A swing and a miss: why not everyone should write about English on the web

English, English, General Interest, General Interest, Miscellaneous, Rants, Rants 1 Comment

So my boss passed around a list that he got from @GuyKawasaki about eleven writing errors that make a person look stupid, which should be avoided.

Thing is, five of these eleven are wrong.

i.e. does not “specify and limit”, nor is it exchangeable with namely.  Both i.e. and e.g. are used to give example lists; the people that author are picking at stand a small chance of being correct.

e.g., (“exempli gratia” -> ‘gratuitous example’) is used for giving case examples (e.g. this example right here).

i.e. (“id est” -> ‘it is’) is used when you can give every possible example: you are concretely defining the list.  For instance, I could talk about the primary colors (i.e. red, yellow and blue), but I could not talk about the list of all colors (e.g. red, orange, chartreuse, gray, et cetera.)

The next is subtle.

With regards to “none is”, that depends on whether you’re dealing with a group singular or a group plural.  Indeed, is/are are in context how one deals with resolving whether a group or singular plural is in use; to suggest that either are always concretely correct and the other never is fundamentally wrong-headed.

Group singulars and group plurals are differentiated along lines of when you’re talking about the group as a whole, or when you’re talking about a set of individual members.  For example, when you talk about the many religions found in Bharat’s individuals, you might say “the people of India are varied in belief”.

The problem with “none” is that people expect it always to refer to single individuals within a group.  So by the example on that page, “Though many religions are found in India, none of its people is Rastafarian”, though agonizing to the ear, is technically correct.

However, there are ways to make none apply to groups despite context – for example, when categorizing.  Going on the observation that there are a bunch of variants of Christianity, such as Protestantism or Catholocism, and pretending those people aren’t in India (I know, they are, I just need an example), “Though many religions are found in India, none of its religions are Christian in nature” would apply, because its context refers to groups.

Prevarication Junction is particularly annoying: sometimes it’s appropriate to say what you think rather than what you know, and their third example is a concrete knowledge.  Indeed, stating the first two as concrete knowledge would be lying: one cannot know that they will be good for a company without the ability to see the future, because they might turn out to not fit in well in the corporate culture, or might not have the right skillset, or might not be able to focus on the job; similar remarks apply to the product for the company.

It is common for people to claim that speaking in absolutes is better language.  This is complete bullshit.  It’s just a way for people to sound more confident than they really are, to make themselves look good at the expense of being precise or honest.  This only works on stupid people, and backfires on smart people.  Do not claim to know things when you actually only suspect them (one doesn’t know it, one suspects it, and when it turns out to be wrong, one looks like a horse’s ass.)

Under no circumstances state things that are suspected as if they are fact.  This advice is terrible.

The bit about preferring “et al” to “et cetera” is absolute nonsense.  Use et cetera when applying to lists.  Et al only gets used in lists of people.

Of course, the more germane point here is that both etc. and et al are generally unnecessary and considered bad form; use either only when necessary to maintain understandable brevity.

The bit about less versus fewer is generally correct in spirit.  However, it has nothing to do with finite-ness.  This is actually about group plurals versus group singulars (and basic singulars) again: fewer dollars make for less money.  If half of India were to move to Russia one day, then there would be fewer people there, and less population.

This is understandable, of course: three of these are obscure parts of English, and everyone on the web thinks they’re qualified to teach English despite having no formal training theretowards.

Ambrose Bierce, however, is to be trusted.  If Ambrose Bierce and another source disagree, and neither source explicitly distances itself from differing sets of rules (eg American/British English, obsolete/modern usage, whatever), then nine times in ten Bierce will be correct.


Good sir, please do us the favor of not writing any more articles about what’s correct in English until you’ve taken some courses that would allow you to teach English in a school system somewhere.  The average sixth grader wouldn’t make most of these mistakes.

Guy Kawasaki’s books actually contain several counter-examples to these wisdumbs.  I hope he’ll read more carefully before recommending in the future.

ZDnet: where to get your writing skills. … Laughed at.

