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Writing Tips: 151 - 160

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Tip # 151:  What is the difference between the words "impromptu" and
"extemporaneous" when giving a speech?  An impromptu speech is
delivered without any preparation or on the spur of the moment; an
extemporaneous speech is given without any notes, but some thought
was given to the topic.

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Can you answer the following question? 

The number vs. A number. I received this question from one of my
subscribers:

  I originally learned that the expression "A large number
  of questions should be followed by "was asked ..."
  with the simple subject being "number."  I have seen this
  go both ways, and you may even have had a tip about this.
  Is there a hard and fast rule governing this kind of usage?
  In other words, which is correct:  a number of branch
  offices is or are located near my office.

Please send me your answers next week.

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This was last week's exercise:  What's wrong with the following
sentences?  Please rewrite them:

1. The odor from the gas leak hung heavily in the air.
   (The word "hung" means "remained" in this sentence).
2. Stand firmly where you are.
3. We must stay alertly while driving.

Here are the corrections: Notice the omission of the "ly" endings.

1. The odor from the gas leak hung heavy in the air.
2. Stand firm where you are.
3. We must stay alert while driving.



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Tip # 152:  Bring vs. Take. 
I was asked what the difference was between "bring" and "take."   Here
is the explanation provided by The Gregg Reference Manual:

"Bring" indicates motion toward the speaker.  "Take" indicates motion
away from the speaker. 

Examples:
ˇ Bring the report with you for tomorrow's meeting.
ˇ Take this letter to Barney when you see him.
ˇ You may take my book with you if you will bring it
  back by Tuesday.

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Please answer this question from one of my subscribers:

My understanding is that semicolons are used to separate two
independent clauses in a sentence. However, I keep seeing semicolons
used as in the following example.  Is the example correct or should
the writer have used commas instead of semicolons?

"Employees assess their skills and competencies against job-related
tasks; establish formal and informal learning strategies; and prepare
realistic development plans."

*********************************************************

Last week's answer was "A number of branch offices are located near
my office." The reason for using a plural verb is the expression "the number" has a singular meaning and needs a singular verb; the expression "a number" has a plural meaning and needs a plural verb.




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Tip # 153:  Write your monthly achievements in a file called your
"Achievement / Success File."  Write down what you achieved and what
obstacles you overcame to achieve results.  This is a helpful file
you can use during your next performance review or during your job
search.  Also, put in any letters you received that were written by a
pleased client or supervisor.

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Please punctuate following sentences:

1. We noticed that the monthly reports are reviewed
   by a supervisor however this review was not documented on
   the report.
2. Two clerical errors were noticed one was a miscalculation
   of interest.
3. A copy of the worksheet is maintained by our accountants
   but no copy of this worksheet was found in our files.
4. This item has been reduced to $139.95 but now appears
   obsolete.

*********************************************************

Last week's exercise:

Semicolon vs. comma: Use a semicolon when phrases have internal
commas and a misreading might occur if commas were used.  Since no
internal commas were used in the practice exercise sentence, commas
should separate the phrases.

This is the corrected sentence to last week's exercise:

  "Employees assess their skills and competencies against
   job-related tasks, establish formal and informal
   learning strategies, and prepare realistic development
   plans."

*********************************************************

Thanks to reader, Linda Chambers, who sent in these comments:

(1) In some colloquial English (parts of New York, for example),
"bring" is used where "take" would be considered proper by the
general population.

(2) Regarding the semicolons in the example, they would be properly
used if the elements in the list are long and/or contain commas
within.




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Tip #154:  This spelling tip will help you if you cannot decide
whether a word ends in "ance" or "ence."   Use the ending "ence" for
words that end in an "r" preceded by a vowel and have the stress on
the last syllable.

  Examples of "ence" endings:
     concurrence, preference.  (concur, prefer)

  Examples of "ance: endings:
     endurance, securance.  (endure, secure)

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I received the following from a subscriber: 

  "I'm up to my tutu in to and too.  There seems to be
  to many ways to get confused about the use of "to" and
  "too".  I'm O.K. with "two" but the other two are not
  to simple, to me. Am I the only one or are others
  confused too? So I'm writing to ask you to get back to
  me to tell me if the three t(w)(o)o rules below are to
  simple."

