Tom Cruise and the Suspended Hyphen!

What a terrific example of the suspended hyphen rule, compliments of The New York Times:

The older Tom Cruise gets, the more fun it is to watch him risk death in elaborate age- and gravity-defying ways.

Yours in Good Grammar: “Breakthrough”

Yours in good grammar: The Space Makes the Case!

A “breakthrough” is defined as “a significant or sudden advance, development, or achievement that removes a barrier to progress; a person’s first success.”

“Breakthrough” is one of a group of words, like cleanup, login, setup, and standout, that is one word as a noun or adjective, but changes to two words when it is used as a verb. It can be tricky, so when you use a word like “breakthrough,” take a moment to decide whether you mean the concept of a “breakthrough” as a noun or adjective, or as “breaking through” in an active, verb sense.

A trick I’ve found that works is to ask yourself if you can add “a” or “the” in front of one of these words or one of these words combined with another; if so, it’s the one word noun or adjective. If you can add “need to” in front of the word, it’s actually the two-word verb. Take a look:

Noun: The nomination marks a major breakthrough.

Adjective: It was a real breakthrough moment.

Verb phrase:

I will break through to a new level this year.

I am breaking through to a new level this year.

At the conference, she broke through her fear.

This chapter has broken through to national prominence.

Problematic WordPress copy with answers, Part I.

These sentences are part of the 52-sentence group I pulled from a local “WordPress expert’s” site. I’m all for WordPress, and I understand that it’s “open source, ” etc., etc., etc., and that lots and lots of very cool people have flocked to the WordPress banner, but all too often these same people can’t write their way out of a paper sack. Moral of the story: Write your own content and get it edited by a professional. This content would make an eighth-grader blush.

Read on. More to come.

1. If you don’t see any times that works for you, you’ll be able to send us a direct message so we can coordinate and get you scheduled.

“…times that work…”

2. Schedule a 30 minute discovery call with us (for free!).

Hyphen between 30 and “minute” to modify “discovery.”

3. What you’re NOT doing is focusing your time and energy on creating new content and products for your community (aka: doing what you love!)

Where’s the period? And let’s stop capitalizing words for emphasis. If the word isn’t in a title, use italics for emphasis.

4. I love web design and development and I have been working with WordPress since it’s early conception.

Geez! Baby mistake! It’s for its. Get this right or go home. Plus, it’s a run-on sentence. Yucky all around.

5. I’ve experienced the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, of the startup world and I have gather useful strategies and procedures to help others gain success with their projects.

You have “gather”? I think not!

6. When I’m free, I like to go on bike rides, enjoy the beach and every once in awhile, catch a nice wave. 

Anybody ever tell you the difference between awhile (an adverb) and a while (a noun)? Guess not, but Word knew. This “WordPress” guy doesn’t even run his content through spell-check, the most babyish of tools. Plus, not to make a huge deal about it, stick a comma after “and.” There. All nice.

7. [He] was lucky enough to have had an advanced personal computer in his home ever since the first ones hit the market (Take that Generation Y!).

Rule: Lowercase the first word after the first parenthesis, unless it’s a proper noun.

8. [He] has always have had a passion for entrepreneurship and is not shy of working hard.

He “has always have had”? Anybody know the phrase proof read at this shop? Guess not.

9. He’s been through many business ventures and startups and has learned both from hard-knocks and from the success and failures of others first hand.

What’s the hyphen doing there? First you don’t use hyphens when you should, and then you use them when you shouldn’t…the sure sign of somebody who doesn’t know how to use hyphens! Plus, dude, four “ands” in one sentence with no benefit of a comma….Geez!

These sequential sentences feature one of my pet peeves!

10. That’s when she became focused on WordPress and an early adopter of responsive design (responsive design = that magic that makes your site transition seamlessly from full screen to any mobile device or tablet).  But, after a few years on the west coast, Florida was calling her back…and that’s when she met [him] and started focusing on WordPress and freelance web design.

Aaa, that ole “magic”! Yes, indeedy. More like…well, let’s stick to the task at hand. One of the most basic mistakes you can make in your writing is using repetitive words and phrases. There are lots of synonyms for “focus,” and there’s really no reason to use the word in sequential sentences. Plus, “West Coast” should be capitalized for clarity. Sloppy!

11. [Her] first experience with computers was watching (and sometimes helping) her dad build custom PC’s and networking solutions for local businesses in the 80’s and 90’s.