Uncategorized 1 Comment

Are ZDnet authors edited at all?

I mean seriously, when someone gets up on a soapbox about quality of language, shouldn’t they, y’know, get their language up to par?

So, some responses, because of course ZDnet removes all critical commentary:

  • Flagrant means “intentionally flamboyant.”  Errors are rarely flagrant.  Flagrancy is not about how wrong someone is; an error is only flagrant when someone makes it knowing full well that it is an error, and even then only when they are making the error solely for the purpose of angering someone.  (Like, y’know, a bad writer with delusions of language quality.)
  • None of these are grammar errors.
    • All but #4 are lexical errors.
    • #4 is simply incorrect.  Both i.e. (id est) and i.e. (exempla gratia) precede examples; you use IE when your list is complete and exhaustive (ie when every possible correct outcome is investigated), but e.g. when the list is incomplete (e.g. when putting out a sanctimonious author’s low quality of english to be seen by all.)
    • Grammar errors put are things place wrong like when you in the.
  • #2 is particularly galling: you cannot download something along with the things inside it; whereas the sentiment the author is fumbling towards is apparent, the other mistakes they make set the well educated reader’s teeth on edge.
    • “Along with” is never correct.  It’s “alongside”.
    • The second half of #2 is even worse, as the “its” there is extraneous and incorrect.
      • A conjunction is sufficient to conjoin; one need not, and indeed must not, put in an ancillary pronoun.
  • #5: Impact certainly is a verb, you giant lummox.
    • Granted the thing you’re trying to admonish against is wrong – impact does not denote effect – but yes, an asteroid can impact the moon.  Don’t be a dunce.
  • #6: “on a regular basis” is a horrific britishism.
    • The word is “regularly”.  You would do well to read on language usage regularly.
    • For someone who wants to lessen the effect of the misuse of impact to turn around and be confused about the much simpler word “basis” is frankly hilarious.
  • #7: No, you tremendous gonce.  “Differs from”.  Not different from.  Have you any concept of conjugation?
  • #9:  When a sentence begins with if, you’re doing a bad job at writing, and should start the sentence again.
    • It doesn’t matter what’s required at that point, as you’ve begun writing crap.
    • Then is notimplicit; it’s extraneous.
      • I have no doubt you’ll insist there’s no practical difference on the heels of an article about getting details correct.
    • There is no such thing as a sub-peeve.  Peeves are not scaled by size.
  • #10: No, you might have, not could have.  Could have refers to possibility, not happenstance; it applies only in the abstract.
    • A ZDnet author could have failed grammar school; you might have.
    • And by might have, I actually mean should have.

Please don’t labor the internet with your savant elocutions anymore, good sir or madam.   And ask your editor why they aren’t saving you this embarrassment.  It’s their job, don’cha know.

It’s things like this which make me wish ZDnet editors were publically visible.  This kind of piss poor sanctimony is becoming increasingly common at a site which pretends to be about technology and business, and if the editors were made aware how thoroughly disgusted their readers were with the bathwater quality of writing they pass, they might get back to editing.

Congratulations, Jody: you’ve hit a new low for ZDnet writing.

Ah, reciprocity

General Interest, Media Links, Picture Links No Comments


"Hay guys how an apostrophe does work, need to show them winders users their'r dum"

"Hay guys how an apostrophe does work, need to show them winders users their'r dum"

Making a correct Postgres user

Miscellaneous No Comments

Yeah, the reason it won’t connect is that create user foo with password ‘bar’ explicitly means “they can’t connect unless their password is sent plaintext”, which awesomely the manual doesn’t mention.

You wanted create user with encrypted password ‘bar’ instead.

Rest In Peace, Ted Kennedy

General Interest, Miscellaneous No Comments

A great man passed last night.  Ted Kennedy, a man who made sweeping concrete improvements to civil rights, health care, education, immigration – probably the most effective senator of his time – fell to brain cancer, at the age of 77.  We have all lost a pinion who kept our lives safe and our rights secure.

