Posted by: episystechpubs | August 15, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Two Tips for Clear Writing

We all struggle with putting our thoughts in writing in the most sensible, logical way. Even the best writers don’t always write perfectly in their first draft; they revise their text until they are confident it is clear.

Two challenges really hinder the legibility of a writer’s text: illogical sentence sequence (the order sentences are placed in) and missing transitions between sentences. I read a great article on GrammarBook.com that so beautifully explains these issues and how to fix them that I’m going to share it with you here. I hope you find it useful.

A challenge that any writer can run into is establishing fluent forward movement among sentences. To ensure understanding for readers, writers need to clearly connect related thoughts and properly signal when one is shifting to another.

Consider this text:

Janice is going to Nashville. She enjoys traveling. She loves rock music and concerts. Her favorite band, Heavy Medal, is performing. Janice’s family is having a reunion. The airline is lowering fares. Janice has two weeks of unused vacation from work. She wants to go to Austin, Texas, too. [dbb – You’ll find suggestions about how fix this disjointed paragraph toward the very end of the article—read on!]

These sentences convey information, but they also make us work to decipher their association. Their lack of cohesion lowers the likelihood we’ll retain them as we should.

As writers, we can help them adhere with proper arrangement and transitions. Sentence arrangement involves placing statements in a logical sequence. Transitional markers indicate the relationships among ideas.

For a better sequence of sentences, we focus on what the order of thoughts could or should be.

Scattered sequence: Brianna wrote a report. She bought more paper. She gave it to her teacher. She proofed it for typos.
Logical sequence: Brianna bought more paper. She wrote a report. She proofed it for typos. She gave it to her teacher.

For marking transitions, one way to connect different sentences is by repeating a word or an idea from a previous sentence.

Less connected: Questionable claims can spread through social media. An embezzler sits on the village board.
Better with repeated idea: Questionable claims can spread through social media. One such claim is that an embezzler sits on the village board.

Another way to achieve smoother links is by including a transitional word or phrase. These markers may also be referred to as conjuncts or conjunctive adverbs. The following table includes some of these common expressions.

Addition moreover, even more, further, furthermore, besides, and, and then, likewise, also, plus, too, as well, again, in addition, equally important, next
Comparison similarly, likewise, in like manner
Contrast but, yet, however, still, nevertheless, on the other hand, on the contrary, after all, at the same time, otherwise
Place here, there, near, beyond, beside, opposite to, adjacent to
Purpose to this end, for this purpose, with this object, because
Result hence, therefore, accordingly, consequently, thus, as a result, then
Summary in brief, in sum, in short, in other words, that is, to be sure, for example, for instance, in fact, indeed, in any event
Time meanwhile, at length, immediately, soon, in the meantime, afterward, later

Less smooth: I am a carpenter. I am a surfer. I will coach my son’s softball team.

More smooth with transitional words and phrase: I am a carpenter. I am also a surfer. I will soon coach my son’s softball team as well.

With the preceding principles in mind, let’s touch up our text about Janice by working on our sentence sequence and transitions:

Janice is going to Nashville because her family is having a reunion there. She enjoys traveling; plus, she has two weeks of unused vacation from work. Janice also loves rock music and concerts, and her favorite band, Heavy Medal, is performing in Nashville the week of the reunion. Even more, the airline is lowering fares. Janice wants to go to Austin, Texas, later too.

By focusing on the order of our thoughts and the stitches that sew them, we elevate our impact as writers who communicate with precision, clarity, and eloquence.

I hope the rest of your day is wonderful.

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 13, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Meanings Change

Today I thought I’d share part of an article from Merriam-Webster with you. The complete article contains 10 words, but for the sake of space I am just including four. If you would like to read the full article, see Words That Used to Mean Something Different.

Note: Some of the examples are quite old and the spelling rules were a little different then!