No. This is incorrect. There are several reasons I can think of when you’d need to express the concepts of 80s and 90s.

First, if you are talking about the decades, which, in this case, she is, that’s ’80s and ’90s. The apostrophe tells your readers that there’s something missing to the left of the concept. And watch that apostrophe if your font is directional: it should face out, not in.

Second, if you are referring to ages or temperatures, you should not use an apostrophe anywhere; it’s 80s and 90s.

12. I love seeing the shift in someone when they go from confusion or frustration to empowerment and it fuels all my work.

Lots to look at in this awful sentence! “Someone” is singular, and so has to be “he or she,” but it can’t be “they.” This is also a run-on sentence. Those are punctuation/grammar mistakes. This next is a biggie, and indicates poor writing: What’s the difference between “confusion” or “frustration”? Sure, they are slightly different, but not so different that they need to be in the same sentence. This is one of my pet peeves: equivalencies or near-equivalencies. Since you’re not likely to be “frustrated” without being “confused” first, I’d use “confused” and leave it at that.

13. After initially pursuing a career in music he earned his degree in English and Creative Writing with a minor in Business.

What a liar. Where’d he get his degree, Trump University? And stick a comma after “music,” big boy; that first bit is what’s called an “introductory phrase.” Glad to set you straight.

14. With the website, strategy and business savvy to help you take your business to the next level.

This isn’t a full sentence, and I can’t remember the context, but I do know that “to the next level” is hackneyed and should be banished from every self-respecting writer’s repertoire.

15. On a shoestring budget she built her own e-commerce site and blog for her business, learned about list building and email service providers, managed an active social media presence, and took a deep dive into content strategy and copywriting.

I’m so tired of “deep dive” I could puke.

16. From overwhelm to on fire.

Listen, people, “overwhelm” ain’t no noun! It’s a verb, yes, it’s an adjective, yes, but it ain’t no noun!

17. Your site is built to accommodate your needs, so whether you choose to integrate with LeadPages or create your own in-site sales or landing pages, everything you need is baked right in.

Another cliché! Spare me “baked in,” unless you’re talking about raisins, or, better still, chocolate chips.

18. Running your own business + website can be both incredibly awesome and supremely challenging.

Is there such a thing as “incredibly awesome”? I mean, we aren’t talking about the Divine here, or even Mother Nature. Give me a break! And then to follow by “supremely challenging.” Ugh.

19. One day you can be totally on a roll, cranking out content, ideas, plans and moving them forward. The next you can feel totally stuck or spinning….

Sophomoric writing.

20. “I thought adding this new feature to (or fixing this issue on) my site would be way easier, but now I’m stuck and if I spend another minute googling this sh*& my brain is gonna melt!”

“Way easier”? What are you, 12? Are you marketing to 12-year-olds? Because, if so, the bit about “sh*&” and “gonna melt” is perfect.

21. He was also writing as the editor for a digital magazine startup, and his experience provided an framework of understanding of the hows and whys of tools like editorial schedules and batch editing.

I don’t believe it. I pulled 52 mistakes from these “uber” developers’ website. Fifty two. That’s 52 more than I should have found, for people who claim to have writing degrees and experiences as copy editors and editors. What comes out of a bull?

22. Let’s face it, there’s a time when your favorite entrepreneurs group delivers the exact answer you need, and about a hundred more times when their answers only leave you spinning in circles.

A group is a collective noun, and it’s singular. Period. Which makes the “their” there (say that three times real fast!) flat out wrong.

This writing is really beyond the pale. It’s like, dude, um, you know, over the Styx and through the deep, dark woods into Hell. There is a special circle of hell for people who claim to be professional writers and take other people’s money to write professionally, but who are SLOPPY.

Yay! More quizzes!

Oh, I’m so happy to have my blog back. What an ordeal! Yippee!

Okay, here we have a wonderful, stupendous quiz, featuring material from the same website and, get this, this is a WordPress developer’s website! God only knows what his and her clients’ websites look like!

Oh, as it turns out, there were 52 “problematic” sentences on this site (this one site belonging to WordPress developers, remember); too long for a quiz. Well, this’ll be Part I!

Take a look.

