Posted by: episystechpubs | February 21, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Mixed Metaphors

I recently read a book that is full of extraordinary metaphors, and it made me want to share some information about these useful figures of speech.

A metaphor is a word or phrase that is used to compare two unlike objects, ideas, thoughts, or feelings to provide a mental image and a clear description. For example, when I say that my father is a rock, the comparison lets you know how solid and dependable he is. When I say that the DMV employee had a wooden face, you understand that the agent showed no emotion (surprise!). If I say that my heart swelled watching the children play, you know that I was feeling very happy emotions.

Metaphors make language come to life. We may not use them much in technical writing, but we use them in speech, in our emails, and in other correspondence. Here are some common examples:

  • Time is money.
  • You are my sunshine.
  • He has a heart of stone.
  • I was jumping for joy.
  • She’s the apple of his eye.
  • It’s raining cats and dogs.
  • I’m dead tired.
  • He’s as strong as an ox.

You can create your own metaphors to express your thoughts and feelings. Here are some less common examples:

  • These shoes are prisons for my feet.
  • Chocolate is my drug.
  • He’s my Adam; I’m his Eve.

What you don’t want to do is mix metaphors. Doing so creates competing imagery—but mixed metaphors are often funny. Here are some examples of humorous mixed metaphors with brief explanations:

  • You better not burn your bridge when you get to it.
    (Mixes two common—even cliched—metaphors: “Don’t burn your bridges” and “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”)
  • All at once, he was alone in the noisy hive with no place to roost.
    (Mixes a metaphor about a bee’s hive with a metaphor about the place where birds rest at night.)
  • It’s our turn at bat, so let’s make this touchdown for the company.
    (Mixes two different sports metaphors.)

You get the point. Metaphors are fun to create, and when they’re original, they’re fun to hear and read. They can liven up our speech and writing (even so, you won’t catch us sprinkling them throughout Episys eDocs—I campaigned to introduce colorful metaphors into our documentation, but my boss didn’t go for it).

If you’d like to read a little bit more about mixed metaphors, click this link. And if you’d like to read some clever (slightly saucy) medical metaphors from the TV show House, click this link.

I hope that for the rest of the day, you’re as happy as a pig in a china shop!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Posted by: episystechpubs | February 19, 2019

Editor’s Corner: It’s All Greek to Me

My husband walked in to the kitchen the other day and asked, “Since your relatives are Greek, what phrase do they use if they don’t understand something? They wouldn’t say ‘It’s all Greek to me,’ would they?” “Good question,” I responded. Before I could do any research, a link appeared in my email like magic! Here, from Wikipedia, is a selection of phrases people use to indicate that they don’t understand something. If you want to see the full list, click here.

Language Phrase (translated)
English It’s Greek to me.
Albanian Do not speak Chinese.
Afrikaans It’s Greek to me.
Arabic Are you speaking Hindi?
Bulgarian It’s like you’re talking Patagonian.
Cantonese Is this ghost’s handwriting? (Referring to illegible handwriting.)
Croatian These are to me the Spanish countryside.
Czech This is a Spanish village to me.
Finnish It’s all Hebrew.
French It’s Chinese.
German Note: The Germans have seven different phrases, including:

§ That sounds like Spanish to me.

§ Am I speaking Chinese?

§ It sounds like Polish reversed.

Greek This strikes me as Chinese.
Hebrew It is Chinese to me.
Latin This is Greek; it can’t be read.
Mandarin § It looks like hieroglyphics.

§ It sounds like the birds.

Persian Am I speaking Turkish?
Portuguese Note: Tying the Germans with seven phrases, the Portuguese translations include:

§ This is Chinese to me.

§ Are you speaking Greek? (Latin? Arabic?)

§ I can’t read Japanese.

Russian That’s Chinese writing to me.
Spanish This is in Chinese (or Aramaic).
Turkish § I am French to the topic.

