The Journal: Question Everything (and Safeguard Your Credibililty)

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Question Everything (and Safeguard Your Credibililty)
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“In the face of misuse, it’s much easier to write a new definition than to teach the old one.” Me, on the dumbing down of English language usage America

If you love the language and enjoy “tangential discussions,” see “Priorities” and the comments at

Topic: Question Everything (and Safeguard Your Credibililty)

Yesterday (and through to this morning) I got into a discussion with some other folks about something silly. Is the adjective “likely” also an adverb? Because I believe the discussion had some redeeming value, I thought I’d expand on my thoughts here in a topic.

I say the discussion was silly because except for serving as food for thought, it didn’t matter. By that, I mean it didn’t change any minds, or at least not obviously.

If you’re wondering, for me the answer to whether “likely” is an adverb is a resounding No. When the weather guy on TV says, “It likely will rain tomorrow,” I mentally cringe. Because what he meant to say, even if he didn’t know it, is “It probably will rain tomorrow.” I cringe because the guy makes his living with words. So I’m thinking he should know better.

Now, maybe he DOES know better and just chooses to misuse “likely.” Or maybe he doesn’t know better at all. More’s the pity.

The fact remains, “probably” is an undisputed adverb. The adjective form is “probable.” And the word “likely,” despite the “ly” ending (which many adverbs have) is synonymous with “probable,” not “probably.”

Now, to save you some time, at least four dictionaries disagree with me. They say “likely” is also an adverb, though using it as such is not preferable.

Duh. That’s because it’s an adjective, synonymous with “probable,” another adjective. So double duh. As I noted in the Quote of the Day above, it’s far easier to change the meaning of a word than to teach the correct meaning.

During my lifetime, write or wrong (I’m not judging) one dialect — ebonics — was redesignated (by the Oakland, California school board) as a new “genetically based language,” a result of the acceptance of misspellings and mispronunciations.

And this discussion doesn’t stop with words and languages. During my tour as a Marine Corps recruiter, HQMC redefined “high school graduate” as a student who had attended at least 12 years of school vs. a student who had actually graduated and received a high school diploma. (I disagreed with that too, though it was beneficial to me as a recruiter.)

Again, it’s easier to change a definition than to teach or uphold and enforce the old definition.

But the point here is that you don’t have to agree with anything. You’re a writer, and a human being with a mind capable of original thought.

You don’t have to agree with me. And you don’t have to agree with those particular dictionaries that disagree with me. On this question or any other.

There are several usages that dictionaries now deem all right (or “alright”) that I disagee with and see as misuses:

  • alright vs. all right;
  • OK vs. okay;
  • likely (as an adverb) vs. probably);
  • cachet (pronounced “cashay,” a seal of approval or respectability) vs. cache (pronounced “cash,” meaning a horde, as in “weapons cache”);
  • till vs ’til (or until);
  • impact (as a verb) vs. affect;
  • and a host of others.

As a side note, in yesterday’s discussion on PWW I erroneously defined “cachet” as a scent. (I was thinking of the scent that emanates from a “sachet” and apparently confused myself.) But a knowledgeable friend pointed out to me this morning in a private email (not in a public attempt to prove me wrong) that “cachet” is actually a seal of approval or respectability, generally bestowed by a human or society on a product, policy or another human. (grin) Thank you, my friend.

Back to the argument. I personally always default to the side of logic. For example, “all right” and “alright” sound exactly alike, so why not use the correct one? Anyone? But please don’t say “alright” is for dialogue and “all right” is for narrative. Again, they sound exactly alike.

If you want to express dialect, you might omit letters. For example, you might write “a’right a’ready” for a New York wise guy who’s heard enough or “a’ight” or “a’ight’ten” for a Louisiana Cajun who’s seen enough of a particular rattlesnake or copperhead in his field. But taking the time to “hear” the word and omit letters to convey the pronunciation to the reader at least shows that you’re using your mind. (For much more on writing dialect, see

For years, I’ve kept and maintained a list of stupid, misused tag line verbs (e.g., “he ejaculated” vs. “he said”). I might start keeping a list of what I see as misuses like those above too.

But again, whether or not you agree with me isn’t the point. The point is that you have a brain. You can think things through and make up your own mind. Which word you choose to use and how you use it is strictly up to you.

If you want to, you can even call the large black bird that pays particular attention to corn crops a duck, despite the fact that it’s a crow or raven.

So my advice is to Question Everything. Not to prove yourself right or to prove someone else wrong, but to exercise your brain, to learn and improve in the craft.

As I said before, which word you choose and how you choose to use it is strictly up to you. But remember that there are readers on the other side of your writing. And whether the words you choose or how you choose to use them is “right” or “wrong” is up to the individual reader.

I think I’m safe in saying if I write “It will probably rain tomorrow,” no reader anywhere ever will wonder Why did he pick ‘probably’? Why didn’t he pick ‘likely’? And that really is the whole point.

Just sayin’.

Today I might not do any fiction writing. I need to let the previous story clear from my head before I jump into something else. Just my way.

Of Interest

See “Channeling” at

See “Playing With Covers” at

See the always-interesting PG’s take on “How the decade in books changed what and how we read” at

The Numbers

Fiction words (see specific numbers below)
Nonfiction words today…………… 1090 (Journal)

Writing of

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 50996
Total fiction words for the year………… 448561
Total nonfiction words for the month… 19680
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 322940
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 771501

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date…………………… 10
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date……………… 1
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 44
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 197
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Journal: Question Everything (and Safeguard Your Credibililty)”

  1. Thank you for an excellent journal today. Most of all, thank you for the important reminder to “default to logic.” That should apply to everything we do, but especially to everything we write.

    There’s a modern adage: “Say it, forget it. Write it, regret it.” Most writers would rather not regret what they have put in print with their names attached. Simply because something can be said, doesn’t mean it should be said.

    • Thanks, Michaele. I learn the lesson again of that adage almost every time I open my mouth (I have grown daughters) or write a comment on anyone else’s blog post. (grin)

      To paraphrase a thought I recently saw on Facebook, Those who were raised on survival see things differently than those who were raised on love.

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