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Writing Tips: 211 - 220

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Tip # 211 is not available.

Tip #212:  Avoid misplaced modifiers by placing the modifier as close
as possible to the words they are intended to modify.

Examples:  Sally almost lost all of the parts.
           Sally lost almost all of the parts.

The first sentence meant all the parts were almost lost, but they
were not.  The second sentence meant a majority of the parts were
lost.  Avoid this possible confusion by placing the adverb (almost)
immediately before the word it is intended to modify.

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

Rewrite the misplaced clauses and phrases:

1. Our department sent the brochures to three local
   firms that had three-color illustrations.
2. We agreed on the next day to make the adjustments.

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

Last week's practice: 
Find the misspelled words in the following sentences:

1. The company was a wholey owned subsidary of the
   conglomerate.
2. John decided to withold the facts from his rivals.
3. Juanita finds it exilaralting to win her arguments.
4. My grammer book linadvertently mispelled "vilefy."

Answers to last week's exercise:

1. wholly, subsidiary
2. withhold
3. exhilarating
4. grammar, inadvertently, misspelled, vilify





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Tip #213:  Try not to string nouns together one after the other
because a series of nouns is difficult to understand.  One way to
revise a string of nouns is to change one noun to a verb:

Examples:

Unclear: 
  This report explains our investment growth stimulation
  projects.

Clearer: 
  This report explains our projects to stimulate growth
  in investments.

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

Jared Sherriff asked this question.

A colleague wrote: 
"Users can connect to the Internet by attaching modems to their
computers."

But I changed it to:
"Users can connect to the Internet by attaching a modem to their
computer."

This sounded more natural to me. But I couldn't give a reason when
asked why!  Is there a particular rule regarding plurals in this
situation?

Please give your comments:

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

Last week's exercise:  Rewrite the misplaced clauses and phrases:

1. Our department sent the brochures to three local
   firms that had three-color illustrations.
2. We agreed on the next day to make the adjustments.


Carmen sent in these excellent corrections:
1. a) Our department sent the brochures with 3-color
      illustrations to three local firms.
   b) Our department sent the brochures to three local
      firms using 3-color illustrations

2. a) The next day we agreed to make the adjustments
   b) We agreed to make adjustments the next day



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Tip 214:  These nouns are considered plural:  glasses, scissors, pliers, pants, and trousers.  However, when they are preceded by the phrase "pair of", the entire expression is considered singular.

Example:
These scissors need sharpening. 
This pair of scissors needs sharpening.

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

Please choose the correct verb in the following sentences:
  1. Three series of tickets (is, are) going to be issued.
  2. One means of breaking the impasse (is, are) to
     offer more money.
  3. Other means of solving the problem (has, have) not
     come to mind.

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

Last week's quiz:

Jared Sherriff asked this question.

A colleague wrote:
"Users can connect to the Internet by attaching modems to their
computers."

But I changed it to:
"Users can connect to the Internet by attaching a modem to their
computer."

This sounded more natural to me. But I couldn't give a reason when
asked why! Is there a particular rule regarding plurals in this
situation?

Please give your comments:
*****

Here are several comments from our readers:

Comment:
The first sentence could imply several modems, or even several modems
and computers, are needed to access Internet. The second sentence
clarifies how many pieces of equipment you need, but don't the three
items need to agree in quantity? 

See how this sounds:
Drivers headed for the beach can fill up their car at the Mobil Gas
station on the highway, vs  Drivers headed for the beach can fill up
their cars at the Mobil Gas station on the highway.

I'm eager to learn the real rule! This looks like a cousin to the
problem of replacing 'his or her' with 'their', which is now so
common we don't even question it anymore (a driver headed for the
beach can fill up their car at the Mobil Gas station on the highway).

I might favor a complete rewrite to avoid the problem; maybe,
Attaching a modem to a computer allows users access to the Internet.
But writing styles vary, and that's what makes a horse race.

My comment to Jared:
In your revision, all the "users" share one computer.
On the plus side, I'm sure nobody would NOT understand what
you actually meant.

****
Comment:
I believe this is the mass noun rule for "singular usage."

When a noun is used in "mass," in this case both "users and modem,"
singular usage applies. Since the number of Internet users, as well
as modems, can't be counted (the rule), they are considered singular,
not plural.

*****
My comment:
After further analyzing the two sentences, I believe they are both
correct but confusing.  I would suggest rewriting the sentence.





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Tip #215: Nouns ending in "ics" (such as economics, acoustics,
ethics, politics, and statistics) can take a singular or plural verb,
depending on how they are used.   However, when they refer to a
course of study or a body of knowledge, they are singular and take a
singular verb.

Example: 
Economics is part of the curriculum in business school.

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

Please choose the correct verbs:
1. The acoustics in the arena (is, are) very good.
2. John's ethics (has, have) met the company's highest
   standards.
3. The economics of the president's plan (is, are) not sound
   financially.

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

Last week's quiz:
Please choose the correct verb in the following sentences:
1. Three series of tickets (is, are) going to be issued.
2. One means of breaking the impasse (is, are) to offer more
   money.
3. Other means of solving the problem (has, have) not come to
   mind.

Answers:
1. are
2. is
3. have




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Tip #216:  If there is more than one purpose for writing a memo or
any communication, state both purposes at the beginning, or write two
memos, letters, etc.

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

Are the following sentences grammatically correct? 
Please explain.

1. "You've got to finish this homework."
2. "You've got to be kidding."
3. "We've got to leave right now."

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

Here is last week's exercise and the explanations from Steve
Sorensen:

Please choose the correct verbs:

1. The acoustics in the arena (is, are) very good.
   Are -- Use the plural because there are a variety
   of acoustical features in the arena.

