Posted by: episystechpubs | September 19, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Dangling Prepositions

Good morning! Today I’m going to share information about dangling prepositions. Sounds exciting, right? You have Mary W. to thank. She asked about this topic, and I’m certainly not going to leave her dangling.

So, what is a dangling preposition? Well, a preposition is a word that shows a relationship (of time, space, distance, causation, etc.) between a noun and another element of the sentence. Some common prepositions are at, on, to, about, over, around, etc. And a dangling preposition is considered to be dangling because it occurs at the end of a sentence, as in the following examples:

  • That’s the horse he put all of his money on.
  • I created a playlist that we can listen to.
  • Oh, that’s nothing to get upset about.

Here’s the fun part. You may have learned back in school that you should not end sentences with prepositions. Well, as we’ve discussed before at the Editor’s Corner, that “rule” is a myth. It is perfectly acceptable to dangle your prepositions; in fact, it is preferred when it helps to create a more succinct sentence. Let’s look at our previous examples rewritten to move the preposition. Notice how stilted they seem:

  • That’s the horse on which he put all of his money.
  • I created a playlist to which we can listen.
  • Oh, that’s nothing about which to get upset.

However, I think what Mary W. was talking about is a slightly different phenomenon. There are some very commonly uttered sentences, which end in prepositions, that are grammatically incorrect. You probably want to avoid these (especially in writing):

  • Where are you at? (Sometimes you’ll even here “Where you at?”)
  • Where is it at?

So, why are those two sentences wrong but the previous examples aren’t? It’s because in both cases above the preposition at is redundant. The sentence “Where are you?” is complete—so is the sentence “Where is it?”

Here’s your grammatical takeaway: it’s OK to end a sentence with a dangling preposition as long as the preposition that you’re dangling is not redundant.

And here’s your dangling puppies takeaway:

Now we’re ready to start the day.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | September 17, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Parallelism Revisited

It’s the time of year we work on a lot of slide shows for the Symitar Educational Conference, which means a lot of editing slides for parallel structure. We’ve talked about this before, but I think that it is one of the hardest things for people to understand and, therefore, it is difficult to change. I just received a good set of examples from Grammarbook.com, which hopefully will help you understand the importance of it a bit more. I’ve pared it down a bit, but most of the examples are still here. (I’ve kept the formatting as it was, though we don’t generally use underlines in our documentation.)

Parallelism is the use of consistent grammatical structures in a series of two or more items to assist ease of reading and understanding. We touched briefly on this topic in Parallel Construction and Effective Writing. We’ll revisit it here with additional detail.

Nouns
Not Parallel: The band needs a singer [noun], a guitar player [noun], and to get booked for gigs [infinitive phrase].
Parallel: The band needs a singer, a guitar player, and a booking agent. [all nouns]

Verbs
Not Parallel: The storm flipped [simple past] the patio table and was taking off [past progressive] with the chairs.
Parallel: The storm flipped the patio table and took off with the chairs. [both simple past]

Adjectives
Not Parallel: The crowd was eager [adj.], alert [adj.], and jumping up and down [verb].
Parallel: The crowd was eager, alert, and excitable. [all adjectives]

Adverbs
Not Parallel: Calmly [adv.] and with steady strokes [prep. phrase], she swam the English Channel.
Parallel: Calmly and steadily, she swam the English Channel. [both adverbs]

Articles
Not Parallel: At the pet store, Lila wants to see the dogs, cats, ferrets, and the guinea pigs. [article only before the nouns
dogs and guinea pigs]
Parallel: At the pet store, Lila wants to see the dogs, the cats, the ferrets, and the guinea pigs. [The article the
precedes each noun.]
OR
Parallel: At the pet store, Lila wants to see the dogs, cats, ferrets, and guinea pigs. [A single starting article
the identifies all of the following nouns.]

Prepositional Phrases
Not Parallel: The park district will build the trail between the forests [prep. phrase] and to wind with the stream [infinitive phrase].
Parallel: The park district will build the trail between the forests and along the stream. [both prep. phrases]

Our prepositional phrases also should be parallel with their standard phrasing:

Not Parallel: Her statements represent her satisfaction and belief in the jury’s verdict.
Parallel: Her statements represent her satisfaction with and belief in the jury’s verdict.

