The Straight Dope on “Entitled” vs. “Titled”

“The Straight Dope” highlights common grammatical errors—so you can stop looking dopey when you do these things incorrectly. 🙂

Please note: Unless otherwise specified, these are the proper grammar and formatting rules according to Chicago style—the style in which you should be writing, if you’re writing fiction—and some nonfiction.  (So don’t give me a laundry list of reasons why some other way is correct. It *might be*, in AP style or APA style or MLA formatting . . . but that’s not what I’m talking about here.)

This is actually one I got a request to do*—which is funny because it’s one that’s been nagging me a lot lately, since I have nothing else to worry about (sarcasm).

THE PROBLEM

Okay, so I’m seeing a lot of instances where people are using “entitled” when I think it should be “titled.” What’s the difference?  And what’s correct??

I consulted a number of sources** on this one because I like these “Straight Dopes” to be as black and white as possible.

Unfortunately, however, this one is pret-ty hairy.  I hate that!  It also contradicts what I formerly got all snootastic about—and, of course, I don’t like that either!

But, being that it’s so confusing, it’s def worth the discussion.

ENTITLED

In a general sense, ENTITLED is a transitive verb* that means something or someone has been given a right or a claim to something.

*Sorry to get all grammar geek on you with “transitive verb,” but that basically means (in this sense), it’s used as in: X entitles you to Y.  A transitive verb requires that there’s both an object and a direct object—and that they both have a relationship with the verb.

In normal-people English: something/someone is being entitled and something is being entitled to something else.

Make sense?  Ish?

Example:

     Since you didn’t sign a pre-nup, you are entitled to half your spouse’s earnings. 

(DISCLAIMER: I’m no lawyer—it’s just an example!)

Back to grammar-geek speak for a minute: You is the thing BEING entitled—and your spouse’s earnings is the thing being entitled TO something.

But I digress.

Okay, so, here’s the part I don’t like.  According to all these sources, ENTITLED is also the past tense of a verb that means to give a name or title to.

Translation: The following are technically correct.

     She finished her book, which was entitled 10 Things I Hate About Sue.

     I should have entitled this post “Entitled vs. Titled—Prepare to Have Your Minds Blown.”

Ew, I know.  I can hardly believe I’m saying it!!

TITLED

TITLED is an adjective that means having a title—especially a noble title.

     Sir Elton John and Dame Judy Dench are both titled individuals.

To make this even more confusing, TITLED is also the past tense of the verb TITLE (duh), which means to provide a title for or to designate or call by a title.

So that means the following are *also* technically correct:

     She finished her book, which was titled 10 Things I Hate About Sue.

     I should have titled this post “Entitled vs. Titled—Prepare to Have Your Minds Blown.”

AHH! *hides*

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED? *scratches head*

Basically, you can’t go wrong.  I mean, you *can*—not all of the uses of these two words are synonymous—but in the sense of what we’re trying to clear up, you really can’t.

THE GOOD NEWS: If you’re one of those who feels like “entitled” should only be used in the You forgot our anniversary, so I am entitled to foot massages for life sense and “titled” should only be used when referring to actually giving a title to something sense, you’re not wrong.  You’re perfectly within your right—you’re entitled (see what I did there?)—to keep using those words that way.

THE BAD NEWS: You can’t be snarky about people using “entitled” the way you don’t like it, because they are also correct.

ADVICE

Grammar Girl puts it nicely when she says that going simple is almost always better.  (But I’ll admit, I like that in part because, in saying that, she suggests “titled” is simpler than “entitled”—fewer letters—and that jibes with my preferred method.)

Better still? Her suggestion of avoiding the confusion altogether by not even using those words—or by rewording the sentence.

     She finished her book, 10 Things I Hate About Sue.

     I should have called this post “Entitled vs. Titled—Prepare to Have Your Minds Blown.”

There you have it, my friends.  Snark responsibly.

*Have a suggestions for a “Straight Dope” post?  Shoot me an e-mail (ricki [at] rickischultz [dot] com)!

**Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, Purge Your Prose of Problems: A Book Doctor’s Desk Reference (Bobbie Christmas), and The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tops for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl (Mignon Fogarty)

In the Blogosphere: 2/28-3/11

“In the Blogosphere” is a series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week (usually).

I’m making one of my resolutions to be better with these blogosphere posts.  *Well, I’m trying, but I’ve been reallllllly busy!* I’ve saved a lot of great stuff, though, and it’s all definitely worth a read.