2. John's ethics (has, have) met the company's highest
   standards.
   Have -- Use the plural because John's ethics are a
   collection of his values, standards, morals, etc.

3. The economics of the president's plan (is, are) not
   sound financially.
   Are -- use the plural because the President's plan
   includes a number of economic elements.

All these words ending in "ics" are plural in form because none are
being used as a singular course of study or unified body of
knowledge. Each one represents a shortened plural phrase: The
acoustical features of the arena, John's ethical values, and the
economic aspects of the President's plan.

Thank you.
Steve Sorensen




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Tip #217:  Perspective vs. prospective:

"Perspective" has several meanings.  One meaning is concerned with a
view, outlook, subjective evaluation of something such as "a
short-range perspective."  Another meaning concerns seeing things in
their true relationship such as "Let's keep our perspective."

"Prospective" has to do with something that is expected to happen or
be such as "a prospective buyer."

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

Please rewrite the following unclear and humorous sentences.  (Adapted
from "Anguished English" by Richard Lederer:

1. For those of you who have children and don't know it,
   we have a nursery downstairs.
2. If you enjoy sinning, the choir is looking for you.
3. The ladies of our thrift store have cast off clothing
   of every kind, and they may be seen in the basement
   on Tuesdays.

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

Last week's question:
Are the following sentences grammatically correct?  Please explain.

1. "You've got to finish this homework."
2. "You've got to be kidding."
3. "We've got to leave right now."

My comment:  These are informal or colloquial expressions.  However,
the new American Heritage College Dictionary shows both "have got" and
"have gotten" as acceptable past participles for the verb "get." 
Purists may not approve of this, but the sentences seem to be
grammatically correct.

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

"Learn from the mistakes of others.  You can't live long enough to
make them all yourself."  (Adapted from a friend's e-mail sent to me
during National Friendship Week.)




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Tip #218:  Here is a checklist for creating sales letters that sell:

Does your headline promise a solution to a problem?
Can the reader get the main point quickly?
Are your sentences and paragraphs short?
Have you included all the information a prospect needs
  to respond favorably?
Is your copy full of prospect benefits?
Is there a liberal use of the word "you"?
Is the text easy to understand?
Is the font easy to read?
Did you reduce the risk for the prospect to try you out?
Have you made a clear offer?
Did you ask for action and tell them exactly how?
Is it easy for the prospect to respond?
Did you include a reason to act now?
Did you give them several ways to reach you (phone number,
  800#, fax number, mailing address, e-mail?
Did you include your Unique Marketing Message?
Did you list the credit cards you accept? 

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

Janice B Allen asked:  Would it be appropriate to use "To whom it may
concern" when the signature is not legible?

Please answer Janice's question:
               
*********************************************************

Last week:

Please rewrite the following unclear and humorous sentences.  (Adapted
from "Anguished English" by Richard Lederer:

1. For those of you who have children and don't know it,
   we have a nursery downstairs.
2. If you enjoy sinning, the choir is looking for you.
3. The ladies of our thrift store have cast off clothing
   of every kind, and they may be seen in the basement on
   Tuesdays.

*****

Suggested rewrites:
1. We have a nursery downstairs for your children.
2. The choir is looking for those who enjoy singing.
3. You can purchase used clothing in our thrift store's
   basement on Tuesdays.




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Tip #219:  Watch your word placement.

For example, notice how the meaning of the sentence can
change by placement of the word "only."

He only handed in one report.  (This implies he may have done
something else with a second report, or he was the only one
who turned in a report.

This is clearer:  He handed in only one report.

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

Rewrite the following sentences:

1. I never have and I never will forget what you have done
    for my family.

2. We have and are still asking for an audit of your
    bookkeeping.

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

Last week:  Please answer this question:

Janice B. Allen asked:  Would it be appropriate to use "To whom
it may concern" when the signature is not legible?"

My comment:  Current reference books prefer you do not use this
phrase because it is too impersonal.  However, according to The
Gregg Reference Manual (7th edition, page 322), you can use
this expression if you are sending a letter that may be sent or
shown to a number of as yet determined recipients.  Moreover, if
you are sending a letter to a specific person whose name and
gender you do not know, use "Dear Mr./Ms."





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Tip # 220:  An important question to ask after writing your first
paragraph is, " Will my reader know its purpose?"
               
*********************************************************

Marvia E. Rankin asked the following. 
Please give her your comments:

I know it is vague to say, "in accordance with your letter of".  Would
it be better to say, "in reference" or "per your letter of" ?.
               
*********************************************************

Here is last week's practice and the answers:

1. I never have and I never will forget what you have
   done for my family.

   I will always remember what you have done for my family.

2. We have and are still asking for an audit of your bookkeeping.

   We still need an audit of your bookkeeping.

(I really liked this one).
Paul Martin 's rewrite of #2: 
We still need your audit report!!!!!!!!!!!

GP: I wonder if Anderson was the auditing firm?
               
*********************************************************

Other comments:

You didn't answer the question directly asked by Janice B. Allen. Her
question was "how to address a response when the signature is not
legible". You addressed (1) undetermined number of recipients, and (2)
specific person whose name and gender you do not know. I also would
like to know how to address someone whose signature is not legible.

Thank you
Barb Eglinski

********

Steve Herald commented:

I have another suggestion for when you are sending a letter to a
specific person but you do not know the person's name and/or gender
(last week's question):  You can avoid the awkward construction "Dear
Mr./Ms" by using the AMS letter format.  This letter style omits the
salutation altogether, while its subject line insures that the letter
is directed to the appropriate person.

*******

Mark L. commented:

Ah, the "Watch your 'onlys' message!"  Abuse of "only" is my pet
peeve!  Nearly everything I read has this screwed up, with no hint
that the writer has a basic grasp of logic.





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