  1. If you don’t see any times that works for you, you’ll be able to send us a direct message so we can coordinate and get you scheduled.
  2. Schedule a 30 minute discovery call with us (for free!).
  3. What you’re NOT doing is focusing your time and energy on creating new content and products for your community (aka: doing what you love!)
  4. I love web design and development and I have been working with WordPress since it’s early conception.
  5. I’ve experienced the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, of the startup world and I have gather useful strategies and procedures to help others gain success with their projects.
  6. When I’m free, I like to go on bike rides, enjoy the beach and every once in awhile, catch a nice wave. 
  7. [He] was lucky enough to have had an advanced personal computer in his home ever since the first ones hit the market (Take that Generation Y!).
  8. [He] has always have had a passion for entrepreneurship and is not shy of working hard.
  9. He’s been through many business ventures and startups and has learned both from hard-knocks and from the success and failures of others first hand.

These sequential sentences feature one of my pet peeves!

  1. That’s when she became focused on WordPress and an early adopter of responsive design (responsive design = that magic that makes your site transition seamlessly from full screen to any mobile device or tablet).  But, after a few years on the west coast, Florida was calling her back…and that’s when she met [him] and started focusing on WordPress and freelance web design.
  2. [Her] first experience with computers was watching (and sometimes helping) her dad build custom PC’s and networking solutions for local businesses in the 80’s and 90’s.
  3. I love seeing the shift in someone when they go from confusion or frustration to empowerment and it fuels all my work.
  1. After initially pursuing a career in music he earned his degree in English and Creative Writing with a minor in Business.
  2. With the website, strategy and business savvy to help you take your business to the next level.
  3. On a shoestring budget she built her own e-commerce site and blog for her business, learned about list building and email service providers, managed an active social media presence, and took a deep dive into content strategy and copywriting.
  4. From overwhelm to on fire.
  5. Your site is built to accommodate your needs, so whether you choose to integrate with LeadPages or create your own in-site sales or landing pages, everything you need is baked right in.

18. Running your own business + website can be both incredibly awesome and supremely challenging.

19. One day you can be totally on a roll, cranking out content, ideas, plans and moving them forward. The next you can feel totally stuck or spinning….

20. “I thought adding this new feature to (or fixing this issue on) my site would be way easier, but now I’m stuck and if I spend another minute googling this sh*& my brain is gonna melt!”

21. He was also writing as the editor for a digital magazine startup, and his experience provided an framework of understanding of the hows and whys of tools like editorial schedules and batch editing.

22. Let’s face it, there’s a time when your favorite entrepreneurs group delivers the exact answer you need, and about a hundred more times when their answers only leave you spinning in circles.

When you don’t get a gig, aren’t you curious about who did?

I admit to being grumpy about not being chosen to present at the National Speakers Association’s Influence 2018. However, I would take some comfort if I felt that the three women in the 3-woman panel chosen to present about “Authorship” were as good as or better than I am.

I’m going to let all my grumpiness go, since I just came across this spectacular sentence in one of their websites:

[She] is a professional member of the highly acclaimed Nation Speakers Association.

You coulda had me, National Speakers Association! You coulda had me.

Another “editor” who sucks!

I am constantly and consistently amazed when I go to a self-proclaimed editor’s website and find a morass of mistakes in his or her content. I don’t get it. How can someone who plainly doesn’t understand the rules of good grammar and correct punctuation hang out a shingle trumpeting “I’m An Editor! I’m An EDITOR!” and then take your money (!!), when it’s obvious to any Tom, Dick, or Harriet that he (or she!) is clueless about basic principles? Can’t conjugate verbs correctly, doesn’t know rules about hyphens, misspells words, uses the wrong word—and you call yourself an editor? Gee, I find it very irritating!

Here are some terrific examples of someone who says he’s an editor, but who needs a lot of schoolin’.

1) During the past eight years or so, I’ve been working full-time as a free lance ghostwriter, copy-editor, and proofreader.

Then you should know that “freelance” is one word! And, buddy, listen to this:

You are a full-time editor, which means you edit full time.

Generally speaking, a hyphenated compound adjective loses the hyphen when it follows the noun it’s modifying. I thought all editors knew that!

2) Some of the greatest examples of ingenuity when it comes to words has been by Bible translators.

“Has” is the problem here. “Some” means more than one, and more than one have been…

3) Their years of service span a dangerously fascinating period of Chinese history, and their first years there were synonymous with the final years of Hudson Taylor’s ministry in China.

“Synonymous”? Really? “Similar to”? “At the same time of”? “Simultaneous”? I don’t get it.

