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Writing Tips: 301 - 310

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Tip #301: Here's another e-mail tip: If you need to write the same message to many unrelated people, you may want to send it with a Bcc (blind carbon copy). This method prevents sending every recipient's address to others and preserves email address privacy. *********************************************************

Rewrite the following sentences:

1. Because the noise level on a typical street in New York City on a weekday is as loud as an alarm clock ringing three feet away, New Yorkers often have hearing problems.

2. Your application program can request to end the session after the next command.

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Last week's exercise: Please answer Rhoda Wong's question: Would you have some guidelines on when yes or no in answering is appropriate? I often think to say "no" if the answering statement verb is negative and "yes" when the verb is positive. However, this seems to create confusion when it is seen as not answering the question itself. The answer could be yes or no depending on the question and does not always match the negative or positive verb in my response. Have I got it wrong? For example:

Q. Are you not going to the movies?

A1. Yes, I am not going to the movies.

A2. No, I am not going to the movies.

A3. Yes, I am going to the movies.

A4. No, I am going to the movies. *****

Suggested answers:

Victoria.Macdonald comments: Rhoda Wong's question struck a personal note with me. Where people come from can sometimes determine whether they frame their questions in a positive or negative way. I'm an east coast U.S. citizen and my husband is Canadian. His questions are always phrased in the negative. It took me quite some time to get used to his asking "Are you NOT going to the movies?" People from my area would instead ask "Are you going to the movies?" I've found the best approach is to leave "yes" and "no" out of the response. Simply answer with the fact: either "I AM going to the movies" or "I AM NOT going to the movies." ******

Richard Cochrane comments: I think this is one of the funny parts of our English language - negative questions. For instance, if someone says, "Would you mind giving me a lift to the station?". The correct response would be "No" (assuming that you are willing to) because your response is really "No, I would not mind." However, try saying "No" when someone asks you, and they'll invariably look offended, thinking that you DO mind. Thus, we clarify our answers to such questions, either replying "Yes, I'll take you" to make the answer sound positive (although Yes isn't strictly the answer to the question), or "No, I don't mind" to answer the question correctly with a short explanation to make it clear what you mean.

I'm not sure, though, that "Are you not going to the movies?" is actually even negative - it seems to mean the same as the positive version "Are you going to the movies?" Logically, it should mean the opposite, but in everyday English, it seems to suggest an expectation rather the logical opposite of "Are you going to the movies?". Depending on which interpretation you take, either A1 and A4 will be appropriate answers (in the case of the latter), or A2 and A3 will be appropriate (in the case of the former). ******

My suggestion: Do not begin the sentence with a "yes or "no."

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"Laughter has no foreign accent." (Paul B. Lowney)



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Tip # 302: More e-mail advice:

1. Give recipients a reason to read your message in the first paragraph. 2. Support your details in the middle paragraph. 3. Tell them what action you expect in the last paragraph.

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This is a punctuation exercise:

1. What punctuation mark will most effectively separate the parts of the sentence below?

Research scientists don't like to report details of projects that fail/you can understand why.

2. Should there be a comma at the slash mark?

The American Goldfinch, unlike most other birds/lays eggs and has chicks in late summer.

3. Should the two parts of the sentence below be separated by a comma?

Tomorrow is my birthday and I'm taking the day off.

4. True of false:

If a clause or phrase is surrounded by commas, it is nonrestrictive and can be lifted out without changing the meaning of the sentence.

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Last week's exercise: Rewrite the following sentences:

1. Because the noise level on a typical street in New York City on a weekday is as loud as an alarm clock ringing three feet away, New Yorkers often have hearing problems.

2. Your application program can request to end the session after the next command. ******

Suggested answers: 1. New Yorkers often have hearing problems because the noise level on a typical weekday New York City street is like an alarm clock ringing three feet away.

2. You can end the session after the next command on your application program.

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"Each day you either get better or worse. The choice is yours." (Byrd Baggett)





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Tip # 303: When quoting a message in e-mail, delete any part of the message that you are not replying to. This keeps your reply concise.

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Insert commas and semicolons in the following sentences:

1. Many companies make sugar-free drinks which are flavored by synthetic chemicals the drinks usually contain only one or two calories per serving.

