How to Create and Punctuate Bullet Points

bullet_pointsBullet points help readers scan what you’ve written, quickly drawing attention to key issues and facts. They can tell readers what needs to be done, provide step-by-step instructions, highlight important elements, or list features.

Bullets can be round, square, triangular, diamond, or even customized or whimsical graphics. When listing steps to take, numbers can serve as bullet points to emphasize the correct sequence.

There are no fixed rules of grammar about how to use bullet points, but here are some guidelines. Continue

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Book Titles and More: Underline, Quotation Marks or Italics?

In the typewriter age, titles were set off with quotation marks or underlining:

“Charlotte’s Web”

To Kill a Mockingbird

Underlining seems ancient today. Typographer and design expert Robin Williams puts it this way:

“Never underline. Underlining is for typewriters.”

How, then, should you denote book, magazine, movie and song titles, CDs and works of art, poems and websites? What about book chapters, magazine articles, speeches and statues? Style guides differ, but here are general guidelines. Continue

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One Space or Two? Contemporary Keyboarders Rule!

A recent email from an aspiring author had two spaces at the end of each sentence. Among the suggestions I gave her about publishing was to change the double spaces to single spaces throughout her manuscript. (Microsoft Word makes this easy with the FIND and REPLACE function under the toolbar’s Edit choice.)

Seeing two spaces after a period or other closing punctuation can hint at a writer’s age. If you learned keyboarding on a computer, you most likely learned that one space at the end of a sentence is the rule. If you learned keystrokes on a typewriter, you might be dating yourself by continuing the double-space habit. Continue

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Headline Lessons: Contractions, Redundancies, Verb Forms

HeadlinesToday is a holiday in the U.S. — The Fourth of July (Independence Day) — so many of you probably are not in your office or at your computer.

But my email list is not limited to U.S. residents, so I went to my latest collection of headlines to develop a post for those of you who are toiling through this American holiday.

Headlines and the grammar lessons they teach

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Comma Quandary: Oxford Pro and Con

Oxford_comma_thumbs_up_downThe controversy rages on … or does it limp along?

What’s it going to be: The Oxford comma … or not?

Since college journalism classes, I have followed the guidelines of the Associated Press Stylebook. AP instructs there should be just one comma in a simple series of three:

The flag of the United States of America is red, white and blue.

However, those who prefer the Oxford (or serial) comma would write it as:

The flag of the United States of America is red, white, and blue.

Although I preach consistency, using AP style creates inconsistency when it notes that a second comma may be added in some circumstances to improve clarity.

Of late, I’ve found myself slowly leaning toward Oxford style, but I retain the right to use AP when I choose — a choice that depends on the client and the document or project.

You have a choice as well. I like this summary that appeared on DailyWritingTips.com, which I have permission to repost here. Continue

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The Difference Between Whether, Whether or Not, and If

A blog subscriber wrote to ask about whether, wondering if there is a difference between whether and whether or not.

What a coincidence that I had looked this up not long ago! As I often say, if you have a question about grammar, there probably are others who have the same question.

The answer to this query is not straightforward or absolute. The broader question is when should you use whether, when should you use if, and should you ever use whether or not? Here are explanations and examples. Continue

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News Flash: Yesssss! You MAY Split Your Infinitives!

Knowing how I follow developments in the grammar universe, a colleague sent me a recent article from The Economist, a British publication with international coverage and subscribers.

Started in Scotland in 1843, The Economist now claims a reputation for “a distinctive blend of news based on fact, and analysis incorporating The Economist’s perspective.”

The change in The Economist’s style guide that warranted my colleague’s attention relates to the use of infinitives. The editors have declared — at long last — that infinitives may indeed be split. Continue

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When to Say ‘the’ (thuh), When to Say ‘the’ (thee)

Have you noticed how many people do not differentiate the sound of the (thuh) and the (thee)? I have.

It was mentioned as a grammar pet peeve by a blog follower in 2016.

When I hear someone say “thuh only thing … thuh other side … thuh arrival time … thuh entrance,” I consider it a bit clunky, awkward or unrefined. Such pronunciation might not reflect well on the speaker in some circles. Continue

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Honoring Barbara Bush: Weigh Every Word for Nuance, Connotation

Wikipedia Commons

A physician advocate for palliative care and dying with dignity posted a blog about Barbara Bush soon after her death. He wrote:

Dignity comes in all shapes and sizes, yet the key to Mrs. Bush’s dying with dignity was her final decision to not return to the hospital.

He also honored the matriarch of the Bush family with these words: Continue

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Splish, Splash … How to Use the Slash

We all recognize the slash (/) as an integral part of a URL, the Uniform Resource Locater affiliated with website addresses: http://www.RuthlessEditor.com

The slash has other useful applications in personal and business writing, and it has other names: solidus, slant, diagonal, virgule, forward slash, front slash, oblique stroke, shill.

The slash generally does not require a space on either side of it. (Exception: when used to show separate lines of poetry, songs or plays.*)

Here’s how and where to use the slash appropriately. Continue

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