Posted by: episystechpubs | September 17, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Percent or Percentage

While editing the other day, I had to give myself a refresher on this word pair. I thought I knew which word was right, but I couldn’t put my finger on the rule. Turns out it’s not too difficult. I think I’ll be able to remember it now. I hope it helps you too.

Although percent and percentage are often used interchangeably, they are not the exactly the same. Usually, you should use percent with a number. For example you would use percent in the following sentence:

  • “A 5 percent discount is available.”

Notice that the I’ve used a numeral instead of spelling out the number five in the previous example. You probably already know that we spell out numbers one through nine and use numerals for 10 and above. Well, this is an exception. When talking about a percent, you always use a numeral, even if the number is less than 10. And you probably noticed that I spelled out the word percent. You should only use the % symbol in a scientific document or if your writing contains a lot of statistics.

And, now for some information about how to use the word percentage. Typically, you would precede the word percentage with an adjective, as shown in this sentence:

  • “A large percentage of people get their news online.”

So what causes the confusion? The Grammarphobia blog sums it up pretty succinctly:

Still, “percent” is sometimes used in place of “percentage,” as in “What percent of the flour was ruined?”

This usage has been discouraged by some language authorities, but it’s recognized in most standard dictionaries and seems idiomatic to us.

The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, by Kenneth G. Wilson, has this to say about the subject: “Percentage is the more widely accepted noun, especially in edited English, but informal use of percent (What percent of your time do you spend watching TV?) seems thoroughly established.”

And here’s your take-away: if you are writing professionally, be aware of and use percent as a noun (5 percent) and percentage with an adjective (a large percentage). On the other hand, if you’re talking to your significant other or texting your mom, feel free to be more casual and use percent in place of percentage—unless you’re one of my grown sons. I demand that they text me in complete sentences with correct grammar at all times. I also recently demanded that they start telling their friends that I’m their older sister. I haven’t been entirely successful, but I’m not giving up. Does anyone know what this means?

ROFL! IDTS.

Have a happy Thursday!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

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 | September 15, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Hurricane Names

Hi folks,

I used to wonder how scientists and the news picked names for hurricanes, but thanks to an extensive explanation from Grammar Girl, I now have the answers. I have chopped and cut the original article, but it’s here if you’re interested.

Hurricanes = typhoons = tropical cyclones

First of all, hurricanes themselves are called different things in different parts of the world. When they form in the North Atlantic and eastern North Pacific they’re called “hurricanes.” If they form in the western North Pacific near China, Japan, and the Philippines, they’re called “typhoons.” And if they form in the western South Pacific or Indian Ocean, they’re called “tropical cyclones.”

Regardless of the name, they’re all the same—spinning storms that start over tropical waters. They have high winds of 74 mph or more, heavy rain, and storm surges. These surges can raise ocean waters up to 20 feet above normal. Needless to say, hurricanes present a deadly threat to people in coastal communities.

Grammar Girl goes on to tell us that, originally, hurricanes were named after the place where they landed. That makes sense, except that they may consistently land in the same place. This little map shows where they’re most common in the United States:

Florida is the big winner, with Texas and Louisiana trailing behind in a contest I wouldn’t want to be a part of.

Once we stopped using place names, we started using human names. This started happening during World War II:

During World War II, storms were given names that matched radio code names for letters of the alphabet—Able51 or Baker32, for example. They were also referred to by coordinates of their latitude and longitude.

In 1953, the U.S. National Hurricane Center began giving storms human names. The idea was to promote safety by helping people easily recognize storm names in warning messages. A name like “Ana” or “Marco” is easier to remember than “29.5N 79.6W,” for example.

Originally, all the names picked out for storms were female. In 1979, men’s names were added, and they now alternate with women’s names.

A few more interesting facts about hurricane names:

Eventually, an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization took over naming storms.

The WMO set up nine sets of names for nine world regions, from the North Atlantic to the Southwest Indian Ocean. Each region has its own set of male and female names. Some lists are alphabetical, but some aren’t. Some have contributions from countries in the region. In the Northern Indian Ocean region, for example, names come from Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.

The North Atlantic region, which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, has six separate lists of names. Those lists are recycled every six years.