2. The house was clean the table set and the porch light on everything was ready for the guests' arrival.

3. The computer could perform millions of operations in a split second however it could not think spontaneously.

4. Professors are supposed to be absent-minded and I've seen plenty of evidence to support that claim since I've been in college.

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Last week's exercise: This is a punctuation exercise: 1. What punctuation mark will most effectively separate the parts of the sentence below? Research scientists don't like to report details of projects that fail/you can understand why.

2. Should there be a comma at the slash mark? The American Goldfinch, unlike most other birds/lays eggs and has chicks in late summer.

3. Should the two parts of the sentence below be separated by a comma? Tomorrow is my birthday and I'm taking the day off.

4. True of false: If a clause or phrase is surrounded by commas, it is nonrestrictive and can be lifted out without changing the meaning of the sentence. True ******

Suggested answers: 1. (semicolon) Research scientists don't like to report details of projects that fail; you can understand why.

2. (yes) The American Goldfinch, unlike most other birds, lays eggs and has chicks in late summer.

3. (yes) Tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm taking the day off.

4. (true) ******

Tracy's explanations to the answers:

1. I would think a semicolon or a dash would be appropriate; however, I would be more inclined to use the semicolon because a dash indicates an interruption in thought, and it is clear that these two ideas are connected.

Research scientists don't like to report details of projects that fail; you can understand why.

2. The American Goldfinch, unlike most other birds/lays eggs and has chicks in late summer.

Yes. "Unlike most other birds" is a nonessential (or nonrestrictive) element. Commas should be used to indicate that this information is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. In other words, you could remove that phrase and still understand the main point of the sentence. (See example below.)

The American Goldfinch, unlike most other birds, lays eggs and has chicks in late summer. The American Goldfinch lays eggs and has chicks in late summer.

3. Yes. This sentence contains two main clauses separated by the conjunction "and". Each clause can stand alone as a separate sentence:

Tomorrow is my birthday. I'm taking the day off.

When these clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, they should be separated with a comma:

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I'm taking the day off.

4. TRUE

If a clause or phrase is surrounded by commas, it is nonrestrictive and can be lifted out without changing the meaning of the sentence.

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"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure." (Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State)





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Tip #304: In writing notes, use the Cornell format.

1. Draw a vertical line, top to bottom, 1.5 inches from the left edge of your paper.

2. Write your notes to the right of the line.

3. Reserve the area to the left of the line for key word clues and sample questions.

4. Fill in the left-hand column when you review your notes.

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Please correct the following incorrect pronouns:

1. Harry and me can handle the job ourselves. 2. Either he or me can work late tonight. 3. They invited my husband and I for the weekend. 4. It is me. 5. No one knows except you and I.

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Last week's exercise: Insert commas and semicolons in the following sentences:

1. Many companies make sugar-free drinks which are flavored by synthetic chemicals the drinks usually contain only one or two calories per serving.

2. The house was clean the table set and the porch light on everything was ready for the guests' arrival. 3. The computer could perform millions of operations in a split second however it could not think spontaneously. 4. Professors are supposed to be absent-minded and I've seen plenty of evidence to support that claim since I've been in college. *****

Suggested answers:

1. Many companies make sugar-free drinks, which are flavored by synthetic chemicals; the drinks usually contain only one or two calories per serving. 2. The house was clean, the table set, and the porch light on; everything was ready for the guests' arrival. 3. The computer could perform millions of operations in a split second; however, it could not think spontaneously. 4. Professors are supposed to be absent-minded, and I've seen plenty of evidence to support that claim since I've been in college.

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"Truce is better than friction." (Charles Herguth)





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Tip # 305: Some time vs. sometime. Use "some time" when you mean "an amount of time.

For example: She spent some time on that graphic presentation."

Use "sometime" when you mean "eventually."

For example: My son will visit us sometime next year.

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Change the phrases in parentheses to one word:

1. He (is in opposition to) the ruling party. 2. Karen (was adamant) on the issue. 3. The Soviet Union (was a threat to) the United States during the Cold War.

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Last week's exercise: Which sentences provide the reader with a clearer picture of the message? Tell why.