  *  Two = 2
  *  too = also (only ?)
  *  to = all other uses (all ?)

  Thanks
        FS Campi

Please correct the errors in the above sentences.  Also,
please tell FS Campi what other use there is for the
adverb "too."

*********************************************************

Here is last week's exercise:  Please punctuate following sentences:

1. We noticed that the monthly reports are reviewed by
   a supervisor however this review was not documented
   on the report.
2. Two clerical errors were noticed one was a
   miscalculation of interest.
3. A copy of the worksheet is maintained by our
   accountants but no copy of this worksheet was found
   in our files.
4. This item has been reduced to $139.95 but now appears
   obsolete.

Here are the corrected answers:

1. We noticed that the monthly reports are reviewed by
   a supervisor; however, this review was not documented
   on the report.
2. Two clerical errors were noticed; one was a
   miscalculation of interest.
3. A copy of the worksheet is maintained by our
   accountants, but no copy of this worksheet was found
   in our files.
4. This item has been reduced to $139.95 but now appears
   obsolete.  (No punctuation is needed.)



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Tip # 155:  Learning to use the correct preposition is a matter of
developing a good sense of what sounds right.  Unfortunately, there
is a tendency to either overuse or omit necessary prepositions in
informal speech.  Try to eliminate these tendencies in formal
writing.

  Incorrect: She just couldn't start "in" to do
             her report.
  Correct:   She just couldn't start to do her report.

  Incorrect: When did they finally get "down" to
             the problem?
  Correct:   When did they finally get to the problem?

  Incorrect: Larry was concerned "about" James and
             his many children.
  Correct:   Larry was concerned "about" James and
             "about" his many children.

*********************************************************

Here was last week's exercise:

"I'm up to my tutu in to and too.  There seems to be to many ways to
get confused about the use of "to" and "too".  I'm O.K. with "two"
but the other two are not to simple, to me. Am I the only one or are
others confused too? So I'm writing to ask you to get back to me to
tell me if the three t(w)(o)o rules below are to simple."

*       Two = 2
*       too = also (only ?)
*       to = all other uses (all ?)


Here are the corrections:

"I'm up to my tutu in to and too.  There seems to be too many ways to
get confused about the use of "to" and "too".  I'm O.K. with "two"
but the other two are not too simple, to me. Am I the only one or are
others confused too? So I'm writing to ask you to get back to me to
tell me if the three t(w)(o)o rules below are too simple."

*       Two = 2
*       too = also and excessively (adverb)
*       to = infinitive

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The following is an inquiry I received. 

  Could you help me with prepositional phrases?
  My office is stumped as to whether or not a sentence
  is grammatically correct if it begins with a
  prepositional phrase.  The example we have is:
  Due to heavy rain, the house has flooding in the
  basement.

  I remember being instructed to never begin a
  sentence with 'due to'.  I feel the sentence should
  read:  The house has flooding in the basement due to
  heavy rains.  Is it correct both ways? 

  Also, are words and phrases that are accepted in
  the English language also grammatically correct?
  What I mean is that some people in my office feel
  that both sentences are acceptable, but they are
  not both grammatically correct.  Now I'm confused!

  Laurie L


Please answer Laurie's question:




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Tip #156:  I received a request to explain how to use the article
'the.'  'The' is a type of adjective called an article. 

1. The word 'the' is used to identify specific items,
   persons, or places. 
  
   For example:
   ˇ Call 'the' person who left this book.
   ˇ Wear 'the coat' I left for you.
   ˇ See 'the island' in the distance.

2. Do not use 'the' before the word 'both.'
 
   Incorrect:  Let us see the both of them.
   Correct:  Let us see both of them

3. Do not use when referring to something general. 

   Incorrect:  I was referring to several kinds of
   the coffee.
   Correct:  I was referring to several kinds of coffee.

