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Writing Tips: 661 - 670

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Tip #661a (originally duped as 660): Confusing pairs

Take care to proofread for words that look fairly similar but have very different meanings. The eye may not catch the error at first glance.

Study the difference in meaning in each of the following pairs:

except - all but
accept - to receive with approval

adverse - opposed to a thing that is in opposition to one's interests
averse - refers to the person who has a distaste or aversion toward something; averse to



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Tip #661b: Acronyms vs. Initialisms

Acronyms are words made from the first letters of a series of words, and pronounced as words, such
as scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) or NASA (National Aeronautics and Space
Administration).

Beware of redundancy: the acronym PIN means Personal Identification Number, so try not to write PIN number.

Initialisms are terms made up of the first letters of a series of words, and pronounced by the letters, such as FBI or HIV. Generally after the term has entered common usage, periods are no longer needed after each letter, but there is no absolute rule.

Beware of redundancy with initialisms as well: ATM is Automated Teller Machine, so avoid writing or saying ATM machine.

Many text terms, such as LOL (Laughing Out Loud), IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), and SMH (Shaking My Head), are initialisms. Although many are well established, be careful with newer terms, to avoid confusing your audience.


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Tip #662: Linking verbs

James Brown sang "I feel good" while many people say, "I feel well." 'Good' is an adjective, while 'well' is an adverb. Which is correct?

'Feel,' in this case, is a linking verb rather than an action verb. Because it connects the subject with additional information, an adjective is required, so 'good' is the grammatically correct answer.

Even though many people use 'well,' it is not technically correct. However, it is considered acceptable by many in informal situations.

Other verbs that can be linking are 'look' and 'smell,' and they, too, take the adjective in those situations.
 

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Tip #663: Dangling modifiers

A "dangling modifier" is a word or phrase that intends to describe one thing, but is connected to something different, potentially confusing the reader.

An example of a dangling modifier is: "Established in 1902, I began working for the company more than 100 years later." The way the sentence is constructed, the modifier "Established in 1902" is associated with "I," which would make the writer of the sentence rather old to begin a new job.

To avoid this, make sure that the modifier connects directly to the person or thing it is intended to modify.

Other misplaced modifiers can be problematic as well. A classic example is Groucho Marx's frequently quoted line: "Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What he was doing in my pajamas I'll never know."



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Tip #664: Past or passed?

"Passed" and "past" not only sound alike but are related in meaning.

"Passed" is the past tense of the verb "pass." As a verb, it can be used in several ways. 1) He passed those cars like they were standing still. 2) He passed the ball to the wrong team again. 3)After staying up until dawn playing video games, he passed out at work.

"Past" can be a noun, an adjective or a preposition. As a noun, it means "times gone by," as in "Live for the future, but don't forget the past."

As an adjective it means, "relating to times gone by." Example: "It's hard to forget our past president, who has had such an impact on our lives today."

As a preposition, it means "beyond in time or space." Example: "He lives in the building just past the railroad tracks."


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Tip #665: Indefinite pronouns

Indefinite pronouns refer to nonspecific persons or things. The following indefinite pronouns should be treated as singular, even if they seem to refer to plural objects: anybody, anything, anyone, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, somebody, someone, something.
For example:
1. Each of my colleagues has an office.
2. Everybody wants to see the new proposal.

The following indefinite pronouns can be plural or singular depending on the noun to which they refer: all, any, none, some.
For example:
1. None of the directors were at the meeting.
2. None of his advice makes sense.


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Tip #666: Nouns ending in ics


Some nouns that end in ics can take a singular or plural verb, depending on how they are used. For example: Ethics is a course every college student should take. In this sentence, ethics is used to refer to a body of knowledge, so the singular verb is is used.

However, when referring to quantities or activities (plural subjects), a plural verb is required, e.g., Ms. Kendrick's ethics are exemplary.

Statistics, economics, politics, and physics are some other nouns that end in ics.



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Tip #668: Using the Bcc

In our highly sophisticated world of electronics, we all are familiar with the Bcc code attached to our emails, sometimes written as BCC (blind carbon copy).

Most of us do not use the Bcc code enough in our daily correspondence. There are several reasons why it is imperative that we make greater use of it when writing our personal and business emails.

The first and foremost reason is the security factor. Many jokes and "please forwards" are received and passed on in our personal emails. If Bcc is not employed, think of how many email addresses could be stolen by the wrong party. It is neither respectful nor safe to publish everyone's address.

The second reason is relevant to the business world where a department or individual may not not wish to publicize the email addresses of all those recipients who are privileged to be apprised of the information. Therefore, it is essential to blind copy the recipients.

To be safe, secure, respectful, and a little secretive, please utilize the Bcc in your correspondence.




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Tip #667: Me or I?


A few years back, Toby Keith had a hit country song "I Just Wanna Talk About Me." The me person is probably the most important person in your life and is talked about more than fifty percent of the time.

Between you and I—oops, did I say I? Should it be me? Then I sometimes ask, "Was it I who said that?" or should I have said, "Was it me who said that?"

Here are some tips that will help you.
1. When two or more people are involved in your idea (which includes you), remove all the other people and see which pronoun, me or I, sounds the best. Ex: Between you and ___, I am getting concerned about our firm's finances. Consider whether to say between I or between me. Hopefully, you have chosen between me.

2. This is the tricky one
"Was it I?" is a question. Change the question into the statement "It was I" or "It was me." Although "It was I" is really correct, over the years it has become generally acceptable to say me when you do not complete the sentence. In this completed sentence, "It was I who called yesterday," the I and it are the same person; therefore, I is the subject.

So the next time someone asks if you called, reply, "It was I who called." This will impress!



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Tip #669: The Passive Voice, Part I


The moment you arrive at the office, your boss meets you with an accusatory remark that goes something like this: YOU DID NOT SHUT DOWN THE PRINTER LAST NIGHT.

If your boss had said, "The printer was not shut down last night," it would have been a less combative remark. Without actually saying "by you," you know that the remark was directed toward you.

By using the passive voice, the emphasis is taken away from "you," the subject, and placed upon "the printer," the object of the verb. Using the passive voice in the business world and in your private life could encourage cooperation and a more tranquil environment.

Tip #670 will explain how to form the passive voice when writing and speaking.




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Tip #670: Passive Voice, Part 2



How to Form the Passive Voice


In last week's tip we discovered that there are many opportunities in the business world, as well as our private lives, to make use of the passive voice. By using the passive voice instead of active voice, we are in a better position to open the way for a discussion.

So let's review the formation of the passive voice.
Three rules must be remembered:

1. The passive voice is formed with the verb to be plus the past participle.

2. The object of the verb becomes the subject.
Note: The passive voice can only be formed if there is an object of the verb.

3. The subject becomes the object of the preposition by. Note: The by is usually implied and does not need to be written, although it is the user's choice.

Example:
Active Voice: You didn't shut down the computer.
Passive Voice: The computer was not shut down.

In the active voice, computer is the object of the verb and you is the subject. In the passive voice, computer is the subject and you is the object of the preposition.
The passive voice, therefore, has no object of the verb. The by you does not need to be written because it is implied. The verb is formed using to be; in this case, was, the past tense.


Good luck in making your business relationships more cooperative by using the passive voice.





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