Tag Archives: blogging

What is Syntax, and Why Does it Matter in Writing and Speaking?

guy_edits_syntaxIf you haven’t heard my definition of grammar, here it is:

Grammar encompasses the words we choose, how we string them together, and how we punctuate them to give them meaning.

The stringing-words-together part is called syntax: the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences.

Why should you pay attention to syntax? Because the order of your words can be critical to making your message clear.

Consider these examples from a variety of online sources. You’ll find the original sentence, what’s wrong with it in terms of syntax, and a rewrite. Continue

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Can Google Be a Verb?

woman thinking about Google searchAs is the case with many nouns in the English language, frequent usage dictates that Google has evolved to a status of both a noun and a verb.

As a noun, Google is a search engine you can use to find a variety of online information. As a proper noun (a specific person, place or thing) and a trademark, it is capitalized.

As a verb, google is the action of using the search engine Google to find information on the internet. When used as a verb, google can be capitalized or expressed in lowercase letters.

Example: If you want to know who founded Google, just google it!
(Answer: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, in case you really want to know.) Continue

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How to Spot Redundancies

I have a thing about redundancies.

They are a grammar pet peeve I’ve blogged about before, but the world apparently hasn’t gotten my message.

I’m not giving up, darn it!

A redundant word is one that could be omitted without loss of meaning; it repeats something already written or said.

We are in communication mode day in, day out. The least we can do in our word-dense world is to avoid extra words that add neither meaning nor clarity to our messages.

My guideline for spotting a redundancy:
Consider what using its opposite would do to the sentence.

Here are my latest real-world examples. The second sentence of each will help you spot the redundancy in the first that should be omitted. Continue

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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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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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‘As Long As’ or ‘So Long As’ … What’s the Difference?

man presents giftIs there a grammar rule that applies to as long as and so long as?

Which of these do you consider correct?

“He can join us as long as he brings a gift to exchange.”
“He can join us so long as he brings a gift to exchange.”

When using as long as or so long as to imply something conditional — He can join us if he brings a gift to exchange — both are correct.

But the three-word phrases are not interchangeable in all constructions. Here are five ways to use as long as: Continue

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From Memorialize to Curate, Curator, Curation: What Do They Mean?

Have you noticed how often you’ve heard memorialize lately?

It has emerged primarily in the context of former FBI Director James Comey’s having made a written record of — in other words, memorializing — his conversations with President Donald Trump.

Many words in the English language have more than one meaning — or shades of meaning — depending on context.

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