Are you one of the many bright people who speaks well but has trouble with the mechanics of writing: following those confusing rules concerning spelling, punctuating, capitalizing, etc.? Is a relative, co-worker or editor constantly whipping out a dictionary, style guide, or grammar handbook to point out mistakes in your writing, making you want to slam their fingers in Chapter 6? If so, have you spent precious time striving to learn who's right? Or is that whose wright? Does it matter? If you're speaking, perhaps not. If you're writing, it may matter. The reasons for not writing well are varied, but that doesn't stop people from being good communicators...from creating fantastic stories and plots...from giving life and light and meaning to words. You are bright. Never forget that.... Now it's time to move forward and have fun writing right! Yes, I said fun! Let's find ways to avoid common mistakes in * Spelling * Pronunciation * Capitalization * Punctuation * Usage And much more! COMMON MISTAKES A and An: "an historical book" is not idiomatic in American English. Before a pronounced (breathy) h, the indefinite article should be a. A hotel; a historical. Precede a word beginning with a "breathy" h with an a. (6.60CMS14) Due to or Because of? Due to modifies nouns and is generally used after some form of the verb to be (is, are, was, were, etc.). Jim Wilson's success is due to talent and spunk (due to modifies success, not talent). Because of should modify verbs. Ted resigned because of poor health (because of modifies resigned). (1101GRM7) Its or It's? This is one of the most common problem areas of our language, probably because possessives almost always use apostrophes. Its is an exception. Its: The possessive form of the pronoun it is never written with an apostrophe, e.g., . . . read the book. "Its title is . . ." or, "What is its value?" It's: contractions of it is and it has. It's time to go. It's been great. (AHD3) Nauseous or Nauseated Often used incorrectly, but don't get nauseating about its usage. Nauseous means sickening to observe: disgusting. Nauseated means sick to one's stomach. Pregnant women often experience nausea. When they describe the way they feel, they should say, "I feel nauseated," but if a pregnant woman says, "I feel nauseous," don't correct her grammar: give her a hug and some ginger ale! Timing is everything. Their, They're, or There? Their: possessive form of the word they, e.g., Their Web site is full of typos. They're: contraction of the words "they" and "are," e.g., They're doing a great job on their Web site. There: at or in that place, e.g., "Now there is a stunning Web site. (AHD3) Your or you're? This is probably the second most common problem area in our language. You're: contraction of the words "you are," e.g., "You're up for an award. Someone said you're leaving." Your is a possessive form of a personal pronoun, e.g., "I like your Web site. Tom, thanks for giving your time to this effort." Both: "Your knowledge of HTML shows that you're a dedicated designer." (AHD3) Let's tackle just a few of the most confusing word pairs and groups: * Accept: receive.....Except: exclude * Adverse: opposed.....Averse: not interested * Affect: change, influence.....Effect: (v) to bring about (n) result, impression * Appraise: value.....Apprise: inform, notify * Lay: to set down, to place or put an item down.....Lie: to recline * Principal: first in authority; main participant; amount of a debt less interest.....Principle: basic truth or assumption * Ensure: to make sure or certain; guarantee; to protect.....Insure: to take out or issue insurance; to pay or be paid money in the case of loss.....Assure: convince, make sure of something, to give confidence; to declare or promise confidently * Their: belonging to; possessive of "they" (another case where a possessive does not have an apostrophe).....There: at, or in that place.....they're: combination of "they are" * To: in the direction of; toward.....Too: in addition; as well, also.....Two: more than one; less than three GRAMMAR BASICS * Adjectives are modifiers. They describe nouns & specify size, color, number, etc., e.g., The small "x" in the upper corner of the window is used to exit your file. * Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives & other adverbs, e.g., The exhausted secretary screamed loudly as her monitor flickered slowly, then died. * Alliteration can give a pleasing sound to a sentence, as long as it's not overdone, e.g., World Wide Web . . . smelly, slimy SCSI . . . resonant ringing. * Clauses are groups of words with a subject and predicate. A main clause stands alone as a sentence; a subordinate clause is incomplete and is used with a main clause to express an idea. Main:I will play Tetris, Subordinate: when I have time. * Compound nouns usually form the plural by pluralizing the fundamental part of the word, e.g., attorneys