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Category Archives: Errors

Mucus or mucous?

I haven’t posted a Troublesome Pair for ages but I’ve had this one up my sleeve (erm, no, I haven’t, that would be disgusting!) for ages and hadn’t got round to posting it. With a Birmingham Cough going the rounds still, this seemed a seasonal post; my apologies to the more sensitive reader. It is a valid and troublesome pair, though!

Mucus is the noun, i.e. the thing itself: slimy stuff that gets secreted by animals and even plants (it’s more commonly known as mucilage in plants, though mucilage is also, in general a viscous bodily fluid or secretion).

Mucous is the adjective – so mucous membranes secrete mucus, for example.

Bonus word: mucilaginous is the adjective that goes with mucilage. I bet you’re glad you asked, aren’t you!

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

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Warn or worn?

DictionariesThis one was suggested by my friend Linda quite a long time ago; I have revived these Troublesome Pairs posts yet again, so watch out for some good ones coming up over the next few weeks.

This is a tricky one for those who get vowels mixed up; often people coming to English from a language that doesn’t mark vowels in the same way, such as Arabic, can get caught out by all our very similar words, especially when they sound almost the same.

To warn, a verb, means to alert someone about something which is about to happen, usually bad. You can issue a warning (the noun) or be warning (verb) someone about the problem.

Worn is the past tense of wear OR an adjective arising from it, and both words have two meanings: to have on the body, as in clothes (I will wear a hat today) or to do with erosion and damage through constant use or friction, etc. (the water of the river has worn through the rock to make a valley; I have an old, worn book that has been damaged by years of use).

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2017 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing

 

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I closed Windows Explorer and now I can’t see my task bar: how do I get it back?

This was a question that arose for me the other day. I was trying to rename a file in the folder view of Windows Explorer and everything froze. I opened Task Manager (see my article on Task Manager if this is new to you) using control-alt-delete, selected Windows Explorer and clicked End Task. To my horror, what I now know is called the “Shell” – the explorer view but also the lower task bar and my desktop, the clock, the Windows button – all disappeared. How would I get it back?

windows explorer shell has disappeared

My poor sad monitor view with no desktop, Windows button, bottom task bar, clock, etc.

How do I restore a closed app using Task Manager?

Just as you can use Task Manager to close an app or piece of software that’s frozen, you can use it to restore, too.

Open Task Manager using the Start button or Control-Alt-Delete and click the File tab (note, this is Windows 10, so yours might look a bit different, but it will have the same features that we’re talking about here).

If you haven’t previously used Windows 10 Task Manager, you will need to expand it from the initial view:

small

Click More details and you’ll see the full view:

Task manager open new app

Select Run new task. You will then see this dialogue box:

task manager run new task

Type “Explorer” (or whatever else you can’t find) in the Open field and then press OK (Don’t worry about the admin privileges bit at the moment: you would know if you needed to use that).

And now all of the Windows Explorer Shell has reappeared:

Windows explorer shell has reappeared

In this article, I’ve shown you how to make Windows Explorer (or any other app or software you have made disappear) reappear when you’ve accidentally closed Windows Explorer and your desktop icons and task bar have disappeared.

Related posts on this blog

How to close down an unresponsive program using Task Manager

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2017 in Computers, Errors, Short cuts, Windows

 

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Why are my tracked changes altering their colour when I save in Word 2010, 2013 and 2016

We’ve already learned what Track Changes is, why we use it and where to find it, and how to customise Track Changes to suit our own preferences and learned how to work with a document that has Tracked Changes.

This article explains what to do when your tracked changes alter their colour when you press the Save button. It’s weird, it can be annoying, and your initials might disappear, too, which can be confusing if more than one person is commenting on the text.

Screen shots are from Word 2013.

Has your track changes markup ever changed colour?

This has only happened to me when working with a document that has originated from someone else.

You have made lots of changes in a document, and they show up in red, as normal (or whatever colour you have set for your corrections), but when you save, yours go into blue and your initials disappear. This might also happen if you’re working on a document which already includes someone else’s tracked changes: yours show in a different colour to theirs until you press Save. Then they’re all blue (or whatever colour the first person’s were).

What is happening here?

The original owner of the document has specified that the personal information of whoever is working on the document will be removed when they Save the document.

How to check whether your personal information is being removed upon Saving the document

To check whether this is the reason for your tracked changes changing colour, follow these steps.

