Posted by: episystechpubs | May 25, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Percent and Percentage

Someone recently asked if the words percent and percentage can be used interchangeably. We typically use the word percent with a number and the word percentage when a number is omitted.

  • There was an 8 percent increase in attendance these year.

Per the JHA Style Guide for Technical Communication and Training, use a numeral with the word percent, even if it is less than 10 (this is an exception to the rule of spelling out numbers zero through nine and using numerals for 10 and greater).

  • What percentage of the students passed the class?

Now, you may be wondering when to use the word percent and when to use the % symbol. In technical and scientific writing, we commonly use the % symbol (no space between the numeral and symbol). In nontechnical writing, the word percent is commonly used. Whether you use the symbol or the word depends on what kind of documentation you are writing.

Jackie Solano | Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.542.6711 | Extension: 766711

Symitar Documentation Services

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
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is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
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Posted by: episystechpubs | May 24, 2018

Editor’s Corner: New Word Creation

While reading about language recently, the topic of blended words (also known as portmanteaus) came up. These words are created from parts of two different words. A couple well-known examples of blended words are brunch (breakfast/lunch) and sitcom (situation/comedy). Some newer examples are Globish (global/English) and mansplaining (man/explaining).

I also read about blended words that are created from one whole word and part of another. An example of this is motorcade (motor/cavalcade).

And that took me to an article about splinterwords, which are created when a fragment of a word is used in the creation of new words. Some examples of splinter words are words that end in -holic, like shopaholic, chocaholic, and textaholic, all of which describe people who seriously or jokingly have addictive tendencies.

And finally, I read about clipping, which is the process of creating new words by dropping one or more syllables from a word. A few examples of clipping are cell (cellular phone), exam (examination), photo (photograph), and even words like veep (which derives from VP, which derives from vice president).

I love blended words; they are so imaginative (and sometimes humorous). While it’s true that we don’t always like how English is changing, we’re speaking and writing in a living language that is continuously evolving. Blended and clipped words are great examples of how fun change can be.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 23, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Pardon my French

Dear Editrix,

Where does the phrase “Pardon my French” come from? Is it because the French swear a lot? Did well educated people used to curse in French? Why isn’t it “Pardon my German”?

California Cusser

Dear Cusser,

I found several articles on this topic, all with similar information. Here is a good answer from Mental Floss, by Matt Soniak.

Why Do We Say “Pardon My French” When We Curse?

My dad always used to preface the dropping of an F-bomb or a tangent of creative profanity with a request that listeners “pardon his French.” Surely you’ve known people who do this too or seen it in movies or TV. The idea is that the phrase excuses the speaker for using some coarse words under the coy pretense that they’re from a foreign language.

The phrase appears in the U.S. in this usage as early as the 1800s, and linguists think that it derives from a more literal usage. That is, English speakers dropped French words or phrases into conversation—whether to display their culture, refinement or social class, or because sometimes only a French phrase has that certain je ne sais quoi—and then apologized for it if the listener wasn’t familiar with the word or didn’t speak the language. An example of this usage pops up in the 18th–19th century British fashion magazine The Lady’s Magazine, or Entertaining Companion for the Fair Sex, Appropriated Solely to Their Use and Amusement in 1830: “Bless me, how fat you are grown! Absolutely as round as a ball. You will soon be as enbon-point (excuse my French) as your poor dear father, the major.”

The phrase may have been appropriated for covering foul language because it fits the habit of ascribing unsavory habits or objects to the French through nicknames in English. For example, "taking French leave" is leaving a gathering without saying goodbye and thanking the host…. [KC – He mentions a few other things named after the French, but they aren’t suitable for work or breakfast. And no, I am not talking about French Toast!]

