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WRITING: AS CLEAR AS A BELL, AS WELL July 20, 2017

WRITING:  AS CLEAR AS A BELL, AS WELL                                         July 20, 2017 Hello, fans of writing and grammar! Welcome back! A couple of weeks ago, I said that in recent years “as” has often been used incorrectly in writing with or without punctuation, as the case may be, to indicate an addition or a comparison and that we would cover those issues regarding “as” very soon. Let’s gain a better understanding of how to use “as” and whether (and how) to punctuate around it. To that end, examples and brief explanations follow.  (Yes, we’ve actually seen such examples of incorrect usage and much more!)   Comparison:  Comma NOT needed with “as well.” Wrong:  You sing as well, as he does.  You sing, as well as, he does.  You sing, as well as he does. Correct:  You sing as well as he does.  [He sings well. So do you.] See why no comma is needed in that correct usage?   Addition (Like “too,” “also,” “In addition”/”Additionally”):  Comma IS needed with “as well.” Wrong:  The judge could award joint custody as well. Correct: (a)  The judge could award joint custody, as well.  [The judge could award joint custody, too.  The judge could award joint custody, also.  The judge also could award joint custody.] (b)  As well, the judge could award joint custody.  [This form is less common.] [Also, the judge could award joint custody.] See why the comma is needed in the correct usage of an addition? See the difference? It’s really very easy to do: A comparison needs no comma while an addition does need a comma. You just need to get used to it. The old adage still applies: Practice makes perfect. If you forget correct usage and applicable punctuation for “as well,” just rephrase to use “too” or “also” (most often). When writing, please pause for a minute to read, think whether what you’re doing makes sense, and then correct your copy. As we always say, “Accuracy = Credibility!” Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus. We have a seemingly endless list of grammar topics to discuss, so stay tuned for more next week and beyond....

WRITING: EDITING FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

WRITING:  EDITING FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS                        July 14, 2017   Editing goes hand in hand with writing and speaking. It is NOT only about using the text that you see–recommending corrections, improvements, rephrasings, completions, clarifications, better word choices, etc. It’s also about reading between the lines for what may be there that should not be and for what is not there that should be.   SUBTLETIES As a part of that, reading the text aloud can reveal subtle or not-so-subtle tones and nuances that may have sneaked their way into your writing and need to be fixed. A tone may need to be lessened, for example, from bossy or nasty to one of requesting or encouraging. Specifics may help, too. Example: From:  I need that letter on my desk by 3 p.m. To:  Please give your proposed letter to me by 2:30 so that I can review it and have a final copy ready for our department’s 4 p.m. meeting. That way, the boss will be happy with both of us.   Or, a tone may need to be strengthened from wimpy to nicely firm.  Example: From: If it isn’t too much trouble, do you think you might be able to move your car from the end of the driveway pretty soon? To:  Would you please move your car in fifteen minutes? It’s blocking the rest of us in the driveway, and I have to be at the doctor’s office in an hour. Thank you.   Negative connotations, outright insults, and any other text that detracts should be stricken from any generic writing or discussion.   HONEY + WIIF THEM? Have you considered all options, and have you honestly tried to do so objectively? Don’t be too hasty. The old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” can be helpful in practice. When you need readers or listeners to see your side of a problem and to do their best for you, you really should cover your assets and prove why they should help you. Also, you should end your letter or conversation with a pleasantly direct request that asks for exactly what you need and, if applicable, requests or suggests that the issue be resolved by a certain date or time. Show what’s in it for them and for you, and keep your writing thorough but brief. Along the way, correct punctuation can clarify intent and meaning. Keep doing your best in writing/editing and speaking, always with your readers or listeners in mind.   LIKE...

WRITING: Are We Almost There? July 6, 2017

WRITING:  Are We Almost There?                                          July 6, 2017   Are “almost” and “nearly” interchangeable in writing and speaking? I don’t think I ever heard anyone say “nearly” when I was growing up. Instead, as far as I can recall, everyone said “almost.” Of course, down the line in my education I learned about its similarity to “almost.” I must admit it: “Almost” is the first word I think of whenever I’m mentioning not quite getting there. To many of us their definitions are identical. So, are they interchangeable? Most of the time. The differences seem to come regionally and in people’s educational levels and social standing. “Nearly” seems to be more sophisticated. Using one versus the other really is not a big deal, though. You can take it from here.   Many lessons and bits of advice in this writing/grammar series have been taken from Writestyle’s online campus.    ...