Go to File (the extreme left tab in Word) and Options:

word options for checking trust center

Clicking on Options will give you this Word Options menu; choose Trust Center:

accessing the trust center in word

Click on Trust Center and then go into Trust Center Settings by clicking the button at the bottom right:

Trust Center in word

Once in the Trust Center Settings, you need to go into Privacy Options (it will default to Macro Settings):

Privacy settings in trust center in word

…. and once you have accessed Privacy Options, you will see that Remove personal information from file properties on save is ticked, which means that when you save, all references to your name are removed from both track changes and the properties of the file itself:

remove personal identification on save in word

Now, at this point, this can be “unticked” so that your changes stay in your colour (in your own view, only, of course) and with your initials (everywhere). But do stop to think: did the person who created the document do this on purpose? It’s quite a lot of clicks to make by accident, so I do tend to check this, see why it’s happening and then leave it as it is. I might change it so I can see my own changes then make a note to change it back before my final save, but in general, I leave it.

Why might someone choose to remove personal information in a document?

I’m not entirely sure that I have an answer to this. Maybe they have edited the document and don’t want their end client to be confused by lots of different names on the file. Maybe they’re a student who wants to make sure no one else’s name is on the file. I do tend to assume they have a reason, and respect that.

But this is how and why the tracked changes colour sometimes changes when you save your document.


This article has taught you how to work with a document that has been marked up using Track Changes where the colour of the track changes alters. You can read more about what Track Changes is and why we use it, how to work with a document including tracked changes and how to customise Track Changes.

If you have found this article useful, please share or “like” it using the buttons below, or leave me a comment to tell me what you think. Thank you!

This is part of my series on how to avoid time-consuming “short cuts” and use Word in the right way to maximise your time and improve the look of your documents.

Please note, these hints work with versions of Microsoft Word currently in use – Word 2010, 2013 and 2016 all for PC. Mac compatible versions of Word should have similar options. Always save a copy of your document before manipulating it. I bear no responsibility for any pickles you might get yourself into!

Relevant articles on this website

Track changes 1 – why use it, where can you find it, what can you do with it?

Track changes 2 – customising Track Changes

Track changes 3 – working with a document with tracked changes

How do I accept one reviewer’s changes?

 

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2016 in Copyediting, Errors, New skills, Short cuts, Word, Writing

 

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Medalling, podiuming and singular they

Of course this isn't exactly what "medalling" means

Of course this isn’t exactly what “medalling” means

Languages change. If languages didn’t change, we’d be speaking like Chaucer, British and American English would be identical, or we’d still be using words like “chairman”, “crippled”, “omnibus” and all sorts. We also wouldn’t have a way to describe “selfies”, “Brexit” or “omnishambles”.

The verbs formed from nouns, “medalling” and “podiuming” have been heard again recently, as they are every four years in an event whose name is controlled so closely you’re not supposed to go around mentioning it in blog posts. Lots of people have been complaining about these, saying it’s an erosion of the English language, etc., etc.

Now, I’m one for making sure we retain two words with a close but not identical meaning in order to be able to distinguish between different concepts or things. But in this case, it’s not taking away the distinction between two different things, it’s just adding another word to say the same thing. And we form words in all sorts of ways – by blending, shortening, lengthening them and shifting the part of speech they belong to. Once, we weren’t even allowed to start sentences with and or but …

The other wordy thing I wanted to mention briefly was singular they. This is something editors and other wordy people are still arguing – quite bitterly – about. “They” used to be used just as a plural. But, just as we’ve removed words like chairman and dustman from the language to cover the fact that different genders of people do different jobs, over recent years there’s been an acceptance that binary genders – the idea that everyone is either “he” or “she”, has joined up with a common dislike of the clumsiness of using “he” and “she” in alternate chapters or “he/she”, “s/he”, etc. to promote the use of singular “they”, i.e. the use of “they” to refer to one person in the singular. An example would be, “When someone gets to the front of the queue, they should go to the first available window”.

Now, some people rail against this change, but I think that it can be made to work grammatically, it gets rid of clumsiness and it doesn’t exclude people to whom, for whatever reason, it’s not appropriate to refer using binary gender wording. This is standard in my editing, although I’d never make this kind of change without consultation if it appeared more than very sporadically.

I’m not expecting to change anyone’s mind here; I’m just setting out my stall. These are my personal opinions, but these are interesting topics to think about and they’ve been at the front of my mind recently. Thank you for reading!

