EditNATION.com Punctuation and Grammar Quiz #8

A couple of weeks ago I joined a LinkedIn group of marketers, thinking I was going to read some brilliant prose. Oh, boy, shock of my life! These people get on and post some of the most poorly punctuated material I’ve ever read. Even though they don’t seem to be embarrassed, I am embarrassed for them.

Here’s an example:

both are good. but internal resources end up knowing your product / service so intimately that they’re writing can be much more profound and interesting.

They break their arms patting themselves on the back because they are all such “thought leaders,” but when I go to their websites, I find this…

1) Our team of globally-renowned writers are hand-picked for each project because of their focus and experience on that particular vertical.

2) We believe that, while SEO is of preeminent importance in today’s search-centric world, high-end journalistic excellence remains the core of our being; the focus of our every move.

3) Build strong brand affinity by creating relevant content that touches on every passion of your core audience—and converts them into your biggest fans.

4) Launching in January 2013, Discover saw over 1 million UMV’s within the first month of launch.

5) Our writers interviewed various Olympic athletes and wrote 500 originally-reported stories to be showcased on the Olympic Pulse Page daily.

6) We then built the custom content to support the brand, their mobile and desktop platforms, and marketing initiatives.

7) We helped Lasso create a go-to-market strategy by doing a high-visibility guerilla-style launch at SXSW in Austin, TX.

8) We produced all of the product copy for the Patagonia’s women’s snow/winter clothing for Patagonia’s 40th Anniversary edition of their catalog for Fall 2013.

Those were all from the same site. Here’s some more from Thomson Reuters.

9) Join us in January as a newly re-imagined Marketing Partner Forum returns to Terranea for a three day summit on collaborative strategies in business development.

10) Take advantage of Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute sponsorship opportunities- events, live and on demand webcasts, newsletters, blogs or professional publications, and you gain immediate access to the best quality audience in law.

11) BLOG AND E-NEWSLETTER SPONSORSHIP – Tell your organization’s story with an in-depth blog posting or article to decision makers’ actively seeking new information.

To round things out, here are a few more “problem” sentences from more people who should know better.

12) We’re your locally-owned, independently-minded neighborhood bookstore with three locations in South Florida – Coral Gables, Miami Beach and Bal Harbour Shops – and affiliate stores in Grand Cayman, Westhampton Beach, and the Miami International Airport.

13) She is a regular speaker at conferences and events including the Singapore Writer’s Festival.

14) Some of her advice is not that new—active vs. passive voice—but remind us what the tenets are of good writing.

15) I created the 10-tips list below for small and midsize companies because these organizations often don’t have a full-time marketing or communications staffer; blogging is left to an editorially gifted CEO or leader who can clearly express themselves.

 

EditNATION.com Punctuation and Grammar Quiz, #7 Questions and Answers

Another week, another “professional” website to take a look at. These sentences are from a publisher. Yikes!

1) We often receive Manuscripts that require formatting corrections before we can start the editorial and layout processes.

What’s “manuscripts” doing as a proper noun? No, no, no capital M.

2) Find reputable ones and study them! And by the way, keep a grammar reference nearby at all times!

Look at those exclamation points! What are those two exclamation points doing with those sentences? It’s so juvenile!

Rule: Exclamation points are used to represent the highest pitch of emotion, in a paragraph, on a page, in a chapter. They are not to be used lightly, carelessly, or wantonly, but carefully, soberly, and with discretion.

Here are three mistakes in a brief article about (wait for it) proofreading.

3) If you publish your book across multiple formats (hardcover, paperback, or e-book.) make sure that internal page references are correct in each version.

What’s that period doing inside the parenthesis?

Rule: When you start a sentence off with “If,” you are likely going to need a comma somewhere. This sentence needs a comma after the parenthetical information. Corrected, it reads

If you publish your book across multiple formats (hardcover, paperback, or e-book), make sure that internal page references are correct in each version.

4) Don’t just indicate every error you find; also indicate each page on which an error occurs (perhaps by circling the page number.)

The material inside the parenthesis is not a complete sentence and so needs no punctuation. The period should be placed outside the sentence.

