Bloody Well Write

August 20, 2009

Pet peeve No. 39: quality

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 11:06 am
Tags: , , ,

I have two pet peeves for this entry, really.

The first one stems from how I came to decide what to write about today. I was standing in the shower thinking, and I had all these great phrases and sentences and points running through my head. But I was standing in the shower, hair full of shampoo and soapy puff in hand, and there was no way I could easily record these fantastic ideas.

Try to remember them? Oh, sure — easy for you to say, sitting there all dry and all. You know how it goes: Great idea pops into your head, it’s completely developed and ready for a patent, but by the time you’re towel-dried and undies on, your mind is blank. You don’t have a recorder handy in the bathroom, and pen to paper completely is out of the question.

So that’s my pet peeve No. 38: How in tarnation do people expect to get great ideas and keep those great ideas intact until they’re out of the shower? Umph.

Now on to pet peeve No. 39, the point of this entry: quality.

What does that mean? I see it all the time: This is a quality product. That is quality-made. The other is a quality idea.

What kind of quality, pretty please? High quality? Low quality? Supreme quality? So-so quality?

There are those who would argue that I am being too picky and not letting myself read into it what is meant to be read into it. I argue back: I am a writer. And an editor. And a proofreader. My job is to be picky with the language, to make entirely sure that the point is clear (and concise, yes, but clarity rules the writer’s roost).

If the wording isn’t absolutely clear to me, I can guarantee you that there are others out there who would also find it confusing as is. And if I don’t question language that is not quite clear (especially as an editor and proofreader), then who will? The readers, that’s who. And if the readers are questioning the wording, then it’s a little too late for the writer to clarify.

The readers have power — political power, emotional power, purchasing power.

Even if the readers “get” your meaning, there are some who will relate the slightly sloppy writing with the product. Do you really want even a few of your readers to mock your writing (and thus your product, if you are selling something) by thinking, “Hmm. I wonder if the bozo who wrote this copy (snicker) meant “crappy quality” or (tee hee) “subpar quality” (har dee har)”? No. Of course you don’t. So be clear when you’re writing about the quality of something.

It’s crafted of high-quality mahogany.

It’s a low-quality grape.

It’s the best quality that money can buy.

Happy trails!

SAK

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August 11, 2009

Preposition overload

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 4:57 pm
Tags: , ,

When I think of prepositions, I think of Schoolhouse Rock and the “busy prepositions.” Yes, I’m revealing my generation, and I’m OK with that.

Prepositions are a group of words that link nouns, pronouns and phrases (prepositional phrases — get it?) to other words. They are usually indicators of time or space. Here is a handy list of the most-used prepositions:

• About
• Above
• Across
• After
• Against
• Along
• Around
• At
• Beneath
• Behind
• Below
* Beside
• Between
• Beyond
• But
• By
• Down
• During
• Far
• For
• From
• In
• Like
• Near
• Of
• Off
• On
• Outside
• Over
• Past
• Since
• Through
• To
• Under
• Until
• Up
• With

Prepositions are great; really, they are. I love ’em so. But they do tend to get overused. “Where are you at?” Argh. This drives me crazy, especially when I find myself saying it. “Where are you?” is plenty of information; the at is completely unneccessary. Same with “Where did you get that from?” The from is not needed. “Where did you get that?” makes sense, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.

And here’s one of my pet peeves: I see writing very often that has layers upon layers of prepositional phrases, all within one sentence; and very often, those prepositional phrases that are right next to each other begin with the same preposition:

• The dog that ate the berries of the tree of Bob is sick. (OK, so that sentence bites for several reasons.)
• Bob buys treats for his dog for a snack.
• The snack on the plate on the counter is for the dog.

First bullet: two of prepositional phrases.
Second bullet: two for prepositional phrases.
Third bullet: two on prepositional phrases.

I am not sure if it’s written somewhere as a grammar rule that a good writer does not use two prepositional phrases in a row — both starting with the same preposition — but it drives me absolutely batty. I change or rewrite every instance that is within my power to alter, and I heartily suggest you do the same.

Serenity now!

Happy trails!

SAK

August 4, 2009

My 2 cents

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 1:45 pm
Tags: , , ,

When it comes to money, everyone has an opinion about how to manage it. Let me just add one thought: Let’s leave the fate of dollars and cents — in the written form, anyway — to the folks at the AP Stylebook headquarters.

Feed the pig

Feed the pig

When you don’t have a ton (or even a pound) of cash and you are writing about this lack of funds, spell out the word cents and use numerals for any amount less than a dollar:

• What can I buy for 8 cents?
• He gave me 74 cents back in change.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to rub coins against paper money, use the dollar sign and decimals for any amount equal to or larger than a dollar:

• Bob owes me exactly $1.
• I owe Sue a penny more: $1.01.
• Sue bought me a slurpie that cost $2.35.

As much as I’d like to use that cute cent sign (¢), AP doesn’t approve, so I acquiesce.

