Tag Archives: punctuation

Grammatical Errors Sabotage Writer’s Message, Credibility

Embarrassing_Grammar_MistakesWhen this headline written by a member of one of my LinkedIn groups hit my inbox, I did a double take:
Is you Networking, Notworking?

Although it’s catchy, I clicked on the link to see if the errors — you instead of your, no capital Y, and a comma where none is needed — were intentional as a means to attract attention or whether they truly were oversights.

When I read further, I decided they had to be oversights, as these faux pas were only the beginning. Continue

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When Do ‘More’ and ‘Most’ Need A Hyphen?

Window that says customer satisfaction and a hand pointing at itLet’s say one of your company’s goals for 2016 is “to achieve more satisfied customers.”

Does that mean you want to expand your customer base to include more customers who are satisfied?

Or does it mean you want to raise the level of satisfaction of your current customers?

There are multiple reasons to connect two — and sometimes more — words with a hyphen; one is to create a compound modifier. Modifiers clarify meaning.

For example, if you add a hyphen to more satisfied customers — which without a hyphen would be interpreted as a greater numbers of customers — you get more-satisfied customers, which clarifies that the goal is to raise the level of  customer satisfaction. Continue

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How to Use Apostrophes With Numbers, Letters

 

Adding s to pluralize numbers and acronums like 401kA New York Times headline about 401(k) investment options prompted me to review guidelines for using an apostrophe when making plurals of letters and numbers:

Pushing Aside 401(k)’s for Mandatory Savings Plans
12.12.15

A quick search led to a headline on cnn.com about 409(k)s, this one without the apostrophe:

401(k)s: Starting to Invest
5.28.15

There are multiple scenarios that require an apostrophe decision: to add or not to add. Consider these: Continue

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The RNC: Abbreviations, Acronyms and Parentheses

Republican ElephantAlways searching for grammar lessons, I caught this online report about the Republican candidates and the presidential debates. It’s an example of how not to use an abbreviation or an acronym.

RNC Chair Reince Priebus sent a letter to the chairman of NBC on behalf of the Republican National Committee. The excerpt that follows shows how Priebus put the committee’s abbreviation (RNC) in parentheses as though the reader, the head of NBC, might not recognize it on second mention.

The chairman of NBC might not recognize the abbreviation RNC in that context? Really?

Different style guides make different recommendations. Let’s first look at the Priebus’ letter (bolding is mine): Continue

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Confused About Semicolons? So Is Spellcheck

SemiColon - use it rightDo you get confused about when to use a semicolon?

If so, you’re not alone. So does spellcheck.

This sentence, with the name changed, is from a letter I edited recently for a client:

Charles Smith excelled at his duties while he worked with my team, both as a volunteer and as a paid staff member.

Spellcheck suggested this change: Continue

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The Pope In The US: Francis’ or Francis’s visit?

Grammar associated with Pope Francis visit to USAWhat a thrill and honor it was for the United States to host Pope Francis in September on his first visit to this country. He made headlines wherever he went. These two especially caught my eye:

How Much is Pope Francis’s Visit Costing the U.S.?

Pope Francis’ Challenge to America

Which is the grammatically correct way to punctuate a possessive in a name that ends in s such as Francis — or Jesus? Which headline has is right? Continue

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It’s vs Its: A Typo Forever

Capitol DomeA comment from a British subscriber and a recent post on one of my favorite grammar websites evoked a memory about an unforgettable — and unforgivable — punctuation error I made years ago. All have to do with it’s vs. its.

The British subscriber to my monthly column named the misuse of it’s and its her biggest pet peeve.

The blog post on Daily Writing Tips featured misuse of it’s and its, stating: Continue

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9 Flawed Headlines And How To Make Them Better

Man being threatened by big-footMy list of flawed headlines again has grown. From word misuse such as squash vs. quash and cement vs. concrete; to mismatching a noun, verb and pronoun; to the redundancy lagging behind, this ruthless editor finds multiple grammar lessons.

Today’s rapid news cycle likely is somewhat to blame. “Haste makes waste,” anyone?

Some examples deal with politically charged topics. Please know that they are selected wholly on the basis of form, not content. Continue

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You’ll Learn To Love The Interrobang

Interrobang is exclamation point and quetion mark merged into oneWhen you want to express query along with either outrage or extreme surprise or excitement, both the question mark and the exclamation point let you down.

Combining a question mark with an exclamation point yields the interrobang, a form of punctuation that has been around since 1962 but has yet to really catch on.

The Economist, of all publications, featured the interrobang in October 2014, explaining that a mere question mark does not always suffice. Continue

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You’ll Love This Hyphen Shortcut

kids readingHyphens are joiners. They create compound words such as editor-in-chief and mother-in-law.

Hyphens also create compound modifiers by joining two or more words that describe something: full-time job, low-income housing.

When you use a hyphen to create modifiers with the same base word, you can take a shortcut by using a suspended hyphen to avoid repeating a word.

Each of these hyphenation examples has a common base word: Continue

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