5) Have a second person go over your manuscript (preferably someone who is good at spelling and grammar.)

Yeah, not like YOU! Well, at least they were consistently wrong! Another thing to notice is this: Watch for repetitive use of words and sentence structure. Parenthetical asides have their place, but should be used sparingly. Three times in a short article is two times too many.

These lovely sentences are from Grammarly.com. It really jerks my chain to see  such SLOPPY writing on Grammarly.com, and to watch as it spews forth information that is wrong, wrong, wrong is OUTRAGEOUS.

6) Conjunctive adverbs are adverbs which join two clauses; some examples of are also, besides, accordingly, finally, subsequently, therefore, thus, meanwhile, moreover, nonetheless, instead, however, indeed, hence, consequently, similarly and still.

Hey, look at that big fat missing word! And why can’t you alphabetize your list?

7) Conjunctive adverbs frequently (but not necessarily) have a semi-colon before them.

It’s semicolon, not semi-colon.

8) As they’re conjunctions (i.e. words that join two thoughts or ideas), it’s best not to use them at the beginning of a sentence.

I.E. is always followed by a comma. Always. Plus, never start a sentence with “as.”  It makes you look like an as s.

9) If we replace the Marks with I, and a couple of the potatoes with them, things sound much more natural.

Take a look at “the” in “the potatoes.” That “t” isn’t in italics. This is why you are careful with your writing and read over what you’ve written….

10) When reading aloud, the reader will naturally lower their voice and tilt their head a little, showing that this parenthetical information is a comment being made to the side.

“The reader” is singular: one reader. This is so wrong. You cannot use a plural pronoun with a singular noun. In this case, it’s either “his or her” voice and tilt “his or her” head, or you can say “readers” with “their” and “their,” but the way it’s written, it’s wrong.

12) The trick with hyphens is to use them sparingly. If you find yourself creating words every sentence or two, your reader might find that a little much to deal with as hyphens slow the reader down a little and make them pay attention to the new word.

Same mistake, different paragraph. You get no points for being consistently wrong! This mistake is compounded by the fact that “hyphens” are referred to as “them,” as is “the reader.” Very bad writing all around.

13) When you’re quoting someone and you need to put in some sort of explanation (e.g. clarify a pronoun or use sic to show an error), you put it in square brackets.

What? Did someone say “clarify a pronoun”? Be still my heart! Well, at a minimum, there needs to be a comma after i.e.

14) According to all the music magazines, “it’s the new up-and-coming band”.

Two things. First, periods and commas are ALWAYS placed INSIDE quotation marks. Second, I believe we have an example of the coordinate adjective rule here, which means I believe we need a comma between “new” and “up-and-coming.” Let’s see! There’s a two-step process to decide if you need a comma between two adjectives. First, can you switch the order and have the sentence make sense? Second, can you add “and” in between the adjectives and have the phrase make sense? Let’s see. The up-and-coming new band. Okay, maybe not as nice, but it works. The new and up-and-coming band. You bet, that works.

So, I’d want to see a comma: the new, up-and-coming band.

15) Double and single quotation marks are pretty much interchangeable; check the conventions for any specific format you might be using.

This is such crap. Double and single quotation marks ARE NOT “pretty much” interchangeable. I’d like to meet whoever wrote that at dawn, with dueling pistols, or maybe swords. Or maybe a dull pencil. At any rate, it’s crap.

Rule: When quoting someone word-for-word, use double quotation marks.

“I’d love to drive a Porsche 918, but my knees would never recover,” said Liz.

Rule: When quoting someone who quotes someone else, the “someone else quote” is enclosed by single quotation marks.

“Oh, hell no! He told me he thought you were ‘absolutely wonderful.'”

16) Quotation marks always come in pairs; we say the first set “opens” the quote, and the second set “closes” the quote.

This is another bit of crap. It’s so not true it turns my stomach.

Rule: When someone is speaking and his or her words continue into a new paragraph, double quotation marks kick off the beginning of the first paragraph, are left off at the end of the first paragraph, and then are used again at the beginning of the second paragraph. So, if you have a long quote or a wordy character, you will only use “end” quotes at the very end of that person’s words.