  • Bully

Original Definition:

sweetheart, darling – used of either sex

Example:

"I kiss his dirty shoe, and from heart-string I love the lovely bully. What is thy name?" – William Shakespeare, Henry V, 1600

About the Word:

The meaning of bully has been changing for almost five hundred years now, with the earliest evidence of the word dating back to the 1530s.

Along the path from heartthrob to harasser bully has also meant ‘a man of outstanding physical powers,’ ‘a hired ruffian,’ ‘the boss of a logging camp,’ ‘any of several blennioid fishes,’ and numerous other things.

  • Disappoint

Original Definition:

to remove from office

Example:

"And under this power are comprehended all the other rights and marks of soveraigntie … to proclaime warre, or to make peace: to take knowledge in the last appeale of the iudgments of all Magistrates: to appoint or to disappoint the greatest officers …" – Pierre de la Primaudaye (Translated by T. Bowes), The French Academy, 1586

About the Word:

It seems as though such a word should be quite simple; if you appoint a person to some position you can also disappoint them from it.

Yet the English language does not always work in a way that makes sense. Not only do words change meaning, but some of our prefixes do not always mean the same thing. For instance, dis- can mean ‘do the opposite of,’ as in disqualify, and also can mean ‘completely’ as in disannul.

It would certainly be pleasant if we could immediately disappoint those who disappoint us, but we generally have to wait for an election to do this.

  • Popularity

Original definition: democracy as a principle or a form of government

Example:

"For conceiving that the Prince my Father had usurped an Authority which did not belong unto him, and desiring to reduce the Government into a Popularity, and to prevent his Successors from raigning after him, see how they argued the matter amongst themselves." – Madeleine de Scudéry (translated by F.G.), Artamenes, 1653

About the Word:

While the more cynical among us might argue that our current system of government is still largely based on popularity, it is a popularity that is a bit different from the original meaning of the word.

Popularity has been in use since at least 1546, the year in which the Bishop of Winchester used it in a letter to Lord Paget, writing of ‘an inclination they have to a popularity’. The letter is concerned with grave political matters of the time, and not with who is the most liked in the schoolyard.

  • Secretary

Original Definition:

one entrusted with the secrets or confidences of a superior

Example:

"She writ to him discreetly the thoughts of her friend, leting him understand that she was the secretary; that she would serve him in all honest things he could desire." – Francisco de Quintana, The History of Don Fenise, 1651

About the Word:

Many other words that have been formed through the addition of -ary (which comes from the Latin root -arius, meaning ‘from’) have managed to keep their roots and suffixes neatly tied together: beneficiary, constabulary, and planetary.

So it seems rather obvious, when looking at a word such as secretary, that its original meaning had something to do with secrets. Yet somewhere along the way the word slipped free of its moorings and took on a not terribly secret meaning.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 6, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Top Spelling Searches

Hello!

You know me—I love language and I love maps. A language map? Well, yes, I feel like I just might be in heaven. But this is a bit of a sad map, because it is about the word in each state that is “Googled” most often to see how it is spelled. Now, I have a couple of issues with this map as far as a scientific study. I see that they say in Washington and New Jersey, the word is grey, yet since we are in America, the word should be gray. Both are valid spellings, but one is more appropriate here than the other.

One of the items that made me laugh was Hawaiians looking up Hawaii…but I think that one is also suspect. It is very possible that people want to know if the correct spelling is Hawaii or Hawai‘i. (One article I read said that the Big Island is Hawai’i, the state is Hawaii. Then there are other articles about when the okina () started being used and which version is actually traditional Hawaiian. Anyway, I don’t have a definitive answer about that.)

In any case, here is the map and you can make your own observations and assumptions. It is from the article here, at inc.com. Delaware and veterinarians…interesting!

I hope you have a fantastic day!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 1, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Misplaced Modifiers

I love funny misplaced modifiers. Yes, they’re grammatically incorrect, but at least this is a grammar subject that provides a little humor! Look at these examples:

  • She handed out brownies to the children stored in Tupperware®.
  • With his tail held high, my father led his prize poodle around the arena.
  • I’m looking for a small table for my kid with short legs.

