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Writing Tips: 191 - 200

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Tip #191: Collective nouns such as  "management, team, group,
organization, and audience" take a singular verb.

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Correct the following sentences:

1. The implementation team meet to discuss strategy once a week.
2. Your organization reorganize each year.
3. The audience need a stimulating speaker.

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Last week's exercise:  Place the article "a" or "an" in front of
these nouns:

1. umbrella
2. university
3. radio
4. hour
5. human being

Here are the answers:

1. an umbrella
2. a university
3. a radio
4. an hour
5. a human being




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Tip # 192:  In obtaining a new job, use your network and detective
skills to get the name of the hiring manager in the department you
want.  Mail an entire resume directly to that person with a
well-written cover letter.

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My question: Is it necessary to place commas in the following
sentences?:

1. In January she will go to Europe.
2. After I rest I'll feel better.
3. At Sally's house we had a big dinner.
4. During the day on one is home.

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Last week's practice: Correct the following sentences:

1. The implementation team meet to discuss strategy
   once a week.
2. Your organization reorganize each year.
3. The audience need a stimulating speaker.

Answers:
1. The implementation team meets to discuss strategy
   once a week.
2. Your organization reorganizes each year.
3. The audience needs a stimulating speaker.





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Tip # 193:  Here is a quick outline of how to organize the minutes of
a meeting.

  Group:
  Place:
  Date:
  TOPIC # 1:
    Discussion:
    Action:
  TOPIC # 2:
    Discussion:
    Action:

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Change these passive constructions to active constructions:

1. Harold should be told the story by Jane.
2. All of us hope that you'll send a representative
   to our conference.
3. It is recommended that our department receive a bonus.

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

Last week's question: Is it necessary to place commas in the
following sentences?:

1. In January she will go to Europe.
2. After I rest I'll feel better.
3. At Sally's house we had a big dinner.
4. During the day on one is home.

*******

Here is an interesting answer by Julie Szymczyk:
Commas can be omitted in the clause (After I rest) or phrases (In
January) if no confusion occurs from their absence. 

However, for clarity sake and grace, I'd rewrite these sentences by
moving the introductory adverbial phrases/clauses to the end of each
statement. (As a copywriter, I'm always looking for ways to economize
AND eliminate commas-though I did not do so here!)
 
ex. I'll feel better after I rest.

*******

Here is another answer by Yossi D.:

I would say that commas here are optional although some of these
sentences seem to "want" one more than others. Certainly there is
little or no risk of ambiguity without commas.
(BTW, shouldn't #4 say no one?)

Yes, Yossi, I transposed my letters.  Lesson:  Never trust your
spelling checker program.

How many of you caught this error?  Please let me know.





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Tip # 194: Here is a tip from one of my subscribers, Barry Donohue. 
He was responding to my spelling error, even though I used my spell
check program.

"I have found that every so often it helps to erase my custom
dictionary in MS Outlook.  Through the spell check process, you can
add words to the dictionary that are not found in the standard
dictionary but exist in a person's environment.  These words are
actually added to a custom dictionary.  It is not too difficult to
add incorrectly spelled words to your dictionary.  Once done, that
word may never be caught by the spell checker again.  Erasing the
custom dictionary every so often (I do mine once a year), will allow
the spell checker to catch those misspelled words once again.

Instructions for MS Outlook 2000:
In the menu bar, Go to tools->options->spelling->edit custom
dictionary->select (highlight) all text -> press delete-> close
file-> it will ask you if you want to save your file.  Select yes."

This also works for MS Word.

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Rewrite the following wordy paragraph:

We have experienced lapses in the optimal performance of the
manufacturing equipment in Area Three.  It is therefore imperative
that we undertake a shutdown of that area effective immediately and
initiate an investigation of the situation.

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

Last week's practice:
Change these passive constructions to active constructions:

1. Harold should be told the story by Jane.
2. It is respectfully requested that you send a
   representative to our conference.
3. It is recommended that our department receive a bonus.

My suggestions:

1. Jane should tell the story to Harold.
2. All of us hope that you'll send a representative
   to our conference.
3. The committee recommended that our department
   receive a bonus.




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Tip # 195: Be consistent in punctuation. The main inconsistencies in
punctuation are in series or introductory phrases. (Tip adapted from
ClearTips)

Inconsistent:

"the apples, oranges, and apricots" on one page and "the
apples, oranges and apricots" on the next (no serial comma
separating "oranges" from "and apricots")

"In 1970 the Japanese" on one page and "In 1970, the
Japanese" on the next

Consistent:

"the apples, oranges, and apricots" on both pages

"In 1970 the Japanese" on both pages

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How would you answer Patricia Juliano's question? 

"I am in the midst of a very heated discussion about the rules of
using the word "and" in writing numbers.  I have been taught that the
word "and" signifies a decimal fraction.  Therefore, I would write
1049 as "one thousand forty-nine", not "one thousand and forty-nine."
 Herein lies the problem.  Many grammar books will insist the latter
is correct, but mathematicians disagree totally.  What say you?"