4) This year-long collection of insightful devotionals is arranged by monthly themes—topics ranging from basic Christian truths to in-depth and thought provoking quests.

Please put a hyphen between “thought” and “provoking.”

5) Dig into the cross-generational themes of:  childhood pleasures, adolescent growing pains, grown-up lessons in maturity, and, finally, the Christian’s victory over death.

No colon after “of.” If you didn’t have “of” there, you could put a colon after “themes.”

6) Emily has a heart problem, her dad was burned badly in a fire and kids make fun of her at school.

What? There are three things in this list; three things that are unrelated. The missing serial comma doesn’t help.

7) If you don’t want thousands of books molding in your garage you may want to go POD.

“To mold” is not correct here. “To mold” means to shape, like Jello or a piece of plastic. There is no such verb as “to mold” in the sense of growing mold or mildew. “Moldering,” however, means to decay, to deteriorate, as in “John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave….”

This is sort of the worst example, even though all of them demonstrate a lack of basic knowledge. You need an editor who has read deeply, broadly, and reacts strongly when the wrong word is used.

8) There is definitely an ideal situation for using print-on-demand. If you’re short on time or don’t possess the know-how to do all those details involved in producing your own bona fide book, then you may want to consider Print-on-demand. 

Well, a cursory once-over would show that “print” is both lowercase and uppercase in the same use. Wrong!

9) If you want ideas for things like book cover design that you can just pick and have  implemented immediately then choose POD.

Comma after “immediately.” And, even though you can’t see it, trust me: there were two spaces between “have” and “implemented.” (Spell-check saw them!)

10) That is the most remarkable writing in the world- – -the pure, honest stuff from deep inside.

Yes! Those are three hyphens after “world,” and there are no circumstances when three hyphens are used for anything. Geez!

11) Your publisher then submits your book to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. They begin to coach you regarding how to publicize your book.

Since when is “your publisher” plural; in other words, why is “they” there?

This is really sucky writing. I’m all for people learning, but this is not professional editing by any stretch.

Parsing the New York Times editorial board

Well, as it happens, I do have a punctuation suggestion! Well, a few, actually.

Let’s look at this sentence:

A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; it means that multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

1. The first thing I see is the brilliant use of every day (two words). I just submitted an article to a speakers e-zine about the differences between every day and everyday (one word).

2. The second thing I see is the semicolon.  Does this use follow what I believe about semicolons: that each “side” of the semicolon must be a complete sentence. (The way I think of this concept in my mind is as an old-fashioned teeter totter with each side evenly balanced.) The first part is definitely a full sentence. What about the material to follow? Can I decide when I get to it if this is a correct use of a semicolon? No. (But I am hopeful!) So, I am going to hold that decision in abeyance until I decide whether or not the material following the semicolon is a complete sentence. Is it?

3. Is this a complete sentence?

It means that multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

I don’t like it. At first blush, I don’t like it. It really has a colon “feel,” as opposed to a semicolon, actually, because colons are used to explain and elaborate, and also as a substitute for the word “namely” or the phrase “that is to say.”

4. The next thing I notice is the  “multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to believe” part. “Officials” is plural and “had” matches and the plural pronoun “they” is correct, so that’s okay. But why those commas?

What’s better? No commas? Yes, no commas is better. BUT! You know what’s really better? Dashes! Yes! Let’s try dashes!

it means that multiple government officials—and a federal judge—had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

Wow! I’m impressed. Yes, those dashes are dandy. It pushes air out at “and” and provides a breath at both ends.

5. Now, let’s look at this last bit:

had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

“Evidence” and “crime”…one crime.

“They” is repeated.

“The lawyer”…singular.

How about:

it means that multiple government officials—and a federal judge— believed that they’d find evidence of a crime there and they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.

6. Better. But that last bit is bothering me. How about

they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy the evidence

Does that feel excessive?

Or how about this:
evidence of a crime there and that the lawyer might try to destroy that evidence.

I like that. So, here it is:

A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; it means that multiple government officials—and a federal judge— believed that they’d find evidence of a crime there and that the lawyer involved might try to destroy that evidence.

Now, let’s circle back to the semicolon? Is the reworked second part a full sentence? I don’t like it as a full sentence. It’s the “it” that’s bothering me. It bothers me. How to work around the issue? How about this, New York Times editorial board:

A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day. A raid on a lawyers office happens only when multiple government officials—and a federal judge— believed that they’d find evidence of a crime there and that the lawyer involved might try to destroy that evidence.