The first storm of the year gets the first name at the top of the list. This year, we started with Arthur, Bertha, and Cristobal, and we’ll end with Vicky and Wilfred—if we get that many storms.

The names used in other regions reflect names that are common in that area. For example, names on the Eastern North Pacific list include Jimena, Ileana, and Tico. The Central North Pacific list has Akoni, Lala, and Huko. And the Western North Pacific list has Sanba, Fengshen, and Noru.

A couple more things about hurricane names. The first, is that if a hurricane works really hard and is extremely destructive, its name is retired. Hurricane Mitch, which killed over 10,000 people, is a name that has been removed from the list of recycled names.

And last, but not least, is our literary connection to hurricanes. The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, was named after a hurricane, long, long ago.

For additional information, don’t forget to see Grammar Girl’s article.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | September 10, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Violent Words

Hello readers and writers!

Last month, we heard from Donna about the importance of word choice. She covered a couple of the items below, but I’ve been collecting my own list of violent-sounding terms that I see while writing instructions. No, I’m not writing instructions on how to use the rack or an iron maiden—I already know how to use those! I’m talking about everyday instructions for clients using our systems.

I think perhaps the inventors of several programming languages grew up in bad circumstances, or maybe they have some psychological issues because these terms and commands are not subtle. Here’s my list so far and my suggested alternatives. Before you tell me that you can’t change the commands, I get it. I’m not a programmer, I’m a writer and editor of technical material. I’m just asking that when describing things, if you can use a term that is less violent, please do.

Term Possible Alternatives
abort cancel, interrupt
armed with equipped
deploy move, send, use
execute run
fatal (don’t use as a noun) system failure
hit press
kill stop, end
terminate cancel, stop, end

So, perhaps the next time you send in something for editing that sounds like you enjoy dinners listening to machine gun fire and eating your MREs by the light of burning napalm, why don’t you try replacing some of the terms?

Instead of this… Try the fuzzy teddy-bear version…
Kill the job. Stop the job.
Hit Enter. Press Enter.
Execute the command. Run the command.
Terminate the job. End the job.
Our solution will ensure that you are armed with everything you need. Our solution will ensure that you are equipped with everything you need.

If you decide not to, I will surely put something in the comments asking you, “Is this what you mean by execute?”

Choose your words carefully, and go forward peacefully!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | September 3, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Dissolving Distinctions, Pt. 2

Good morning! I’m back with your final five word pairs that have dissolving distinctions (and a little bonus information at the end). I know it’s only Thursday, but I can see the long holiday weekend from here, and I want to wish you a very happy Labor Day. But first, read on to learn about the distinct meanings of the following words.

  1. Convince/persuade: To convince someone is to cause that person to accept a truth, while to persuade is to cause someone, through reasoning or argument, to do something. Thus, the distinction is between influencing thought and prompting action.
  1. Ensure/insure: To ensure is to guarantee, while insure has a more specific sense of indemnity against loss, but the latter word is widely used in the sense expressed by the former word. (Assure, with the same root, means “convince or give confidence” and is also often employed as a lazy substitute for ensure.)
  1. Figuratively/literally: Figuratively pertains to hyperbolic or metaphorical references, while literally means “in an exact or strict sense,” but many people misuse the latter word as an intensifier when they intend to convey the sense of the former word, as in “My head literally exploded when she said that!” One who literally experienced such a phenomenon would no longer be alive to report it. [dbb – Many of you have told me this is a pet peeve. I hear you.]
  1. Libel/slander: Both libel and slander are, in legal usage, acts of defamation—communication of a falsehood that damages an entity’s reputation—but libel is written expression, while slander is an oral statement.
  1. Poisonous/venomous: In literal usage, the distinction is one of delivery—poison produced by living things acts on an individual when one eats or touches it, and chemical poisons, though they may be administered by a person to another, do not themselves “choose” to poison the victim. By contrast, venom is injected into its victim by a bite or a sting from another animal, either in self-defense or in an attack on prey by a predator. Figuratively, poisonous describes a psychologically dysfunctional environment or person, while venomous applies only to an individual, often one who is malevolent or spiteful.

