GrammarPhile Blog

13 Uncommon Punctuation Marks and How to Use Them

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 17, 2023 10:44:53 AM

Punctuation marks are teeny, but they should never be underestimated. They inform the literal and implied meaning, cadence, and emotion of every word we write (and read). That said, sometimes the average exclamation mark or serious serial comma or even an enthusiastic em dash doesn’t cut it. You need something with more flair and precision — an uncommon punctuation mark.

This list is the grammatical equivalent of a chef’s special. The VIP lounge. The decorative embellishments of an A-grade interior designer. Prepare to surprise and impress people with 13 uncommon punctuation marks and how to use them. And fair warning: Your writing may never be the same.

 

1. Acclamation Point
 

The acclamation point is used to demonstrate an enthusiastic sense of goodwill or welcome and is placed at the end of a sentence. You could use it when greeting your mother-in-law for a monthlong stay (assuming you love her very much).

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How to Improve Your Writing for Free

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jul 27, 2023 7:00:00 AM

At ProofreadNOW.com, we give away our secrets. All the juicy goodness of how to be a great writer — expressing exactly what you want to in powerful, precise, as-close-to-perfect-as-possible language.

We also earn our keep with these secrets, by proofreading and copyediting business documents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (and one extra in leap years).

On the surface, that sounds like a pretty dumb business model. Giving away our service, in a sense.

Aren’t we undermining profits? Putting ourselves out of work? Making ourselves obsolete, especially in the age of generative AI?

Not likely. Even the best writers use editors. In fact, the best writers are often the best writers because they understand that writing is an incremental, innately human, nuanced process of refinement, one that, if you’re serious about it, could last forever. But nobody has forever. So we’re bound to be around for a long time, helping time-strapped businesses that have a lot to say.

Still, our belief in our longevity doesn’t explain our primary motivations for helping people become better writers.

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Topics: business writing, proofreading

Did You Ace Our Spelling Quiz?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jul 13, 2023 7:00:00 AM

 

                    (Most People Couldn’t)

 

If you took our most recent spelling quiz and were disappointed with your score or confused by the answers, this post is for you.

Keep reading for a full breakdown of the right answers, the wrong answers, and definitions of both.

 

 

A Breakdown of The Spelling Quiz That Tripped Up a Bunch of Smart Professionals

1. The facts involved a study in plain/plane geometry.

WRONG – plain: Not decorated, obvious, boring, or ordinary. (We won’t argue that geometry is boring to some people, but that’s not the intended meaning here.)

✔️  RIGHT – plane: “A flat level or surface” in this case. In other words: the study of 2D shapes.

2. He spoke pidgin/pigeon English when he had to.

WRONG – pigeon: It’s feathered, gray-ish, and poops all over buildings and park benches. But pigeons don’t speak an official language.

✔️RIGHT – pidgin: A simplified speech that allows people speaking different languages to communicate. The word originated from a Chinese corruption of the word “business.” A “creole” is a complete pidgin language, such as Haitian Creole, Gullah, and Jamaican Creole, passed down to the children of adult pidgin speakers, thereby becoming a native language.

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Topics: word quiz, vocabulary quiz

Can You Ace This Spelling Quiz?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jun 22, 2023 8:00:00 AM

(Most People Can't)

 

We recently posed this spelling quiz to a group of highly educated legal marketing and business development professionals at an annual conference. They were sure they could ace our questions—communication is the foundation of their businesses.

The surprising results?

Many of them made mistakes! In fact, many of them made the same mistakes! They were flabbergasted.

Think you can do better? Have at it (no help from Google or Chat GPT beforehand, though)!

 

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Topics: word quiz, vocabulary quiz

How to Use They’re, Their, and There Correctly

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jun 8, 2023 7:00:00 AM

Meanings and Examples

Read this 5-minute grammar lesson and never doubt your spelling or use of “they’re,” “their,” or “there” again.

They’re: Meaning and Examples

If you understand the basics, you’re less likely to forget information. The most basic information about “they’re” is that it’s a contraction. When you see an apostrophe (this little fella: ’) between multiple letters in nonplural words, it’s a big, red, bouncy alert: Two or more words have been smushed together, and at least one letter/sound has been left out. These combo words are called contractions.

Contraction examples:

  • they’ll: they will
  • can’t: can not
  • wouldn’t: would not
  • she’s: she is
  • isn’t: is not
  • must’ve: must have
  • didn’t: didn’t
  • aren’t: are not
  • ’twasn’t: it was not (don’t use this unless you’re trying to write 18th-century-vibes poetry)

Apostrophes are also used to show possession (ownership) and for clarity in a few oddball plurals.

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Topics: they're, their, there

How to Use Track Changes Even If You Hate Using It

Posted by Sara Richmond   May 19, 2023 8:00:00 AM

What Is Track Changes?

We will assume you have been living under a rock if you’re asking this question. But we respect all kinds of homes and life choices (in fact, given the current state of the world, we salute you), so we wanted to make sure we covered the basics.

Track Changes is a built-in Microsoft Word feature that lets you track any edits made to a document. Hence the surprisingly witty name.

