‘Then’ and ‘Than’ Are Not The Same Word.

Some word confusions are understandable, especially if they sound the same when spoken. We call those homophones, and they sound the same even if they are spelt differently.  Examples are peak/pique/peak or there/their/they’re.

The confusion between ’then’ and ’than’, however, is a completely different matter.

Sadly, this is happening more and more, especially on social media. I don’t even spend that much time on Facebook, but it feels like I see someone saying something like “Nothing is better then this!”  or “I love you more then anything!” at least twice a day. 

Yes, they are similar. 
However, they are clearly not the same.
They don’t look the same.
They don’t sound the same. 
If one doesn’t mix up ’then’ or ’than’ with ’thin’, there is no excuse for mistaking them for one another. 

I swear, it makes my eyes want to bleed.

The two words’ meanings are so vastly different that getting them wrong just makes the person writing look  either poorly educated or plain stupid, even if they are neither. 

This is one of the best and most self-evident arguments in existence for proofreading what one is writing, anywhere and every time. 

‘Then’ rhymes with ‘when”— which is an easy way to remember that it relates to time or sequence. 
Examples: 
He put on his shirt, then his jeans, and then his boots. 
She ran up the hill, then back down again. 
When you have tidied your room, then you can go to the movies. 

‘Than’ rhymes with ‘man’ and is used for making a comparison. 
Examples:
His piece of pizza is bigger than mine. 
A triangle has fewer angles than a square. 
I would rather stay home and read a book than go to work. 

Knowing which is which, and taking care to use the right words all the time, is a simple way to protect your credibility.

And for the love of Merlin’s beard, if you call yourself an author or a teacher, get it right. It’s not that hard. 

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Why We Should Rethink Using The Angry Face Reaction on Facebook

In a recent post, I commented that someone suggested that the angry face reaction to one or more of my Facebook posts may have contributed to some of the problems I have been having with them flagging and suspending my posts for no obvious reason.

It turns out that this theory may well be  correct. 

Having read a number of conversations on forums in the hope of discovering the cause of my problems, I have a strong suspicion that the algorithm may well interpret an angry face reaction as meaning that people don’t like the post, or object to it somehow. Whether or not this causes that post to undergo more scrutiny by the algorithm, and whether or not that might result in the post being deleted by Facebook, and the user having certain types of access or posting permissions suspended for a time, can only be a matter of conjecture, but it would certainly explain my circumstances.

The problem with that is that people might not intend for that to happen at all when they use the angry face reaction. It may be that they are sharing the anger, frustration or dislike expressed by the author of the post about something entirely different. It’s not the post they object to, it’s whatever the writer is angry about that makes them angry, too. 

It would be most unfair if the algorithm were to completely misinterpret that and set in place consequences that are both unintended by the responder while they are trying to be supportive of the author of the post. 

While I cannot prove that this is what has happened to me and to others, it seems to me that it is better to be safe than sorry. 

In short. unless someone posts content that is completely objectionable, I will not use the angry face reaction.

There are, after all, much more helpful alternatives:

  • Use the “wow” or “sad face” reaction
  • Comment with thoughts or reactions
  • Post a gif that expresses thoughts or feelings about the content of the post

That way, your friends and their posts will actually receive support rather than potential suppression. 

Let’s save the angry face for those posts that express hatred, vilification, prejudice, discrimination or violence. They’re the ones that should be suppressed. 

Author’s note: When I first wrote this post, it was based on information I found in forum conversations while looking for the answers to problems I was having with my posts and my ability to post on Facebook being suspended even though I was not active, and had not been for some hours, when those suspensions occurred. The posts in question had received angry responses because people were angry at the problems I was having. 

I should have recorded the urls of those conversations at the time, but failed to do so then, and am unable to find them again now. 

Therefore, I have edited my original post to reflect the fact that what I have written here can now only be considered anecdotal and conjectural in nature. 

My intention was only ever sincere and honest, and my initial statements based on information that did indeed seem to be consistent with my own experience. I apologise that I am unable to direct my readers to that evidence now. 

Courting Justice.

Today was hard. 

It was spent in the presence of someone I’d rather never set eyes on again. It was spent in pursuit of justice. It was spent blinking back tears and swallowing my revulsion. 

