The Mighty May Lay on Lies

Whew!  I’m into round one of edits for Sliced Vegetarian, and the terrific Alice Duncan has been my editor once more.

Alice Duncan, Author

I’m lucky to have Alice Duncan as my editor

You may know Alice by one of her pen names: Alice, Emma Craig, Rachel Wilson, Anne Robins, and even Jon Sharpe.  She writes historical mysteries, historical romance, and even, under the name Jon, westerns. Obviously, I’m working with a well-experienced writer and am lucky to have her as my editor.

I submitted my copy to Alice at the end of July and she went right to work.  Mind you, I’ve had several people read the Sliced Veggie story now, so you’d think the work would be pretty polished.  Not so, my friend.

The edits I received from Alice challenged my grammar, punctuation and storytelling skills a lot.  I love this!  I feel like I’m learning all the time, and to me, that is truly exciting.

For example, on several occasions, Alice challenged me to change “may” to “might.” Growing up, I remember my elders correcting my “Can I have an apple?” to “May I please have an apple?” quite often (but that is a story for another time). Somehow, I got that may and turned it into a statement like, “I may go to the store.” Oops. Though the sentence is structurally correct (thus no help from Microsoft Word), the meaning of the sentence was often incorrect.

Alice's latest book, Dark Spirits

Alice’s latest book, Dark Spirits

May means to have permission to or admit that the possibility exists:

I may go to the store; mothers says I may.

I may think differently about it in the morning.

On the other hand, might, other than being a word of force, means permission or possibility, but in a past tense way:

If you had your wits about you, you might have seen the knife next to the dead body on the floor.

To be honest, I’m going to have to study those two words more.  The line between them is as slim as hope on a dark and stormy night, but obviously there’s a big enough difference to be caught and questioned in the editing process.

And here’s another set of words that challenge me to bits: lay and lie. I know that to tell a fib is definitely a lie, but does something lay on a table or lie on it?  And when do you use which tense?

Thing is, I looked up lay in the dictionary and found it has fourteen definitions–and that in the transitive verb form alone.  Just wait until you get to the intransitive verb form. Wow!  All this and I haven’t begun to explore lie.

Needless to say, if you are a wordsmith and have any happy tips for remembering the differences between may and might and between lay and lie, please send them along.  Not only will I publish your clever thought, but I will probably ask you to be my BFF.

Meanwhile, I need to run along today.  Big project up in my other life as a marketing person.  Thanks for sharing time with me, and have a great week.



9 thoughts on “The Mighty May Lay on Lies

  1. Thanks, Liesa! You wrote a really good book. If I helped you, I’m glad of it. I feel kinda like an ogre now 🙂 But I REALLY appreciate the free advertising! And remember that “to lay” requires an object: I will lay the apple on the table. Except (as you found out) sometimes. I love the English language!

    • Hi Alice,

      Thanks so much for joining us here on the site. Do please be that ogre. I swear someday (in maybe 100 years or so), I will get the “lay” thing right. 🙂

      Best, Liesa

  2. Liesa, one technique I use, if I am unsure of the correct word usage, is to rewrite my sentence so I don’t have to use the word. That’s my dirty little secret. : ) I agree, Alice is a fantastic editor and a great writer. I enjoyed her novel Angel’s Flight.

    • Hi Catherine,
      You’re right about the substitution of words, but at some point I am really going to buckle down and re-learn the intricacies of some of my more commonly misused words. Keep going on your work. Hope to see Stone Cold Case soon!

  3. Strunk & White’s Elements of Style is my go-to reference source. Very small but very useful.
    Page 51 of the 3rd ed. has: “Misused Words and Expressions” (a whole list, here is the one you want):

    Lay. A transitive verb. Except in slang (“Let it lay”), do not misuse it for the intransitive verb ‘lie’. The hen, or the play, lays an egg; the llama lies down. The playwright went home and lay down (this is the past tense of lie).
    lie; lay; lain; lying
    lay; laid; laid; laying

    Hope this helps!

    • Thanks, Lynne. I’ve often searched through Elements of Style on the road to writing better. Looks like another visit is over-due. Thanks for visiting this site. I hope we’ll get to know each other over time. Wishing you the best, Liesa

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