Two other word pairs that deserve distinction are if and whether and what and which: In the case of if and whether, if is employed when describing a condition, as in “I will take a river cruise on the Seine if I visit Paris,” and whether denotes a choice or a doubt, as in “I don’t know whether I will (or “will have time to”) take a river cruise on the Seine when I visit Paris.” In conversation and in informal writing, if is acceptable in the latter senses, but in formal writing, use whether. Likewise, which is a more specific usage that what when referring to particular selections: “I don’t know which outfits I’m going to pack” is preferable to “I don’t know what outfits I’m going to pack.”

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

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 | September 1, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Dissolving Distinctions, Pt 1

Greetings, friends, and happy September! It’s hard to believe that autumn is just around the corner.

I recently read an article about pairs of words that have dissolving distinctions—meaning that the two words originally had separate meanings, but these days they’re used interchangeably. Some of them made me sad, but I guess that’s the nature of language. It’s always evolving. Unfortunately, I don’t get to choose the course of evolution. And you should all be glad, or we might all be talking like Shakespeare or one of Jane Austen’s characters.

There are 10 word pairs all together along with information about each word’s individual meaning—in case, like me, you are interested in preserving the distinction. I’ll give you five pairs today and five on Thursday. We all need something to look forward to these days. 😊

  1. Accurate/precise: Accuracy is the degree to which an estimated measurement or a predicted result matches the actual extent or outcome, or, in the context of aiming, how close a projectile or an effect (such as a laser beam) comes to an intended target. Precision is the degree of variation between or among two or more measurements. In competition in which relative skill is determined by having competitors hit a bull’s-eye target, a competitor may demonstrate precision (all attempts are in proximity to each other) but not accuracy (the attempts are far from the center of the target).
  1. Allude/refer: The distinction between allusion and reference is one of degree of fidelity to the source. If one refers to a well-known saying, one says or writes, “The early bird catches the worm.” An allusion, however, is indirect; one might say or write, “I caught the worm this morning,” which, if one’s audience knows the saying, they will understand to mean that one was early.
  1. Anxious/eager: One who is anxious about something is, according to the source of the adjective, experiencing anxiety, while one who is eager is excited, impatient, and/or interested. Many people use the words interchangeably to refer to a positive feeling, but careful writers will maintain the distinction.
  1. Amount/number: Amount applies to uncountable nouns, such as in general reference to noise, while number pertains to a measurable quantity, such as how many decibels a sound registers. Another comparison is between a reference to an amount of money, such as a million dollars, which is a single “item,” as opposed to the count of the number of bills in a stack of currency.
  1. Fewer/less: As with amount and number, the distinction between fewer and less is one of countable and uncountable things, in that order. For example, one would write, “Fewer houses were built this year compared to last year,” but “Less housing is available his year compared to last year”; the first sentence refers to countable structures and the second one pertains to houses collectively. [dbb – Thank you grocery stores for confusing so many people with your incorrect “15 items or less” express lane signs!]

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

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 | August 27, 2020

Editor’s Corner: People or Persons

Dear Editrix,

Would you say, “To one of the most beautiful persons I know,” or “To one of the most beautiful people I know”?

Thanks!

Feelin’ Groovy

Dear Groovy,

I wouldn’t say either of those things to anybody I know. No, I’m kidding. I’d definitely say, “To one of the most beautiful people I know.” Persons sounds very stuffy to me, which is probably the last thing you want to sound like when writing an ode to your beloved or sending a note to your boss. But your question got me researching a little on the topic, so I thought I’d share.

Merriam-Webster (M-W) has an entire article about the use of people vs. person here. I am not reviewing it with you today, however, because it doesn’t clarify the matter. It discusses the history of the two words and their plurals and how they have made their ways through time. I just want to talk about the basics.

Both words are from Latin. According to M-W, people comes from the word populus (“the people”); person comes from persona, meaning “mask,” such as worn by an actor. Which ones we should use and when, has been argued about since the 1700s. I’m going to give you information on what works today.

Okay, person means “an individual human being.” The plural of person is either persons or people. Here is your rule of thumb: persons is archaic. We use it these days in legal descriptions and documents, where a bit of stuffiness is okay. That’s about it for persons.

