Calling All Weaklings! Avoid Forms of the Verb ‘To Be’!

wear_verb_to_beWas I ever surprised when I hopped online to do some cursory research about the “weak” verb to be. I thought it was a simple and straightforward topic, but I learned otherwise. (I hate it when someone tries to complicate what I think should be simple.)

Some grammarians had delved deeper than I had, providing even more reasons to avoid using to be and its many forms: is, are, was, were, will be, should be, would be, have been, had been, etc.

Here’s what I originally intended to write:


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Some Fun with UP: A Much-Used Two-Letter Word

UP is much-used and sometimes redundant wordAs we venture into that time of year we refer to as “the holidays,” let’s take a moment to have a little fun with grammar. The tiny word UP has more uses than you might guess. It can be an adverb, a preposition, an adjective, a noun and a verb.

As often as UP appears in this post, this Ruthless Editor must point out that UP often is redundant.

Yet UP is so ingrained in our vernacular that sometimes even I don’t give it a thought. How about you? Are you UP for it? Continue

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What’s the Difference Between Optimum and Optimal?

Optimum versus optimal: Are they interchangeable?

I say no, but not everyone agrees.

I discussed the difference in a February 15, 2015, post that followed the Super Bowl that year. Because I always ask new blog subscribers how they found me, and because I continue to get mentions of that optimum versus optimal post, I’m covering the topic again. Continue

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Are Emojis OK for Business Emails?

emojis in business emails?Emojis help us convey feelings in our emails, texts and social media posts. But are emojis appropriate in business?

Written communication of any kind lacks cues — tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, gestures — that help our receiver interpret our message.

As the internet emerged and computer use skyrocketed in the 1990s, we began compensating for our inability to convey feeling by using emoticons created from keyboard punctuation marks.

Sideways smiley faces, sad faces, winks and other combinations helped convey the general tone of a message: upbeat, encouraging, congratulatory, disappointment, surprise and so on.

: )      : (      ; )       :-\      : o Continue

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How to Say Crêpes, Forte, Niche: The Answers Might Surprise You

how to pronounce crêpeA reader sent me an email about one of her pet peeves, and it involves pronunciation of one of the following words: crêpes, forte, niche.

Are you the one who’s getting on her nerves?

You might be surprised about how many choices — and meanings — there are to a couple of them.

But first, let’s get into the food. Continue

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Wake Up to the New Woke

Millennially and social media users lie 'woke'If you use woke only as the past tense of wake — I wake up, I woke up — this post is for you.

Millennials and other avid users of social media most likely know that woke has an expanded meaning. It has evolved as an adjective; in today’s world, woke can mean well informed or up-to-date.

In its new context, woke implies an awareness of and being attentive to important facts and issues, especially related to racial and social justice. Continue

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Common Comma Error: Conjunction ‘and’ Doesn’t Always Need One

Play and teach guitar: When do you need a comma?When you have two complete sentences — also called independent clauses — and you connect them with a conjunction (and, but, or, for, nor, yet, so, for example), you need to insert a comma before the conjunction.

But if the second clause that makes up the sentence is a dependent clause (lacks a subject), no comma is necessary.

These are complete sentences / independent clauses that can stand alone. Each has a subject and verb: Continue

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Compound Modifiers Abound in Descriptive Writing

compound modifiers about in creative writingWhen I had boarded and settled in for a recent flight, I reached for the airline magazine in the back-of-the-seat pouch in front of me.

True to form for this ruthless editor, I selected articles for not only enjoyment, but also for illumination, keeping my grammar radar on high alert: How do other writers use words and punctuation?

Two articles — one about Pioneertown, a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles, and one about Fishtown, a residential area not far from Philadelphia’s historic district — were packed with examples of well-crafted, rich descriptions of American burgs and the colorful locals who inhabit them. Continue

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Blogging Brings Unexpected Benefits

I’ll be traveling this week, so I invited fellow Wisconsin native Richard S. Buse to provide a guest post. — Kathy

Blogging: The greatest benefits grew within me

by Richard S. Buse

surprising benefits of bloggingThe opportunity to launch a blog presented itself in 2009 when the International Association of Business Communicators rolled out xChange, a repository of member-written blogs accessed via the association’s website.

I decided to launch an xChange blog focusing on writing or career topics. My introductory post promised a new post every Tuesday morning. For several months afterward, I simply repurposed older related articles I had written in the 1990s. Then I ran out of old material and had to come up with new ideas. That scared me. Continue

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