Me, Myself and I: How to Choose Which to Use

kids on bikesDid you as a child ever say, “Me and Billy wanna go for a bike ride!” and have your mom admonish: “Billy and I.”

What about, “Can me and Suzie have a popsicle?” and your mom corrected you, “Suzie and I.

Mom no doubt was trying to teach you the courtesy of mentioning the other child’s name first, but your brain might have been imprinted to avoid me.

No wonder so many of us steer clear of me in places where it truly is the correct choice. The problem: We’re supposed to know better by the time we grow up and communicate with adults in the business world. These tips will help you get it right. Continue

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The Ellipsis: When to Use It, How to Make It

ellipsis spelled outWhen do you use an ellipsis, and how do you create one?

An ellipsis (plural: ellipses) is three sequential dots (periods) that can show:

    • an omission of words, phrases or even sentences from an original statement or document
    • a pause greater than is indicated by a comma
    • a trailing off of thought

Let’s consider what two primary style guides say about ellipsis use: the Associated Press Stylebook (my preference) and the Chicago Manual of Style. Continue

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Are You Saying These Tricky Words Right?

Pronounce it how?We’re judged by the way we write — and speak.

Don’t believe me? Dictionary.com found that 47% of Americans are irritated by mispronunciations — so irritated that they correct family and friends.

Some words have multiple correct pronunciations, and some words might be considered pronounced correctly in one region but not in another.

Sometimes mispronunciation is so frequent and widespread that the new pronunciation becomes acceptable.

I downloaded You’re Saying it Wrong and went to work on my own pronunciation. Here’s an A-to-Z list of common errors. (Capital letters show where the emphasis should be.) How many have you been saying wrong? Continue

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When Does a Compound Modifier Need a Hyphen?

woman ponders compound modifiersModifiers are words that provide additional information about or limit the meaning of a word or phrase.

Adjectives modify nouns (person, place, thing). They often are called “describing words,” because they provide more details about a noun.

  • She has a pleasant home.
  • There are three boys sitting on the fence.
  • He’s riding the white horse.

Adverbs modify verbs (action), adjectives, and even other adverbs. They answer questions such as when, where, how, and to what extent.

  • when: She travels to Chicago weekly.
  • where: He dropped the shovel there.
  • how: She pedals her bike furiously.
  • to what extent: He mostly agrees with me.

When a single modifier won’t do the job, a hyphen links the elements to form a compound modifier:

  • She holds a full-time job.
  • He is a good-looking man.

The Associated Press Stylebook, my primary grammar reference, has issued new recommendations for how to hyphenate compound modifiers. Continue

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What Is a Style Guide, and Why Do You Need One?

Whether for a person, a product, a service or an organization, creating a distinct, consistent brand is key to success.

Your brand sets you apart. You achieve a unique brand through images (your logo and product photos), through website content (descriptions of products and services), and through whatever additional forms of marketing and advertising you use.

Behind the scenes, your brand is supported by how you communicate with and serve your customers. Continue

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How to Use Apostrophes to Show Possession

apostrophe with possessivesConfused about where to place the apostrophe when you’re creating possessives?

So am I — especially when a noun (person, place or thing) or proper noun (specific person, place or thing) ends in the letter s or ss.

Consider these examples and how you would pronounce them: Continue

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Capitalize iPad or eBay to Start Sentence?

iPhone_orIPhoneMost of us know to capitalize the first letter of a sentence. It’s one of the few written-in-stone grammar rules.

But what about the i in iPhone or the e in eBay? Aren’t those registered brand names?

Do you write “iPhone prices will drop this fall” or “IPhone prices will drop this fall”? Continue

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Might vs May: Are They Interchangeable?

Do I use 'might' or 'may'?

If you have trouble deciding when to use might and when to use may, this post is for you.

As a writer and ruthless editor who strives for clarity, I prefer this clear distinction:

might implies possibility
Eric might go to the movie tonight.
(There is a possibility Eric will go to the movie.)

may implies permission
Eric may go to the movie tonight.
(Eric has permission to go to the movie.)

Yet I find multiple sources online that offer what I consider this unsatisfactory claim about the difference between might and may: Continue

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5 Tips for Better Emails

Are you receiving more emails with a subject line unrelated to the content of the message — or with no subject line at all?

A blog subscriber designs websites and provides tech support, a service for which she issues monthly invoices. She sometimes gets confirmation of invoice receipt.

Lately, she has begun to receive emails with “invoice” in the subject line because someone took a shortcut and used REPLY to send a new message that has nothing to do with the invoice she sent.

Her concern: If a client has an immediate problem but the subject line does not convey urgency, her response and a critical remedy might be delayed. Her desire to provide excellent customer service can be thwarted when a client fails to make clear the nature — and related importance — of a message. Therefore …

TIP 1: Make your topic clear in the SUBJECT field.

Continue

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