17) These are commonly used in British English, but they’re interchangeable with double quotation marks.

That is such crap! “These” refer to single quotation marks. The Brits do things differently, it’s true, but, hey, last time I looked, we’re all in AMERICA, and we should be using AMERICAN ENGLISH.

18) If you are using double quotation marks for the “outside quote”, then use single quotation marks for the “inside quote”; if you’re using single quotes on the outside, use doubles on the inside.

This is total, well, forgive me, mom, but this is BULL! First off, that “outside quote” part is WRONG: the quotation marks should have been placed OUTSIDE the comma. Second, you use double quotation marks first in American English, and then, if there’s a quote inside that quote, you move to single quotation marks. What’s all this business about “using single quotes on the outside”? Do they just make this stuff up as they go along???

19) Annie said, I’ve gone through this whole essay, and I can’t find what your professor means by that other issue”’.

This is okay if you are writing British English, but it’s WRONG if you are writing American English.

American English: Annie said, “I’ve gone through this whole essay, and I can’t find what your professor means by that other issue.'”

20) My favourite song is Free To Be You And Me.

Two British-isms from an American website. Brother! The American spelling is “favorite,” and that period should be INSIDE the quotation marks.

21) If you end a sentence with a quote that contains end-of-sentence punctuation (period, exclamation mark or question mark), there’s no need for anymore punctuation at the end of the sentence: just let the quote’s punctuation do all the work.

Besides the serial comma (yay!) that’s needed in the parenthetical information, the use of “anymore” is incorrect. “Anymore” (one word) is an adverb that means from now on, still, any longer, or nowadays. “Any more” (as two words) would have been fine; I myself would have gone with “additional.”

22) They said that the British were coming.

Same thing. Do you hear me, Grammarly? You are an AMERICAN website. Learn AMERICAN rules! Put your commas and your periods inside quotation marks.

Oh, just one more! Grammarly.com has so many!

23) The neighbour popped in to say hi.

Duh. Same thing. “Neighbor” is the preferred spelling here in the States. Quotation marks OUTSIDE periods and commas.

EditNATION.com Punctuation and Grammar Quiz #6: Questions and Answers

 

As I think I have mentioned, all these “target” sentences come from websites where a) there is a “best-selling” author in residence, or b) there are professional writers plying their trade. So spiff it up, people!

1) He relies on more than 16 years of public relations experience to provide strategic communications council that drives business impact.

My heavens, it’s counsel, not council. No offense, but if you’re going to trumpet your stable of “Pulitzer Prize-winning authors,” then you don’t need to be making any of these bush-league missteps for the whole world to see.

2) We’ve helped hundred of tech companies build market awareness and establish their leadership across a range of sectors, including cloud computing, defense, IT security, mobile, healthcare, manufacturing and more.

Um, do you mean hundreds?

3) If you live and breathe social media and the news, like working as a team member, enjoy multi-tasking as a core personality trait, take pride in every word you write, and have mastered the use of the semi-colon, we want to hear from you.

Yeah, well, it’s semicolon. No hyphen.

4) This person should have a strong media and blogger relations background in business-to-business and consumer technology public relations, including traditional and social media. They should have excellent writing skills, and clients communication and presentation skills are critical.

You know, you expect to see this kind of mistake on a blog operated by a 20-something. It’s that noun-pronoun thing. Until they change it (and until the sun rises in the west), then you can not say “this person” (singular) and “they” (plural). No, no, a thousand times NO.

And why, pray, is “clients” plural?

5) Steered by our Editorial Guidebook, we outline your strategy – define your target audiences, set the editorial direction set, and crystallize the calendar.

One “set” too many, I’d say, unless “direction set” is a phrase that I’m not familiar with.

However, I’m trying to understand the dash in that sentence. Either the “outline” is one item in the “strategy,” in which case you’d use a comma after it, or the “outline” is the overarching, fundamental job and what follows are the parts of the “outline,” in which case you’d use a colon. Either way, that’s not a good dash. No, not a good dash at all.