§ If I could understand, I’d be an Arab.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | February 14, 2019

Editor’s Corner: How to Write About a Film Series

The Academy Awards® are coming up in 10 days, and there’s one question on every movie-lover’s mind: According to The Chicago Manual of Style, the title of an individual film should be italicized (for example, Jaws 3-D). But what about the name of a film series (for example, “the Jaws tetralogy”)?

I found an answer on the Modern Language Association (MLA) website: How do I style the title of a trilogy or informally titled series? Although we do not use the MLA Handbook, I think their advice makes sense. Basically, the decision to italicize depends on whether the series is named after a film in the series (which is italicized) as opposed to, say, a character’s name (which is not italicized).

MLA says, “Star Wars is the name of the first movie released in the series. Since the title is foundational, italicize the series name: Star Wars movies. If you are writing about the Nancy Drew books, style the series name roman, since ‘Nancy Drew’ does not appear in the titles of the individual books. If you are discussing the Harry Potter books, you could style the series name either way—Harry Potter books or Harry Potter books—since the series is associated with the first title in the series (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and also with the character’s name.”

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | February 12, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Proofreading Guide

I was just looking at these seven steps for proofreading, and though I think I’ve shared them with you before, I decided that there’s no time like the present to review them. The original article is from Daily Writing Tips, but I’ve almost completely obliterated it to make it more personal. (As usual, black text is from the original article, blue text is mine.)

Use a checklist. Create a list of important things to check for. This list should be very personal (well, no love notes). If you often forget periods at the ends of your sentences, put it on your list. If you have problems with subject/verb agreement, add that. If you add two spaces after a period, put it on your list and remind yourself not to do it.

Fact-check. Double-check facts and proper names. If you are writing to clients, it’s important to get their names and their financial institutions’ names right. Some people take great offense when you don’t get this right. Other facts and figures should also be checked, such as product names. If something seems to be missing, highlight it and fill it in before sending out your communication.

Spell-check. ¡Ay caramba! There is built-in help in Word, Outlook®, and other programs to help with spelling and grammar. Of course, I could say, “Thanks for providing us with job security by turning this off!” But really, don’t embarrass yourself. Use what’s out there. We have instructions for two of your options in the Symitar Knowledge Base:

Read aloud. Nope, I’m not talking about digging out Goodnight Moon or The Runaway Bunny. Read the text of your email out loud (quietly). It can help tremendously when something doesn’t look quite right, but you can’t figure out what. For example, repeated words are more obvious when reading aloud, as are extra words (such as “the the”) that were missed while rewriting.

Focus on one line at a time. When proofing print documents, use another piece of paper or a ruler to cover the text following the line you are proofreading, shifting the paper down as you go along. This technique helps you keep your place and discourages you from reading too quickly and missing subtle errors. Okay, not many of us proofread print documents these days, but just in case you do, this works pretty well.

Attend to format. Proofreading isn’t just about reviewing the text. Make sure that the document design adheres to established specifications. Even better, send your client-facing documents to an editor! It is our job to read your material, apply the correct formatting, use the correct template, and comb through what you’ve written to make sure it applies to the company’s standards.

Proof again. Once revisions have been made, proofread the document again.

That’s it! Yes, the amount of time you spend on your 200-page master work will differ from the time you spend on an email, but these steps will help you present your best written “self,” with just a little bit of extra time each day.

Whew! Time for some puppies!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
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Posted by: episystechpubs | February 7, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Idiomatic Phrases from R. Lederer

Happy Thursday!

I was thinking about discussing a few idiomatic phrases today, and then my favorite newspaper clipper (Thanks, Ron!) left an article right here on my doorstep, so I decided to share these phrasal origins with you instead. These are from one of Richard Lederer’s articles here.

DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: I often hear people saying “Let’s just cut to the chase.” What in the world is that? I thought that expression was originally “cut through the chaff” (chaff referring to the residue left from threshing of wheat). Did cut to the chase evolve in reference to some chase scene from a movie and is in fact asking the person to cut the details of the plot and get to the action? –Mary Rose

Your movie theory is the right one. Cut to the chase is unquestionably a reference to chase scenes in action movies. The literal use — as a director’s instruction to go to a chase scene — is almost a century old. A 1929 screenplay, for example, includes “Jannings escapes. Cut to chase.” It’s but a short leap from “enough of the kissy-kissy scene already; let’s get to the car chase” to a more figurative use: “Get with it. Get to the point.” That extended meaning is fairly recent, dating from only the early 1980s.