WRITING: THE RIGHT WORD CLARIFIES

WRITING:  THE RIGHT WORD CLARIFIES                               June 30, 2017 . . . And, Interchangeability Doesn’t Always Work   Can the following words be used interchangeably in writing? Because                      Since                            As In most cases I say no, but I encourage you to decide after considering (a) examples of usage and (b) the fact that at times only a particular word can convey utmost clarity in both writing and speaking. A certain sentence from Writestyle’s Grammar course can make you think hard about this: [Because/Since/As] Ann was fired, I’ve been doing her work. Which word is correct to open the sentence? Let’s see how each affects the sentence and its meaning. Because:  Refers ideally to reasoning and/or consequence:  Because I was fired [Event #1], I have no money to pay the rent [Event #2]. “Because” seems to hint at a direct relationship between the two events; at times, it could or could not be a direct relationship.  “Because” would be clear and correct in the following sentence: “Because Ann was fired, I have to do her work.” Since:  Refers ideally and most clearly to the passage of time:  I’ve had no appetite or energy since Dad died. At the same time, many people often say things like, “Since [Because] I’m sick, you can go in my place.” Is that wrong? Technically, no; but, as you, too, can tell, it isn’t as clear. As:  Often refers ideally to an event AS it was happening:  A customer showed up just as I was locking the store for the night.  As I looked at the photo, I realized how much Joe looks like Dad. Note that in those last two examples, you could use “while” instead of “as” because both indicate an event in motion. In recent years, “as” has often been used incorrectly to indicate reasoning/consequence, which sets my teeth on edge, to say the least. It’s annoyingly wrong and unclear: As I was done, I went home. Clear correction: Because [reasoning] I was done [finished], I went home. When you consider the above explanations and examples, you likely can understand that communications are truly clear when “because,” “since,” and “as” are used for their respective purposes. Ideally, they should not be used interchangeably, especially when clarity could be questioned. Many people use them interchangeably and some educators accept the practice, which can cause confusion regarding the intent of some sentences. Thinking of your readers and establishing clarity for them is such a courtesy that prevents confusion and saves time. In the...

WRITING: HOMONYMS–THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY

WRITING:  HOMONYMS–THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY      June 21, 2017 Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different spellings, meanings, and purposes. In writing, they bring with them the good, the bad, and the ugly:   THE GOOD:     for rhyming, esp. when writing a poem THE BAD:         wrong word/wrong place/wrong time THE UGLY:       when people don’t care and don’t know the differences, and don’t check or correct their writing   For example, let’s look at “effect” vs. “affect,” which often cause confusion and trouble: “Effect” is a noun (What effect will this issue have on my job?) more often than it’s a verb (I will effect [produce] a solution to the problem today); “affect” is a verb (How will that problem affect my job?). Correct pronunciation helps to clarify spelling and usage: “ee-fect” (effect) vs. “uh-fect” (affect).   Remember: Using Spell Check while writing won’t catch homonym errors because the words sound alike. Two of the most-common homonym errors occur among the following groups of three:  to/two/too AND their/there/they’re. Writing the wrong word can result in embarrassment! When a contraction is involved, think about what it means. So, you’ll have to slow down a bit to think about meaning/intent and spelling while you write, and then you’ll have to proofread objectively and carefully. If you’re not sure, grab a dictionary and look it up.   Some other common homonyms:  are/our/hour, ball/bawl, bear/bare, beat/beet, been/bean/bin, board/bored, berry/bury, brake/break, chilly/chili, dear/deer, do/dew/doo, fairy/ferry, flee/flea, flower/flour, guest/guessed, hare/hair, him/hymn, hire/higher,  horse/hoarse, made/maid, merry/marry, might/mite, night/knight, no/know, new/knew, oar/ore, pain/pane, pair/pear/pare, peak/peek, peal/peel, rap/wrap, raise/rays, red/read, sore/soar, rain/rein/ reign,, sale/sail, steak/stake, see/sea, seen/scene, sell/cell, son/sun, scent/cent, steel/steal, so/sew, tail/tale, time/thyme, toe/tow, wait/weight, waste/waist, whale/wail, we/wee, whole/hole, wring/ring, you/yew.   Which homonyms are bad or ugly for you? What tricks do you have to keep certain ones good?   For more on homonyms, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homonym or https://www.abcteach.com/free/h/homonym_list_free.pdf. If you need additional help with spelling, grammar, or more, our low-cost online campus at www.writestyle.com may benefit you. Questions?  Comments?  Let me know through blog comments or via e-mail to writestyle@mindspring.com.   See you next...

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