(I’m sorry, but when you say “Editorial Guidebook,” you have my undivided attention.)

Those were five sentences from one super, hyper, über professional writers’ website. And that, people, is five too many.

6) In his previous life, he honed his PR skills at the XYZGROUP, working with emerging growth and publicly-traded companies across enterprise technology and cleantech markets.

Never hyphenate an -ly adverb. I know it sounds right, but it ain’t.

7) He has provided communications guidance to help clients navigate events of all sizes, including products launches, leadership changes, initial public offerings and acquisitions.

“Product launches” would be correct here.

8) Whether working in high school for her brother’s company selling motor oil and antifreeze over the phone or organizing fundraisers and getting her brother in law’s band on local radio stations, she thrived at the art of persuasion.

You need to hyphenate brother-in-law.

Plus, I don’t think you thrive at something, I think you thrive on something. You could excel at, but not thrive at.

9) A mother of two young children,  she’s extremely busy and can be found drinking a lot of coffee and listening to music.

I saw this mistake immediately, but that’s probably because I practice. If you don’t practice, this is why I recommend putting your words into Word before you post, because Word—no matter its other faults—will show you when you have two spaces between words or, as in this case, a punctuation mark and a word. Do you see it now?

10) With no background, training or experience he volunteered to spec and build the first Web site for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.

I’d like a serial comma after “training,” but the mistake I would say that has been made here is that the word is now website—one word, no caps. If the information had been written 20 years ago, I guess “Web site” would have been fine, but not now.

11) He supported several client’s social media efforts, including General Motors, Sokolove Law, the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum and Honeywell’s Nobel Initiative.

“Several clients” is plural, so the possessive of “several clients” is several clients’.

Also, and this is really an unforgivable sin, the official website says that it’s The National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

You’ve just got to get these details right, people. Look. It. Up.

12) A 15+ year PR veteran, she has used her communication powers for good on behalf of NASA, as well as leading technology brands such as HP, QUALCOMM, Microsoft, etc. and top consumer companies like BJ’s Wholesale Club, Nabisco and P&G.

There’s no comma after “etc.” and there always is a comma after etc. when it’s placed smack dab in the middle of a sentence.

13) When not working, she keeps her plants alive (mostly); volunteers for a local animal shelter and refinishes furniture.

This semicolon is incorrect. Semicolons are used when at least one item in a list has its own internal punctuation. To avoid confusion, every item in a list should be separated by either commas or semicolons.

Corrected, this sentence should read:

When not working, she keeps her plants alive (mostly), volunteers for a local animal shelter, and refinishes furniture.

14) Meanwhile, our website design and interactive media bring your story to life through visual dialogue and user experience.

Dialogue is the preferred British English spelling. Dialog is the preferred American English spelling. Since this website is based in America, I’d go with dialog.

15) [these are stubs]

a) 100% Employer Paid Long and Short-Term Disability

When you have two words (long, short) and both would be joined by a hyphen to a second word (term), then both need hyphens. You could say “long-term and short-term disability,” but you can leave the first “term” out and still be understood. The rule is called the suspended hyphen rule. The stub should read:

100% Employer Paid Long- and Short-Term Disability

b) Paid volunteer time at your favorite non-profit every quarter

There’s no hyphen in nonprofit. One word.

I told you this was fun!

 

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The “About Us” Page: Avoiding the Pitfalls, Part II

Posting biographical information on your website is extremely important, establishing as it does your bona fides and answering the question on everyone’s mind: why should I listen to you? If you are found wanting, then your audience will, at best, be skeptical of your products/opinions/services or, at worst, your audience will make like a tree and leave. If you are writing more than one biography, the challenge is multiplied.

One of the many tricky aspects of an effective “About Us” page (or pages) is maintaining editorial continuity. And there are so many mistakes to make! The page is a minefield, and the stakes are high.

One place where people are often confused is the issue of displaying educational information. If you are confused, it’s no wonder: no one really agrees about the proper way to do it. You can go to Yale…different departments use different methods. You can go to Harvard…same thing. I like Princeton’s approach, and so—basically—that’s what I’d follow.

Before I get too far, there’s a huge mistake that lots of people make that I want to identify. This happens with degrees that start with “M.” When you spell out an “M” degree, like Master of Arts or Master of Business, then it’s a Master of Arts or a master’s degree, BUT! when you use an acronym you say an MA or an MBA.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here goes.

Princeton states that its preferred use is to spell out the degree (e.g., Bachelor of Arts or bachelor’s degree). Be sure to include the apostrophe: it’s master’s, not masters.

If abbreviations are used, the abbreviations should include periods, so Doctor of Philosophy would be abbreviated Ph.D. In addition, according to Princeton, the word “degree” should not accompany a degree abbreviation, so these two sentences would be incorrect:
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he received his B.B.A. degree in 1976, and was also awarded an Illinois CPA Certificate in 1976. Phil received his M.B.A. degree from Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1977.

But, this business about PhD versus Ph.D. is what an attorney would call “unsettled” law. A bigger sin, however, than using or not using periods to represent a degree abbreviation, is to be inconsistent, and use periods in one degree and no periods in another, like this:
Henry holds a B.Sc. degree in Business from the University of Utah and a MBA in Telecom Management from Golden Gate University.

(And what’s that other mistake in the “Henry” sentence?)

Another thing that Princeton prefers, which I think is good, is to join the location of a school with a hyphen following the school name, if necessary, like this:

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

University of California-Los Angeles

Instead of this:

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

University of California, Los Angeles

Or this:

University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill)

University of California (Los Angeles)

This hyphenated location is helpful because lots of times there are lots of commas in a bio, and it can make for some heavy going and potential for confusion.

Let’s talk briefly about what I’d call “surrounding words.”

1) The verbs.

“Holds.” I really don’t care for the phrase he or she “holds” this or that degree. You can hold a pen, you can hold a book, you can hold your spouse, you can hold off, you can hold court…but do you really “hold” a degree? It’s just not a good verb for that use.

I prefer “received”: Liz received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Emory University.

“Earned” is another appropriate verb. Anything but “holds”!

“Attended” and “studied.” When you say that so-and-so “attended” a school or “studied” a certain subject, the inference is that he or she didn’t graduate. So, if there was a degree conferred, I would not use “attended” or “studied.”

2) The location.

Schools located in major metropolitan areas do not need to be identified by state, unless there are two cities that are “major” enough that you must identify them by state: Miami (Florida) and Miami (Ohio), and Portland (Oregon) and Portland (Maine) come immediately to mind.

This applies to international cities as well. For example, there is no reason to identify the country where Stockholm is located:

He holds an MSc in Chemical Engineering from The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (Sweden).

Or that Paris is in France:

He holds a Master’s in Engineering from Ecole Polytechnique, Paris (France).

And Stanford University doesn’t need to be located in the United States in this example, but since I wouldn’t exactly call Liege a household name, placing it in Belgium is helpful to dolts like me. More troubling, of course, is the misspelling, which could easily be because English probably isn’t the first language of the person who wrote this (the person who wrote this probably speaks seven languages better than I speak this one!).

I studied Civil Engineering in Liege (Belgium), and complemented this background with a master degree from Stanford University (United States).

However, I will say that I did know that there was an accent in both École and Liége, and, frankly, I think they should be there. [Turn on your Number Lock, hold down ALT, and, to the far right of your keyboard, press 0-2-0-1 (for the É) and 0-2-3-3 (for the é).]

Sorry this is such a long post, but biographical information should be where you do your very best to SHINE. As such, you need to get it right. More soon.

 

 

 

 

EditNATION.com Quiz #4 Questions and Answers

Punctuation and Grammar Quiz # 4, Questions and Answers.

You might notice that I am taking my sentences from websites that advertise the professional nature of their staffs’ writing; in other words, if your site offers copyediting services, or if you claim to be a best-selling author, or anything that remotely sets you up as a professional writer, then your stuff is fair game.
1. A great book can really create a strong platform, but one that is not crafted correctly can actually hurt a speakers creditability worse than if they had not written it all.