There is still anger burning within me that I cannot quench. My heart is heavy with the reopening of old wounds. 

And I am powerless, unable to do anything but look on and observe.  

I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t have the psychic power to set someone on fire from across the room. I could do so, quite willingly, if I were able.

It’s fair to say that if a certain person did happen to spontaneously combust, I would make good use of my bottle of water by drinking it.  

I do not, as a rule, harbour such feelings toward other people. I am fully aware of my own sins and imperfections. But when people commit to the unconscionable and then defend it, any concept of “benefit of the doubt” or “we all make mistakes” is well and truly cast aside. 

I can feel another horror story coming on, but it’s not ready to be written yet. The ideas need to percolate more. And so, I must bide my time.

It will come… and, I trust, so will justice.

Facebook’s Delicate Community Standards

Facebook’s “community standards” did not enter my thoughts last night when I was posting about what I love and hate about Facebook. Had I been writing that post today, it would have been a very different story. 

This afternoon, I set up a new page on Facebook with the aim of extending my reach to new readers by using a popular bookish hashtag phrase, What To Read, as the title. 

As soon as I had set up the page, Facebook started coaching me to complete certain steps to make my page more visible. 

Profile photo: check.
Cover photo: check. 
First post: check. 

Oops! My first post violated Facebook’s delicate community standards. 
Want to know what it said? 

So… people can freely incite hate, vilify and shame others, put up pictures of them humiliating themselves… but I can’t suggest that my friends might like a page about books? 

Wow. 
Maybe I should have said something dumb instead. 

May the fates be in my favour when I actually start encouraging people to read. 

***

Update: it took me three attempts to share this blogpost on Facebook.
If they don’t want me to be snarky, they’re going the wrong way about it.

Being Fontist.

I am a person who takes others at face value. I don’t immediately classify someone as pretty or ugly, gay or straight, progressive or conservative (unless, either way, they are hateful or prejudiced – then the deal is off) , black or white or some other colour, blonde or brunette, or anything else. I don’t care if they’re plain or fancy, nor do I care if they’re pretty or not. I try to take each person as they are and let their integrity speak louder than their features. I like to get to know them before I make any decisions about them.

When it comes to fonts, however, i am nowhere near as open-minded. Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of fonts I like, and many others that I will view with an open mind depending on context and purpose. 
But there ARE two or three fonts I really hate. I refuse to use them. I have handed back an assignment or two, asking for it to be reprinted in a more acceptable typeface. It’s true: I am Fontist. 

I wasn’t raised that way.  We didn’t really need to think about fonts back then. When I was growing up, it seemed as thought books were printed in two, maybe three different standard fonts. From memory, there was something like Times New Roman,  a basic Sans Serif, and possibly another standard typewriter-style serif font. There was never a question of what typeface to submit our work in, because computers weren’t a thing and our school work was all handwritten. When I started university, assignments and essays had to be typed and double-spaced, so I used my parents’ typewriter. Of course, it only got to the typing stage when one or two hand-written drafts had been painstakingly written, proofread, edited, and revised. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad those days are over. I appreciate the ease of writing using my laptop as much as anyone else, and I’m happy for my students to do some – but not all – of their work on their devices. 
My underlying Fontism rears its ugly head, though, when someone hands in an assignment or broadcasts a presentation on the screen that screams “ridiculous font” louder than anything the student is trying to communicate. The same thing happens in meetings and seminars where the important information is obscured by the poor choice of font on the screen or handout. 

You might think I’m overreacting. But consider this: I might read fifty student assignments in less than a week, or sit through twenty five student presentations in two or three days. When their font suggests I shouldn’t be taking their work seriously, that’s a complication neither they nor I need. 

Right at the top of my hate list is Comic Sans. It looks childish, and gets increasingly ridiculous as the size increases, to the point where it is almost impossible for me to take anything printed in that font seriously. It is a font that should never be used for school work of any description by anyone older than six, nor should it be used for slide shows and presentations.  Yes, it is “nice and clear for people to read”, but so are about 3000 other fonts one could choose. If your audience is not entirely in the First Grade, choose something else. 

