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Fiddly Rules | Kestrel's Aerie

Fiddly Rules | Kestrel's Aerie

Fiddly Rules

One of the websites I follow is Copyediting, and in fact, it is listed in the Aerie’s Resources (a very incomplete listing, by the way). A feature of that site is a series of short podcasts under the heading, “Fiddly Rules.” (In case you’re curious, as I was, “fiddly” means fussy or requiring an annoying amount of close attention.)

The podcasts themselves are fairly short, around 5 minutes long, give or take. They are recorded by Wendalyn Nichols, the editor of Copyediting magazine. Unfortunately, the category and tags only provide Podcasts 4 through 9; the archives may have the first three, but I didn’t look that far back. A search on “fiddly rules,” however, didn’t bring up the first three either.

So what are these fiddly rules? Some are simply an effort to remove the confusion surrounding the use of words that have similar spelling or sounds, but are quite different in meaning; for example, keeping “assure,” “ensure,” and “insure” straight, or the difference between “disabuse” and “disavow.”

Others address rules that are suggested more as “best practices.” For instance, Wendalyn recommends changing “irregardless” (which is a real word) to “regardless,” regardless of where it appears. She also addresses the use of “a” and “an” before words beginning with h.

If you’re a student of language, or simply enjoy lexicography, or want to improve your writing, I strongly endorse these short, entertaining podcasts as a way to stay on your toes with respect to some of the fiddly nuances of our language. But if you’d rather read blog articles than listen to podcasts, I’ll probably address most, if not all, of Ms Nichols’s rules in future posts.



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