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 22, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Irregular Verbs

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m glad I grew up speaking English because there are certain things that just come naturally. One of those things is different tenses of irregular verbs. Today’s post is dedicated to those of you who don’t speak English as your first language. Below is a selection of verbs in their infinitive, simple past, and past participle conjugations. I selected these because some are particularly odd, some are interesting, and some are very common but they make you scratch your head: for example, go—went—gone. How did that happen?

For more irregular verbs, see English Grammar Online.

Infinitive Simple Past Past Participle
alight alighted, alit alighted, alit
arise arose arisen
beget begot begotten
bereave bereaved, bereft bereaved, bereft
bid bade, bid bidden, bid, bade
burst burst burst
cleave cleft, cleaved, clove cleft, cleaved, cloven
cling clung clung
draw drew drawn
dream dreamt, dreamed dreamt, dreamed
fly flew flown
give gave given
go went gone
heave heaved, hove heaved, hove
hew hewed hewed, hewn
leave left left
melt melted molten, melted
mow mowed mown, mowed
plead pled, pleaded pled, pleaded
ride rode ridden
ring rang rung
rise rose risen
shear sheared shorn, sheared
smite smote smitten
strive strove striven
tread trod trodden

This is how they Sonic?

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 21, 2018

Editor’s Corner: “Or Click Cancel”

Have you ever been following a set of instructions and encountered a final step like, “Click OK to save your changes, or click Cancel”?

In years of reading software documentation (as a user, not an editor), I must have seen the phrase, “or click Cancel” hundreds of times, but I don’t remember ever choosing that option.

Technical documentation should be written to help users accomplish their goals. If you’re writing a document titled Setting Up a Printer, you can be certain that the reader’s goal is setting up a printer, not getting 99 percent of the way through setting up a printer and then abandoning the task.

This quirk seems limited to technical documentation. The navigation app on my phone doesn’t tell me, “Your destination is on the right. If you changed your mind and want to go home, make a U-turn in 200 feet.”

Similarly, I’ve never read self-undermining instructions in any of the following contexts:

  • “Remove the engine oil cap and pour in six quarts of clean oil, or just pour the dirty oil back in.”
  • “Hang the birdhouse from a tree, or rip out all the nails and throw the disassembled wooden pieces on the ground.”
  • “Enjoy your sandwich, or scrape the mayonnaise back into the jar and put the bread slices in the cupboard.”

It is occasionally helpful to tell the reader how to abandon a particularly long task and complete it later. For example, you might write, “Click OK to submit the form. If you are not yet ready to submit the form, click Cancel. You can resume working on it the next time you log on.” But these situations are rare.

If you find yourself writing, “or click Cancel,” ask yourself whether that is something users might reasonably do. If not, leave that part out of the instructions.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 | www.Symitar.com

Symitar Documentation Services

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
exclusively for the individual or entity to which it is addressed. The message,
together with any attachment, may contain confidential and/or privileged information.
Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 18, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Feasances

I was just watching Law and Order: SVU the other night and I found out that my favorite detectives have been there just about as long as I’ve been here at JHA. How is it that Mariska Hargitay looks so amazing and I look like a brunette Marian the librarian? (Maybe it has something to do with Mr. Universe being her dad and Jayne Mansfield being her mom?) Well, in honor of her 19th year as Olivia Benson, I have some legal terms to share with you today.

First, from The Grammarist:

Malfeasance is a wrongful or criminal act perpetrated by a public official or other person of authority. An act of malfeasance is done intentionally, disregarding the fact that the action is morally or legally wrong and will cause someone harm. The adjective form is malfeasant. The word malfeasance is derived from the French word malfaisance, which means wrongdoing.

Misfeasance is an act that is lawful, but performed in an unlawful, illegal or injurious manner. Generally, misfeasance is different from malfeasance in that the actor does not have the intent to harm, but the harm comes through the actor’s irresponsibility or negligence. The adjective form is misfeasant. The word misfeasance is derived from the French word mesfaisance, meaning to mis-do.