You can see that something is wrong with each of those sentences. The problem is that the modifier is not placed next to the word or phrase it is meant to modify. The children (hopefully) are not stored in Tupperware. And my father has never held his tail high with or without his prize poodle.

Let’s look closer at the last example: I’m looking for a small table for my kid with short legs. In this sentence, I’m actually looking for a table that has short legs, so the phrase “with short legs” should be placed next to the phrase “I’m looking for a table.” The sentence really should be written like this: I’m looking for a table with short legs for my kid.

You’d be surprised how often editors need to rearrange phrases to place modifiers where they belong. This happens a lot with long, complex sentences. Unfortunately for us, the sentences we are working with are rarely as funny as these examples. You can help us out by watching for misplaced modifiers in your own writing. You don’t want to shoot an elephant in your pajamas.

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 | July 30, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Who or Whom?

Good morning, and happy Tuesday. We have covered the who vs. whom dilemma several times over the years, but it’s been a while, and Jan W. asked for a refresher. Jan gets what she wants. 😊

One reason we have so much trouble knowing when to use whom is because we rarely hear or see it. Most people just opt for who no matter what. And since we don’t often see or hear whom used correctly, we’re not sure when to use it. I’m telling you that so that you’ll understand that if this is a hard rule for you to figure out or remember, you are not alone. This one trips up many people.

The good news is that there is a trick that will usually help you determine when to use who and when to use whom: the they/them trick.

  • they = who
  • them = whom

You can remember that them stands in for whom, because them and whom sound similar.

This is how the trick works: when you’re faced with a sentence that includes who or whom, but you don’t know which one, put the sentence in question form to determine whether they or them makes more sense. If they makes more sense, use who (they = who). If them makes more sense, use whom (them = whom). Here are some examples:

  • I’d like to know who/whom wrote the email.

Question: Who/whom wrote the email?

Answer: They wrote the email.

The correct choice is who (they = who).

I’d like to know who wrote the email.

  • She is wondering who/whom to vote for.

Question: Who/whom should she vote for?

Answer: She should vote for them.

The correct answer is whom (them = whom).

She is wondering whom to vote for.

I hope that helps. If you want to test yourself, click this link and scroll down to take a quiz from GrammarBook.com. Enjoy the rest of your day.

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 | July 25, 2019

Editor’s Corner Punctuation Quiz

Good morning! I’ve annoyed you with quizzes in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever provided a punctuation quiz, so today is your lucky day. This quiz comes from Daily Writing Tips. Your job is to correct the punctuation in the following five sentences. You might need to add punctuation, or you might need to correct punctuation. You have to figure it out.

At some point in the history of Editor’s Corner, we have covered all the rules you need to know to ace this quiz. I know you’re up to the challenge!

I’ve included the answers and explanations, but you’ll have to scroll down to see them. Best of luck to you!

The following sentences contain errors of punctuation. Revise them as necessary.

  1. That’s my dream car in the window I plan to buy it as soon as I have enough money.

2. The boss is really old. He still addresses women clients as Mrs So-and-So.

3. I never expected to see so many glacier’s and pit’s on our trip.

4. Before we get to Phoenix let’s stop at an IHOP for breakfast.

5. All the “hardback books” are the same price.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: That’s my dream car in the window I plan to buy it as soon as I have enough money.
Correct: That’s my dream car in the window. I plan to buy it as soon as I have enough money.

Error: run-on sentence. The new thought begins with “I.” Another way to correct it would be to put a semi-colon instead of a period between “window” and “I.”

2.
Original: The boss is really old. He still addresses women clients as Mrs So-and-So.
Correct: The boss is really old. He still addresses women clients as Mrs. So-and-So.

U.S. punctuation convention places a period after “Mrs.” and “Ms.”

3.
Original: I never expected to see so many glacier’s and pit’s on our trip.
Correct: I never expected to see so many glaciers and pits on our trip.