Another font I hate is Arial. Yes, it is also nice and clear for people to read. It is also entirely bland and unimaginative. Arial is the font equivalent of still having that original iPhone Marimba ring tone from 2008 on your new iPhoneX when you have 2500 different songs on your playlists.  It is the font for lazy people who don’t care how their work looks. It doesn’t take much effort to switch so something equally clear but which looks a lot more polished and professional. In a word: boring. 

The other fonts I really dislike fall into two groups: anything over-decorative and wrongly sized formatting

Over decorative fonts have their place, but trying to read a block of text printed in anything full of swirls and flourishes or trippy lines and shadows will make a teacher’s eyes bleed in less than three minutes. Decorative fonts can work really well for titles, or for a special capital letter or character to start a page or chapter, but they fail miserably for anything that needs to communicate information or arguments clearly and effectively. 

In a similar vein, text printed too small or too large is equally frustrating. If it’s too small and condensed, it’s hard to read and… you guessed it, bleeding eyeballs. At the other end of the equation, students may think they can fool me into believing their 337words meets the 500 word minimum word count if their work is formatted in size 15 Helvetica, but my teacher brain knows better. My teacher brain has been doing this a lot longer than they have. 

So, I guess this is me coming out of the classroom cupboard and acknowledging the ugliness of the deep-seated prejudice that lies deep within me. It is equally as rampant and undeniable as the grammar nerdism that I make no attempt to hide.

Call me fussy. Call me Fontist. I’m okay with that. But don’t call me to complain if I’ve asked your teen cherub to reprint an assignment so that I can read it without tears. Trust me – it’s better that way, and I’ve tried to be nice about it. Well, I’ve probably been nice.. 

Maybe. 

Unless they are a repeat offender. In that case, there are no guarantees. 

Why Readers Should Be Paying For My Books.

Further to yesterday’s post about illegal book sharing sites, I thought it a good idea to state plainly where my books should— and should not—be found. 

My books are all available on reputable ebook sites: Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Google Play, and the like. 

They are not legally available anywhere for free. 

As I have openly stated previously, I do not believe in making my books available for free, nor do I accept books for free, because I strongly feel that authors should be paid for their work just like everyone else. 

Creating something excellent takes time, energy, and commitment. When a creator asserts their copyright and other creative rights over their intellectual property, it is their legal prerogative to place a purchase value on that work.

If a work of art, a book, a song or a movie are worth enjoying and owning, they are worth paying for. 

Indeed, I find the concept of someone claiming to be a lover of books, yet avoiding paying for a single one, hypocritical to say the least. 

To prosper by catering to those people? Despicable.

You Might Be On An Illegal Book Downloading Site if…

I have written several posts recently about scammers, cheats and piracy in the Indie publishing world.

This post by Suzan Tisdale lays out very plainly the ways in which readers can know that a book website is most likely illegal.

It’s hard to believe this is what it has come to: that people need to be informed so directly about the ways in which authors all over the world are being ripped off.

Yet this is one of those issues that goes much farther than most of us ever realise.

The Cheeky Wench

“How do I know if I’m on a legitimate book site?”

You’d be surprised the number of times I get asked that question. As in at least five times a day. I get asked lots of questions every day as it pertains to books and audiobooks. So, I decided to put together this handy guide for those individuals who are ‘uncertain’ if they’re on a legitimate book site or not.

Q: How can I tell if I’m on a book pirating site?

A: You might be on an illegal ebook downloading site (AKA book pirating site) if all the books are free. That is your first give away. No legitimate book vendor has 100% free books. The only exception is your local library’s website. Other than that, if every book is FREE then you’re not in the right place. You’re in the wrong place. As in ‘you’re on an…

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No More Tiptoeing Through The Tulips.

I love tulips. They are lovely and graceful, and so colourful!  

My goodness, though, they’re delicate. It doesn’t take much to make a tulip wilt and bend its head to the ground. One might be tempted to think that a flower that needs to have its bulb frozen during winter in order to bloom might be a little more resilient… but apparently not.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the people in my circles— not all, but a hefty percentage of them— are like tulips. As long as the environment suits them, they are fine, but when they are unhappy for some reason, they just don’t cope. It doesn’t take much to upset the balance: just do something they find confronting. The more brave and nonconformist the act, the stronger the effect.

Don’t get me wrong: I do like most of the people in my circles. 