1. The client was unhappy with the product and asked for a full refund. 2. The unhappy client asked for a full refund because he was unhappy with the product. 3. Under the scorching Florida sun, a mother walked with her child to the store. 4. A mother walked with her child to the store under the scorching Florida sun. *****

Suggested answers:

2. The unhappy client asked for a full refund because he was unhappy with the product. 3. Under the scorching Florida sun, a mother walked with her child to the store.

I chose the sentences above because they provide the reader with a more vivid image of the sentence meaning.

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"Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied." (Pearl Buck, American novelist)





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Tip #306: More information about email etiquette: Understand email filters may trash your email if you do not do the following:

1. Check your from line, subject line, and email copy, and avoid using language and techniques that might look like spam to a content-based spam filter.

2. Give your subject a significant meaning, rather than "hello," "whats up," "summer," etc.

3. Avoid the following: spam-like words such as "free," "guarantee," "credit card," "sex," etc.

3. Avoid red text because red is a loud color and can be hard to read. It is also a spam tactic that may trip an email filter.

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Use correct capitalization in the following sentences:

1. I know the clinton administration lead the u.s.a. for eight years. 2. Are you an employee with the Federal Government? 3. He went before the court of appeals of the state of wisconsin. 4. Sally Smith has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Smith and Wesson Company.

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Last week's exercise: Change the phrases in parentheses to one word:

1. He (is in opposition to) the ruling party. 2. Karen (was adamant) on the issue. 3. The Soviet Union (was a threat to) the United States during the Cold War *********

Suggested answers:

Susan C. Haggard suggests: 1. He (opposes) the ruling party. 2. Karen (favors) the issue (strongly). (She used an extra adverb.) 3. The Soviet Union (threatened) the United States during the Cold War. *******

Valerie Wallace suggests: 1. He opposes the ruling party. 2. Karen stood on the issue. 3. The Soviet Union endangered the United States during the Cold War. *******

Other suggested words for sentence #2 could be "persevered," "expostulated," "held," "insisted."

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"In dwelling, be close to the land. In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind." (Lao Tsu, sixth century BC)


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Tip # 307: To say that you "could not care less" means you don't care at all. To say that you "could care less" implies that your ability to care hasn't yet reached rock bottom. If the first meaning is what you want to communicate, do not omit the word "not."

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Change the incorrect word usage in the following sentences: 1. The CEO had many complementary things to say about your report. 2. I wish I had done things different. 3. He resigned due to ill health.

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Last week's exercise: Use correct capitalization in the following sentences:

1. I know the Clinton administration lead the u.s.a. for eight years. 2. Are you an employee with the Federal Government? 3. He went before the court of appeals of the state of wisconsin. 4. Sally Smith has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Smith and Wesson Company. *****

Suggested answers: 1. I know the Clinton Administration lead the U.S.A. for eight years. 2. Are you an employee with the federal government? 3. He went before the Court of Appeals of the State of Wisconsin. 4. Sally Smith has been elected to the board of directors of the Smith and Wesson Company.

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"The road to a friend's house is never long." (Danish proverb)




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Tip #308: Hyphens can function to replace the preposition "to." For example: use 0-100 instead of 0 to 100. They can also function to form compound words such as able-bodied, self-contained. And they are used to form compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine and fractions when they are written out. However, if you are in doubt whether or not to use the hyphen, check your dictionary.

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Add hyphens when needed to the following:

1. The third, fourth, and fifth floor rooms have been painted. 2. George is anti everything. 3. Both the president elect and the commissioner elect were present. 4. We live the post Sputnik time period.

********************************************************* Last Week's Quiz:

Change the incorrect word usage in the following sentences:

1. The CEO had many complementary things to say about your report. 2. I wish I had done things different. 3. He resigned due to ill health. *****

Suggested answers:

1. The CEO had many complimentary things to say about your report. 2. I wish I had done things differently. 3. He resigned because of ill health. ("Because of" introduces adverbial phrases and should modify verbs: "because of" modifies "resigned.") The phrase "due to" introduces an adjective phrase and should modify nouns: Her success is due to talent and hard work.

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Pardon my error: I know the Clinton Administration (led not lead) the U.S.A. for eight years. (Don't trust your spelling checker program.)

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"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." (Aesop)



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