Examples:

Correct: There will be one person at the door and three people waiting tables.

Correct: If you invite a lot of people over, they will certainly come for the hors d’oeuvres.

Correct: The room register says: Only one to three persons permitted in the hot tub at once.

Do not use: I feel like all persons have the right to party like it’s 1999. (And boy was that party a dud!)

Now, let’s look at people. Outside of using this as the plural word for person, you might occasionally hear the plural word peoples. Here is the rule for your other thumb: use only when talking about “a body of people united by a common culture, tradition…that typically have a common language, institutions, and beliefs.”

Examples:

The peoples of Europe

Indigenous peoples

The Vulcan peoples

Yes, you can see how this might get a little confusing, but chances are you will “hear” the right option when you say it out loud, and you can always double-check the dictionary if you just aren’t sure.

If you really want to throw your audience for a loop, you could always replace the word “people” with “peep hole.” That will really get them going!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 25, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Senate and Senile

Oh boy. In this whirlwind of a year, I’m not sure we’re ready for election season. While perusing Words of a Feather, by Murray Suid, I found this pair of words, though, that I think will inform you and give you a chuckle, no matter whose side you are on. The title reminds me of a Jane Austen novel, “Senate and Senility.”

You might think that the framers of the Constitution were careless in calling the upper chamber of Congress the senate, a term related to senile. Both words derive from the Latin senex, “old man.”

But a bit of word sleuthing shows us that the founders were blameless, at least in this connection. In the seventeenth century, senile simply referred to somone old or senior. Back then, elder statesmen were held to be sources of wisdom. It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that senile acquired the meaning of “weak or infirm from age.”

And what constitutes “old” in connection with serving in the U.S. Senate? The minimum age according to the Constitution is thirty years, five years more than the minimum age for serving in the House of Representatives.

There have been, however, several exceptions. The youngest person ever to serve in the Senate was John Eaten, who in 1818 was sworn in at the age of twenty-eight. Apparently, Eaton himself was not aware of his true age until much later in his life.

Even though these words are from Latin, they still fit pretty well with the crowd in the U.S. Senate today. We currently have two active senators that are 86 years old; and Strom Thurmond served almost 50 years…until he died at 91.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 20, 2020

Editor’s Corner: How Do You Pronounce That?

Hi, my friends.

I’ve written previously about commonly mispronounced words. And I often get inquiries about how to pronounce certain words—because no one wants to be the nincompoop who gives a presentation and doesn’t know how to pronounce the word asterisk or prerogative. English pronunciation is not always what you think!

So, I’ve got a tip for you today that will ensure that you don’t accidentally embarrass yourself by mispronouncing a word ever again. But first, I want to tell you about a video I came across that explained why even native speakers pronounce lots of English words incorrectly. It’s because many of us learn words from reading, not from hearing words used, and English is not a phonetic language—the letters do not correspond one-to-one with the sounds. So we may see words in writing and guess at the pronunciation, and we may even make a really good guess but just get it wrong. I know for sure that this has happened to me—sadly more than once. (Damn you, acai bowl!)

But before the tip, here’s a little good news: those of you who are worried that tweeting and texting is dumbing down the English language because it has made our attention spans shorter than a hobbit’s legs and because no one seems to care anymore about spelling and grammar and complex thoughts, I have to tell you that people had the exact same fears when AOL and email became popular back in the early ’90s. Yet people are still reading books and expanding their minds. That old argument about ruining the English language has been used about the printing press, newspapers, the internet—even slang and emojis are blamed, and here we still are, some people care about grammar and spelling, and some people don’t. (Shame on them!)

Since all of you do care, and since you want to know how to pronounce those words you’ve only seen in writing, here’s a simple tip: most online dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, our dictionary of choice, have an audio function that gives you the correct pronunciation. Just search for the word you are curious about, and then click the audio icon (which looks like a little megaphone) and you’ll hear the standard pronunciation and maybe even an alternative pronunciation, as with the word coupon (which can start with the sound koo or kew).