What I don’t like is having to kowtow to their apparent discomfort about certain things that matter to me, when they demonstrate zero tolerance to who and what I am. 

I am weary of having to live with the perpetual awareness that many people I know don’t mind me being an author as long as I never mention it. Some wouldn’t mind my multiple ear piercings either if I grew my hair longer to cover them. Others don’t mind my tattoos as long as my clothes hide them. They feign politeness when I talk about the theatre company I’m in or the musicals I direct at school, but very few of them have ever bought a ticket and come to see a show. And let’s not even start on how they feel about my political views. 

And yes. Those very different things get exactly the same reaction from a lot of people.

It’s ridiculous, and I’m over it. 

I am not less than them. 
I do not matter less than they do. 
My feelings, thoughts, passions and pursuits matter just as much as theirs do. 
I am as worthy of their interest and respect as they are of mine.

And I am very proud of my poetry and my stories… and of my shows. I’m rather fond of my tattoos and piercings too, for that matter. 

What I write happens to be pretty darned good: all those reviews my books receive from strangers are proof of that. Why should I hide my work under a cloak of secrecy when they can freely discuss being a builder, a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker?

Nobody looks at them with thinly veiled suspicion. Nobody questions if what they build or make is any good. Nobody asks how much money they make per job. Nobody asks if their kids are real, or if they are any good. 
They are all quite free and welcome to talk about their kids in front of me even though I don’t have any, and I certainly don’t respond as though they are trying to sell me a child.

So, no more tiptoeing around. I won’t be shoving a book in their face at every opportunity — that’s not me — but I’m not going to allow others to pretend they don’t exist, either. They don’t have to read my work, but they will know that I expect their respect and acknowledgment.

I will not allow other people to treat me as less than I am.

I will not allow them to suppress my thoughts and feelings. 
I will call people out on double standards. 
I will refuse to be made to feel small.
I will be as diplomatic and gentle as I can, but I will assert myself.

And if they insist, I will know they are not really my people, and were never really in my circle.

I am an Indie Author and I Write My Own Books.

As a teacher of senior high school English and Humanities, the ONE thing I impart to my students every time I assign a task is that they must do their own work. They all know what plagiarism is, and why it is wrong. They understand that, both at school and beyond, it is an act that has serious consequences. 

If high school students can grasp this concept and comply, it beggars belief that an author – who also claims to be a lawyer, no less – thought they could get away with stealing the work of other authors, mashing it together, and claiming it as their own.

This week, the revelation has been made — and proven — that one person has done exactly that. 

It didn’t take long for the Twitterverse to light up with the scandal, and the flames of shock and indignation soon spread to other social media. The fires are still burning, and it seems there is plenty of fuel. 

I am not going to recount the whole story here – for all the sordid details, you can google #CopyPasteCris or search for that tag on Twitter. 

It is sufficient to say that upon being discovered and accused, #CopyPasteCris promptly defended her integrity and blamed the whole fiasco on the ghostwriters she hired on Fiverr. 

Seriously? Even if the plagiarism was done by someone else, the books were published in her name, she agreed to the publishing terms of service as the creator and owner of the work, and she received the royalties of every copy sold. I am confident that I am not alone in thinking that this is on her and nobody else. 

Here’s the thing.

  • Even if one hires ghost writers, why on earth would she not still read the finished book before publishing it? 
  • Upon reading it, how on earth would she not realise that there were inconsistencies of style and plot… and fix them? 
  • How did her editor not catch it? 
  • Or… did she not bother with an editor? 
  • And if she doesn’t have an editor, what quality control does she have in place for her books? 
  • What makes her think she is smart enough to get away with repeated, blatant plagiarism when her readers also read the authors that have been plagiarized? 
  • Was she never taught right from wrong? Did she ever actually think about the consequences of her actions? 

Perhaps the biggest question, though, is how did it take so long for this to be discovered? 

As an Indie author who does, in fact, write all her own material, , the entire situation leaves me furious. This one person has thrown the integrity of every honest, hard-working and worthy-of-being-read Indie author into question. 

This behavior is the kind of thing that justifies in the minds of the traditional-publishing-snobs the various stigmas that good quality Indie authors have been working so hard to overcome: sloppy writing, books riddled with errors, and people playing at being legitimate authors when they are not. 