I generally talk about word stuff in my Troublesome Pairs posts which do distinguish meanings between pairs or triplets of words. Have a look at the index here!

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Be careful, Errors, Ethics, Writing

 

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12 things I learned from the Great Computer Crash of April 2016

deskI have automated back-ups that keep a copy of my work every day. I have a system in place for if my computer fails. I thought I had it all covered, and I almost did – but this is what I learned when my hard drive suddenly crashed in somewhat epic fashion one week last month, followed by another, more catastrophic crash of the cobbled-together system I was working on while plucking up the courage to move to my new computer. I thought it might help other people – do share your tips in the comments!

1. Check your back-ups are working

It’s great to have back-ups running, but do check periodically that they are running.

2. If you have two back-up systems, one immediately accessible, one not, it is the accessible one that will fail

Therefore, be prepared to have a short time without your data before whoever it is that can access your back-up can do so.

3. Have a reserve computer of some kind

Don’t assume you will be able to use your computer after a crash. I had my laptop as my reserve; I would now be using my old computer as a reserve, if I hadn’t broken in.

4. If you have a reserve computer, run maintenance on it every few weeks

That way, when you come to use it in a panic (see 5), it won’t be wanting to do 5,000,000 updates and will have a wi-fi connection that works more quickly than wading through mud.

5. Crashes aren’t predictable but you can predict one thing …

They won’t happen when you have three weeks with not much work on. They will come when you have a busy week. If it crashes twice, that will be in two busy weeks and might make you miss a theatre trip.

6. There is no good time to move to a new computer, but do it as soon as you can

If you get a new computer but you’re baulking on swapping over to it, make yourself do it as soon as you can. Doing that “one last thing” before I moved over was when my second and worse crash – the one that lost data – happened.

7. Always be ahead with your work deadlines

This saved me, just. I lost two half-days but was able to salvage my work. I will even more strive to work ahead of myself.

8. Don’t get so hyper-vigilant that you stress yourself out

I had a separate special folder for all the work I’d done since the crash, on an external hard drive, for far too long, out of fear. That’s the same fear that stopped me moving to the new computer.

9. If you have to upgrade to Windows 10, it’s easier to do on a whole new machine

One positive: I ended up on Windows 10 by default, as my new computer has it. Much less stressful than having to do an upgrade on your current computer.

10. Keep a list of what software you use regularly

Not everything you’ve downloaded, but when setting up a new computer or restoring things from a crash, you might well need this in order to get going quickly.

11. Keep all your access codes, software licences etc. in one handy, easy to find place

I’m not suggesting you write down all your passwords – you can use a system like LastPass if that’s feasible for you, but all those codes and licences, etc. might be needed when reconstituting your computer – keep them somewhere sensible, like a special folder in your email.

12. Have a disaster plan; review the plan; keep everything for the plan up to date

It will happen to you: don’t think it won’t. Keep reviewing that plan. For example, I’m reviewing how I back up my files, although I have contracts in place that don’t allow me to store data in The Cloud.

These are the things I learned. Anything particularly helpful there? Anything to add? I’d love it if you popped your words of wisdom into a comment.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Business, Errors, Organisation

 

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Adapt or adopt? Adaptation or adoption?

This is a Troublesome Pair that I find very commonly in academic writing, across a whole range of writers. It would be expected in people whose native language doesn’t use vowels (I had a very interesting conversation about Arabic-speakers having trouble with vowels in English) but I also find it in native English-speakers (it’s actually fairly uncommon to find both groups making the same errors)

To adopt something means to take it on as it is. For example, Laura might adopt my process of editing a text, then doing a spell check, then using software to check consistency. If the UN adopts a resolution, it means it takes it into its procedures as it is, with no changes. If you adopt a dog from a shelter, you take it as it is.

To adapt something means to change it according to specific circumstances. For example, Laura might adapt my process by choosing to edit the text, then run the consistency software, then run a spell check. The UN might adapt a resolution to take into account a new world order or the creation of a new country. You might try to adapt your adopted dog’s behaviour if you don’t want it to sit on the sofa.

Adoption therefore means the act of taking on something as it is, while adaptation involves you changing, or you changing something else, to fit the circumstances.

In academic writing, a researcher might well adopt a questionnaire method, but they might adapt someone else’s questionnaire if it needs more questions on widgets and fewer on bath mats, for example.

You can find more troublesome pairs here, and here’s the index to them all!

 

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