No apostrophes are needed; glaciers and pits are simply plural nouns.

4.
Original: Before we get to Phoenix let’s stop at an IHOP for breakfast.
Correct: Before we get to Phoenix, let’s stop at an IHOP for breakfast.

A subordinate clause that begins a sentence is set off with a comma. [dbb – I wrote a post on this topic; it’s called
Commas with Introductory Phrases.]

5.
Original: All the “hardback books” are the same price.
Correct: All the hardback books are the same price.

Using quotations marks for emphasis is an error.

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 | July 23, 2019

Editor’s Corner: American vs. British Spelling

Our friend Sandy B. recently asked if we would look into the reason why some common words are spelled differently in American English than they are in British English—words like color/colour, center/centre, realize/realise, defense/defence, etc.

I remember reading about this topic before, so I had a general idea, but I put on my research goggles and dove right in to the internet. Dictionary.com has a great article about this, and so does a site called Live Science.

Here’s the gist: in the 15th–18th centuries (the early years of the printing press in Great Britain and the United States), spelling was kind of a free-for-all. People just spelled a word however they thought it should be spelled, which led to great variation, and sometimes, a bit of confusion.

Toward the end of 18th century, however, two people were starting to set the standards for British and American spelling. In Britain, in 1755, Samuel Johnson, an English writer, published the Dictionary of the English Language. According to the Dictionary.com article, he “made calculated decisions about which spelling variations to use. At the time, French-derived spellings such as honour and theatre were in vogue in England.”

Here in the United States, a few years later, Noah Webster was helping to define American spelling in his books American Spelling Book (1783) and the influential American Dictionary of the English Language (1828). Webster wanted to simplify the English language to make it easier to learn, and he wanted to differentiate it from British English. So, he opted for shorter, more phonetic spellings (program instead of programme, for instance). In fact, he wanted to go further than he did, and he promoted spellings like masheen instead of machine, and laf instead of laugh. Obviously, that didn’t work out too well for him.

But we do have Webster to thank (or blame, depending on your outlook) for making American English look different from British English.

Cheerio. Enjoy your day!

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 | July 18, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Amount vs. Number

The words amount and number can be used as nouns or verbs. Today, we’re going to discuss how to use them appropriately when they are nouns and refer to “the quantity of something.” Let’s roll.

You should use the word amount for things you cannot count individually (like damage, salt, or interest). We call these mass nouns. Some examples will help. Look at how amount is used in these sentences:

  • It is hard to know the amount of damage the injury has done to his shoulder.
  • What’s the correct amount of salt for this recipe?
  • The amount of interest due each period depends on the loan balance and the number of days in the period.

That last example is a two-for-one: it uses both amount and number. You cannot count the interest individually, but you can count the days.

On the other hand, you should use number for things you can count individually (like dogs, friends, and questions). We call these count nouns. Look at how number is used in these sentences:

  • When you go to the park, count the number of dogs Tinker plays with.
  • Tim is always trying to increase the number of friends he has on Facebook®.
  • Could you believe the number of questions Jenna asked during the meeting?

The most common mistake people make is to use amount when they should use number. Here are some real-life examples of sentences that incorrectly use amount:

  • Episys offers an unlimited amount of Tracking records per member account.

  • There are no limits to the amount of checking accounts one member can have.

If those two sentences sound wrong to you, now you know why. Do you want to test your skills? Take this test from the English Test Store website. Enjoy your day!

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 | July 16, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Bathos and Pathos

Hello readers! Today I have some interesting information for you on two literary devices from The Grammarist: bathos and pathos. But first I must say, you have no idea what I suffer through during my research for you. The Grammarist has the most disgusting “click bait” on their website. Sometimes I can hardly make it through the material because of the toe fungus remedies and the bladder control issues that the people on the medication Metformin supposedly have. Why people, why?