Nonfeasance is the failure to do something that one is legally responsible to do. Nonfeasance is an intentional failure to live up to one’s legal or moral duty in a given situation, a refusal to fulfill one’s obligation. The adjective form is nonfeasant. The word nonfeasance is derived from the French word faisance meaning an action, and the prefix non– which means not.

Next, an etymology from Google:

malfeasance:

late 17th century: from Anglo-Norman French malfaisance, from mal- ‘evil’ + Old French faisance ‘activity.’ Compare with misfeasance.

All these prefixes led me to wonder, is there a plain old word feasance? Indeed, there is. According to Google, it is also a legal term that means “the doing or performing of an act, as of a condition or duty.”

And finally:

Maleficent. Okay, that’s not a legal term. It’s the name of a fairy tale movie from 2014, though I’m betting the “mal” in the main character’s name also stands for “evil.”

Jayne Mansfield and Miklos “Mickey” Hargitay

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 17, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Rules Change

Recently, I wrote about how the natural evolution of language leads to changes in our English grammar rules and standards. Well, I’m not the only one thinking about this subject. Shortly after writing that post, I received an article from GrammarBook.com called “Rules Do Change.”

Like I mentioned before, rules and standards are changing due to the way people actually use the English language. You may have learned a rule in school that is no longer applicable. You may have even learned a rule that was never actually a real rule (like don’t split infinitives). I’m telling you this so that you’ll stop relying on the “I learned it in school” refrain. You may have learned it, but that doesn’t mean it’s relevant. Rules really do change.

Are you wondering what rules this GrammarBook.com article focused on? Well, it covered four rules we’ve gone over before here at the Editor’s Corner, but we still get a lot of questions, so they’re worth a review. I’ve abbreviated the text for your convenience. Read on, curious language lovers.

· Spacing after periods, colons, question marks and exclamation points

Originally, typewriters had monospaced fonts (skinny letters and fat letters took up the same amount of space), so two spaces after ending punctuation marks such as the period were used to make the text more legible. However, most computer fonts present no difficulty with proportion or legibility, so use just one space after a period, colon, question mark, or exclamation point at the end of a sentence. You will not be struck by lightning, we promise! [dbb – This may be one of the most controversial rules we enforce. I’m not sure why some people are so attached to two spaces, but, boy are they! And we always remove them according to JHA standards. It’s a maddening dance for everyone involved.]

· Quotation marks and punctuation

Today, in American English usage, the period always goes inside the quotation marks.

Example: Myrtle said the word “darn.”

· Forming plurals in English

As time has gone on, we have shortened some words and dropped the former plural form.

Example: The words memo and memos used to be memorandum and memoranda.

With the word data, we no longer see the singular datum used at all. Data is now often seen with both singular and plural verbs, although the word is considered strictly plural by purists.

Examples:
The data are being tabulated.
The data is useful to the scientists.

Yet other words still retain their original spelling and plural form.

Example: curriculum (singular) and curricula (plural).

· Beginning sentences with but, and, because

In “the old days,” you may have been scolded for starting a sentence with but, and, or because. But you wouldn’t have deserved that scolding.

Example:
Because of this bee sting, my arm is swollen.

We’ll be sure to let you know as rules and JHA standards change. But if you have a question about language rules, don’t forget to look it up on that fancy new internet thingamabob that puts knowledge literally at your fingertips. Just make sure to look for reputable resources and websites. Have fun storming the internet! (Shameless Princess Bride reference.)

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 16, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Sploot and Blop

Well, I’m not usually one to jump on the new word bandwagon, but I just heard about these two words and they go with animals and cute pictures, so I can’t resist.

The first term is sploot. It’s a name for this stretch that dogs do when they lie on their bellies and stretch out their back legs. Welsh Corgis are particularly adept at it. Also, as the photos show, so are some cats:

I personally already have a term for this. I call it the “frog dog” position, or “frog-doggin’.” I guess others call it splooting. Who knew?

