GrammarPhile Blog

Simplify

Posted by Kimberly Largent, aka Persnickety Editor   Oct 17, 2019 7:30:00 AM

I recently stumbled upon material on business writing that was written by Minerva Heller Neiditz and published in 1993. Although the material needs some minor updating, I was surprised that much of it still applies today in business writing. Neiditz, who is presently 87 years old, wrote this book when she was 61. She’s written several books since; her most recent was published when she turned 85. Neiditz has a varied background that includes advanced degrees, politics, activism, professor, wife, mother, writer, and world traveler. But this is not the complete list.

Her book “Business Writing at Its Best” (Irwin Professional Pub, 1993) is filled with commonsense material on how to write effective business correspondence. If you struggle with writing simple, effective business correspondence, take a page from the Neiditz business-writing playbook. Here are some highlights of her material. (The below outline is not verbatim from her book, and my comments are enclosed in brackets.)

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Topics: business writing, business communications

Answers to Last Week's Thursday Challenge

Posted by Kimberly Largent, aka Persnickety Editor   Sep 19, 2019 7:30:00 AM

So, how'd you do?

Perhaps after reading last week’s Sheryl’s She Shed blog challenge, you’ve had the opportunity to actually see the commercial on TV. If so, would you agree there’s something suspect about Victor’s indifferent response regarding the lightning strike? There are many theories circulating social media as to Victor’s role in the burning down of Sheryl’s she-shed. Do you have a humorous take on what might have happened? If so, we’d enjoy hearing from you. Let your imagination run wild and post your ideas below in the comments section.

Wow, as you can see, we received a range of answers to this challenge.

There are 31 wrong words, and as many of you pointed out, “chichi-er” could have simply been “chichier.” Inserting the hyphen was my mistake; I put my faith in material I read on the internet concerning “chichi,” instead of looking up the word in Merriam-Webster. Lesson learned? Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it correct!

We were initially looking for 31 wrong words; however, if you guessed 31 OR 32, we accepted you as a winner, since many of you included “chichi-er,” which took the total to 32.

Here is the list the first five people who answered correctly from the challenge we assigned our readers. Congratulations!  We'll be in touch with each of you.

  • Tara Bann
  • Deborah Baron
  • Amy
  • Desmond Ballance
  • Andrea Isiminger

If you're one of the winners, please send your email address to Conni@ProofreadNOW.com so we can send your gift to you.

And for those of you who guessed over or under in the number of mistakes, here’s the answer key. All mistakes are highlighted in yellow.Thanks to everyone who participated!

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Topics: common mistakes, misused words, common proofreading mistakes

Words in Orbit

Posted by Conni Eversull   Sep 17, 2019 8:15:00 AM

Hello, GrammarPhile blog subscriber,

Many of you have not subscribed to our Words! Words! Words! quizzes. So, I thought you might like to see what you're missing. If you'd like to subscribe, please go to the "Subscribe to Email Updates" block to the right and select the Words! Words! Words! subscription. 

I hope you enjoy this quiz. Let me know how you did in the comments section.

***

On September 17, 1976, NASA publicly unveiled its first space shuttle, the Enterprise, during a ceremony in Palmdale, California. Development of the aircraft-like spacecraft cost almost $10 billion and took nearly a decade. In 1977, the Enterprise became the first space shuttle to fly freely when it was lifted to a height of 25,000 feet by a Boeing 747 airplane and then released, gliding back to Edwards Air Force Base on its own accord. Try our word quiz and see how high you can soar and how far you can glide.

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Topics: word test, word quiz, vocabulary quiz

Thursday Challenge

Posted by Kimberly Largent, aka Persnickety Editor   Sep 12, 2019 7:30:00 AM

I rarely watch TV. But when I do, I watch only those shows that I’ve DVR’d — because I abhor commercials. My always-editing brain can shred to pieces commercial scripts and have fresh copy mentally written before the commercial concludes. I exaggerate, of course.

There is one commercial, however, that I’ve become humored by and tolerant of — because it’s snappy, funny and creative. It’s State Farm Insurance’s commercial featuring Victor and Sheryl, and Sheryl’s She-Shed. Are you familiar with it? If not, you can watch it on Youtube here.

If this commercial evolved into a sit-com, I’d watch — even the commercials! Because I’d want to know whether Victor intentionally sabotaged Sheryl’s she-shed so that he could claim the space for a man-cave — a place where he and all his buddies could gather on Saturdays to watch college football on a mega large-screen TV.

Below is a silly prequel to this specific commercial. And it’s filled with lots of incorrect words that sound like or look like the word that is actually meant. It’s up to you to read (carefully) and tally up the number of incorrect words used.

The first five readers to post the correct number (no more, no less) of incorrect words found in the text will receive a small gift from ProofreadNOW.com. So, post your answer in the comments. There is a deadline though; only answers received before 5:00pm ET on Sept. 18, 2019 will be counted. AND your first answer counts; no fair going through and submitting more than one answer.

We’ll contact you if you’re a winner, and the answer key will be posted next week. Happy hunting! (The contest includes only the material below this line of text.)