Okay. I will suffer through it to bring you new, and hopefully interesting, tidbits about our language. From the people who are supported by ads of guys putting twigs in their ears to cure tinnitus, The Grammarist:

Bathos isa noun and a literary term that describes a situation in which a serious, emotional and heartfelt story full of genuine insight and emotion suddenly sinks to contemplate something trivial or everyday. Bathos is an anticlimax, it is banality. If the writer intends to stir deep thought and emotions in the reader, bathos will sabotage that intention. It is an anticlimax to an idea full of sentiment and meaning. Synonyms of the word bathos that may be found in a thesaurus are anticlimax, letdown, mawkishness. Bathos is usually a transgression performed by poor writers, though bathos may be used by comedy writers to great effect. Consider the Groucho Marx quote: “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” The word bathos was coined by Alexander Pope in 1728 in his essay, Peri Bathous, from the Greek word bathos, which means depth.

Pathos is a noun and a literary term that means to invoke deep or sentimental emotions or feelings in the reader, especially empathy, pity, sympathy, sorrow and longing. Pathos is used in fiction to inspire a depth of sentiment in the reader, but it is also used in persuasive arguments to appeal to the listener in a fundamental way. Synonyms of the word pathos that may be found in a thesaurus are poignancy, sentiment, tenderness. Aristotle described the use of pathos to persuade the listener in an argument of logic. The word pathos has been in use in the English language since the mid-1600s, derived from the Greek word pathos, which means feeling, emotion, calamity.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | July 11, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Yours truly

Recently, I reviewed different ways to greet people in email and business letters. Today, I have a list of different ways to close your correspondence. In honor of JHA’s third consecutive year on America’s Best Employers List by Forbes, I’m honoring Forbes by sharing a portion of their article called 57 Ways To Sign Off On An Email with you. (Click the link for the entire article; I cut out some closings that were weird, grammatically awkward, or just inappropriate.)

  • Best – This is the most ubiquitous; it’s totally safe. I recommend it highly and so do the experts.
  • My Best – A little stilted.
  • All the best – This works too.
  • Bests – I know people who like this but I find it fussy. Why do you need the extra “s?” [KC – Okay, this is horrible! It’s so horrible I left it in here to share with you.]
  • Best regards – More formal than the ubiquitous “Best.” I use this when I want a note of formality.
  • Regards – Fine, anodyne, helpfully brief. I use this.
  • Warm regards – I like this for a personal email to someone you don’t know very well, or a business email that is meant as a thank-you.
  • Thanks – Cynthia Lett, a business etiquette consultant, says this is a no-no. “This is not a closing. It’s a thank-you,” she insists. I disagree. Forbes Leadership editor Fred Allen uses it regularly and I think it’s an appropriate, warm thing to say. I use it too.
  • Thanks so much – I also like this and use it, especially when someone—a colleague, a source, someone with whom I have a business relationship—has put time and effort into a task or email.
  • Thank you – More formal than “Thanks.” I use this sometimes.
  • Many thanks – I use this a lot, when I genuinely appreciate the effort the recipient has undertaken.
  • Thanks for your consideration – A tad stilted with a note of servility, this can work in the business context, though it’s almost asking for a rejection. Steer clear of this when writing a note related to seeking employment.
  • Thx – I predict this will gain in popularity as our emails become more like texts. Lett would not approve. [KC – Kara would not approve either. Spell it out, folks. And certainly don’t abbreviate with a letter that’s not even in the original word.]
  • Hope this helps – I like this in an email where you are trying to help the recipient.
  • Rushing – This works when you really are rushing. It expresses humility and regard for the recipient. [KC – I wouldn’t recommend this. Even if you are rushing, you don’t want people to think you are not taking your time with them.]
  • Sincerely – Lett also likes this but to me, it signals that the writer is stuck in the past. Maybe OK for some formal business correspondence, like from the lawyer handling your dead mother’s estate.
  • XOXO – I’ve heard of this being used in business emails but I don’t think it’s a good idea. [KC – Uh, yeah, I definitely wouldn’t use this…unless it’s for Dave Foss.
    J]

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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