Literary Life Hacks

“He is a bonified expert in his field.” “This is a bonified offer.”

Your Literary Life Hacker has seen this spelling everywhere, even in nationally syndicated newspaper columns and published books – but it’s wrong.

The correct term is “bona fide,” from the Latin for “in good faith.” It means genuine, without fraud or deception, or officially authorized. Latin scholars may cringe at this, but its English plural form can also be used as a noun: “I checked her bona fides.”

Fun fact: “Bonify” is a word, but it’s a very archaic word that means “to make something good, especially something that was bad before,” according to the business and technical writing resource WhatIs.com.

Avoid using “bonified” when you mean “bona fide,” and your readers will see you as a bona fide smart writer.

 

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Copyrightalliance.org defines “copyright” as “a collection of rights that automatically vest to someone who creates an original work of authorship like a literary work, song, movie or software. These rights include the right to reproduce the work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies, and to perform and display the work publicly.” In other words, the right to copy a work.

The past perfect tense of “copyright” is what trips people up. It is “copyrighted,” not “copywritten.” It’s an easy mistake to make, since “write” rhymes with “right,” and many copyrighted works are written.

The words “copywrite” and “copywritten” are seldom if ever used. Copywriters don’t copywrite; they write copy. An impatient account executive might ask them, “Is the copy written yet?” but that’s as
close as it gets.

When referring to a copyrighted work, use the word with “right” in it, and you’ll always be right.

 

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“Who” clauses can be nonessential (“which”) or essential (“that”) clauses:

My sister, who spent her vacation at the beach, came home with a bad sunburn.

My sister who spent her vacation at the beach came home with a bad sunburn. (Implies the existence of one or more sisters who vacationed elsewhere.)

 

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Not sure whether to start a clause with “that” or “which”? it’s all about the context.

If the clause is critical to the meaning of the sentence, it’s a “that” clause.

The buildings that have been vacant for years will be demolished. (Not the buildings that are occupied or the ones that have only been vacant for days or weeks.)

If the clause is merely describing the subject, and removing it would not change the meaning of the sentence, it’s a “which” clause and should be set off by commas.

The buildings, which have been vacant for years, will be demolished.

Take out the clause and the basic message of the sentence stays the same: The buildings will be demolished. The clause simply gives additional information about them.

Fun Fact: These two types of clauses are called “restrictive” and “nonrestrictive.” The AP Stylebook calls them “essential” and “nonessential” because it’s easier to remember.

 

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Use “who” in clauses where the subject of the pronoun is a person or persons, and “that” for things (including abstractions).
We are looking to hire someone who can manage our social media accounts.

A stronger social media presence is something that we need.
If the subject is a place, use “where” or “that,” whichever makes more sense to your ears.
Our HR director has a private office where she conducts confidential interviews.
Alaska is a place that I’d like to visit someday.

 

 

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