AGENT ADVICE

Here on Pub Rants, Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency shows you four easy steps for a “killer” opening—or, four things that will KILL your opening.

Does writing in the young adult genre appeal to you?  Or, are you already doing it but are unsure if you’re doing it well?  Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Lit pimps Regina L. Brooks’s book, Writing Great Books for Young Adults.

LET’S GET TECHNICAL

I’ve done a “Straight Dope” post on this, but don’t take it from me—take it from the Grammar Girl herself: Mignon Fogarty talks the capitalization of proper nouns.

Here, YA Highway’s Amanda Hannah helps you strengthen those sentences, simile-and-metaphor style.

Feeling tense?  Claire King is feeling first person present tense—and she makes a case for when and where (and why) it’s appropriate.

After checking out what Kristen Nelson says NOT to do in your beginning chapters, New York Times bestselling author (Across the Universe) Beth Revis spills on what TO do in order to hook readers in your first chapter in this post on the League of Extraordinary Writers.

Here, Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA gives some concrete tips and exercises to create concrete characters.

CHUGGING ALONG

Are you a Type A writer?  In this post, author Jody Hedlund suggests that, if you devise and stick to a writing plan, you’re likely to be a more successful writer.

End-of-winter sluggishness contributing to your writer’s block?  Here, horror writer of awesome Zoe C. Courtman offers tips on how to sweat through the blockage!

ORGANIZATION TIPS & NO EXCUSES!

And while we’re on the subject of writing regularly and successfully, organization is key to clearing out distractions.  Incarnate author and ferret aficionado Jodi Meadows agrees in this post, where she shares her secret for keeping her inbox organized.

Where is all the time for writing?  It’s hard to come by, says D4EO agent Mandy Hubbard, but that’s no excuse.  She says you must find the time—and she does it with Debbie Ridpath Ohi cartoons!

I’m looking forward to seeing some writer friends at SCBWI this weekend—can’t wait to tell you all about it!

How about you?  Anything fun this weekend?

Where Else Am I? Inky Fresh Press Guest Post #4 on Formatting

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Last week, Inky Fresh Press posted the third in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

The final post is on formatting.  Check it out!

I hope you enjoyed the series!

The rest in the series:

The Straight Dope on Lay Versus Lie

“The Straight Dope” highlights common grammatical errors—so you can stop looking dopey when you do these things incorrectly. 🙂

Please note: Unless otherwise specified, these are the proper grammar and formatting rules according to Chicago style—the style in which you should be writing if you’re writing fiction—and some nonfiction.  (So don’t give me a laundry list of reasons why some other way is correct. It *might be*, in AP style or APA style or MLA formatting . . . but that’s not what I’m talking about.)

This one gives me a lot of trouble.  Even though I try to be extra careful, I still get confused about when to use Lay vs. Lie.  So I’ll do my best to be as clear as I can . . .

I’m always deferring to my friends William Strunk, Jr., E.B. White, and Bobbie Christmas for help!

Lay

Lay is a transitive verb.  That means there must be a subject (noun) performing the action (verb)—and there must be an object (another noun) being acted upon by said action.

In English, please?

OK—that means there must be something DOING the laying and something must be BEING LAID.  (Get your heads out of the gutter!)

So:

The hen lays eggs. (Hen is the subject.  It is doing the laying.)

Q: What does it lay? (The direct object answers the question WHO or WHAT.)

A: Eggs. (So, eggs is the direct object.)

That is how we know “lays” is correct here.  It is an action being performed.

Good?  Good.

This concept is still pretty easy and not really what trips me up about lay vs. lie.  However, before we get to that, let’s take a look at some verb tense variations of lay.

Present tense: The bricklayer lays bricks right now.

Past tense: The bricklayer laid bricks yesterday.

Present perfect: The bricklayer has laid bricks since he was twenty years old.

Past perfect: The bricklayer had laid bricks until he became a goat herder.

Present progressive: The bricklayer is laying bricks right now.

Past progressive: The bricklayer was laying bricks when he got the news.

None of that seems too difficult, right?  It’s not.  However, I believe the reason I—and others—have such a hard time with lay and lie lies in (pun intended) the verb tense variations of lie.

Lie

Lie is a state of being.

  • You lie on a couch.
  • Papers lie on the floor.
  • Answers lie everywhere.

However, the past tense of lie is lay—d’oh!  And that is what causes all the trouble. (Some of these examples are modified from Bobbie Christmas’s Purge Your Prose of Problems.)