*********************************************************

Here is last week's question:

Could you help me with prepositional phrases?  My office is stumped
as to whether or not a sentence is grammatically correct if it begins
with a prepositional phrase.  The example we have is:  Due to heavy
rain, the house has flooding in the basement.

I remember being instructed to never begin a sentence with 'due to'.
I feel the sentence should read:  The house has flooding in the
basement due to heavy rains.  Is it correct both ways? 

Also, are words and phrases that are accepted in the English language
also grammatically correct?  What I mean is that some people in my
office feel that both sentences are acceptable, but they are not both
grammatically correct.  Now I'm confused!

Laurie L


1. Here is my suggestion for last week's question:

You can begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase.  In fact, both
sample sentences should use 'because of.'  According to the Gregg
Reference Manual, 'due to' introduces an adjective phrase and should
modify nouns.  It is normally used only after some form of the verb
'to be'.' Example: 'Her success is due to talent and hard work.' 
('Due to' modifies 'success.')

2. Here is an explanation from Gill in Australia (Notice the use of
'whilst' and 'hence':

Regarding Laurie L's question :

I agree that whilst both sentences are acceptable, they may not both
be grammatically correct.  Language is an evolving thing and what is
'correct' at one time, may be, at a later time, totally
inappropriate.  Language changes every day.  The publisher of a
dictionary would be adding and subtracting words all the time. 
Grammar (as opposed to a common vocabulary), is probably a little
more stable, but at the same time, it too evolves. 

For example, it is not considered 'correct' to begin a sentence with
the word 'but'.  But, it is often used to begin sentences to add an
emphases.  The more it is used, the more accepted it will become, and
hence it will become 'correct' grammar.  'Due to' as a sentence
beginning is still in a transitional stage.

I suppose the opposing argument is that we will end up with a
'tainted' grammar.  To a degree, I guess this is correct but there
are fundamental rules of grammar which will remain.

Regards
Gill Ratcliff

*********************************************************

I received the following from a subscriber:

When writing to an individual who is a II or III, do you always
include these in the address on the envelope and in the inside
address?  Example: John Doe II.

I have the same question regarding professional designations. 
Example: John Doe II, RPA, CPM.

Please answer this subscriber's question.




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Tip # 157:  'A' historic occasion vs. 'an' historic occasion:  In
writing, the form more commonly used is 'a' historic occasion.  In
speaking, you can use both forms, depending on whether the 'h' is
pronounced or silent.

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Here is another question about titles after a name. 
Please answer Marks question:

  Dear Gloria,
  I am a registered nurse who holds a baccalaureate
  degree in nursing.  I have seen other nurses sign
  documents with RN, BSN.  I always sign, BSN, RN.  I
  have always been under the impression that the degree
  comes before the licensure.  Some of my colleagues
  have been debating the issue.  Which is correct?

*********************************************************

Last weeks exercise --

  When writing to an individual who is a II or III,
  do you always include these in the address on the
  envelope and in the inside address? 
 
  Example: John Doe II.

  I have the same question regarding professional
  designations.  Example: John Doe II, RPA, CPM.

  Please answer this subscribers question.

Here is my suggestion:  You can use the term II or III in any part of
the letter or envelope after a name if the person does.  As a rule,
do not use an academic degree with a persons name in an inside
address.  (See rule 1324 in The Gregg Reference Manual.)

*********************************************************

Thanks to Hrishi Mohan of India for providing me with this saying:

If you think education is expensive-try ignorance ! (Derek Bok)



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Tip #158:  Avoid using qualifiers such as 'little,' 'rather,' or
'very' in your sentences.  You can, however, use 'little' as an
adjective to indicate size.

  Poor:  You can do a little better.
  Better:  You can do better.

  Poor:  That was a rather long letter.
  Better:  That was a long letter.

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Please correct the following errors in shifting verb tense:

  1. Nancy sat at the window and looks out.
  2. John forgot the report and runs back for it.
  3. The attorney arrived late and says he was sorry.
  4. Jane writes slowly and rose to answer the telephone.

