Bloody Well Write

October 7, 2009

Telephone numbers

Jenny, I got your number.

Here’s how the AP Stylebook folks would like to see telephone numbers in print: 123-456-7890.

Ah, hyphens. Hey — at least they dropped the parentheses around the area code. Be happy.

Now, I know this doesn’t jibe with all the designers out there. And you know what? It doesn’t necessarily jibe with me, either. I’m a fan of dots (er, periods). I would rather see this: 123.456.7890.

So I guess what I’m promoting is this:

• If you or your company says that AP rules the proverbial roost and there should be absolutely no deviation, use the hyphens in your phone numbers. (And I’m so completely OK with that, as I do believe that AP has your back nearly every time, grammatically speaking.)

• If, on the other hand, you have a designer itching at the keypad to produce funky (or just non-hyphenated) art with numbers, use periods, stars, squares or whatever else floats that designer’s boat.

Just make it readable. After all, if you’re putting a phone number in print, you probably want people to be able to decipher that number and then call it, correct? Correct.

Happy trails!

SAK

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September 24, 2009

National Punctuation Day®

Filed under: grammar,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 12:39 pm
Tags: , ,

Today is Thursday, September 24, 2009 — the sixth annual celebration of National Punctuation Day (NPD). Punctuation ensures that groups of words make more sense and take on more meaning than you can shake a stick at.

Hooray for punctuation!

In 2004, NPD was founded by Jeff Rubin, a former newspaper guy. In 1981, Rubin started The Newsletter Guy, a newsletter publishing firm. Rubin is also a public speaker, addressing effective writing and marketing techniques. I bet that he also addresses the importance of proper punctuation — but that’s just a guess.

Check out the official Web site. It offers some of the standard stuff (e.g., definitions of each punctuation mark, examples of punctuation gone awry, a resources section); most notable, perhaps, is the information concerning the baking contest. Send in two photos of your masterpiece — one of it going into the oven raw and one of it coming out, all warm and yummy — and you may win a bunch of non-edible NPD stuff. How cool is that?! Very, I say.

Doesn't a bake-off seem like a better idea?! (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio/3367193003)

Doesn't a bake-off seem like a better idea?! (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio/3367193003)

OK, stop messing around here and go bake something with meaning, such as a semicolon or em dash. You know you want to.

Happy trails!

SAK

July 29, 2009

The interrobang: Say what‽

This gorgeous, little punctuation mark is currently making a name for itself in grammar circles and, hopefully, beyond.

“But what the heck is it‽” you exclaim (and rightly so, as it is an unusual beast).

The interrobang shows surprise and question

The interrobang shows surprise and question

Read the entire article.

July 28, 2009

One space after a period

Filed under: grammar,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 4:59 pm
Tags: ,

Back in the day when “back in the day” wasn’t a grossly overused phrase, English teachers taught their students that every sentence ends with some form of punctuation: a question mark, an exclamation point, a period. And that punctuation necessarily is followed by two (count ’em, two) spaces before the next sentence officially begins.

That’s how I learned it.

That period-double-space thing was for school term papers, tests and such. And it was for the birds. Why in the world would we knowingly force our thumb to do the unnatural act of pressing down on the space bar twice at one shot? We were told that it helped the reader by providing more of a visual stop. Really? That black spot at the end of a decently written sentence isn’t enough of a clarification that the sentence is done, so a little extra white space should do the trick? Hmmm. Suspect.

In today’s fast-paced, cram-it-all-in society, that white space has been nudged out. And I, for one, am happy about that.

Although I do see a lot of period-double-space configurations in my editing work, the publishing tool that I currently work with mysteriously (and thankfully) eliminates one of those spaces — I don’t care which one, just that one is, indeed, obliterated, thank you very much.

Just remember that the English language morphs as it goes along, so it’s now OK to throw caution to the wind and only include one space after the ending punctuation. And if you happen to run into your middle school teacher, smile sweetly and say that you have fond memories of those days.

Happy trails!

SAK

July 13, 2009

Academic degrees: Is there a doctor in the house?

Those fancy initials at the end of your doctor’s name make your doc seem more valid somehow, more intelligent, don’t they? They make you trust your physician more than if you were talking colon issues or dermatological concerns with, say, your best friend’s kid brother. Well, your doctor had to put forth a lot of effort to get those little tagalong letters at the end of his or her name (in most cases, anyway). Universities made a pretty penny off of those med students, and many a textbook had coffee stains on them while your physician was struggling to get through med school.

