæm cnapum to þæm dunum, and Isaac samod.  Hie ridon on assum.  Þa on þone þriddan dæg, þa hie þa dune gesawon, þa cwæþ Abraham to þæm twæm cnapum þus: ‘Andbidiaþ eow her mid þæm assum!’
   Isaac bær þone wudu to þære stowe, and Abraham bær his sweord and fyr.  Isaac þa ascode Abraham his fæder: ‘Fæder min, hwær is seo offrung?  Her is wudu.’  Se fæder cwæþ: ‘God foresceawaþ, min sunu, him self þa offrunge.’
   Þ a comon hie to þære stowe; and he þær weofod arærde on þa ealdan wisan. Þa band he his sunu, and his sweord ateah. þa he wolde þæt weorc beginnan, þa clipode Godes engel arodlice of heofonum: ‘Abraham!’  He andswarode sona.  Se engel him cwæþ to: ‘Ne acwele þu þæt cild!’
   Þa geseah Abraham ramm betwix þæm bremlum; and he ahof þone ramm to þære offrunge.

Don’t understand that? It’s written in perfectly correct Old English. Following is the same text, translated into more modern-sounding English.

   God said to Abraham: ‘Take your son Isaac, and go to the hills, and offer him there upon a hill.’
   Then Abraham arose in the night, and went with two servants to the hills, and Isaac as well.  They rode on asses.  Then on the third day, when they saw the hills, then Abraham said to the two servants thus: ‘Wait here with the asses!’
   Isaac carried the wood to the place, and Abraham carried his sword and fire.  Isaac then asked Abraham his father: ‘My father, where is the offering?  Here is wood.’  The father said: ‘God himself, my son, will provide the offering.’
   Then they came to the place, and he there raised an altar in the old manner.  Then he bound his son, and drew his sword.  When he was about to carry out [lit wished to begin] the deed, then God’s angel called quickly from heaven [lit heavens]: ‘Abraham!’  He answered at once.  The angel said to him: ‘Do not kill the child!’
   Then Abraham saw a ram amongst the brambles; and he raised up the ram as the offering.

We write for a lot of reasons. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy uses Middle English dialogue to represent language as it was in New York before she was born, along with what was (in the 1930s) modern English, to keep the reader engaged.

MN Stroh, author of the not-yet-released Rise of Betrayal, sprinkles elements of Middle English and Gaelic expressions throughout her historical literary novel. Her use of language is flawless, and it makes a huge difference, transforming the reader back to Ireland in 962 CE.

Or maybe you’re this person, who makes me smile.

The takeaway? Writing is art, and there is no wrong way to create art. Know your readers. Know the mood you’re trying to create. And go for it.

What do you think? Are there any words or expressions that you really hate? Anything you’re trying to get into common usage? Any English “rules” that you simply will never break? Or never follow? And did you see what I did there with the world wide web?


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