The other word I just learned, though I see our dogs do it now and then, is blop. The definition, according to Reddit, is:

Blop is an adorable phenomenon that involves the protrusion of a dog’s tongue while its mouth stays closed, often due to forgetfulness or while asleep. Only dogs can blop, not cats, horses, or other animals.”

Of course, the blopping comes with cute photos, too!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 15, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Malapropisms

“A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.”

Rather than explain this and do the research for this article, I’m providing you with Richard Lederer’s article on the topic, from the San Diego Union-Tribune, back in 2015. For the full article, you can click the link. Enjoy!

When people misuse words in an illiterate but humorous manner, we call the result a malapropism. The word echoes the name of Mrs. Malaprop (from the French mal a propos, “not appropriate”), a character who first strode the stage in 1775, 240 years ago, in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comedy “The Rivals.” Mrs. Malaprop was a garrulous “old weather-beaten she dragon” who took special pride in her use of the King’s English but who, all the same, unfailingly mangled big words: “Sure, if I reprehend anything in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!” She meant, of course, that if she comprehended anything, it was a nice arrangement of epithets.

From “The Rivals,” here are some more of Mrs. M’s most malapropriate malapropisms:

· Then, sir, she should have a supercilious knowledge in account; — and as she grew up, I should have her instructed in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries.

· She’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.

· Illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.

· He’s the very pineapple of politeness.

The giddy ghost of Mrs. Malaprop continues to haunt the hallowed halls of language. Here are some authentic, certified, unretouched modern-day malapropisms. As Dave Barry, my fellow Haverford College alumnus would say, I’m not making these up:

· If you wish to submit a recipe for publication in the cookbook, please include a short antidote concerning it.

· I don’t want to cast asparagus at my opponent.

· The fun and excitement of childhood are nothing compared to the fun and excitement of adultery.

· Senators are chosen as committee chairmen on the basis of senility.

· I refuse to answer that question. It’s too suppository.

And a few more from the Farmer’s Almanac:

· A colleague of ours once noted that she preferred “decapitated coffee.”

· Hospital “sightings” have included “old timer’s disease,” “prostrate cancer,” “chickenpops,” “smiling mighty Jesus” (for spinal meningitis), and “65 roses” (for cystic fibrosis).

· A longtime Navy man was once reported to have died from “sea roaches of the liver.”

· One woman told us that she was going through “mental pause,” before adding that her husband had quit smoking, “cold duck.”

I hope you have enjoyed the word nerd jokes and explanations over the past few weeks. Now back to our normal programming!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 14, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Oxymorons

“An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.”

Today’s our last term and our last joke from the list I sent out a couple of weeks ago. The word of the day is oxymoron, which means “a combination for epigrammatic effect of contradictory or incongruous words (such as cruel kindness, laborious idleness).” (From Merriam-Webster.)

Where did this word come from? As usual, I checked the Online Etymology Dictionary, and here’s what the author of the site said: “1650s, from Greek oxymoron, noun use of neuter of oxymoros (adj.) ‘pointedly foolish,’ from oxys ‘sharp, pointed’ (from PIE root *ak– ‘be sharp, rise (out) to a point, pierce’) + moros ‘stupid’ (see moron). Rhetorical figure by which contradictory terms are conjoined so as to give point to the statement or expression; the word itself is an illustration of the thing. Now often used loosely to mean ‘contradiction in terms.’”

Now for some examples from Your Dictionary:

  • Jumbo shrimp
  • Clearly confused
  • Act naturally
  • Deafening silence
  • Pretty ugly
  • Definitely maybe
  • Living dead
  • Walking dead
  • Amazingly awful
  • Alone together
  • Virtual reality
  • Random order
  • Original copy
  • Run slowly
  • Small crowd
  • Open secret
  • Passive aggressive
  • Appear invisible
  • Big baby
  • Farewell reception
  • Growing smaller

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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