Applying parallelism in our writing contributes to clearer, smoother communication between us and our readers—and keeps them parallel with us to the end of each thought.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | September 13, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Example vs. Sample

Lately, I seem to be seeing and correcting a lot of misuses of the words example and sample. I started thinking that maybe this was one of those things I was just getting “attitudish” about and wielding the red pen without great responsibility. But rather than flogging myself with a horsehair whip, I decided I would find out why people might mistake these two words, and if successful, I would provide some additional information about the couplet.

First, let me give you some condensed definitions from Merriam-Webster, which I think do a good job explaining the differences:

example (noun)

1: a particular single item, fact, incident, or aspect that may be taken fairly as typical or representative of all of a group or type

2: a pattern or representative action or series of actions tending or intended to induce one to imitate or emulate

3: an instance (such as a problem to be solved) serving to illustrate a rule or precept or to act as an exercise in the application of the rules of any study or branch of science

sample (noun)

1a: a representative portion of a whole: a small segment or quantity taken as evidence of the quality or character of the entire group or lot

2: a unit of merchandise used for demonstration or display<floor sample>

3: one that serves to illustrate the full range or a part (as of a population) used for purposes of investigating and comparing properties

4: an excerpt from a recording (such as a popular song by another performer) that is used in a musical composition, recording, or performance

Second, there are two reasons you might get them a bit confused. The first reason is the they are both originally from the same root word. According to the article, Difference Between Example and Sample:

The modern word “example” is a result of three evolutions. It first emerged from the Latin “exemplum,” then evolved into the Old French “example” and “essaumple,” to finally end up as the Middle English word “example.” Its original meaning is “to take out.” The word has been in usage since the 14th century.

Meanwhile, “sample” as a word is a term derived from “example.” It shares common etymological roots with the latter because it evolved from the Old French “essaumple.” It began to be used as a word a century later than “example.”

The second reason you might get them confused is that, occasionally, sample is listed as a synonym for example, though that use is antiquated according to Merriam-Webster.

To sum it up, here’s a little more from the article I mentioned above:

An example, by definition, is a noun that shows and mirrors other things. Examples are used to exemplify and illustrate something. “Example” is also utilized as a tool for the explanation and reinforcement of a particular point. Moreover, examples are used for strict compliance or as a premeditated experience. In this manner, it is expected that the example will be followed and replicated among its audience….

On the other hand, a sample is a small part of something much bigger. Unlike an example, a sample is random and not specific. Samples are often used to describe the quality or nature of a specific whole. “Sample” is often used in statistics or quantitative research as a term to describe part of a target population. Samples are often tangible parts and can be observed using the five senses of sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing.

In most instances here at work, we would be writing and providing examples to our readers: showing them how to do something, showing a reflection of what a process should look like, or providing them with a version of a problem that has been worked and completed.

Offering a client a sample is giving the client a little piece of something, like a quick look at part of something bigger—a teaser of the next best product. Most of us aren’t in that business, though. We want to provide full, fantastic, problem-solving examples and solutions.

There. Hopefully I have defined my way out of punishment.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | September 10, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Clam Bake

I’m not sure about the last time I was “happy as a clam,” but I’m sure I’ve said it more than once in my life. I’m also sure that I wondered why clams were so happy. Here, in a portion of an article from Richard Lederer, is the answer to why clams are happy, in addition to the mysteries behind some other similes you may have heard. For the full article, you can see his web page here: “A Well-Turned Simile Can Make Us Happy as a Clam.”

A simile is a figure of speech that compares two essentially different objects or ideas, expressly indicated by words such as like or as, as in

  • O my love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June. O my love is like the melody that’s sweetly played in tune. –Robert Burns
  • What happens to a dream deferred?
    Does it dry up
    Like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore
    — And then run?

    Langston Hughes

  • Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. –Winston Groom
  • Life is like a dog sled race. If you’re not the lead dog, the scenery never changes.

I have often been asked, “In the simile happy as a clam, why are clams so happy?”

To arrive at an answer, one needs to know that the expression is elliptical; that is, something is left out. When we discover the missing part, we unlock the origin and true meaning of the phrase. As it turns out, happy as a clam is little more than half of the original saying, the full simile being happy as a clam at high tide. A clam at high tide is sensibly happy because, in high water, humans can’t capture the shellfish to mince, steam, bake, stuff, casino, or Rockefeller it, and high tide brings small yummy organisms to the mollusk.