But wait. What about the Ph.D., M.A. and B.G.S. recipients who are not medical doctors? They, too, lost countless hours of sleep cramming for exams, just so they could add a couple of cool letters to their names. (OK, so that’s not the only reason they went to school, but you get the drift for this discussion.) Somehow, though, these folks often get mocked for trying to tag their academic degrees to their names in any public forum — which, in my opinion, is too bad. They worked just as hard for their degrees — no matter that it was in history or English or mathematics — so why shouldn’t they get the recognition, as well?

Regardless, the preferred way to mention someone’s credentials is not with abbreviations, but with a phrase, such as Dr. Sarah Sneed, a marine biologist or Dr. Evil, a mad scientist; the added language offers more description and less pomp. Sometimes, pomp is plenty good. And sometimes, pomp is just annoying. Use discretion.

One of my favorite "doctors"

One of my favorite "doctors"

The AP Stylebook recommends using abbreviations only when mentioning several people at the same time, making a phrase that describes each person’s credentials cumbersome. At that point, use the degree only at the end of the recipient’s full name on the first mention and drop it on subsequent mentions. Remember to set the degree off with commas:

• Marcus Welby, M.D.
• Bob Smith, Ph.D., presented his lecture. Dr. Smith received a round of applause.
• Dr. Sarah Sneed, a marine biologist, is a vegetarian.
• Oh, to write like the author Dr. Seuss — my writing, I fear, is much too loose.
• In attendance were Bill Black, Ph.D., Sherri White, M.A., Todd Green, D.D.S., and Erin Plum, M.D.

Note that when a title comes at the beginning of the person’s name, the degree does not follow. It’s Dr. Sarah Sneed, not Dr. Sarah Sneed, M.D.

I, by the way, am no doctor. I would’ve liked to have played one on TV, though.

Happy trails!

SAK

June 29, 2009

Proofread vs. proof read vs. proof-read

Filed under: grammar,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 11:18 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

No contest on this one.

The term is proofread. One word. No hyphen. The same goes for other forms of the word: proofreader, proofreading.  Somehow, some way, the word gets split in two or includes a dreaded hyphen in lots of advertisements and employment requests — very uncool.

It's all in the details

It's all in the details

Proofreading, by the way, dates back to the 1920s. And what does one of these rare breeds do all day? A proofreader reads and marks corrections on a typeset document. Note that the proofreader marks corrections, not makes corrections. That job is typically left to a typesetter or designer. What kind of corrections? If you want to be literal and stick to the official job description, the proofreader only looks for typos and formatting issues on one document compared with another. Sometimes a document has nothing with which to be compared; this is called a blind proof. Modern-day proofreading, however, has an extended job description, which includes checking grammar and consistencies, as well as looking over copy at several stages prior to its being typeset.

Fun stuff, eh?

Happy trails!

SAK

June 26, 2009

RSVP

Filed under: AP Stylebook,punctuation,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 11:24 am
Tags: ,

This little acronym gets thrown around a lot. Often, it is used (not utilized, ahem); sometimes, it is abused. Let’s investigate.

RSVP stands for repondez s’il vous plait, meaning respond if you please. It is the French way of someone politely asking you to contact him or her in order to indicate whether you will be able to attend whatever event he or she sent you an invitation for. NOTE: The acronym does not call for periods, despite what some calligraphers deem necessary for high style.

RSVP

High-style RSVP, with unnecessary periods

Let’s say that your friend Frankie mailed you an invitation to her son’s birthday party. The invitation has RSVP printed in bold letters, with a telephone number and e-mail address below it. The polite (and expected) thing to do, as soon as you receive the invitation, is to check your availability and immediately call or e-mail Frankie to let her know that you can or can’t make it to the party. If you two regularly contact each other some other way, such as tweeting or texting, that would probably be fine, as long as you verify that she received your message; but since the invitation listed a telephone number and e-mail address, one of those options would have less chance of somehow not getting your RSVP to her. It’s your call — just verify.

The purpose of the RSVP, by the way, is to help the person hosting the event to plan said event more efficiently. If 30 invitations are sent out (with 30 invitees) with no RSVP, then the host is assuming that 30 guests will arrive; the host will have to prepare to adequately serve 30 guests, plus the host and any of the host’s helpers or family.