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

Last week's practice:  Rewrite the following wordy paragraph:

We have experienced lapses in the optimal performance of the
manufacturing equipment in Area Three.  It  is therefore imperative
that we undertake a shutdown of that area effective immediately and
initiate an investigation of the situation.

Suggestions:

Nicole Coulter's rewrite: 
We need to shutdown area three and troubleshoot the
manufacturing equipment.

Brad Holaway's rewrite:
The equipment in area three has been performing poorly so
we recommend an immediate shutdown to investigate the
problem.  (19 words)

Tom Kenney's rewrite:
An immediate shutdown and investigation of the manufacturing
equipment  in Area Three will be undertaken to diagnose
its poor performance. (Notice the passive voice.)

Elisabeth Bryant's rewrite:
The manufacturing equipment in Area Three has experienced
optimal performance lapses; therefore, it is imperative
that effective immediately, we shutdown and conduct an
investigation.

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"There is no sin except stupidity." Oscar Wilde





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Tip # 196: Use plain English even on technical subjects. 

For example:

Stiff English: 
  Given the strategic significance of our
  telecommunication infrastructure, our fault tolerance
  to local loop failure left a lot to be desired.

Plain English: 
  If the network goes down, the company goes belly up.

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Here's a question from one of my reader's.

  "I was wondering if you could tell me when is it
  appropriate to use advice and advise....   I can
  read the description in the dictionary, but each
  time I want to write please advise...  I clam up
  and write please let me know....   I understand
  these words as:

  1.We need advice regarding the school for disabled
  children.
  2.Can you please advise what is the best disabled
  school for children?

  Am I correct? Thanks, Connie Dobal"

Please send me your comments:

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

Last week's question: How would you answer Patricia Juliano's
question? 

  "I am in the midst of a very heated discussion
  about the rules of using the word 'and' in writing
  numbers.  I have been taught that the word "and"
  signifies a decimal fraction.  Therefore, I would
  write 1049 as 'one thousand forty-nine', not 'one
  thousand and forty-nine.'  Herein lies the problem.
  Many grammar books will insist the latter is correct,
  but mathematicians disagree totally.  What say you?"

******

Here is an informative, if lengthy, explanation by Linda S.
Kleinschmidt:  

  "Either one of the examples given is technically
  correct, and both are styles I would probably not use. 

  If you wanted to infer a decimal via words, you would
  not use the "and" to do so.  Then one thousand and
  forty-nine for 1049 would  mean 1000.49, and clarity
  would definitely be lost. In actuality, one thousand
  and forty-nine and one thousand forty-nine have the
  same meaning of 1049 I believe. To avoid confusion,
  use digits.

  Generally when writing numbers, you should use words
  for any number  under ten and numerals for numbers
  over ten.  The number 'ten' can go either way as one
  chooses.  I've seen it in both styles.  Of course, in
  science and math arenas, digits are always the way to
  go except in written copy where the 'under ten' rule
  and the 'round off' rule generally work best.

  You should not take the year 2002 and write it out in
  most cases (two thousand and two), but you can write
  out 1900 as the  20th or twentieth century or
  nineteen hundred.

  Nor would I write out dollar and cents numbers
  ($10.49) or large numbers that are not rounded off.
  Generally digits are the safe way to go with any
  numbers that are very figure specific."

******

My comment:

I would use one-thousand forty-nine.




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Tip # 197:  Here are six essential elements of successful sales
letters. (Adapted from an article by Joanne L. Mason, the creator of
Money-Making Sales Letters)

1. Use an attention-grabbing headline.
2. Offer benefits that are an edge over your competition
   and include a fair price, great bonuses, a risk-free
   guarantee, easy payment options, or reliable
   customer support.
3. Use testimonials to help customers feel others are
   happy with your product/service.
4. Remove all risk involved by offering  a 100% money-back
   guarantee if not satisfied.
5. Determine what immediate action you want your customers
   to take to be sure they act now.
6. Use a PS on every sales letter to summarize your
   offer, introduce an extra bonus, or set a limit for the offer.

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

Add apostrophes to the following sentences:

1. The teacher left the childrens instructions
   with the substitute teacher.
2. Johnson and Howards research project is now in print.
3. The decision to place a cap on the oil rig was
   John Smiths.
4. My boss secretary is greeting the guests.

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Rebecca K. caught my apostrophe error and so did Carol Luse. 
Here are Carol's comments: 

"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the heading 'Here is a
question from one of my reader's' with the apostrophe after the r!!!!
Also, question #2 implies that the school is disabled, not the
children."

Did any of you catch my error?

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

Last week's exercise:

Here's a question from one of my "reader's".  Please comment:

"I was wondering if you could tell me when is it appropriate to use
advice  and advise....   I can read the description in the
dictionary, but each time I want to write please advise...  I clam up
and write please let me know....   I understand these words as: 

1. We need advice regarding the school for
   disabled children.
2. Can you please advise what is the best disabled
   school for children?