Similarly, although we usually say, the proof is in the pudding, the full explanation is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And to harp on, meaning “to dwell on the same topic,” is in fact a shortening of the old phrase to harp on one string, which meant “to play the same note on a harp string over and over.”

Finally, we may well wonder why people say naked as a jaybird when jaybirds are covered with feathers. Here’s the first printed citation, in 1893, of naked as a jaybird: “He will have the humbug qualifications of a cowboy stripped from his poor worthless carcass so quickly that he would feel like a jaybird with his tail feathers gone.” Turns out, therefore, that a jaybird is naked only when some of its nether plumage is missing.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | September 5, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Comparatives and Superlatives

Good morning! Today, the topic is comparatives and superlatives. Let’s start with comparatives since they sound like what they are and will make superlatives easier to digest. In grammar, a comparative is a word that is used to compare two things. For example, the word bigger is a comparative in the following sentence:

  • A condor is bigger than a hummingbird.

In contrast, a superlative is used to compare more than two things. For example, the word largest is a superlative in the following sentence:

  • The royal albatross is the largest flying bird alive today.

A common mistake that people make is to use a superlative when they should use a comparative, as in this sentence:

  • Gina is the sweetest of my two nieces. (incorrect)

Since there are only two nieces, the sentence should be written like this:

  • Gina is the sweeter of my two nieces.

Which brings me to my second point. If you are working with a one- or two-syllable word, like sweet, you add -er to make the comparative, and you add -est to make the superlative:

  • sweet, sweeter, sweetest

However, when you’re working with words that are three or more syllables, the rule changes. In that case you use the word more for the comparative and you use the word most for the superlative:

  • incredible, more incredible, most incredible

And then, of course, there are the irregulars. There are always irregulars in English. Here are some common irregulars:

  • bad, worse, worst
  • good, better, best
  • many, more, most
  • little, less, least

As with the regular comparatives and superlatives, people often make the mistake of using the superlative when they should use the comparative:

  • James is the best soccer player of the two of them. (incorrect)

Since we’re only comparing two soccer players, James is the better soccer player.

That’s it for today. Make it a good one. 😊

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 3, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Bully and Stopgap

Good morning, folks!

A couple of you have written in asking me to provide some information on words and phrases you’ve heard and where they might come from. You ask, I answer.

First, regarding an article I recently sent out about word meanings changing. One of the words was bully, which went from meaning sweetie or heartthrob to harasser. The question was, what about the phrase “Bully for you,” which means “good for you.” Is that from the older meaning? Writing Explained says:

In the 1500s and 1600s, the word bully meant an excellent person. Nowadays, bully usually means someone who hurts those weaker than oneself.

The original, positive meaning is still preserved in the idiom bully for you…which means…good for you; how brave.

Occasionally, this expression is used to praise someone sincerely. However, this usage is not incredibly common in the present day.

Nowadays, this expression is often sarcastic. A person might use this if he or she thinks that someone’s story is boring or not very good.

The other question I received was, “Where did the term ‘stopgap’ come from?” First, the meaning of stopgap, from Dictionary.com:

noun

something that fills the place of something else that is lacking; temporary substitute; makeshift. For example: Candles are a stopgap when the electricity fails.

adjective

makeshift. For example: This is only a stopgap solution.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says:

1680s, from stop (v.) + gap (n.); the notion probably being of something that plugs a leak, but it may be in part from gap (n.) in a specific military sense "opening or breach in defenses by which attack may be made (1540s). Also as an adjective from 1680s.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 29, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Eponyms

Have we ever discussed eponyms? I feel like we have, but I don’t see anything in our archives about them, so let’s have a look today. An eponym, put simply, is a word that is based on a person’s name. This partial collection is from a Grammar Girl blog, which I have edited a bit for time’s sake. You can click the link if you’d like to read more. I’m jumping right in and starting with the examples.

Adolphe Sax was a Belgian instrument maker who brought a new instrument to a Victorian event in 1851 called The Great Exhibition. His main job was making flutes and clarinets, and his invention, which looks like something of a mash-up of those two instruments, was dubbed the “Saxophone.”

Other things that were named after people that you might know about include:

  • Braille, the language of raised dots that blind people can use to read, invented by Louis Braille
  • Scientific terms like Fahrenheit, Celsius, pasteurize, ampere, ohm, volt, and watt, all named after famous scientists
  • Terms we’ve covered before in the podcast or in my books, like guillotine, teddy bear, and bowdlerize.