*****

DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: What is the background of pan out as in “my good ideas didn’t pan out”? –John Olivier

The expression, which means “to turn out well,” derives from the act of extracting gold out of gravel in a pan.

On the other hand, the cliché a flash in the pan has nothing to do with the way prospectors pan rivers for gold. In truth, a flash in the pan refers to the occasional misfiring of the old flintlock muskets when the flash of the primer in the pan of the rifle failed to ignite the explosion of the charge. It is estimated that such misfirings ran as high as 15 percent, leading a flash in the pan to mean “an intense but short-lived success or a person who fails to live up to his or her early promise.”

*****

DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: Since this is a Navy town, we should all know that “three sheets to the wind” means “very drunk.” But why? –Gloria Reams

For sailors, sheets refer to the lines attached to the lower corner of a sail. When all three sheets of an old sailing vessel were allowed to run free, they were said to be “in the wind,” and the ship would lurch and stagger like a person inebriated. That’s why we call an unsteady state of drunkenness three sheets to the wind.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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 | February 5, 2019

Editor’s Corner: So

Dear Editrix,

At the end of a thought, after an implied comma or period, sometimes the word “so” pops up with only a pause following.

In some cases, it’s clear that the listener should complete the thought mentally. In others it seems to be just a way to “pass the baton” of conversation.

Does that have a name and definition?

Interested in Allen

Dear Interested,

My first thought about this was that you must be eavesdropping on our Toastmaster meetings, where “so” used in this way is a clickable offense. I know I am guilty of filling sentence transitions with it, and that it is actually a conjunction. Other than that, I didn’t have much to offer. Then, you supplied me with a very interesting link on this topic. (For those of you who want the full discussion, see The Atlantic article here.)

I found this excerpt interesting:

I’ve heard this end-of-sentence “so” called a “dangling so” and a “trailing so,” but Geoffrey Raymond, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who studies conversation, calls it a “turn-final so.” In conversation, we take turns speaking. A turn can be as short as one word—“Okay”—or many sentences long. And while the word “so” would usually indicate some more words to follow, a turn-final so comes at the end of a turn, when someone’s done talking.

The way “so” is being used in these instances is as a discourse marker—a word that doesn’t add explicit meaning to what you’re saying, but can mark your place in a sentence. “Well” and “oh” are other examples of discourse markers. A “so” at the beginning of a sentence is a discourse marker too—à la “So, I said to him …”

Because the word’s traditional function is to connect two clauses or ideas, when you hear a “so,” you expect something to follow—an upshot or a conclusion of some kind. Thus a “so” followed by a period, or an ellipses as the case may be, indicates that there is an upshot being implied there. It’s just not being spoken aloud. This is a conspiratorial thing to do—indicating to the people you’re talking to that they know what you mean.

I think that explains what you are talking about (though I prefer “dangling so” to “turn-final”). Many of us have heard “so” thrown out at the end of sentence where we are supposed to fill in the blank. But just because people use it this way, does not mean it’s proper. It’s a conjunction (like and, or, nor, and yet) and should be used as such. As Jean-Luc Picard says, “Make it so.”

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | January 31, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Leftover Comma Rules

Good morning, and welcome to the final edition of the award-winning comma series (yes, a couple appreciative emails does constitute an award, in my estimation).

Today, I’m going to share four simple comma rules that will help you polish your punctuation. These are the rules I’ll discuss:

  • Commas with salutations
  • Commas to set off phrases that express contrast
  • Commas with quotations
  • Commas for dates, addresses, place names, and long numbers

OK. You have the rules, now let’s look at some examples.

Commas with Salutations

Place a comma between your greeting and the recipient’s name (and add a period at the end):

  • Hello, Dolly.
  • Greetings, space aliens.