general; spelling matches; vice presidents. * Conjunctions join words, phrases or clauses. Coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, either, neither, yet, so, so that. (Yet & so are also used as adverbs.) Subordinating conjunctions join two clauses (main and dependent/subordinate): although, because, since, until, while, etc. * Metaphors suggest comparison between two different things, e.g., Bill Gates has a heart of gold...His mind is a sharp razor. * Mondegreens: Misheard lyrics. Example: "Donuts Make my Brown Eyes Blue" rather than "Don't it Make my Brown Eyes Blue" or "Are you Going to Starve an Old Friend?" instead of "Are you Going to Scarborough Fair?" or "Ham on Rye" rather than Kenny Loggins "I'm alright." * Noun The name of a person, place, thing, quality or action. Nerd, Bellingham, desk, truth, discovery, frustration. * Phrases are closely related words with no subject or predicate, and may be used as nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs, e.g., Waiting for Technical Support has kept me at my desk all afternoon (noun). The typing could have been done earlier (verb). The person with the bleary eyes is a computer nerd (adjective). Buy memory chips now, since the price will go up soon (adverb). * Predicates are one of two main components of a sentence. They are verbs and the words used to explain the action or condition. They always agree with the Subject, e.g., Choosing the right ISP can be a difficult process. * Prepositions show how nouns or pronouns relate to other words in a sentence, e.g., Little Susie rolled the $800 CD ROM into the bathroom; her mother hid behind the shower curtain, praying for self-control. * Pronouns are substitutes for nouns, e.g., Judy sat at her computer and opened WordPerfect. Suddenly, her mind went blank, so she contacted Luz Vergara, the WordPerfect Wiz. * Proper nouns form their plurals by adding s to the singular or es if the word ends in s, z, ch, sh, or zh, e.g., the Carolinas, Robinsons, Piersons, Judys, Joneses, Savages, Morrises. * Similes show a similarity between two things, using "like." Bill Prowell has a mind like a razor...After six hours at the computer, her eyelids felt like lead weights. * Subjects, one of two main components of a sentence, are nouns, pronouns, or phrases used as nouns, e.g., Choosing the right ISP can be a difficult process. * Verbs make things happen, show action or state of being & also indicate time of action or being, e.g., Jeff's son waved goodbye to the computer repairman (past). I need to shut down Windows (present). You will enjoy learning HTML (future). * Voice. Active is preferable to passive to create action and interest. Connie typed the letter (active). The letter was typed by Connie (passive). Sometimes, in certain types of scholarly and scientific documents, passive voice is preferred. You can win the grammar game! If you need any kind of help with word stuff, contact Judy Vorfeld. Who knows, your question may be the subject of a future article! (With your permission, of course!)
FREE REIGN OR FREE REIN? It's "rein." Microsoft Encarta says it's the complete freedom to make decisions and take action without consulting anyone else. The Cambridge Dictionary of Idioms says "free rein" is synonymous with "allow" and "give." If you give people, ideas, or emotions free rein, they are free to develop without the intrusion of controlling elements.
SNEAK PEAK, SNEEK PEEK, OR SNEAK PEEK? When you glance quickly and stealthily at something, it's a "sneak peek."
NASH, KNASH, OR GNASH YOUR TEETH? You "gnash" your teeth when you are extremely angry or upset. If you have trouble with that, think "grind," the start with a "g" and the "nash" should follow.
IN THE NICK, KNICK, OR GNICK OF TIME? In the "nick" of time means at the last possible moment. A nick is (was) a mark put on a stick used to measure time.
THE SOLE OF DISCRETION OR THE SOUL OF DISCRETION? It's "soul."
BATED BREATH OR BAITED BREATH? It's "bated." The Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms says, "If you wait for something with bated breath, you feel very excited or anxious while you're waiting."
HEAR! HEAR! OR HERE! HERE! "Hear, hear!" is used as an exclamation to show strong approval. You use this type of a phrase when applauding a dynamic speaker or following a written statement that you feel is unusually fine. Some people mistakenly write, "Here, here!" but if you remember that it means, "Listen, listen!" you'll write it properly.
VIOLA OR VIOLA? It's only one word, but it has several totally different meanings and pronunciations:
- A viola (vee-oh-lah) is a stringed instrument that is larger than a violin and smaller than a 'cello.
- A viola (vye-oh-lah) is a tiny flower.
- "Voila!" (vwah-lah) is an interjection that is "used to call attention, to express satisfaction or approval, or to suggest an appearance as if by magic."
