These last two writing prompts have given my muse a workout. Yesterday’s Ragtag Daily Prompt was PURIST. The question came to me: So when are you a PURIST and when are you NITPICKING?
In some respects I’m a purist. Incorrect word usage makes me grit my teeth. I hear someone say, “He contributed his success to luck and hard work,” and I think, NO! You contribute–donate–to a worth cause. You attribute–ascribe–some (usually good) result or quality to what you’ve done or received.
People usually attribute their success to hard work, a good education, helpful parents, or just plain luck. On the other side, someone may attribute (credit or blame) their life of crime to their miserable childhood, but their behaviour contributes (add) to the rising crimes stats.
If I verbalize my dissatisfaction some people will say, “Why nitpick? You know what they meant.”
Today’s prompt word is FLATTER. Again, when are we FLATTERING and when are we simply ENCOURAGING? Am I flattering or encouraging if I say, “You have a beautiful voice”?
When praising children – which we definitely should do – I feel it’s better to encourage them when they’ve done their best, rather than flatter them with, “You’re the greatest!” or “You’re a STAR!” Life has some sharp reality checks for teens and adults who think of themselves as the greatest.
As the old school song says, “I’d rather be a little thing climbing up than a big thing tumbling down.”
Every coin has a flip side, likewise most virtues. Thrift can become parsimony. Determined can become pig-headed or pushy. Honesty can become offensive, even brutal, if not infused with kindness and tact.
Years ago the Toronto Globe & Mail had a little humor section that made use of this fact. Readers could send in their responses to these three viewpoints:
My friend is…
Someone I don’t like is…
“I am decisive; my friend is steadfast; that other guy is obdurate.”
“I am circumspect; my friend is astute; the one I don’t like is cagey.”
This is a great exercise for writers, or anyone who likes adjectives. Want to try it and leave your response in the comment box below?