This rule does not apply when you use the word “Dear” in your salutation. For more rules on punctuation in salutations, read this previous Editor’s Corner article.

Commas to Set Off Phrases that Express Contrast

This easy rule creates a pause that is helpful for readers. Place a comma between contrasting elements:

  • When choosing a mate, you might want to look for substance, not style.
  • The song needed fewer vocals, more cowbell.
  • I was hoping you’d shower me with adoration because you wanted to, not because I asked youto.

Commas with Quotations

This rule, which you’re probably already familiar with, is equally short and sweet. Use commas to separate a direct quotation from the clause that contains the subject and verb:

  • After throwing her cup of coffee at Bart, Jean yelled, “You made me do that!”
  • Next time he eats off your plate, say, “I’ve felt feverish all day.” [dbb – The subject (you) is implied in this example.]

Commas for Dates, Addresses, Place Names, and Long Numbers

You’re probably also familiar with this rule, but reminders are a good thing, right? The examples are in the same order as the heading for this section (dates, addresses, places, and finally, long numbers):

  • On January 2, 2020, we will once again be celebrating Run It up the Flagpole and See Who Salutes Day. Mark your calendars.
  • She was hesitant to tell us that she lives at 212 Appaloosa Road, Embarrass, MN. 55732.
    [dbb – Do not add a comma between the state and ZIP Code.]
  • She was equally hesitant to mention that the population of Embarrass, Minnesota, is 1,226.
    [dbb – Add a comma after the state if it’s placed in the middle of the sentence.]
  • The original Mary Poppins movie grossed $31,000,000 domestically, which when adjusted for inflation is about $268,300,000 today.

This email hereby ends my series on comma rules. If you ever want to review them, you can visit our blog and type comma in the Search field. Now, go punctuate with precision.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Posted by: episystechpubs | January 29, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Bumblebee and Prime

A couple of weeks ago, my husband wanted to see a movie and said, “Let’s go see Bumblebee!” I had no idea what I was getting into, but I like the movies, so I went along. Well, as many of you probably know, Bumblebee is the latest Transformers movie: Transformers, as in the 1980s robots that turn into cars or planes or trucks, and then back into robots. I wanted to hate this movie, but I didn’t. The ‘80s soundtrack and references to The Breakfast Club won me over. I laughed, I cried, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. What a sucker!

What does that have to do with today’s Editor’s Corner? One of the characters in Transformers world is named Optimus Prime, and I just so happen to have a list of words from Daily Writing Tips that are related to the word “prime.” Here is a selection of those words. For the full list see “Primes and Princes” here.

This post lists and defines words deriving from the adjective primus, meaning “first” or “finest.”

  • premier: first, or earliest; as a noun, a synonym for “prime minister”
  • premiere: most commonly, a first performance or broadcast of a performing-arts production or the first day of an exhibition (and, rarely, the leading actress in a production); as a verb, pertains to appearing for the first time in a starring role, or the first performance of a performing-arts production
  • prima donna: the first female singer in an opera or a concert; by extension, based on the stereotypical arrogance of such performers, a person who is difficult to work with
  • prima facie: apparent or self-evident (or, in legal usage, legally sufficient to establish a case or a fact); on first appearance
  • primacy: the state of being first, or the office of a high-ranking priest called a primate
  • primary: first in order of development or time, or importance or value, or basic, direct, or firsthand; also, relating to something initial or preparatory, or pertaining to a first division, or relating to a preliminary election, as well as derived from ores or not derivable from other phenomena (such as colors); as a noun, something first, dominant, or most proximate
  • primate: any of various species, including humans, apes, monkeys, and related animals; also, the highest-ranking priest in a given area
  • prime: as a noun, the first hour of the day, the best or most active period or stage, the earliest stage, the best or leading individual or part, the first part of the day, a symbol resembling an apostrophe used for various designations (including units of length, angular measure, or time), or a truncation of “prime number” or “prime rate”; as an adjective, best or first, or original (also various mathematical senses); as a verb, apply, load, prepare, stimulate, or supply
  • primer: a short introductory piece of writing, such as an informative article or a reading-instruction book; also, a device used to ignite explosives, a molecule necessary for formation of another molecule, or an initial coating, such as for painting a surface
  • primeval: ancient, basic, or first created, formed, or existing
  • primigravida: one that or who is pregnant for the first time
  • primo: the first or leading part in an ensemble; as an adverb, in the first place; as an adjective, slang synonym for excellent
  • primus: in the Scottish Episcopal Church, the leading bishop; also, the first word of the Latin phrase primus inter pares, meaning “first among equals”

