Bloody Well Write

February 3, 2009

A lot of loot

So you’re writing about how much something costs. Let’s say your topic is widgets. But not just any widgets; your widgets are headed to the U.S. government warehouses. So we know that these are extraordinarily special widgets, since they cost somewhere between $3 and $7 million dollars per box of 20.

Wait. What did that say? How much are those widgets, exactly?

Here’s a problem that occurs in all sorts of writing. Can some of those boxes of widgets really be only $3 (three dollars) if some are $7 million ($7,000,000)? I’d bet not — and I’m not a betting woman. The more likely range is $3 million – $7 million. If that’s the case, then you must attach the word million to each monetary figure.

“But hold on, missy,” you say. “Adding that clunky word twice messes up the design of my brilliant headline/subhead/copy.” Sorry, I retort, but them’s the rules and there’s no eliminating it.

There is, however, a way to get that million (or thousand or billion) in there. You can use abbreviations:
• M (million)
• K (thousand)
• G (billion — although most people don’t know what the G stands for, so a rewrite might be in order)

Keep in mind that using K to represent 1,000 or $1,000 is against AP Stylebook rules; K already has other meanings, such as modem transmission speeds (56K) or race distances (5K). Ad folks love to break rules, though, so if it’s purely a design issue and it’s purely cosmetic (i.e., not in technical copy), and since a boatload of dictionaries state that it’s an acceptable substitution, I suppose you can go ahead and break the AP rule. There, I said it. Just don’t spread it around. I have a reputation to uphold.

OK. What else about that first statement stunk? Here it is, in part, again:

… they cost somewhere between $3 and $7 million dollars per box of 20.

You see the dollar signs? Using those means that you don’t have to also use the word dollars. It’s redundant. The word dollars is great if you “need a few dollars” (unspecified amount). Attach a figure and dollars goes out the window. Same goes for million and billion: If it’s a casual use, don’t add numbers: I need a billion dollars.

If you need a specific amount that’s in the millions or billions, use up to two decimal points: I need $4.75 million to fund my dream home. Shy away from using fractions with such large amounts of cash (e.g., don’t use $4¾ million). If you want to be more accurate, use the exact number: I need $4,750,391 to fund my dream home.

If those aren’t enough rules for you for one day, here’s one more: Do not use a hyphen to join the figures and the words million or billion. It should be: This $295 million house budget just isn’t cutting the mustard. And if that’s the case, I’d like you to hire me as your interior decorator.

Now that that’s off my chest, I feel a thousand times better.

Happy trails!

SAK

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January 7, 2009

You betcha

Filed under: grammar,Jajo — bloodywellwrite @ 10:58 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s been brought to my attention that there is some confusion around the office about when to use “yea” instead of “yeah” and vice versa. I threw “yay” into the mix, as well. Total anarchy almost ensued.

Here’s my take on the three Y’s.

Yea
Use this if you’re trying to sound like you’re in a courtroom (“Hear ye, hear ye. The yeas have it — free upper-back massages for everyone!”) or if you’re trying your hand at back-in-the-day readings (“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall wear supportive shoes”).

Yeah
This is the lazy — er, offhanded — way of saying “yes.” My mom gave me years of grief for saying “yeah” (“yeow” as she gawkily pronounced it for emphasis), to no avail. I still say it constantly. Doesn’t make it right. I get that. My bad. But unless you’re in the stuffiest of situations, such as suffering through a job interview (and it’s up to you to judge the stuffiness of the interviewer) or giving a political acceptance speech to your constituency (not à la “Is you is or is you ain’t my constituency?”), “yeah” is perfectly acceptable.

Yay
This is the exclamatory way to say, “Right on!” “That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!” “Woohoo!” “Flippin’ genius!” or “Oh, snap!” You get the drift.

As an aside, it’s the nature of the English language to be completely difficult to comprehend. For every rule, there seems to be 18 different exceptions. So goes it for the 3 Y’s.

Think about the “yea” definition I provided. If it’s “The yeas have it,” why is the negative side of that chant “The nays have it”? Why not “The neas have it”? That’s bogus English for you. And I don’t have a reasonable explanation. Irks me to no end. If you happen to know the answer, send it my way.

That’s the end of today’s rant. Yay!

Happy trails!

SAK

November 20, 2008

Hi

OK! So this is the very first word/grammar/language/writing/editing/ranting/pondering blog coming out of the editorial/writing nook at Jajo Inc., the grooviest ad agency in town (not meant to be a plug — simply my opinion, thank you very much).

I suppose that I should mention what this blog is going to be about. The intent is to focus primarily on editing issues — nuggets I have seen throughout my career that either come up as questions time and again, bug the bejeezus out of me or simply are wrong by all accounts. It sometimes will include writing issues, as well. And it sometimes will take me in an altogether different direction than initially intended. So be the beast that is blog.

To spice things up a bit, this blog will go sonic: An accompanying podcast will be floating around the Net — perhaps not quite as often as the blog, but relatively frequent, so check it out. Once I get into the groove, I’ll post a schedule. The current idea is to blog one or two times per week and podcast once every week or two.

Adding fuel to the podcast fire will be Jason Fortune, copywriter extraordinaire, fellow Jajo cohort and general lunatic. Similar to many a lunatic, Jason is as entertaining as can be — if you can follow his thought trail. It’s all over the place. He definitely has moments of genius, so we’ll try to capture some of those during the course of our discourse.

Me? I’ll be playing the straight man in this schtick. And if you’re wondering what makes me an expert on this editing/writing topic, here’s my answer: I’m no expert. I will have an entire blog entry on self-proclaimed experts one of these days, but that’s for another day. Here’s a quick rundown of my experience: master’s degree in English, 5½ years as a proofreader/copy editor at a local ad agency, 2½ years as a marketing copywriter at Hallmark, going on a year here at the ’Jo as editor/copywriter and several years as a proofreader/editor at several other joints. And I, like everyone else on this planet, have a lot to learn, so I’m not an expert, per se. But I follow the AP Stylebook pretty faithfully (pretty, not completely). And I gotta let out some editing steam somehow, right? So this here blog’s my virtual teapot. Toot, toot.

Thanks much for checking it out, and please come back to see what else is driving me nuts. Again, I’ll be adding entries at least weekly, perhaps biweekly — more on schedules to come. And PLEASE leave comments/suggestions/inquiries on the blog. No cussing me out (for I do have control on what gets posted to the site and will have no qualms about barring any caustic replies); workable feedback is what I’m looking for. And don’t forget to tune in to the podcast. Should be interesting stuff. Now, on to the guts of this blog.

Happy trails!

SAK

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