Happy trails!

SAK

July 31, 2009

Barbecue vs. barbeque vs. BBQ

Filed under: AP Stylebook,spelling — bloodywellwrite @ 3:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

Ah, summer. Gotta love all the food that seems to go so well with summer’s rising temperatures. Take, for instance, BBQ.

Or is it barbeque? Or bar-b-que? Or barbecue?

It’s not quite as sticky a situation as it may first appear.

I just verified the answer in the trusty AP Stylebook, and it states, plain as a pulled-pork stain: barbecue.

Run, Wilbur, run

Run, Wilbur, run

No q, no abbreviation (although if you’ve already spent the money on the big neon sign — with the wrong spelling — and it’s been attracting patrons for years on end, then by all means, don’t worry about changing the sign).

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 27, 2009

Under way vs. underway

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 5:03 pm
Tags: ,

This is a no-brainer.

Under way is two words, every time, with only one exception — when it is used in a nautical sense as an adjective before a noun: The HMS Murray was underway.

A vessel is determined to be underway if it:

• Is not docked

• Does not have a lowered anchor

• Is not fastened in any way to a stationary object

• Is not being propelled

Underway is distinct from making way, which implies propulsion. So if a boat is just floating, engines off, anchor up, unattached, it is underway.

It is two words — under way — in every other instance (no matter what you read on the Net): The dress rehearsal is under way. The sewing project is under way. The naval maneuvers are under way.

Crazy what you learn when you think it’s a no-brainer, huh?

Happy trails!

SAK

July 20, 2009

Real estate agent vs. Realtor

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 10:47 am
Tags: , , ,

If you’ve dabbled at all in the real estate market, you’ve no doubt come to know that a real estate agent is, in fact, not the same thing as a Realtor.

A Realtor (the term is a service mark and, as such, demands an initial cap R) is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

That not just a real estate agent

Not all real estate agents are Realtors

The NAR is a trade organization for real estate agents; it provides comprehensive information — including classes, research, a trade-specific magazine and activities — for its members. Founded in 1908, the NAR now has more than 1.3 million members. Its core purpose is to help its members become more profitable and successful.

To join the NAR, real estate agents must first join their local real estate board. At that point, they are free to become an NAR member. This, of course, prohibits people such as me (wanna-be real estate agents) from joining just for the fun of it. Because you know I would.

The main point of this entry is this: Don’t go throwing around the term Realtor willy-nilly. Verify that the agent you’re referring to is, indeed a member of the NAR and then use either Realtor or real estate agent accordingly.

And please note that there is only one a in Realtor; it should be pronounced as it’s spelled (real-tor) — not real-a-tor. Realtors will thank you much.

Happy trails!

SAK

July 17, 2009

Restaurateur

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 1:54 pm
Tags: , , ,

Yes, that’s correct.

No, I didn’t misspell the title of this entry.

There is no “n” in the word that describes the proprietor of a restaurant.

Even if it’s a hillbilly restaurant. Still no “n.”

They "got the weenies"

They "got the weenies"

Just for fun
You have to hear the HillBilly Hot Dogs theme song. (Turn your computer’s speakers on and up.) And if you’re ever in Lesage or Huntington, W.V., stop by this joint for some grub: As the song says, they “got the weenies!”

Happy trails!

SAK

July 16, 2009

Mom and Dad

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 11:49 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Dear, old mom and dad; they’ve treated you so well, looked after you when you were sick, provided clothes, education, fun and love unconditionally, and all you can do to say thank you is relegate them to a simple noun? Come one. Where’s the love?

What’s being called into question here is how you write (or type or text) mom and dad. Should they be uppercase or lowercase? Mom or mom? Dad or dad?

As with just about everything else in life, it depends.

Go ahead: Bribe me with Chunky Monkey (I'll bite)

Go ahead: Bribe me with Chunky Monkey (I'll bite)

You want easy answers? You got ’em.

Uppercase
If you’re referencing your folks as if you’re using their names (not their given names, as most kids don’t ask their folks, “Yo, Johnny boy and mamma Mia, what’s for dinner?” but instead the names you have called them since you could talk: Mom and Dad), then you uppercase the terms:

• Hey, Mom, can I have some ice cream?
• I love Dad because he lets me stay up later than Mom does.
• I don’t know if I should take the convertible; I guess I should probably ask Dad.

Lowercase
If you’re referencing your folks (or your friend’s folks) with an adjective in front of the word, then you lowercase mom or dad:

• My mom gave me three ginormous scoops of Chunky Monkey ice cream.
• I love my dad because he lets me stay up to watch “Saturday Night Live.” My mom would have a cow if she knew.
• Should we take the convertible? In theory, we should ask your dad.

Would your dad hand you the keys?

Would your dad hand you the keys?

That’s it — no adjective, uppercase. Adjective, lowercase. Now go tell your mom thanks for all the frozen treats she’s let you snarf.

Happy trails!

SAK

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