The guillotine was named after Joseph Guillotin, who was opposed to the death penalty but lobbied for the device to be used for beheadings during the French Revolution because it was more humane. Teddy bears were named after US president Teddy Roosevelt after he refused to shoot a cute, captive bear on a hunting trip. Bowdlerize came from Thomas Bowdler and his sister Harriet, who liked to edit words they found offensive out of Shakespeare’s writing.

Cardigan

Here’s one you’ll find in the dictionary that you may not have known was named after a person: cardigan. It was named after the Earl of Cardigan, who was very particular about everything related to his military unit, from drills and rules to his uniforms. In the famous battle of the Light Brigade, during the Crimean War in the 1850s, he wore a blue knitted waistcoat trimmed with gold. When he returned from the war, he was hailed as a hero, and his style of waistcoat became popular. Later, it came out that his performance in the war bordered on incompetent, but by then, it seems the sweater and the name cardigan had stuck.

With the industrial revolution, it became easier to make knitted clothes. In the 1920s, Coco Chanel made the cardigan something women could wear, too. Fashion historians say she embraced the design because she didn’t like messing up her hair by pulling on a regular sweater. But although Chanel may have expanded the market for the button-up sweater, we owe to name to Lord Cardigan.

Nicotine

I bet a lot of you didn’t know that nicotine is named after Jean Nicot, a trusted notary of the French royal family in the 1500s and the writer of one of the first French dictionaries. During his travels as the French ambassador to Portugal, he received a plant that had originated in what is now Florida in the United States. He saw that the powder from the plant greatly improved users’ moods, and he believed it had powerful healing properties. Knowing of the foul disposition and migraines of Catherine de Médici, he sent her some powdered leaves and she loved it, dubbing it “ambassador’s powder.” It made its way around Europe, becoming a popular thing to sniff with both royalty and the clergy, who also gave it the nickname “Father Superior’s powder.” Nicot began importing large quantities of tobacco to France, which gave him both fortune and fame. About 150 years after his death, the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus gave the tobacco plant the botanical name “Nicotiana.” And when the active chemical was isolated in 1828, scientists named it “nicotine.”

Mausoleum

Mausoleum, a large or stately tomb, comes from one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world: the massive tomb of Mausolos, who was a fourth century B.C.E. king of a region that is now in Turkey.

Leotard

Leotard, the form-fitting stretchy outfit worn by athletes like gymnasts and ice skaters, comes from Jules Leotard, a 19th century trapeze artist.

leotard Leonard

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 26, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Suffrage

Hello, my beautiful dandelions! I hope you are having a bright and cheerful day!

I’m sending this Editor’s Corner article a day early in honor of today being Women’s Equality Day. Though I like to celebrate 365 days of this, it is on this day that the United States commemorates the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution, which gave women in America the right to vote. Most of the JHA offices should be acknowledging this in some way—if you are in an office, check out what’s happening there!

If you are an Editor’s Corner reader, you get this special delivery to your mailbox because I love to share. So, what does the vote have to do with English?

Well, I was watching Schoolhouse Rock’s “Suffering Till Suffrage” video, and I got curious about where the word suffrage came from. Here is a nice article that answers a few questions about the word. The full article is here: “What Does Suffrage Mean” by Jone Johnson Lewis.

"Suffrage" is used today to mean the right to vote in elections, sometimes also including the right to run for and hold elected public office. It is commonly used in phrases like "woman suffrage" or "women’s suffrage" or "universal suffrage."

Derivation and History

The word "suffrage" comes from the Latin suffragium meaning "to support." It already had the connotation of voting in classical Latin, and may have been used as well for a special tablet on which one recorded a vote.

It likely came into English through French. In Middle English, the word took on ecclesiastical meanings, as well, of intercessory prayers. In the 14th and 15th centuries in English, it was also used to mean "support."

By the 16th and 17th centuries, "suffrage" was in common use in English to mean a vote in favor of a proposal (as in a representative body like Parliament) or of a person in an election. The meaning then broadened to apply to a vote for or against candidates and proposals. Then the meaning broadened to mean the ability to vote by individuals or groups….

The Enlightenment, with emphasis on equality of all persons and "consent of the governed," paved the way for the idea that the suffrage, or ability to vote, should be extended beyond a small elite group. Wider, or even universal suffrage, became a popular demand. "No taxation without representation" called for those who were taxed to also be able to vote for their representatives in government.