Am I correct? Thanks, Connie Dobal

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

Steve Sorensen's comments: 

The difference between "advice" and "advise" is the difference
between a noun and a verb. Advice is a noun - that thing a father
gives a son which a son doesn't want to take. Advise is the verb -
the action the father is taking when he's giving that unwelcomed
thing.

For those who are inclined to confuse the two, remember that within
the noun "advice" is another noun vice, that thing on Dad's workbench
that holds the things he's doing stuff to. (It's also the thing Dad
is advising his son not to get involved in.)

********

My comments to Connie: 

Your sentences are both correct because "advice" is used as a noun,
and "advise" is used as a verb.  My advice is not to use the word
"advise" unless you're seeking advice.  Substitute "inform" or "tell"
for this word.

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Minds are like parachutes--they function only when open.





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Tip # 198:  Minutes of meetings:  Here are a few tips for
those who asked for this information:

1. Keep your minutes brief and to the point.  Give complete
   information on each topic, but don't be too lengthy.

2. Be specific.  If you are referring to a sales department,
   specify "the shoe sales department on the third floor."

3. Use the names and titles of people such as "Ms. Harriet
   Smith, head of the Finance Department," rather than
   referring to "the head of the Finance Department."

4. Be objective and impartial.  Avoid using adjectives
   and adverbs that suggest either good or bad qualities
   such as the "capable" assistant or the "comprehensive"
   report.

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

Please answer Harish's question for next week:

I have been using article "THE" incorrectly for a long time.
I would like to precisely understand its usage.  Can you help me?

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

Last week's exercise:  Add apostrophes to the following sentences:

1. The teacher left the childrens instructions with the
   substitute teacher.
2. Johnson and Howards research project is now in print.
3. The decision to place a cap on the oil rig was John Smiths.
4. My boss secretary is greeting the guests.

*******

My suggestions:

1. The teacher left the children's instructions with the
   substitute teacher.
2. Johnson and Howard's research project is now in print.
3. The decision to place a cap on the oil rig was John Smith's.
4. My boss's secretary is greeting the guests.





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Tip # 199: Apostrophe Usage:  Since I received so many inquiries
about the apostrophe "s" sentence using boss's or boss', I would like
to revisit this usage.

I am quoting from The Gregg Reference Manual: 

  "To form the possessive of a singular noun that ends
  in an "s" sound, be guided by the way you pronounce the
  word.  If the new syllable is formed in the pronunciation
  of the possessive, add an apostrophe plus "s" such as
  "boss's approval."

  If the addition of an extra syllable would make a word
  ending in an "s" hard to pronounce, add the apostrophe only." 

See these examples:
   for goodness' sake 
   Mr. Hastings' proposal.

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

Please answer Jared's question:

Which sentence is better and why?

1. X Corp. will demand that Company A discontinues its
   old accounting practices.
2. X Corp. will demand that Company A discontinue its
   old accounting practices.

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

Last week I had asked you to answer Harish's question:

I have been using article "THE" incorrectly for a long time.
I would like to precisely understand its usage.  Can you help me?

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

Here is my comment: 
 
Articles can be indefinite or definite.  Articles such as "a", "an"
are indefinite articles because they denote an unspecified item such
as "a pencil is a wonderful writing tool."

The definite article "the" denotes a particular item such as "the
pencil I use should be sharpened."




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Tip # 200: Slang can add a personal or cultural tone to your writing;
however, it can confuse readers not familiar with the English
language.  Be aware of particular phrases or expressions such as:

  I'm whipped. (meaning= I'm tired, not beaten)
  I could eat a horse.  (meaning=I'm very hungry,
    not I like horse meat)
  Shelley is a fox.  (meaning=Shelley is attractive,
    not genetically altered)

(Thanks to GrammarCheck for the above humorous examples.)

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

Sara Parsons asked:
  I had a question the other day that stumped me -
  what is the difference between inquire/enquire and
  enquiry/inquiry?  I had lots of input - American
  spelling versus UK etc. - and one dictionary says one
  is just the variation of the other.  What do you think -
  are any of these correct?

Please let me know what you think.

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

Last week Jared asked: Which sentence is better and why?

 1. X Corp. will demand that Company A discontinues
    its old accounting practices.
 2. X Corp. will demand that Company A discontinue its
    old accounting practices.

My comments:

Sentence # 2 is correct .   Here is the reason:   Sentences that
express a strong request or urging in the main clause require a
subjunctive verb in the dependent clause that follows.  If the verb
in the dependent clause is not "be" then you do not add "s" or
otherwise change the form for the third person singular verb.

For example:  They insist that he do the work over.
              (Not : does.)

Here's another comment from Candido Mingo:

  According to Michael Swan in his "Practical English
  Usage" (Oxford University Press)page 566, there are two
  different ways to write Jared's sentences:

  1.-In American English it would be
     "X Corp. will demand that Company A discontinue its
     old accounting practices."

  2.-In British English people usually prefer:
     "X Corp. will demand that Company A should
     discontinue its old accounting practices."

  Thanks for your great tips!!

Thanks Candido for your kind words.




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