Posted by: episystechpubs | August 7, 2017

Editor’s Corner: As Well As

In technical writing, we try to eliminate unnecessary words as much as possible. Therefore, I rarely use the phrase “as well as.” Why use three words when one word (“and”) will suffice?

However, not all writers practice minimalism. If communicating succinctly is not a concern, are the phrase “as well as” and the word “and” completely interchangeable?

In some sentences, it seems that way. For example, the following two sentences mean essentially the same thing:

· I have a turtle and a cat.

· I have a turtle as well as a cat.

Look closely, however, and you might notice a subtle difference. The word “and” gives equal weight to the two items in the list (the turtle and the cat). The second sentence subtly emphasizes the turtle and deemphasizes the cat.

Neither a pet turtle nor a pet cat is especially surprising, so the emphasis doesn’t matter much. But if you’re not careful, the phrase “as well as” can make it seem like you’re elevating something mundane over something surprising. Consider the following sentence:

· I have a Labrador retriever as well as a northern white rhino.

To me, this sentence is almost comical. It emphasizes the fact that I have a Labrador retriever (the most common dog breed) and treats as an afterthought the fact that I have a northern white rhino (of which there are three in the world).

Emphasizing the wrong part of a sentence might not be grammatically incorrect, but it can confuse your readers.

If the items in your list are equally important, use the word “and” and list the items in any order. If one of the items is more important and you decide to use the phrase “as well as,” list the most important item first.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | 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 | August 4, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Hind

As I was playing one of my favorite games the other day (Dropwords), I noticed a slightly disturbing trend of words I kept finding, including hind, hine, and hiney. Then, I get to work and what’s waiting for me? An article from Daily Writing Tips called Hind and Behind. I guess this is my version of “destiny.”

This post discusses the words in which the element hind, pertaining to location or movement in or to the rear, appear.

The adjective hind means “back” or “rear.” Hindbrain refers to the rear part of the brain. Hindquarters denotes the rear part of a four-legged animal, though the term is sometimes used informally in place of “buttocks,” and a hind shank is a cut of meat from the upper part of an animal’s hind leg. (Heinie, and its alternate spelling, hiney, are slang terms for the buttocks.)

To hinder is to hold or keep back, and something that does so is a hindrance. (Hinder is also a comparative of the adjective hind, meaning “more behind.”) Hindmost is a synonym for last, seldom used but widely known from the expression “The devil take the hindmost.” Hindsight means “perception of an event after it occurs” and is usually seen in the phrase “in hindsight” or in the expression “Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” which means that one’s vision is clear (at 20/20 acuity) in retrospect because it is easier to analyze and judge an event after the fact than before it occurs.

Hinterland, taken directly from German, means “back country,” connoting an area far inland or remote from urban areas.

Behind stems from the Old English adverb and preposition behindan, meaning “after” or “at the back of”; the first syllable means “by,” and hindan means “from behind.” The compound behindhand, serving as an adjective and an adverb, means “in a backward state” (of development or thinking) or “in the rear”—or, perhaps formed on the model of beforehand, “unable to pay.”

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | August 3, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Conjunctive Adverbs: What Are They Good For?

I guess we should start with a definition—because seriously, how many people can explain what a conjunctive adverb is? In all the world, I think maybe twelve.

· conjunctive: serving to join; connective

· adverb: a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there)

Conjunctive adverbs join two clauses—so do coordinators (like and, but, so, etc.), but conjunctive adverbs are considered more formal and are used much more often in professional writing than they are in everyday speech. They are different from coordinators because conjunctive adverbs can move around in the sentence. Snazzy, right? Now, I’ve got your attention!

In the following sentences, the conjunctive adverbs are italicized.

· I am happy; therefore, I will sing and dance for you.

· I am a fairly good singer; however, I dance like a wounded giraffe.

Watch how deftly I can move the conjunctive adverbs:

· I am happy; I will, therefore, sing and dance for you.

· I am a fairly good singer; I dance like a wounded giraffe, however.

You can’t do that with coordinators like and, but, and so. Try moving so and but in the following sentences (while retaining the same meaning).

· I am happy, so I will sing and dance for you.

· I am a fairly good singer, but I dance like a wounded giraffe.

Coordinators are stubborn; they can’t be moved.

Why should you care? Because conjunctive adverbs have many uses that can improve the clarity of your writing; they show how two clauses are connected.

· They can add to previous information (furthermore, in addition, moreover).

· The can contrast (notwithstanding, nonetheless, nevertheless, in contrast).

· They can illustrate (for example, for instance).

· They can summarize (in short, in sum).

· They can show sequence in time or logic (consequently, therefore, thus).