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Topics: common mistakes

When and How to Use [sic]

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 30, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Let’s be honest. Not many of us know exactly what [sic] means, or how to write it and use it correctly. Do we write sic, (sic), or [sic]? And where exactly do we put [sic] in a sentence or excerpt? Are there multiple meanings of sic or multiple uses for [sic]?

If we do know how to use [sic], some might even argue that using it can make us look a little pompous. Or they might laugh off its use as unnecessary or extraneous. Check out these comments about [sic], published by The Guardian.

Well, here’s most of what you need to know about [sic].

What Does [sic] Mean or Indicate?

According to the Merriam-Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary, [sic] as an adverb is defined as intentionally so written — used after a printed word or passage to indicate that it is intended exactly as printed or to indicate that it exactly reproduces an original. As a verb, it means chase or attack, or to incite or urge to an attack, pursuit, or harassment. In yet its third form it is a Scottish variant of such.

In its adverb form, sic can be written in italics or included in parentheses or brackets when it’s used, although including sic inside brackets is the most common option. But sic is not included in parentheses or brackets when it’s used as a verb or instead of other words like “thus” or “such.”

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Topics: sic

Ditch These Phrases from Your Business Communications

Posted by Kimberly Largent, aka Persnickety Editor   Aug 22, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Today, the Persnickety Editor is suggesting you ditch certain phrases from your writing. Review the sentences below and try to identify these oft-used phrases found in business communications that are wordy, awkwardly written, have no clear meaning, make you chuckle when you actually picture in your mind what is written, and simply don’t belong in a business communication. Caution: There could be more than one per sentence…

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Topics: business phrases to stop using

I Can Help Get Your Copy Perfect

Posted by Confessions of a Persnickety Editor (aka Kimberly Largent)   Aug 15, 2019 7:30:00 AM

First, a short quiz …

Of the two sets of sentences below, pick the one sentence from each set that seems as though it would more effectively serve a marketing or advertising piece (or any piece, really).

1. Our Acme space-saver products will help eliminate clutter in your office.
2. Our Acme space-saver products will eliminate clutter in your office.

1. Give Staff Savers a call! We’ll ease the burden on your overworked staff!
2. Give Staff Savers a call! We can help ease the burden on your overworked staff!

I don’t know about you, but I want the Acme space-saver product that is determined to do the decluttering (option #2). I don’t want the wishy-washy company that’s going to “help” me declutter my office. So when it comes to writing your copy: Be bold! Be assertive! Be confident! And be certain to eliminate the word “help” from your copy!

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How to Repair Sentence Fragments and Run-On Sentences

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jul 18, 2019 7:30:00 AM

As people use technology more and more in their everyday lives, it’s becoming common to write and speak in fragmented and run-on sentences. Just think about the last batch of text messages or emails you wrote, or the last social media post you read

What Is a Sentence Fragment?

Sentence fragments are grammatically incorrect because they are incomplete. They are usually missing a subject, object, or verb, or they don’t express a complete thought on their own. But sentence fragments are used all the time in writing and speech so it’s easy to miss them or mistake them as being grammatically correct. Consider the following passages:

  • Looking forward to seeing you at tomorrow night’s gala.
  • Be sure to keep our customers satisfied. No matter what.
  • There are some documents that still need to be signed. The client agreement. And the manufacturer’s agreement.

Sentence fragments are used in everyday speech, especially during brief exchanges of dialogue. In fact, sometimes people seem stuffy or odd if they don’t use sentence fragments when interacting with others. For example, if someone asked you in an email, “Did Sue ever get back to you about tomorrow’s meeting?”, it would be perfectly okay to respond with, “Still waiting for her reply.”, although that reply is technically a sentence fragment. Many writers use sentence fragments for stylistic reasons to emphasize certain ideas, phrases or passages. Consider the following example:

Once Maria learned that the vaccine that she was using was causing unforeseen and fatal illnesses, she threw every vial she had of it away. Every single one. And never used or spoke of it again.

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Topics: sentence structure, sentence fragments, run-on sentences

QUIZ: Find the Best Option to Repair the Grammatically Incorrect Sentence or Phrase

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jun 21, 2019 7:00:00 AM

Sometimes there are multiple ways to edit and revise a sentence or phrase in order to make it more grammatically correct, but sometimes there aren’t. Review the sentences and phrases below and select the best option for repairing the grammar mistake that you find. And be sure to share your results with us in the comments.

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Topics: quiz, grammar quiz

Master Using the Passive Voice Effectively

Posted by Kelly Creighton   Jun 6, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Writers are typically instructed to write in the active voice because it leads to clear and engaging writing. But writing that uses the passive voice is often associated with vagueness and long-windedness. Consider and compare the following sentences:

  • The surgeon severed the young girl’s carotid artery while he was performing surgery.
  • The young girl’s carotid artery was severed during surgery. 

What differences between the two sentences do you notice—aside from the fact that one of the sentences is written in the active voice and one is written in the passive voice? Which sentence do you think is clearer or more effective? And which one would you be more likely to use or write yourself?

Although we’re often instructed to avoid the passive voice like the plague in our writing, it does have its merits when used strategically and effectively.

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Topics: passive voice, active voice

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