Is this true? (It’s the “multiple” that’s disruptive.) It’s much more declarative, but maybe can’t be checked or maybe even known. Anyway, is there anything else I can do?

An F.B.I. raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; in this specific situation, it meant that multiple government officials—and a federal judge— believed that they’d find evidence of a crime at the lawyer’s office, which they further believed might be destroyed by that lawyer.

Do you like “meant” (past) better than “means” (present) when paired with “believed.”

I think I do.

Here’s how I’d write it:

An FBI raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day: in this specific situation, it meant that a bunch of government officials—and a federal judge— believed that there was evidence of criminal activity at the lawyer’s office, evidence they further believed might be destroyed by that lawyer unless they acted immediately.

 

 

How do you make 9 mistakes in ONE sentence?

It’s easy for BNI! Besides needing a comma, there are two mistakes made over and over and over and over again.

The offending (and offensive) sentence:

The process to become an Ambassador starts with exemplary leadership in their chapter, they are nominated by someone on our Team, they go through a number of interviews with our Directors, and finally, they complete the Ambassador Orientation.

The first mistake is incorrect capitalization. “Ambassador,” “Team,” “Directors,” and “Ambassador Orientation”—none of these words or phrases are proper nouns or proper noun phrases. If, for example, the phrase was “BNI Ambassador,” I’d let it slide, because it’d be something unique to BNI. But not “team,” not “directors,” not “chapters,” not “members.” Not ever. Someone once told me that “Capitalizing ‘members’ makes our members feel special.” My reply was, “No, it just makes you look wrong.”

The second mistake is noun-pronoun agreement.  We start out with “an ambassador”; in other words, one ambassador. You just cannot pair a singular noun with a plural pronoun. It. Cannot. Be. Done.

Plus, this is a damn long sentence; too long, in my opinion. But I didn’t count that as a mistake.

Still, nine mistakes in one sentence is nine too many!

They had:

The process to become an Ambassador starts with exemplary leadership in their chapter, they are nominated by someone on our Team, they go through a number of interviews with our Directors, and finally, they complete the Ambassador Orientation.

Corrected:

The process to become an ambassador starts with exemplary leadership in his or her chapter. He or she is nominated by someone on our team, and then the candidates go through a number of interviews with our directors, and, finally, they complete the ambassador orientation.

Just ask!

This morning I was tweaking an introduction, and I came across a place that made me pause: is the possessive of CBS written CBS’ or CBS’s? I liked the latter, simply because you do pronounce that last “s”: C-B-S-ess. I went back and forth and then I had a brainwave: Liz, call ’em up and ask!

So, I did. After flummoxing the receptionist and the gal who picked up the phone in HR, the HR gal asked someone who didn’t know, and then she asked someone else who did. CBS prefers CBS’. There you have it.

While poking around its site, I came across a horrible mistake, which I was happy, happy, happy to share with the HR gal when she returned:

CBS is comprised of some of the most successful and recognized properties in media, and fully embraces the spirit of competition.

Regular readers of my blog will recognize the common mistake: “comprised of.” There are two ways this sentence can be written correctly, and that ain’t it. Here we go:

CBS is composed of some of the most successful and recognized properties in media, and fully embraces the spirit of competition.

Some of the most successful and recognized properties in media comprise CBS, and we fully embrace the spirit of competition.

Remember: A large thing is composed of small things; small things comprise a large thing.

It helps me to remember that A jury is composed of jurors; jurors comprise a jury.

Sort of that fewer/less rule I like so much: Fewer snowflakes; less snow.

You can count snowflakes (fewer), but you can’t count snow (less).

 

What’s in a typo? A lot!

I was looking at a particular lot on an auction house’s site, and came across these two sentences about the condition of the item:

Thistle Brooch: Highest amethyst flower with an inclusion that appears as a chip, but it is internal. Not apparent significant chips or abrasions present.

Wow. The top “amethyst flower” has an “internal inclusion” (but not a chip!), but there are chips or abrasions (significant ones!) present that aren’t apparent?

After some reflection, I wondered if what I was looking at was a typo, and the second sentence should have read: No apparent significant chips or abrasions present.

I called, questioned, and yes, it was a typo: there are no obvious significant chips or abrasions present.

One letter changed everything. A cautionary tale!