Writing is not always a solitary process.
In addition to a crew of faithful readers who are kind enough to read my books as I write them, chapter by chapter, I also have a stable of readers who are nice enough to help me with my blog as well, offering me editing and revising suggestions when needed. My wife is often my first line of defense against my typical typos and other blunders, but lately, others have joined in the fray. A European reader has most recently been the first to fire me an email when I make an error on the blog, and other friends step up from time to time as well.
All are consistently and remarkably insightful in their suggestions for revision, as my good friend, Charles, was this morning, when he wrote:
“In your post "Kudos from readers in Greece and Norway" you use the word alternate twice. The correct word is alternative.
I am somewhat shocked though. I just looked it up on Merriam-Webster.com and they list that alternate is acceptable usage. I guess since so many people have used alternate erroneously in place of alternative that the definition has been added. Strunk and White definitely don't concur with this. Alternate implies a cyclic change (from Latin alternus: "one after the other"), whereas alternative means a choice between two options.”
And to think I get editing advice like this for free…
Like Charles, I do not like it when errors are made acceptable based upon the frequency of their usage. My least favorite commonly accepted error pertains to the phrase “beg the question,” which does not mean to raise or
illicit elicit a question, no matter how many newspaper writers, television reporters, politicians, or NPR correspondents use it this way.
The correct definition, from http://begthequestion.info, is:
Begging the question is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.
A simple example would be "I think he is unattractive because he is ugly." The adjective "ugly" does not explain why the subject is "unattractive" -- they virtually amount to the same subjective meaning, and the proof is merely a restatement of the premise. The sentence has begged the question.
If you could join me in the crusade to rid the world of this improper usage, I’d greatly appreciate it.