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The dictionary is your friend, and since you are often sitting in front of a computer, this friend is right at your fingertips. So don’t be a nincompoop— always check the spelling and the pronunciation if you’re not sure.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

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 | August 18, 2020

Editor’s Corner

Good morning, folks!

Today I was scanning books at home for something fun or interesting to learn about the world of the English language. At some point in the past, I bought a book of Southern sayings that would help me get in touch with all y’all to the east of us here in San Diego. I paged through it and I have to say that it was complete garbage. Nothing new—no buttering body parts and calling them biscuits. It had so little pizzazz that it didn’t even make the cut for one of the local “Little Libraries” (where people create neighborhood lending stations).

The book is now in the recycle bin. My second attempt was looking through Words of a Feather, by Murray Suid. Now that’s what I’m talking about! I’ve settled on the topic of “Room and Rummage.” And I’ve included a photo of my favorite restaurant in Austin, Texas that I’ve never been, too, but hope to visit some day.

I hope you enjoy it!

When you run out of room for your stuff and you decide it’s the perfect time for a rummage sale, your etymological intuition may be what’s inspiring you, for the two words—room and rummage—are closely connected.

Rummage, which today means “odds and ends,” and also “to search for something by going through those odds and ends,” comes from the Middle French word arrumage, “the arrangement of cargo in a ship’s hold.”

Old English had a related word rum, which referred to the space in a home. That word competed for a while with the French word chamber—which gave English chamber pot, gas chamber, and chamber music. Eventually, rum—in the form of room—won out, so now we have dining rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and even great rooms. [KC – Not sure where this guy lives!]

But it seems that there’s never enough room, which fact led to the nineteenth-century invention of the rummage sale, which etymologically might be translated as “room-making sale.” The first rummage sale was, appropriately enough, dreamed up by a shipping company to get rid of unclaimed goods from a ship’s rum. Now of course, we hold rummage sales to raise money for worthy causes by getting rid of our unwanted possessions so that we can make room for new things that eventually can be turned into rummage. And so it goes.

Now, what about rum as related to the pirate’s life, you know, “yo ho ho and a bottle of rum”? The short answer about the alcoholic drink is that etymologists aren’t sure where it came from. Some say it is a shortening of rumbullion or other terms for liquor from sugar cane or molasses. Others say it may be from the Romany word for “excellent, fine, good, or valuable.” That is the mystery of our wonderful language!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 13, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Grimm Tales, Part 2

Today I offer part two in the “words from fairy tales” week on Wordsmith.org. We have a partnership with Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming today.

I have been reading a book about fairy tales called The Hard Facts of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales (by Maria Tatar) because of this topic. The book is very interesting (to the English major in me), with a Game of Thrones-like back cover describing “Murder, mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide, and incest: the darker side of classic fairy tales.” So far, it is about the Brothers Grimm and their attempt to collect the folktales passed on verbally up to that point, onto the pages of their book.

Now, for today’s words:

§ sleeping beauty

noun: Someone or something that lies dormant for a long time.

Etymology

After the princess of a fairy tale who is cursed by a wicked fairy. The princess pricks her finger on a spindle and sleeps for 100 years until awakened by the kiss of a prince. Earliest documented use: 1729.

Notes:

In finance, a sleeping beauty is an asset, for example, a startup, that is an attractive target for takeover, but that has not yet been approached by someone.

Use:

“Eighty fatalities and 1,000 wounded citizens later, a pall had descended on Prague, which would now be a sleeping beauty for more than two decades.”
Amotz Asa-El; The Prague Spring at 50; Jerusalem Post (Israel); Aug 24, 2018.

§ prince charming

noun: A suitor who fulfills the expectations of his beloved.

Etymology

After Prince Charming, the fairy-tale hero of many stories, such as, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. Earliest documented use: 1850.

Use:

“Judith reluctantly attends a cocktail party where she meets Howard Rose, a charismatic lawyer … But Judith will come to realize Howard is no prince charming.”
Adriana Delgado; Beachy Books (Even If You’re Not Going Near the Beach); The Palm Beach Post (Florida); May 28, 2020.

I hope your day is full of wishes granted by your own personal fairy godmother!

For Cinderella 2021: Billy Porter as genderless fairy godmother.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

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