Besides Beside

Wordsmithereens is a whenever-I-feel-like-it column where I blast the hell out of some nitpicky topic pertaining to diction, editing, self-editing, or writing. Why? Because I’m anal-retentive with a hyphen, that’s why.


I was editing a story today, a nasty gay erotic horror tale (“Stray”), and inserting the word beside gave me pause. Was it beside, or besides? My editorial gut instinct told me there was a difference.

Beside

Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines beside as:

  • An adverb meaning in a nearby position, close by, alongside: “He dropped the towel and sat beside him on the couch.”
  • A preposition meaning:
    • at or by the side of, close to, near: “The wastecan stood beside the dresser.”
    • in comparison with: “He needs to be a Stephen King if writing overlong books is to be considered unimportant beside simply having a fresh voice.”
    • on par with: “A literary achievement that can be ranked beside that of Joe R. Lansdale.”
    • (used with “oneself,” as in “beside herself”) carried out of oneself as through extreme excitement, out of one’s wits or senses: “I was beside myself with disappointment.”

Beside = next to

Besides

M-W defines besides as:

  • An adverb, meaning:
    • in addition, moreover: “The story is excellent, and besides it costs less than a buck.”
    • otherwise, else: “He knows the rules of grammar, but little besides.”
  • A preposition, meaning:
    • in addition to: “Besides being an entertaining read, I learned a lot about cremation.”
    • other than, except: “She could do nothing besides watch him bleed out.”

Besides = in addition to, except

Shelving this new knowledge beside the old, what have you besides putting it to good use in your writing? If you don’t, I’ll be beside myself…

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