But if an RSVP is on the invitation, the host’s hope is that if not everyone can make it and if those folks notify the host by the requested date, the host will be able to adjust the event requirements in time to save money and supplies. So, for example, Frankie could plan on buying a smaller cake and fewer jugs of fruit punch because seven invited guests replied that they could not come to the party, while 23 guests replied that they would be there, with bells on. And in these interesting economic times (yeah, you try to avoid that phrase these days), saving a few bucks here and there is a very good thing.

So please, folks, follow RSVP protocol and RSVP on or before the deadline on the invitation. If you’re a friend of the host (and you presumably are, or else why are you getting an invitation?), help him or her out and say that you’ll either be there or you can’t come.

One other thing: Don’t write, “Please RSVP by xyz.” The please is redundant.
One last thing: Don’t write, “RSVP in advance.” Duh — you’re expecting them to tell you they’ll be there after the shindig’s over?

Happy trails!

SAK

May 14, 2009

Misspellings, mispellings, miss pellings

Here’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. Not sure why I can’t just let them go; I think it’s just my nature, good or bad. I was a pretty decent speller growing up and did well in the school competitions (although it peeves me to no end that I never won a title of any sort). Even today, there are some (what I consider to be) basic words that I have to look up to make sure that I’m getting them down correctly. Or at the very least, I have to type them two ways to know which one is the correct one.

Example? Weird. Or wierd. Nope, it’s weird. The i-before-e-except-after-c rule doesn’t apply. Isn’t that weird?

So what bothers me enough to write an entry on it are those misspellings that I see frequently, some from people who have multiple degrees and make — I’m guessing — six times more money than I do (sniff) and some from average Joes and Normal Nancys. ’Cause there are SO MANY average and normal folks running around, right? Yeah, sure. You let me know when you meet just one.

And what’s perhaps worse than seeing misspellings in other people’s writing is finding out that I’ve been misspelling something my entire life, thinking it was just fine and dandy. So I try to remain vigilant in my journey. But by all means, folks, if you see something from me that ain’t right, please tell me. As Arlo sings it (17:37), “I’m still not proud.”

Anyway, here is a list of words that I often see misspelled (followed by how they are misspelled):
Accommodate (accomodate, acommodate)
A lot (alot)
Amateur (amature)
Apparent (apparant)
Barbecue (barbeque)
Broccoli (brocolli)
Calendar (calender)
Cannot (can not)
Cantaloupe (cantelope)
Carburetor (carborator)
Caribbean (Carribean)
Cartilage (cartillage)
Cemetery (cematery)
Chili (chile)
Collectible (collectable)
Committed (commited)
Congratulations (congradulations)
Copyright (copywrite, copywright)
Daiquiri (daquiri)
Defendant (defendent)
Definite (definate)
Desperate (despirate)

Disappear (dissappear)

Ecstasy (extasy)
Embarrass
(embarass)
Exhilarate
(exilarate)
Existence
(existance)
Fourth
(forth)
Gauge
(guage, gage)
Government
(goverment)
Grammar
(grammer — ha!)
Grateful
(greatful)
Gray
(grey)
Guarantee
(gaurantee)
Handkerchief (hankerchief)
Harass (harrass)
Health care (healthcare)
Independent (independant)
Indispensable (indispensible)
Inoculate (innoculate — I would’ve missed this in the spelling bee)
Irresistible (irresistable)
Its (it’s)
Jeweler (jeweller)
Judgment (judgement)
Kernel (colonel)
Knowledge (knowlege)
Led (lead)
Leisure (liesure)
Liaison (liason)
License (licence, lisense)
Lieutenant (leutenant)
Lightning (lightening)
Maneuver (manuever)
Marshmallow (marshmellow — just learned this one a few years ago)
Medieval (medeival — I always look this sucker up)
Memento (momento)
Minuscule (miniscule)
Mischievous (mischeivous, mischievious, mischevious)
Misspell (mispell — aha!)
Nauseous (nauseus)
Neighbor (nieghbor, neighbour)
Noticeable (noticable)
Occurrence (ocurrence, occurence)
Parliament (parlament)
Pastime (passtime, pasttime)
Perseverance (perserverance, perseverence)
Personnel (personel, personnell, personell)
Pigeon (pidgeon)
Playwright (playwrite)
Plenitude (plentitude)
Possession (posession)
Precede (presede)
Preferable (preferrable)
Principal (principle)
Principle (principal)
Privilege (priviledge)
Pronunciation (pronounciation)
Publicly (publically)
Questionnaire (questionaire, questionairre)
Raspberry (rasberry)
Recommend (reccommend)
Religious (relegious, religous)
Renowned (reknowned)
Separate (seperate; remember — there is “a rat” in separate)
Sergeant (sargeant, sargent)
Supersede (supercede)
There/Their/They’re (their/they’re/there)
Threshold (threshhold)
To/Too/Two (too/two/to)
Tomorrow (tommorrow)
Truly (truely)
Twelfth (twelvth, twelth — horrible word, really; sounds like a Welsh town)
Tyranny (tyrrany, tyrany)
Until (untill)
Vacuum (vaccuum, vaccum)
Weather (whether)
Whether (weather)
Weird (wierd — very, very weird)
Your/You’re (you’re/your)