Present tense: I lie in traffic for fun.

Past tense: Yesterday, I lay in bed until noon.

Present perfect: The body has lain in state since last week.

Past perfect: The body had lain out for a week before someone discovered it.

Present progressive: The body is lying in state right now.

Past progressive: The body was lying in state last week.

Here are a few more examples that might help you:

  • The cat, lying across the windowsill, slept peacefully.
  • When I got home yesterday, the cat lay across the windowsill.  She lies there all the time! When I saw her, I laid a blanket across her back.  Whenever I come home, I lay a hand on her and stroke her silky fur.
  • I couldn’t find my socks anywhere—until opened my suitcase and found them lying inside.  They had been lying there since our last trip—which means they had lain there for a year!  I laid them there when I was unpacking, and I must have forgotten about them!

Hope this helps!

Where Else Am I? Inky Fresh Press Guest Post #2 on Editing/Revision

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Today, Inky Fresh Press posted the second in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

This one’s on style.  Check it out!

The rest in the series:

The Straight Dope on Plurals — *Useful for the Holidays

“The Straight Dope” highlights common grammatical errors—so you can stop looking dopey when you do these things incorrectly. 🙂

Please note: Unless otherwise specified, these are the proper grammar and formatting rules according to Chicago style—the style in which you should be writing if you’re writing fiction—and some nonfiction.  (So don’t give me a laundry list of reasons why some other way is correct. It *might be*, in AP style or APA style or MLA formatting . . . but that’s not what I’m talking about.)

I have been a bit MIA this week, as I’ve been hard at work buying and wrapping presents, labeling them, writing out holiday cards to family and friends, etc.  And I saw a grammar lesson from which many people could benefit: pluralizing names.

I decided to embrace the grammatically correct versions of labeling and addressing—even if the end result looked weird.  Hey—it doesn’t take much to amuse me! 🙂

Rule 1: Add “s” to the end of a singular noun to make it plural.

So, when I made out a Christmas card to my parents, I wrote The Geralds on the envelope, because their last name is Gerald. More than one Gerald—so you just add an S.

To use a regular ol’ noun: if you are referring to more than one dog, write dogs.

Easy peasy, right?

Rule 2: If a singular noun ends in S, X, CH*, SH, J, or Z, add ES to make it plural.**

That means, when I made my Christmas card to my in-laws, I wrote The Schultzes on the envelope, because Schultz ends in Z (duh), and the card was being addressed to more than one Schultz.

For my great aunt & uncle:  The Coxes

For some friends: The Hobbses (This one was perhaps my favorite to write out because it looks kind of bizarro.  Love it! Why write The Hobbs Family? Go for the awkward but correct way, I say!) 🙂

*I have friends with the last name Freireich, and when sending their holiday card, I did *not* follow this rule—I only added an S.  However, that is because the CH is pronounced like a CK.  If their last name were Stitch, I would have written The Stitches—because the CH in Stitch is pronounced like the CH in cheeseburger.  But since it takes on the sound of a CK, you just add an S.  Follow?

**I used to love to freak out my students by telling them that Flores would be Floreses, James would be Jameses—which is technically correct.  However you never see these because:

A)  People do it incorrectly.

B)  It looks so awkward that people assume it’s incorrect . . . and then do it incorrectly.

However, I say, dare to be awkwardly grammatically correct, people! Let the Jameses see their plural the way the grammar gods intended!

Rule 3:  When a singular noun ends in a Y, drop the Y and add IE before adding the S to make a plural.***

So, lily becomes lilies, etc.

***As far as I can tell, this does not apply with names/proper nouns.  Therefore, I didn’t write out my best friends’ family’s card to The Dougherties—rather, The Doughertys.

Rule 4:  DON’T ADD ROGUE APOSTROPHES.

Sorry I had to shout, but this is shout-worthy.  Too many people do this.

Apostrophes show possession, people—not plurals.  I’ll do another “Straight Dope” on plurals where we cover plural possessives all in good time, my dears.  🙂

Until then, Season’s Greetings!

Where Else Am I? My Guest Post Series on Editing (at Inky Fresh Press)

This month, I’m Inky Fresh Press’s guest blogger, and I’m doing a series on editing (for post NaNoWriters and those looking to polish their non-NaNo manuscripts alike).

Today, Inky Fresh Press posted the first in the series: Editfication: Revision Tips for Getting Your Work Read & Represented.

Check it out!

The rest in the series: