This is a grab bag of two lessons from three sources.
The first lesson is about commas.
Great comma lesson from Michael Hyatt:
I created my online course, Free to Focus, so that you can forget about “doing it all” and do what matters instead.
The online course title in this sentence, “Free to Focus,” is in between commas, which means it is considered “parenthetical information”; that is, information that’s nice to know, but not necessary to the sentence.
But here’s the deal about parenthetical information: you must be able to remove it—entirely—from the sentence and still have a sentence that makes sense.
Here’s another example:
My mother, Susan, died last year.
Can you remove my mother’s name and still have a sentence that makes sense?
Let’s see: My mother died last year.
Yup, that makes sense.
Can you remove the title of Mr. Hyatt’s online course and have a sentence that makes sense? Yes, you can; that is, if this is the only online course that Mr. Hyatt offers. I only have one mother (“had,” unfortunately, should be the verb, but it’s still too early to go there), so, yes, her name is parenthetical information and must be enclosed in commas.
But what if I was talking about my cat Dorothy, who is one of two cats I own?
I took my cat, Dorothy, to the vet yesterday.
Removing “Dorothy” from the sentence still leaves me with a workable sentence, but because I have two cats that sentence doesn’t tell my reader which of my two cats went to the vet. We have to be precise; we have to avoid ambiguity. Since I have two cats, I’d have to write this:
I took my cat Dorothy to the vet yesterday.
Okay, so what about Mr. Hyatt? The fact of the matter is that Mr. Hyatt offers multiple online courses. So, if you remove the parenthetical information, you have a confusing sentence because you don’t know which course he’s talking about. In other words, the so-called parenthetical information is actually necessary to the sentence. The sentence should read:
I created my online course Free to Focus so that you can forget about “doing it all” and do what matters instead.
The second lesson examines compound words: when are phrases hyphenated, two words, or one word?
American English is in a constant state of flux, but “flux” doesn’t happen all that fast. Sometimes you have compound phrases that are two words as a verb, but one word or hyphenated as a noun and adjective. Examples would be sit in (verb form “sit in,” but “sit-in” as a noun and adjective), mix up (“mix up” as a verb, but “mix-up” as a noun and adjective), and hit and run (“hit and run” as a verb, but “hit-and-run” as a noun and adjective).
Here, a company named ProPay has jumped from the hyphenated form of sign-up to one word, which is okay, though visually it doesn’t work in a big way with all forms (see the example below). The company did use the correct, two-word version as a noun, though, and all in the same sentence—good job!
This is a perfect example of signup/sign up use:
Fast and easy signup process—sign up in as few as 10 minutes or less.
One company whose website content I’ve been reading is ClickFunnel. ClickFunnel thinks that “optin” is now one word. I disagree. “Opt-in,” in my opinion, should be hyphenated as a noun, and two words as a verb.