· They can emphasize (certainly, indeed).

You don’t have to remember what they’re called; however, you may occasionally find conjunctive adverbs useful in your professional writing. Furthermore, you can use them in speech (when you’re at the grocery store, the gym, or the local brewery) to impress the locals. You should certainly use them sparingly so as not to sound too pretentious. In sum, conjunctive adverbs may have a confusing name, but they’re easy enough to use. Indeed, they are.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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Posted by: episystechpubs | August 2, 2017

Editor’s Corner: The first one is free!

Dear Editrix,

Is it correct to say “for free” in this headline… or anywhere for that matter? It just sounds awkward to me.

Sincerely,

Land of the Free

Dear Free,

As always, an excellent question from one of our readers—you are so thoughtful and smart.

As far as a definite answer, I’m afraid I don’t have one. I was looking into several resources, and here’s what I found overall.

Sticklers, strict grammarians, grammar police—whatever you may want to call them—say that for free is grammatically incorrect. Here is the rationale, from The Grammar Monster:

1) For free is grammatically unsound. A preposition must sit before something functioning as a noun (i.e., a noun, a pronoun, or a noun phrase). Since free is an adjective, it cannot be preceded by the preposition for.

2) For free is logically unsound. Strict grammarians state that for is a shortened version of in exchange for, and free is a shortened version of free of charge. So, if both were expanded to their full versions, we would have in exchange for free of charge, which is nonsensical.

So, the proper thing is to refer to something as free.

Now on the other hand, some people will tell you for free is fine. It’s a commonly used idiom, and it is used with increasing frequency. As you can see on the chart below, the use of for free has surpassed the use of free of charge and for nothing.

From Google Books Ngram Viewer:

I would suggest that you can use for free when you are talking casually, but to stick with free or free of charge when writing to a professional audience.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 2, 2017

Recall: Editor’s Corner: The first one is free!

Kara Church would like to recall the message, “Editor’s Corner: The first one is free!”.
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 | August 2, 2017

Editor’s Corner: The first one is free!

Dear Editrix,

Is it correct to say “for free” in this headline… or anywhere for that matter? It just sounds awkward to me.

Sincerely,

Land of the Free

Dear Free,

As always, an excellent question from one of our readers—you are so thoughtful and smart.

As far as a definite answer, I’m afraid I don’t have one. I looking into several resources, and here’s what I found overall.

Sticklers, strict grammarians, grammar police—whatever you may want to call them—say that for free is grammatically incorrect. Here is the rationale, from The Grammar Monster:

1) For free is grammatically unsound. A preposition must sit before something functioning as a noun (i.e., a noun, a pronoun, or a noun phrase). Since free is an adjective, it cannot be preceded by the preposition for.

2) For free is logically unsound. Strict grammarians state that for is a shortened version of in exchange for, and free is a shortened version of free of charge. So, if both were expanded to their full versions, we would have in exchange for free of charge, which is nonsensical.

So, the proper thing is to refer to something as free.

Now on the other hand, some people will tell you for free is fine. It’s a commonly used idiom, and it is used with increasing frequency. As you can see on the chart below, the use of for free has surpassed the use of free of charge and for nothing.

From Google Books Ngram Viewer:

I would suggest that you can use for free when you are talking casually, but to stick with free or free of charge when writing to a professional audience.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 1, 2017

Editor’s Corner: How to Write About Expanding Lists

Expandable and collapsible lists allow user interface designers to fit more content on a smaller screen (like a tablet, a phone, or a watch).

These lists don’t have a consistent appearance across all programs. The most common ways to indicate that lists can be expanded or collapsed are with arrows or with plus and minus signs.

Arrows

In Windows® 8 File Explorer, Microsoft® uses different types of arrows to indicate which folders can be expanded and collapsed.

· A blank right-pointing arrow indicates that the Desktop, Documents, and Pictures folders can be expanded.

· A darkened down-pointing arrow indicates that the This PC folder is already expanded (and can therefore be collapsed).

Tip: Some people call these arrows twisties, but this jargon could confuse readers. I prefer the more descriptive terms used in the Microsoft Manual of Style: “blank right-pointing arrow” and “darkened down-pointing arrow.”

Plus and Minus Signs

In compiled HTML (CHM) files, Microsoft uses plus and minus signs instead of arrows, as in the following screenshot.

Consider Your Audience

When deciding how to describe expandable and collapsible lists, consider your audience.

Experienced computer users will understand an instruction like, “Expand the Documents folder” without being told what to click. It is not necessary to differentiate between arrows, plus and minus signs, and other exotic icons.

