Tag Archive - editing tips

Are You Likely or Apt to Read This?

Here are four words that are often confused: apt, likely, prone, liable. Their differences are a bit subtle, but they do mean different things, so you might want to write these in your notebook for future reference.

Apt: Means one is habitually inclined: A frog is apt to gobble up a fly if it gets too close.

Likely: Means one is inclined or tending toward something: She is likely to win (implying the odds are with her).

Prone: Means one is inclined but usually implies undesirable results:  He’s prone to tripping.

Liable: Means one is likely to suffer (always undesirable consequences): She’s liable to have accidents (implies probability).

These words have no bearing on other meaning of these words, such as a likely story, he’s lying prone, she’s an apt pupil, not liable for the accident (legally responsible). Being a copyeditor, I’m apt to look for misuse of these words! And I’m likely to find some!

Numbers and Numerals Count

A few handy rules about numbers and numerals:

Don’t put the letter A in front of numeric values. Don’t say, “A 127 people chose option b,” or “the suit cost a $100.” Just say, “There were 127 people who chose option b,” or “the suit cost $100.” Be aware, too, that you can’t begin a sentence with a numeral:

Wrong: “127 people chose option B.”
Correct: “One hundred and twenty people chose option B” OR “A total of 127 people chose option B.”

The second choice is really better because you really aren’t supposed to spell out numbers over a hundred. Some editors argue that numerals shouldn’t be used in dialogue because people don’t “speak” in numerals, but there is nothing objectionable, according to Chicago style, that prevents a writer from using numerals in dialog. The main concern is you want to be clear and consistent. No one wants to read a sentence like “Hey, I got seventeen thousand, eight hundred, and fifty-six downloads on Amazon.” This is so much easier on the eyes:

  • “Hey, I saw you had 236 five-star reviews on Amazon—that’s great,” she said.

Chicago recommends using numerals for dates and in brand names like 7-Eleven.

  • “I graduated class of ’96.” (make sure your curly quote curves like a backward c)
  • “Let’s ride down to 7-Eleven and get eight hot dogs.”

Also be mindful when writing monetary values. Don’t write “$100 dollars,” just “$100.” You have already implied dollars by using the $ sign.

This Blog Comprises Three Short Paragraphs

Okay, this is going to be a short but concise post here. Repeat after me: “The whole comprises the parts . . . the whole comprises the parts.”

Writers always mess up with comprise. The word does not mean compose. You cannot say “it is comprised of.” Sorry, can’t. A house comprises six rooms. My novel comprises eighteen chapters. This blog comprises fifty-two entries for the year. Okay, some say the word has evolved and now it’s acceptable to use comprise to mean “compose,” but as Merriam-Webster says: “You may be subject to critcism if you do so.” Heaven forbid someone criticizes your misuse of comprise!

Now, my bicycle is composed of various metals like aluminum and steel. Or I could say my cheesecake is made up of ten different ingredients. This may sound odd to your ear, but this is the correct way to use comprise. Comprende?

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