*********************************************************

Here is last weeks question:

  Dear Gloria,
  I am a registered nurse who holds a baccalaureate
  degree in nursing.  I have seen other nurses sign
  documents with RN, BSN.  I always sign, BSN, RN.  I
  have always been under the impression that the degree
  comes before the licensure.  Some of my colleagues
  have been debating the issue.  Which is correct?

Here is my suggestion:  According to the Nursing Technology
Department of my local community college, use RN, BSN after your
signature.

*********************************************************

Thanks to Rick Smith who caught some errors in the #157 tips.   Did
any of you notice these omitted apostrophe marks:  'Marks', 'weeks'
and 'subscribers'?

*********************************************************

This month our site has been awarded as the site of interest for Go
Study English, (www.GoStudyEnglish.com)!




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Tip # 159:  Be careful about the use of "here's" and "there's" at the
beginning of your sentence.  For example:

  Incorrect:  Here's three great options for you.
  Correct:  Here are three great options for you.

  Incorrect:  There's ten reasons for buying this product.
  Correct:  There are ten reasons for buying this product.

They are incorrect because the true subjects "options" and "reasons"
require a plural verb "are."  "Here's" and "there's" are contractions
of "here is" and "there is."

This inverted word order (Here or There +Verb + Subject) causes
writers to make mistakes in subject-verb agreement.

*********************************************************

Please answer this question for Janice Lewis:

  Dear Gloria:

  Is "comprised of" correct?  For instance, often I read
  "the Dutch West Indies are comprised of ..."

  Janice Lewis

*********************************************************

Here is last week's practice exercise:
Please correct the following errors in shifting verb tense:

1. Nancy sat at the window and looks out.
2. John forgot the report and runs back for it.
3. The attorney arrived late and says he was sorry.
4. Jane writes slowly and rose to answer the telephone.

Here are the answers. 
Do not shift from the present to the past tense in the same phrase.

1. Nancy sat at the window and looked out.
2. John forgot the report and ran back for it.
3. The attorney arrived late and said he was sorry.
4. Jane writes slowly and rises to answer the telephone.





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Tip #160: When writing an executive summary state the following:

  ˇ Who you are
  ˇ What the problem is
  ˇ How you propose to solve the problem
  ˇ What the key benefits will be
  ˇ How you will manage and evaluate the project
  ˇ How long you will take to complete the project
  ˇ How much the project will cost (unless costs are
    required in a separate document)

*********************************************************

Please answer this question from Ben, a subscriber to our tips: 

Which is correct to write: a 30,000 square feet facility or 30,000
square foot facility?

*********************************************************

Thanks to Julie Szymczyk for her answer to last week's question, "Is
'comprised of' correct?  For instance, often I read, "the Dutch West
Indies are comprised of ..."

Julie stated, "This comprised/composed is a tough one!  My research
says avoid using" comprised of..." Comprise is an action of
inclusion.   Composed infers something that is made up, formed like a
baseball team and should be used with "of". " The team is composed
of..."

So, the question sentence is incorrect.  Use "composed of" instead. 
 
*********************************************************

Thanks to Yossi David for his answer: According to many references,
"comprised of" is incorrect. The American HeritageŽ Book of English
Usage states that "comprised of" is frequently used although many
authorities don't like it.  

According to http://www.bartleby.com/64/C003/070.html#COMPOSECOMPR

"If you follow the traditional rule, you say that the whole comprises
the parts and that the parts compose the whole. Thus you would say
"The Union comprises fifty states, 'and 'Fifty states compose (or
constitute or make up) the Union.' While writers often maintain this
distinction, comprise is increasingly used in place of compose,
especially in the passive: The Union is comprised of fifty states.
Don't be surprised if this usage still elicits comments.  In an
earlier survey, a majority of the Usage Panel found this use of
comprise unacceptable."

My suggestion is use "composed of" because "comprised of" is
considered "a loose usage."




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