Beginners might benefit from a more detailed instruction such as, “Click the blank right-pointing arrow to expand the Documents folder.”

Example (for experienced users): To view additional topics, expand Introducing Windows Media Player.

Example (for beginners): To view additional topics, click the plus sign (+) to expand the Introducing Windows Media Player book.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | 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 | July 31, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Biweekly and Bimonthly

The other day, I received an email asking if I’d heard biweekly means both “twice a week” and “every two weeks.” Oh yes, I’ve heard about it and read about it, and I’ve also been in a roomful of writers trying to confuse each other using the term. What an extra special kind of fun that was, dear readers.

Here are the definitions of biweekly and a similar word, bimonthly, from Merriam-Webster:

biweekly

1. occurring twice a week

2. occurring every two weeks : fortnightly [KC – I think we should take this opportunity to start using
fortnightly more often!]

bimonthly

1. occurring every two months

2. occurring twice a month : semimonthly [KC – Semimonthly means twice a month, not how long it takes to cross the states in an 18-wheeler.]

And here is a brief article on the topic, also from Merriam-Webster:

What do bimonthly and biweekly mean?

Many people are puzzled about bimonthly and biweekly, which are often ambiguous because they are formed from two different senses of bi-: “occurring every two” and “occurring two times.” This ambiguity has been in existence for nearly a century and a half and cannot be eliminated by the dictionary. The chief difficulty is that many users of these words assume that others know exactly what they mean, and they do not bother to make their context clear. So if you need bimonthly or biweekly, you should leave some clues in your context to the sense of bi- you mean. And if you need the meaning “twice a,” you can substitute semi- for bi-.

I think to be safe, I’d do a little more than drop a hint so people know what you’re talking about. Unless, of course, your clue is “I’ll see you twice a week,” “I’ll see you every other week,” or “Let’s meet fortnightly, Mr. Lincoln, so we can have tea parties twice a month!”

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | July 28, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Worn-Out Words

Good morning folks! The other day I had an interesting email “conversation” with one of you about phrases and jargon that we’re increasingly tired of hearing in meetings. The next day, I received an article from one of my favorite grammar websites going over some similar items.

The following is a selection of phrases you might hear in conversations or read in email, from the GrammarBook.com website article “Worn-Out Words and Phrases: 2017 (Follow-up)”. Even though we understand what most of the phrases mean, we try to avoid idioms and jargon to present our ideas more directly and clearly. As the author of this article says, “Together, as guardians of good grammar and writing, we can lead in keeping a lush linguistic landscape free of what can sap it of its beauty and strength.”

Worn-Out Word/Phrase Alternatives
24/7 (adv) always; all of the time
absolutely (interj) yes; of course
amazing (adj) stunning, wondrous
at the end of the day (prep. phrase) in the end, ultimately
by the same token (prep. phrase) similarly
cutting-edge (adj) leading, innovative
drop(ped) the ball (verb phrase) bungle, botch, fail to follow up
from the get-go (prep. phrase) from the start, beginning
high-impact (adj) forceful, powerful, productive
holistic (adj) comprehensive, integrated
impact(ed) (v) affect(ed), influence(d)
it’s not rocket science (idiomatic clause) it’s simple, easy
a lot/too much on plate
(noun phrase)
busy, occupied, swamped (adj)
on the same page (prep. phrase) agree, concur (v)
paradigm shift (noun phrase) radical change, new belief
perfect storm (noun phrase, idiom) crisis, ordeal, quagmire
proactive (adj) diligent, motivated, thinking ahead
reach out (verb with particle) contact, connect
safe haven (tautological noun phrase) haven, refuge, sanctuary
synergy (n) teamwork, harmony, unity
think outside the box (verb phrase) be creative, think differently

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
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is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
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Posted by: episystechpubs | July 27, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Backronyms

We all know about acronyms: abbreviations that are formed from the initial letters of other words and that are pronounced as a word (not as individual letters)—for example, NASA and NATO. Well, a backronym is an existing word that is turned into an acronym.

In other words, the acronym does not create a new word (like NATO), the acronym is a word we already know and use. The example Dictionary.com gives is the word rap, which is said to be a backronym of “rhythm and poetry.” Rap was already a word meaning “a quick, sharp blow” before it became the label for an entire musical genre.

We’ve all heard of the AMBER alert; it’s a backronym too. AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and is named after Amber Hagerman, a child kidnapped in 1996.

Another backronym you might recognize is USA PATRIOT Act, which stands for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.”

These examples show how backronyms are created purposefully, with a specific word in mind.

Of course, there are many other backronyms, and now when you hear them, you’ll know what to call them.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

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