Do you often wonder if you're using dashes properly? Dashes have distinct uses that often seem blurred in today's society. Here's what's best for writers and those involved in business writing. Q. When do I use a dash in text? A. A dash usually replaces a comma, semicolon, colon, or parentheses. When used this way, it creates an EMPHATIC separation of words. Since a dash is versatile, people tend to use it to punctuate almost any break in a sentence. Don't. It's best used for EFFECT. And experts say we should never type a single hyphen to represent a "double" dash (em dash). Author Amy Einsohn says, "The dash is best reserved for special effects: to prepare readers for a punchline or a U-turn." The Chicago Manual of Style says, "A dash or a pair of dashes is used to denote a sudden break in thought that causes an abrupt change in sentence structure." Professor Charles Darling suggests thinking of dashes as "super commas." There are four kinds of dashes: em, en, two-em, and three-em. EM DASH Generally, if you see the word "dash," the writer means em dash. Most word processing programs give us access to em dashes (the width of a capital "m"). If you don't have software that has this special character, type two hyphens with no spaces between the words on either side and the dashes, or do one of the following: Keyboard stroke: If you use Windows, hold down the Alt key and type 0151 on the keypad. To make this autocorrect in Word for Windows: Go to Menu bar / Tools / click AutoCorrect. In the "Replace" box, type two hyphens. In the "With" box, press Alt + 0151 to create an em-dash, and then click Add. Close. If you use a Mac and Word, try typing two hyphens. Word should automatically convert them into an em-dash. If not, try this: Go to Menu bar / Tools / click AutoCorrect. In the "Replace" box, type two hyphens. In the "With" box, press OPTION+SHIFT+- (hyphen) to create an em-dash, and then click Add. Close. Regardless of whether you use an "em" dash or two hyphens, don't leave any space before or after the dash. EN DASH Use an "en" dash to connect numbers in a range. It means "up to and including" when used like this: "During the years 1998-1999," and "...people aged 55-63." If you don't have access to an "en" dash, use a hyphen. If you use Windows, hold down the Alt key and type 0150 on the keypad. TWO-EM DASH Used to indicate that letters are missing from a word. If you don't have access to this dash, type four consecutive hyphens with no spaces between. If letters are missing from within a word, leave no space before or after the two-em dash. If the letters are missing at the end of a word, leave no space before it, but leave one space after, unless punctuation is required. Examples: * Mrs. Birming---- chose to remain anonymous. * The diagnosis was made by Dr. Boy----. Note: You can type a two-em dash by using the keystrokes one after the other with no space between them. THREE-EM DASH Used to indicate that an entire word has been left out or needs to be provided. If you don't have the character for the three-em dash, type six consecutive hyphens. You can type a three-em dash by using the keystrokes three times with no space between them. Because this dash represents a complete word, leave a space before and after unless punctuation is needed. Three em-dashes are generally also used in bibliographies to represent an author's name in subsequent entries, once the author's full name has been given. NOTE: These rules aren't written on stone. Many documents you'll type do not require using the various dashes. But when you're typing manuscripts, print newsletters, special reports, or anything that requires good typography, use them as described above. If nothing else sticks, make sure you always use two hyphens when you can't create an em dash. You'll find more information on dashes at: References Used: * The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th Edition ISBN 0-226-10389-7 * The Copyeditor's Handbook, Amy Einsohn ISBN 0-520-21835-3 * The Gregg Reference Manual, Ninth Edition ISBN 0-02-804046-5
Have you ever written a report or business letter and felt something was missing, but you couldn't figure it out? It might be that you didn't think to express parallel thoughts in parallel form.
Parallelism is very helpful when you're creating documents that have items bulleted and numbered. It helps the reader quickly grasp your meaning. Example: read the items in the first group, then the second group, and decide which is more understandable.
This report covers:
- How to manage employee absenteeism.
- Handling problem employees.
- What the role of the supervisor should be.
This report helps supervisors to:
- Manage employee absenteeism.
- Handle problem employees.
- Function in the business environment.
Those three action words (manage, handle, and function) help organize the thoughts into parallel areas.
It also helps if you use parallel structure in long sentences.
WRONG: Safeway has begun implementing a new area of promotion and to produce a bigger market share.
RIGHT: Safeway has begun implementing a new area of promotion and producing a bigger market share.WRONG: The software is inexpensive, easy to use, and it's powerful.
RIGHT: The software is inexpensive, easy to use, and powerful.
If you get stuck, contact me!