As a reader, I am offended and outraged. Just how stupid do people like this think their readers are? 

Although I fear it is not, I hope this is an isolated case. 

And I hope every author who was plagiarized lawyers up and sues #CopyPasteCris for every penny they deserve. 

The Difference Between Poetry And … Everything Else.

A post about what is, or is not, poetry.

Excuse me for a moment while I climb onto my soap box again. 

A few months ago, I wrote a post in which I complained about books which claimed to be poetry, but were actually just a collection of sentences arranged with one word on each line. 

Today, I’m going to indulge my poetry-nerdiness yet again, in response to another trend I’ve observed on social media.  

As both a reader and a poet, I get really annoyed when pieces of writing are labelled as poetry when they’re not. 

This is rife on Instagram, where some folks take a pretty picture of a sentence or a paragraph and call it poetry. They use the hashtags like #poem, #instapoem, #poetry, #poemsofinstagram… you get the idea. I’ve bitten my tongue – or my virtual fingertips – so many times when I’ve wanted to comment that what is pictured is not a poem. 

I’ve seen letters, paragraphs, and even short stories presented as “poetry”. I’ve seen single sentences tagged “poetry”. In fact, there are books out there with a sentence on each page, which the creators have classified as ‘poetry’. 

This is where I beg to differ.

A sentence, a letter, a paragraph… an entire book may be written in highly poetic language. It may use conventional poetic techniques such as imagery or alliteration, but is it poetry? Everything within me screams “NO!”. A letter is a letter. A sentence is a sentence. A paragraph is… prose, not a poem. 

The issue is one of form. 

Poetry as a form has conventions of its own that set it apart from a letter or a sentence, or anything else. While it’s true that poetry can take any number of forms or styles, those are forms and styles that are recognised as being poetry. They are not forms that are instantly recognised as something else. 

I totally accept and agree that a sentence or any other piece of writing can be beautiful. I’ve read individual sentences or paragraphs that have taken my breath away with the imagery or the power of the writing. They can be poetic. But, according to the conventions of one form as opposed to another, they’re not poems. They’re. Just. Not. 

I’m not trying to be a poetry snob here— in fact, it’s taking no effort at all. I realise I may be coming across as a pretentious git, but let’s look at this from another perspective. 

I don’t get to call myself an author if I don’t write and publish anything. I don’t get to call myself a doctor because I am not, in fact, a doctor. In terms of professions, we don’t get to call ourselves something we’re not. 

Alternatively, I could choose to start telling people I’m a cheeseburger. I’ve eaten a few cheeseburgers, I know what they taste like, and I can list the ingredients. And they do say you are what you eat. However, people will fairly promptly tell me I’m not actually a cheeseburger. The more I make that assertion, the more strident people will be in assuring me I’m not. Even if I went to McDonalds or Burger King and sat in the food warmer, it wouldn’t make me a cheeseburger. I am quite obviously not a cheeseburger. 

If we pretend to be other than what we are, that very quickly becomes a matter of integrity. At first people laugh, then they get frustration, and then they get angry. Trust is broken, and often, walls go up that are not easily dismantled. 

That is exactly where I am with other pieces of writing masquerading as poetry. I’m well past the point of frustration. If I pick up a book because it says it is poetry, and the contents are nothing more than pithy sayings or observations of life in sentence form, I’m going to be annoyed, no matter how beautifully they’re written. If I wanted a book full of meme-worthy of proverbs and quotations, that’s what I would have gone looking for. 

Poetry takes time and effort to craft and shape. It isn’t easy to condense the meaning and message into imagery and forms that require skill to master. To write something beyond trite rhyme or greeting card verses is more difficult than many people realise. The ability to do that, consistently and repeatedly, is what makes someone a poet. Poetry is a craft that I take very seriously indeed. 

That’s why I refuse to “like” posts on Instagram, or anywhere else for that matter, which present one thing as something it’s not.  It’s why I am very choosy about what poetry and poets I review and promote on my book blog.  It’s why I’m on my soapbox, ranting furiously to anyone who will listen – or read, as the case may be. 

It’s hard enough getting people to take real poetry seriously these days. We certainly don’t need to confuse people any further.