A Museum for Lovers of Words? This I’ve Got to See!

A new museum (yes, another one) is coming to Washington, D.C. and will open December 2019. It promises to immerse visitors in the wonders and rewards of words and language arts. It’s called Planet Word. And, its mission is to inspire a love of language in all its forms. Here’s what it has to offer, according to the website.

We’ll take our guests on an immersive journey that will awaken a love of language that will last a lifetime! We’ll show every visitor the fun of words and language everywhere they look – from the menu in the café to the walls in the bathrooms to the floors and the stairwells. And by welcoming readers of all ages and at all language levels, including non-English speakers, Planet Word is truly for everyone.

This is a welcome treat to those of us who love language and reading, and it just might encourage those who are not fond of language to get on board. It purports to promote the power of words and the adage that the pen is more powerful than the sword.

You will find Planet Word at 1300 I Street, NW, Washington, D.C. (in the old Franklin School building). It is a must-see destination for me and I will share my experience with you after I check it out. In the meantime, explore the website along with me here. #PlanetWordDC.

Let me help you put your best word forward–contact dmariemarks@gmail.com or editsbymarks.com.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Are Writers Who Use Abbreviations Just Lazy?


An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase. An acronym is one type of abbreviation that uses the initial letters of a group of words. Abbreviations and acronyms have been used ever since man started writing, and every language uses them. They can represent either an understanding of the word or laziness. Here are some pointers for those who want to use abbreviations in their writing.

  • First, ask yourself if your readers will really understand your message. If not, you should spell out your abbreviation the first time you use it in your document, and about every five times you use the abbreviation after that if it is a report or a book.
  • It is shorter and easier to use abbreviations when you are addressing a very specific audience (e.g., abbreviations that are pervasive in the literature of a specialized field like psychotherapy).
  • Abbreviations are easy to use when writing to your peeps and BFFs.
  • Abbreviations can be acceptable if they are more popular than the full name (e.g., FBI, CIA, FAQ, Scuba, NATO, DNA, IQ). However, some abbreviations can stand for more than the more popular usage. For example, NATO usually stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization. However, it has also been used to represent North African Theater of Operations and National Association of Theatre Owners, Inc., among others. Moreover, ASAP usually means as soon as possible. However, it has been used to represent Army Substance Abuse Program and Aerospace Safety Advisory Pane, among others. So, it pays to define your abbreviation at first mention, if it does not have the popular meaning.
  • Abbreviations can be acceptable when you have only a small amount of space to work with in a publication.

Avoid using abbreviations in fiction writing. You may think it is okay to be casual because it is fiction, but your readers may get confused and give up trying to get through your story.

It comes down to knowing your audience—the wider your audience, the less pervasive your use of abbreviations should be.

For help in putting your best word forward, e-mail dmariemarks@gmail.com.

IMG_1623 (1)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sympathy or Empathy: Finding a Way to Understanding and Healing

Sympathy means feeling sorry for someone, feeling pity for their circumstance, enough to send them a condolence card and some flowers. If someone’s house burns down, you feel sympathy for the person and their family and this may move you to let them stay in your house until they can get back on their feet. I felt sympathy for the flood victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria last year, in Houston, Texas, the northeastern Caribbean, and Puerto Rico; this led me to donate to the Red Cross.

Empathy is a whole other concept. It is the ability to understand what someone is experiencing; knowing what their thoughts and emotions are like, from one’s own walk or experience. I have empathy for someone who just lost their father because I recently lost mine. I share their experience. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I empathize.

Psychology Today offers this succinct definition:

Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. You try to imagine yourself in their place in order to understand what they are feeling or experiencing. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/empathy)

Empathy doesn’t just mean “putting yourself in another person’s shoes.” Empathy is knowing what another person has been through by getting intimate and walking through their horrors or joys with them:
Sit down; have a cup of tea; look through my pictures; meet my family; feel the vibes in my house, in my neighborhood, among my people. Come back tomorrow for more, because it takes time to understand why we are the way we are.

I have grown to empathize with the people who survived the Holocaust in Europe and the genocide in Rwanda. Remembering and memorializing the intimate details of those atrocities, immortalized through museums and film and stories that last through generations, is what builds empathy (apart from personal experience). Empathy leads us to remember the pain and to search our hearts for peace, shalom (Jews), amahoro (Rwandans).

In my quest to fully understand the origins of the pain that has been passed down to me (and my children) because of my race, I am compelled to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved Blacks terrorized by violence, by lynching, by the humiliation of racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color today who are burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence (https://eji.org/national-lynching-memorial).

