Happy Fall, Y’all! I have decided to revive an old series, #WhyWriteWrong, because I find I’m still being pulled out of what I’m reading when words used incorrectly pop up. Sometimes I’m sure it’s a typo, other times, I’m pretty sure the author is mixed up about the meaning of the word. (Especially if they repeat the same error several times.)
In addition to brand new posts on this topic, I’ll also be rerunning some older ones that I think could still be helpful reminders to us all. Some of those will be from earlier days here on The Write Stuff, and some, like today’s, will be from my time as a member of Story Empire. You’ll be able to tell today’s post is from SE by the way a few things are worded, and I hope you’ll find the rerun useful.
It’s Marcia back again with another Why Write Wrong post. Quick & easy today: I have a pair of homophones I see being misused more often than you might think, and which, btw, can cause some totally unexpected—and undesirable–images to pop into the minds of your readers. And I also want to clarify the definition of a verb that is even more frequently misused. So, let’s get down to it!
First, the verb. Based on my own observation, this seems to be one many writers get wrong, but here’s the scoop. The rule for the past tense of the verb hang is really simple, with only ONE exception: Unless you are describing a person being suspended by a rope around the neck until dead, the only acceptable past tense of hang is hung. (And the operative word here is “person.” While people are hanged, inanimate objects are hung.)
Example for 99% of the time: Christmas doesn’t really arrive at our house until we’ve hung the lights on both of our big trees, and all three of our small ones. (Don’t ask. I’m somewhat of a fanatic about Christmas. 😀 )
Example 2, and again, this is the ONLY exception: Despite stories to the contrary, accused Salem witches were never burned at the stake, but were hanged instead.
Example 3, reinforcing the 99% rule: Despised for his cruel reign of terror, the king was hung in effigy in full view of the palace. (Again: Inanimate objects follow the normal rule, even if hung from a gallows.)
See? Easy. If you’re writing about the death of a person via a noose around the neck, used hanged. Otherwise, always, always use hung.
And now for the homophones. Take my word for it, you should be very, very careful with these, as one letter makes all the difference between them.
Definition: An unfortunate or unhappy person, OR a despicable, contemptible person.
- Example 1: Can the poor wretch tell us who beat him up?
- Example 2: Those miserable, ungrateful wretches deserve everything they get!
Definition: (Noun) The sound or movement of vomiting or gagging.
Definition: (Verb) To make the sound and movement of vomiting. To gag.
- Example: The vile odor coming from the tidepool was enough to cause even the strongest sailors to retch and vomit in the sand.
(See? I told you it was an image you might not want to put in your reader’s heads. Unless, of course, nauseated people are germane to your story.)
So, what do you think? Ever used hanged or hung incorrectly yourself, or seen it used wrong elsewhere? And how about wretch vs retch? Are you pretty certain you’ll never, ever get those two mixed up? I sure hope so. 😀 Your turn now. Let us hear what you think in the comments section, because, as always, inquiring minds wanna know! 🙂
Meanwhile, let’s all go forth to write with happy hearts and nary a wretch or retch in sight, because–you guessed it–those are the hearts that produce the best results!
Thanks for reading today!
(The Original of this post can be found on Story Empire HERE)