The Benefits of Using Track Changes

This little baby could save your life. It probably won’t, but the power of editing should never be underestimated. If you’re not sure when to use Track Changes, here are some great use cases:

  • When you’re working on multiple iterations of a document over a long period of time.
  • When your boss wants to see that you incorporated their edits in the spiffy report you wrote.
  • When you’re working on a document with way too many other collaborators, and you need a way to track who did what and where.
  • When you don’t trust one of your collaborators, so you want a way to approve everybody’s edits but theirs.
  • When you’re working on a document with a teammate in real time and you need to keep edits straight without losing content or your mind.
  • When you’re working on a document with a teammate in a staggered approach and you want to be sure they agree with the edits you made.
  • Whenever you’re in a content writing approval process and send a document out for feedback.
  • When you want to feel less lonely, so you create an alter ego named Janet and have “her” edit your document (you reject most of her changes; what does she know?).

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How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 5

Posted by Sara Richmond   May 4, 2023 7:30:00 AM

Switch Your Focus

 Do you hate self-obsessed social media influencers? What’s your tolerance level for vanity post after poorly cloaked vanity post?

I will guess “lots” and “very low” for your answers.

In that case, I have some bad news. A lot of B2B writing comes across in a similar, self-serving fashion.

“Would you just look at us? We’re amazing! Listen to this list of all the reasons we’re great! Isn’t our platform the sexiest thing? We’re also smarter than everybody else.”

This approach often stems from the best intentions — explaining why your product or service is worth buying; convincing your core audience that you’re legitimate and experienced; providing concrete evidence to support your offer.

But if you wouldn’t abide an acquaintance droning on and on about their accolades (unless you specifically asked), you can understand why this sort of writing doesn’t sit well with a lot of people (i.e., ticks them off).

It’s not just that it’s often boring and makes readers angry they can’t get those 35 seconds of their lives back, though that’s true. It’s not because the writing is usually rife with jargon or other generic-cream-puff words, though that’s a problem as well. It ain’t even because it’s sometimes so stuffy and professional you could use it to iron a funeral suit (the funeral for your audience’s attention).

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How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 4

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 20, 2023 10:30:00 AM

Focus on the Benefits of the Benefits

 Nine-and-a-half years ago, I made a batch of crêpes. More accurately, I attempted to make a batch of crêpes (don’t you just love that little caret symbol — circumflex accent — above the “e”? I know I don’t need to use it, but I’m writing this on a morose Monday and wanted the encouragement).

Crêpes are delicate things. You can’t slap them in the pan like bacon. They mustn’t be jostled. The pan must have a precise coating of butter or oil, so they don’t stick or become greasy, thin pancakes. They require gentle folding and lifting onto a plate. Frankly, I recommend you only speak in murmurs while you’re eating crêpes and apologize to them beforehand for the offense of being chewed.

I am the human opposite of a crêpe — a graceless, dirt-covered stampede on a white carpet — so you understand the peril of this story from the start. I was also eight months pregnant with my second child. My days consisted of throwing up, not sleeping, more throwing up, feeling tired, attempting to care for a household and another child, and struggling to stand in the shower. Each torturous day melted into the next. I felt like a gelatinous lump of uselessness.

So I decided to make crêpes. It was, in a word, disastrous. I improperly oiled the pan. I set the heat too high. I turned the crêpe too quickly. Three sorry attempts in, I lost it. I scraped the disgusting flop of a fake-pancake out of the pan and threw it on the kitchen floor, then burst into tears.

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Topics: business writing, B2B Writing

How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 3

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 6, 2023 10:00:00 AM

Be Unprofessional

There was a time when women couldn’t show their ankles in public. When people used the term “limbs” instead of “legs” for propriety’s sake. When men had to grow their beards out to cover their manly thighs (limbs, my apologies), lest the ladies lost their cool.

I made the last one up, but the point stands. We’ve left those and many other goofy social mores behind. Most people would say we’re the better for it. But we’ve replaced them with silly ones of today — including in B2B writing.

This is the era of blandness. Of same-old, same-old. Of robotic voices and stilted, highfalutin language.

Why Professionalism Has Ruined B2B Writing

Why does this abnormally bad norm persist? Because we’re consumed with the desire to sound “professional.” We equate “professional” with a limited slice of language. We believe the foremost way to establish ourselves as experts, as believable, as the “real deal,” is to write like a lawyer with an alphabet behind her name.

In the middle of this desperation to be taken seriously, we lose sight of the bondage our “professionalism” creates. It is the epitome of playing it safe: no personality, no memorable, distinguishable voice, and no relatability.

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How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 2

Posted by Sara Richmond   Mar 23, 2023 10:00:00 AM

Drop the Jargon

B2B writing is famous for its obsession with the “right” words. Industry speak. Impressive-sounding sentences or taglines like “Quantum. Game-changing. Advantages.” Phrases like “…at the intersection of…” (lawyers seem to be in love with that last one).

Unfortunately, the “right” words — the ones that appeal to everybody on the inside, those that are “on brand,” and get stuffed into every crevice of B2B content — are overused buzz words we all love to hate. Jargon.

Jargony B2B messaging is like green Jell-O: The mere sight of it scares off most of the audience. For those desperate few with strong stomachs, they’re left squinting through a quivering haze of words. The message may come in a fancy Bundt shape, but it gets left on the dinner table along with the fruitcake (the food embodiment of cold outreach emails).

If this blog post went through the standard B2B content process, there’d be 12 rounds of edits between 29 stakeholders, converging on the inclusion of the words “innovative” and “state of the art” and a desire to be “punchy” without the risk of sounding interesting. Every bit of personality, every reach toward humanity, every smidge of humor and relatability would be replaced by sentences like,

“Our innovative, cutting-edge technology enables you to leverage your assets for maximized synergy and groundbreaking process elasticity.”

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Topics: jargon, using jargon

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