As a nation, we are only as strong as our weakest link. We must move on from sympathy and end the silence and the sugar-coating and misunderstanding surrounding these injustices in order to heal and be whole. The struggles of Black Americans were embellished in recent history with pervasive lynching and demoralizing racist White supremacy culture. And, even more recently, the struggle screamed at us when two Black men were arrested and detained by police for simply waiting for a friend (without making a purchase) in a Philadelphia Starbucks coffee shop.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is set on six acres in Montgomery, Alabama. It uses sculpture, art, and design to contextualize racial terror. It is a tool to help ALL citizens move past sympathy and develop empathy enough to be able to join the Jews and the Rwandans in saying, emphatically, “Never again!”

It’s worth our time and effort to visit soon.




Let me help you put your best word forward. Contact donna@dmarks.com and visit editsbymarks.com.

Posted in general | Leave a comment

Oral or Verbal: What’s the Difference?



Today, I was working on editing a script and came across the use of oral. I pondered whether it would have been more appropriate to use verbal. After some investigation, I concluded that they may be used interchangeably. English is defined by word usage much more often than by definitions.

However,  for standard business English and report writing, here’s how it breaks down.

Oral: Strictly by mouth. Having to do with that cavity where we shove our food and other things.
an oral agreement and an oral contract are spoken only. Oral surgery is a procedure performed on or in the mouth. An oral fixation is a craving to put something in one’s mouth (one of my grandsons is developing an oral fixation since he’s started teething). Also, oral sometimes has salacious connotations, so many people replace it with verbal. Nevertheless, it is still perfectly correct as standard English usage.

Verbal: Putting something into words–either spoken or written.
a verbal agreement or a verbal  contract is written or spoken. Also, verbal is the characteristic of an action word. Verbal is now the more popular word to describe anything that has to do with speaking.

To summarize: Oral and verbal have become interchangeable in general usage. However, if you are writing in a formal environment, you may gain points by using them according to the formal definitions in bold above.

For help in putting your best word forward. Contact me at dmariemarks@gmail.com and check out my blog posts. See more here.

Posted in grammar, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Janus words: Two-faced creatures


The god Janus

A recent Merriam-Webster blog sheds light on one of the many ironies of the English language. The phenomenon of Janus words.

According to Wikipedia, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He has two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace.

A Janus word is one that is its own opposite. Here a few some are also mentioned t in the Merriam-Webster blog.

To move swiftly (The tall sprinter moves fast.)
Stuck in a firm or fixed manner (The bird struggled and was held fast in the net.)

To read carefully (The hiring manager carefully perused all the applications for the job.)
To skim over (Jesse quickly perused the small crowd, looking for the girl in a neon pink hat.)

Watchful and responsible care (The new manager was given oversight of a large project.)
An error of omission (The problem was a simple oversight of two numbers)

To attach something (The cashier grabbed her stapler and clipped the coupon to the receipt.)
To cut off something (My sister still clips her coupons from the newspaper.)

To split (A giant blow from the ax cleaved the block of wood into a million pieces.)
To adhere to (Jesse cleaved to her son as he died from his wounds.)

Vicious, evil (The wicked witch poisoned all the creatures in the forest.)
Extremely good (The group put on a wicked concert this weekend, it got rave reviews!)

Unfavorable (Jesse is depressed about his bad grades.)
Really super-nice (The models wore some bad-ass outfits at the show; they sold out in no time.)

See more on Janus words here.

For help in putting your best words forward, whether it’s a report, a thesis, a novel, or any other written project, visit Donna Marks or e-mail dmariemarks@gmail.com.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Consider This Before You Write or Text

it’s or its?

If it is a contraction of it is, then it should be it’s.

So: It’s time for us to get a new bell.


If it is the possessive (a pronoun that indicates that something belongs), then it should be its.

So: The monster flashed its tail and the tree fell.


you’re or your

If it is a contraction of you are, then it should be you’re.

So: If you’re going to be late, please let me know beforehand.


If it is the possessive (a pronoun that indicates that something belongs to you), then it should be your.

So: I found your umbrella in the basement.

Let me help you put your best word forward. Go to editsbymarks or call  240-380-9905.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Daydreaming of summer in winter

The invigorating feeling of ice-cold lemonade running down the back of your throat,
after gardening all morning in the sun.

The funky, happy notes of Hugh Masakela’s flugelhorn as you jam to
“Grazin’ in the Grass,” while barbequing chicken on the deck.

The charge from the cool water, as you dunk yourself in a stream, after a hot game of catch with the kids.

Crisp, light sundresses in tropical prints and Bermuda shorts and pretty slide sandals and wide-brimmed straw hats.

The gentle cool that caresses you as you raise your face to catch a breeze,
while sitting under a shade tree.

Here’s to summer. Bring it on!a-beautiful-day-775461_1920

Posted in stories | Leave a comment