America is diminished with his loss.

Manipulating Wolfram Alpha for Comedy (or, How Many Faggots Fit in a Butt)

General Interest, Miscellaneous 1 Comment

As some of us remember from digging through trapper keepers while ignoring second grade teachers, there are several units of measurement with comedic value.

For example, three hogsheads (approx. 160 gallons) of beer constitute a butt of beer, which is how one gets to that George, the Duke of Clarence, died drowning in a butt.

Similarly, a bundle of sticks is a faggot (which is what those fundies are misreading in the bible – they’re talking about burning bundles of sticks).  Indeed, there are even long faggots – two foot girth by four foot length, which qualifies for some awards, I suspect.

As such, Wolfram Alpha is entirely happy to calculate the number of faggots that fit in a butt.

It’s more than I expected.  :D

Erlang jokes are too rare

Erlang, General Interest, Miscellaneous No Comments

But this one’s funny.


What the fuck is wrong with Virginia Foxx?

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The kind of bilious, hate-driven homophobic nonsense spewing out of the mouth of Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, R-NC, makes me ill.  I know a lot of smart people in North Carolina.  It remains unclear to me how they could allow a monster like this to govern them.

Unsurprisingly, at this time, the good Congresswoman is unavailable for comment by any phone number I can find (I’ve tried eight so far; they all just ring, or go to voicemail.)


If you are a republican, it is people like this which are why your political support has dropped to a historic low of 16%.  For reference, 14% of americans support the legalization of Heroin; you’re near absolute clue zero.  If you’re from North Carolina, I sure hope you’re a Democrat.  If you aren’t, and you know what happened here …

I cannot imagine how Virginia Foxx came to the notion that the Matthew Shephard tragedy was “a hoax.”  This woman should be ashamed of herself for making such a claim.

Please let the congresswoman know what you think.

Phone: (202) 225-2071
Phone: (336) 778-0211
Phone: (828) 265-0240

If this woman retains her seat past the next election, North Carolina will join Texas and Alaska as states full of people with absolutely unfathomable priorities.  Just unbelievable that this woman is willing to show her face in public after perpetrating such obvious hate driven fiction.

I would consider this a new low for a place like Westboro Baptist, the people who stalk funerals.  For this to come out of a seated congressperson’s mouth after 1850 is just stunning.

And here I thought Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill were representative of the state.  Makes you wonder what Rep. Brad Miller thinks; he’s forward enough to understand why Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is destructive.

Reminders are nice

Erlang, Miscellaneous, Programming No Comments

Always nice when someone lets you know, y’know?

[19:43] <apples> by the way StoneCypher, if you're curious, the level
          of functionality provided by my SMTP server in C, which is
          ~1000 lines, i trimmed down to less than 100 in erlang :p
[19:45] <StoneCypher> lel
[19:45] <StoneCypher> and i bet it's less buggy now too
[19:45] <apples> quite
[19:46] <apples> oh, and i wrote it in an hour
[19:46] <StoneCypher> awesome
[19:46] <StoneCypher> can i post that quote on my blog?
[19:46] <apples> sure thing

Helps one remember one’s doing the right thing to push people to learn new things.

Kutiman Mixes YouTube

Audio Links, General Interest, Media Links, Miscellaneous, Video Links No Comments

Those of you know know me personally know that I am extremely picky about music: whereas I enjoy nearly every genre, I am very particular about stylistic elements, quality, and skill of execution.

My friend Poffy turned me on to Kutiman Mixes YouTube about an hour ago; I’ve watched it several times before realizing I needed to spread it around.  It appears that some guy got a bunch of YouTube videos and mixed them into a video album, compositing the video elements into a barely explicable thing which vascillates between montage, pastiche and 60s-style disoriented spook video.

It’s honestly mindblowing.  Speaking as someone thoroughly inured to things like the McRoll and the Windows song by being double oldbear enough to remember the various versions of .MOD, this really still tweaks all my knobs.  This isn’t just weird.  This is genuine music.  It’s good.

This is one an mazing.

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