Tag Archives: compound modifier

Pre-existing or Preexisting, Health Care or Healthcare: Which Is Right?

www.RuthlessEditor.comPre-existing (or is it preexisting?) conditions and health care (or is it healthcare?) have taken over headlines and are dominating conversations across the country.

What is the grammatically correct way to express these words in writing?

My foremost source, The Associated Press Stylebook, prefers pre-existing with a hyphen, explaining: Continue

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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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Headline Errors Hurt Writer’s Credibility

Grammar in headlinesI consider writing headlines an art form.

A headline should grab attention and draw in the reader. It also should be an accurate portrayal of what’s to come. Hyperbole — bait and switch, so to speak — can be a turnoff.

You can write your headline at the start, before you pull your content together, using it to keep you on target.

Or you can write your headline as you finish, reflecting on and summarizing your topic in a few words that invite your reader to continue.

A headline is the worst place to misspell a word or make a grammar faux pas. It signals either lack of knowledge or lack of attention to detail. Either hurts your credibility as a writer. 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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4 Things To Remember About Compound Modifiers

Rolling Stone DrummerMastering compound modifiers challenged me until my college journalism instructor introduced me to the The Associated Press Stylebook. A compound modifier is two or more words that express a single concept and are descriptive or make meanings more specific.

During a recent trip, I filled part of my airport and flight time with the June 2015 issue of Rolling Stone (No. 1237). Because the publication’s writing is so vivid, I found dozens of examples of compound modifiers. “What a great blog topic!” I thought.

My trusted AP Stylebook provides these four basics: Continue

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10 Headlines That Teach Grammar Lessons on Grammar Day

Grammar Lessons on Grammar DayHappy Grammar Day! It’s time to acknowledge the importance of picking just the right words and just the right punctuation to clearly communicate your message. If you think “proper” grammar, with all of its rules and guidelines, is a thing of the past, please check out my Ruthless Editor Grammar Day column: What Is Grammar, and Why Does It Matter?

Here are some headlines with their own grammar lessons:


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Despite One Exception, Book Review Exemplifies Excellence in Writing

book-editingA colleague suggested I check out a book review that appeared in the Aug. 10, 2014, Wall Street Journal: It’s Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Cliché. I consider it a must-have for my resource library.

However, because it hit my inbox on a Monday morning when I was in work mode, I also was seeing it through the eyes of a ruthless editor. My comments (and my italics): Continue

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