Universal male suffrage was a call in political circles in Europe and America by the first half of the 19th century, and then some began to extend that demand to women as well as woman suffrage became a key social reform issue through 1920.

Active suffrage refers to the right to vote. The phrase passive suffrage is used to refer to the right to run for and hold public office. Women were, in a few cases, elected to public office (or appointed) before they won the right to active suffrage.

Suffragist was used to denote someone working to extend suffrage to new groups. Suffragette was sometimes used for women working for woman suffrage.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 22, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Mispronounced Words

Good morning, everyone. Today I’m sharing a list of mispronounced words. Coming from a family of many varied accents, I wondered if the pronunciations would differ regionally, and my guess is that they do; however, I checked the pronunciations on the Merriam-Webster website, so whether you’re from California, Kentucky, or Maine, these are the preferred pronunciations. I was surprised by a couple of them.

This is by no means a complete list, but it gets the conversation started.

acai: should be ah-sigh-EE

conch: should be conk

espresso: should be es-PRESS-O (not ex-PRESS-o)

February: should be FEB-ru-ar-ee (we shouldn’t be dropping the first r).

forte: should be fort (not for-TAY)

foyer: should be FOY-er (not foy-YAY)

gala: should be GAY-la (not GAL-uh)

hyperbole: should be hy-PER-ba-lee (not HY-per-bowl)

liable: should be LIE-a-ble (not LIE-ble)

library: should be LIE-brare-ee (don’t drop the first r)

meme: should be meem

mischievous: should be MIS-chiv-ous (not mis-CHEEV-i-ous)

niche: should be nitch (not neesh)

nuclear: should be NEW-clee-ur (not NEW-que-lur)

often: should be OFF-en (not OFF-ten)

realtor: should be REEL-tur (not REE-la-tur)

regime: should be RAY-geem (not RUH-geem)

sherbet: should be sher-BET (not SHER-bert)

status: should be STAY-tus (not STAH-tus)

triathlon: should be tri-ATH-len (not tri-ATH-a-lon)

valet: should be VAL-it (not val-AY)

And because my son recently graduated with a degree in zoology…

zoology: should be zoh-AH-lo-jee (not zoo-AH-lo-jee)

And because my other son is in the Coast Guard…

boatswain: should be boh-sun

coxswain: should be kahk-sun

How many surprised you? I hope you have a fabulous 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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immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 20, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Greece is the word!

Καλημέρα! (Kaliméra/good morning), my little chickadees! I got back from a vacation a couple of weeks ago, and surprisingly, I haven’t forced my photos or stories on you…yet! It was a double birthday celebration for my brother and cousin, and instead of meeting here in the states, we went to my cousin’s home: Greece. It was quite an adventure with twelve family members; various homes, hotel rooms, and bungalows; three cars; and ten really stubborn, loud, opinionated people swearing in Greek. I’ll let you figure out who the two gentle people were, but I was not one of them. J

While I was going through the Acropolis Museum, I sent myself a few words to cover with you when I returned home. The top floor of the museum is built in the dimensions of the Parthenon and contains a few original marble sculptures and a lot of casts of the Parthenon’s ancient sculptures that are now in other countries. And here is where our language lesson starts.

At either end of the museum’s top floor, you will see what remains of the two pediments. The pediments are the triangular areas above the columns. The pediments of the Athens Parthenon comprised two scenes from mythology: the birth of Athena from Zeus’s head, and a battle over Attica between Poseidon and Athena. Considering the name of the city below, I think we know who won that battle with her gift of the olive tree.

Today’s Parthenon (red indicates pediment placement):

Here’s a recreation of the pediment of Athena and Poseidon:

Hmm. I’m already running out of time and I’ve only covered “pediment.” Well, here’s another word for you: metope. A metope, according to Merriam-Webster is “space between two triglyphs of a Doric frieze often adorned with carved work.” Doric is the style of column used on the Parthenon, and a triglyph is

is a tablet with three vertical grooves. Put them all together and you have the next level of art beneath the pediment.

Okay, that’s it for today, except one more photo that I took far away from Athens, at the River Styx. Yes, this is where souls were supposedly ferried from the world of the living, across the Styx, to the world of the dead. You may remember seeing historical references of putting coins on the eyelids of the dead to pay the ferryman. This is where and why the Greeks did it. How did such a beautiful place get such a dark reputation?

Have a lovely day!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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