Try entering all that data with spell-checker activated. Oy! What a mess. By the way, if you think of any others that I can add to this list, please write them in the Comments section and I can add them.

And — I’m spent. (Name that movie and you get five bonus points!)

Happy trails!

SAK

May 11, 2009

Trademarks, their symbols and decluttered writing

I don’t know about you, but the day that I learned how to make a trademark (registered and otherwise) on my Mac was a happy day, indeed. I knew that I was a successful Mac user who had mastered a few keystrokes for something that would make others break out in a hot sweat. Co-workers would yell over the wall to me, begging for those pearls of wisdom: Share — please share the knowledge! How the heck do you insert a TM again? And don’t even get me started on the em dash and its shy cousin, the en dash. It was almost as if I were Steve Jobs’ right-hand gal, the way I could throw around directions for special characters.

OK, I can hear you snickering. I suppose it may not have been quite that awe-inspiring. Time gives memory an expansive quality; everything seems bigger, better (or harder, worse — depending on your mood) back in the day. But I will tell you this: Those circle R’s and TMs and such gave me a sense of accomplishment. And now I’d like to share that information. It’ll come in handy if you’re on a Mac (if you’re on a PC, I’m of zero help — sorry!):

® = Option+ R
™ = Option + 2
And for good measure, here are a few other fun symbols and inserts for you:
© = Option + G
En dash = Option + Hyphen
Em dash = Option + Shift + Hyphen
Ellipsis = Option + Semicolon

The funny thing is, though, now that I know these simple keystrokes for trademarks, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to use them. You see, I work at an advertising agency that follows AP Stylebook guidelines. In fact, most agencies follow the same guidelines. And the Associated Press does not use trademark symbols. So, poop — I’ve lost my mojo.

Of course, I still have to make sure that when I write or edit copy, any brand, symbol, word or whatnot is rightfully acknowledged as being trademarked. The solution is simple: Initial-cap the word or phrase. That uppercase letter is enough to get most corporate lawyers off your back, so don’t feel obligated to add trademark symbols plus the generic terms unless you just really have a hankering for them. AP suggests using the generic equivalent whenever possible, unless the trademarked name would give some extra punch to whatever you’re writing.

So many words out there are actually trademarks, but a lot of folks don’t realize it. Kleenex is, perhaps, the most obvious case, as most folks and the proverbial dog say Kleenex when they really mean tissue (maybe they are wiping with a Puffs brand or a Great Value brand, but they still say Kleenex). Other examples aren’t quite as well-known. Here’s a fun list of trademark examples, with their generic equivalents in parentheses:

Ace (elastic bandage)
Adrenalin (epinephrine hydrochloride or adrenaline)
Aqua-Lung (underwater breathing apparatus)
Band-Aid (adhesive bandage)
Bobcat (excavators, backhoes and such)
Boogie (bodyboard for surfing)
Books on Tape (audiotape)
Bubble Wrap (packing material)
Caterpillar (crawler tractor)
Chemical Mace/Mace (aerosal tear gas)
Coke (cola, soda or pop, depending on your locale)
Clorox (bleach)
Dacron (polyester fiber)
Deepfreeze (freezer)
Dictaphone (dictation recorder)
Disposall (garbage disposer; often a descriptor for a male in the house)
Dixie cup (paper cup)
Dramamine (motion sickness remedy)
Dumpster (large trash bin)
Fiberglas (fiberglass)
Florida Keys (no, not a trademark; just seeing if you’re paying attention)
Formica (laminated plastic)
Frigidaire (refrigerator)
Frisbee (plastic flying disc)
Google (Web search engine)
Jacuzzi (whirlpool bath or spa)
Java (computer programming language; also an island of Indonesia; if lowercase, coffee)
Jeep (four-wheel-drive vehicle; if lowercase, a military vehicle)
Jello (gelatin dessert)
Jet Ski (personal watercraft)
Kitty Litter (cat box litter)
Kleenex (facial tissue)
Kodak (cameras and associated products)
Levi’s (jeans)
Lycra (spandex)
Mother Nature (not trademarked, but definitely initial-capped; are you still with me?)
Muzak (recorded background music)
Naugahyde (fake leather)
Oreo (chocolate cookie with white filling)
Ouija (board game)
Photoshop (photo editing software)
Ping-Pong (table tennis or pingpong)
Plexiglas (plastic glass)
Polaroid (instant picture camera)
Popsicle (flavored ice on a stick)
Pyrex (oven glassware)
Q-tips (cotton swabs)
Realtor (a service mark to represent a member of the National Association of Realtors; if subject is not a member, use real estate agent)
Rolls-Royce (automobile)
Scotch tape (transparent tape)
Seeing Eye dog (guide dog trained by Seeing Eye Inc. in N.J.)
Sheetrock (gypsum wallboard)
S.O.S (soap pad — note that there is no final period; wild, huh?)
Styrofoam (plastic foam)
Tabasco (hot pepper sauce)
Taser (stun gun)
Teflon (nonstick coating)
Vaseline (petroleum jelly)
Velcro (fabric fastener)
Victrola (record player)
Welcome Wagon (wheeled vehicle carrying information and gifts)
Windbreaker (wind-resistant jacket)
Xerox (photocopy machine)
Yahoo (online computer service)

Schnikies! That’s a long list, and I guarantee that there a ton more, so be ever-vigilant in your writing and editing. Look stuff up if you have any question about its trademark status. I learned a few new ones as I was typing the list, so I’m a happy camper. If you have questions about other trademarks (or trademark issues), you should check out the International Trademark Association’s Web site.

Happy trails!

SAK

April 22, 2009

Referencing months or How time flies when you’re having (grammatical) fun

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar,punctuation — bloodywellwrite @ 7:56 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

It seems to be so true: Time absolutely stands still when you’re watching the proverbial pot boil, and it zooms past you when you’re having a decent time of it. It also goes by a lot faster with every month of your existence, doesn’t it? Hmmm? Just sayin’.

Yes, well, it does — except in AP Stylebook terms. The way to treat months in copy is pretty clear and pretty stable as far as those folks are concerned. So let’s try to slow time down a bit while we’re having all this fun with grammar.

Across the board, the specific months are capitalized:

When including a specific date, abbreviate only:

  • Jan.
  • Feb.
  • Aug.
  • Sept.
  • Oct.
  • Nov.
  • Dec.

When calling out only a month and year, the year is not set off with commas;
when calling out a month, day and year, the year is set off with commas:

  • My middle finger was slammed in the front door in September 1971; I have the scar to prove it.
  • Sept. 16 was quite a memorable day.
  • Her birthday is May 18.
  • July 3, 1971, was a sad, sad day for Doors fans.
  • Friday, Nov. 27, will be a great day to do some serious shopping.

One last thing: Be careful when referring to ambiguous dates in the past or the future. If it’s May and you say, “I’m going to buy a car next July,” does that mean you’re going to buy one in two months or in a year and two months? It may be clear to you, but it’s ain’t clear to me (and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who just might be confused). I’ll tell you one thing, though — if you get a Mini, I’m going to be very, very envious, no matter in which month or year you buy it.

My orange Mini. Someday.

My orange Mini. Someday.

Remember: Getting your point across clearly is a terrific thing. Really good writers can get their readers to see exactly what they want them to see; it’s not necessarily the quantity of words they use, but the quality of words that does the job. I guess that translates into all sorts of aspects of life, doesn’t it?

Happy trails!

SAK

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