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | January 24, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Commas Between Items in a Series

More comma rules? Yes. Commas are hard. (I think the wise sage Barbie said that.)

The rule I’m sharing today is one you’re probably familiar with, but it also comes with a little controversy. Oh, the drama of the comma!

What you need to know about this rule is that you place a comma after items in a series and also after each adjective in a series of adjectives. Here’s an example of each:

  • Before you adopt a dog, make sure you have enough time, patience, and energy.
  • The couple wanted a calm, loving, well-trained older dog.

That’s easy enough; so, what’s the drama? Maybe you’ve guessed: it’s the Oxford (or serial) comma (dun, dun, duuun!). OMG, you say. It sounds so ominous. Well, it’s just a comma but, oh, the arguments that have ensued. The Oxford comma is the comma that comes before the final item in the series (and before the word and). Some style guides say you should always use it (like our primary resource, the Chicago Manual of Style) and some say it’s not always necessary (like the Associated Press Stylebook). However, be forewarned, omitting this comma can cause confusion:

  • I love my parents, Daffy Duck and Katherine Hepburn.

Do you see the problem? My dad definitely sees the problem. He is nothing like Daffy Duck (although he has been likened many times to Yosemite Sam).

In case you’re wondering which camp we fall into here at JHA, we follow the Chicago Manual of Style. We add that precious little comma at the end of the series. We are Oxford compliant. We are serial comma conformers. Join us, won’t you?

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Don’t want to get Editor’s Corner anymore? Click here to unsubscribe.

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NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
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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 | January 22, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Home on the Range

Today’s topic isn’t about the deer and the antelope playing. Nope, it’s about a different kind of range: ranges of numbers. You might think it’s an easy topic, but we see all kinds of punctuation and spacing in the documents we edit, and we’re always making corrections. Let’s have a look at the following range types and how you should write them:

· Numbers

· Time

· Currency

Numbers

The correct treatment of a range numbers expressed in numerals is one number followed by an en dash (–) and another number, with no spaces between the numbers and dash. (Note: For a lesson on the different types of dashes, see this edition of Editor’s Corner.) Here are a few examples:

· Bob told me to bring 10–12 doughnuts to his house.

· I have a collection of 500–550 rubber bands.

As you can see, there are no spaces before or after the dash, and it is an en dash, not a hyphen. If you want a shortcut for creating the en dash, press Alt+0150 on your keyboard.

Time

Here’s an interesting tidbit. If you are expressing a range and you use the word “from” before it, you should use the word “to” rather than a dash between the values. For example:

  • My office hours are from 6:30 a.m. to3:00 p.m.

If you’re trying to save space and you want to use the en dash, then simply leave the words from and to out (again, there are no spaces before or after the en dash):

  • My office hours are 6:30 a.m.–3:00 p.m.

Currency

When you are writing about currency, it is usually safest to spell out the amounts you are talking about. What do I mean by that? Well, if you write that something costs from $10–$50 thousand, that technically means $10.00 to $50,000.00. In cases like this, you should spell out the amounts on both sides of the en dash:

  • He deposited $10 thousand–$20 thousand every year.
  • She paid $10 thousand–$1 million dollars to her ex-husband, but she wouldn’t get more detailed than that.

Or, you can spell it out using the words from and to.

  • The house cost from $10 million to $12 million.

Confused? I hope not! Just don’t be surprised if you send something to the editors and we take away your spaces and hyphens and replace them with an en dash and a smile. J

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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