I’ll say! It’s speaker’s.

And, “a speaker” is singular; you can not use “they” with “a speaker.” It’s either “he or she” or go home.

2. From CEO of Yahoo Marissa Myer’s bio:
She graduated with honors from Stanford University with a B.S. in Symbolic Systems and a M.S. in Computer Science.

You’d think that Ms. Myer could get someone decent to proof her bio.

It’s an M. S., not a M.S.

3. You can’t however re-convert a JPG/PNG file that has been converted from a PSD back to a PSD file – it loses it’s layers.

This is quite nasty, with multiple mistakes. Let’s see:

  • “However” needs commas around it
  • That’s a hyphen between “file” and “it,” and you need a dash
  • And there’s that dratted “it’s” mistake again. It’s its, not it’s!

Corrected: You can’t, however, re-convert a JPG/PNG file that has been converted from a PSD back to a PSD file—it loses its layers.

Does everyone know how to create a dash? It’s easy. Turn on your “Number Lock” function. Hold down ALT, then press 0151 on the number keyboard to the far right.

Good, now do it again.

4. From Grammarly.com:
a) There’s also the fact that a misspelled word makes the author look uneducated and unknowledgeable, and so the reader dismisses the work as unworthy of their attention.

I’ll say! I dismissed this immediately! “The reader” is singular; you can’t use the plural pronoun “their” with a singular noun!

b) Quotation marks come in singles (‘___’) or doubles (“___”), and they always come in sets of two.

This is a bald-faced LIE. Quotation marks do not always come in sets of two. In fact, if you pull one of your favorite novels off the shelf and find a long stretch of dialog, when a character speaks into a second paragraph, you’ll see that there is no “end quote” to close the paragraph, but the new paragraph starts with quotes.

c) In fiction, quotation marks are quite common as they go around all dialogue; in non-fiction they should be judiciously used around quotes to prove a point or support a thesis.

“Dialogue” is the British English spelling of dialog; “dialog” should be the preferred spelling for American writers.

And, it’s nonfiction—without the hyphen.

d) You can use a dash whenever you need to wake your reader up and let them know that the focus is changing.

Here’s that noun-pronoun thing again. Can it get any more basic? “Reader” is singular. You have to say “he or she” is you are going to gender neutral a noun. The easiest thing to do would be to say “wake your readers up.” But, the way it’s written, it’s wrong.

This site was so fruitful that I’ll come back to it.

5. Eric accepted a position as an Assistant State Attorney in Sarasota and Manatee Counties after being admitted to the Florida bar in 2005.

When two proper nouns are joined like this, the common noun (in this case, “county”) is not capitalized. It should read “Sarasota and Manatee counties.”

6. Professional Editors can also help improve the clarity and organization of ideas, and can insure consistency of voice and style.

What the heck? “Editors” is not a proper noun; the sentence should read “editors.”

Plus, do not use “insure” in any other context than insurance. The word this “professional” editor is looking for is “ensure.”

7. Content strategist so-and-so has suggested that a meaningful analysis of a user’s context requires not only an understanding of user goals, but also of their behaviors: What are they doing? How are they feeling? What are they capable of?

“A user.” Singular noun. “Their.” Plural pronoun. Incorrect. Four times incorrect!

8. A highly-regarded researcher, she published numerous articles in scholarly journals.

For pity’s sake. Hey all you “highly regarded” researchers: Never hyphenate an -ly adverb.

EditNATION.com Punctuation and Grammar Quiz #7

Another week, another “professional” website to take a look at. These sentences are from a publisher. Yikes!

1) We often receive Manuscripts that require formatting corrections before we can start the editorial and layout processes.

2) Find reputable ones and study them! And by the way, keep a grammar reference nearby at all times!

Here are three mistakes in a brief article about (wait for it) proofreading.

3) If you publish your book across multiple formats (hardcover, paperback, or e-book.) make sure that internal page references are correct in each version.

4) Don’t just indicate every error you find; also indicate each page on which an error occurs (perhaps by circling the page number.)

5) Have a second person go over your manuscript (preferably someone who is good at spelling and grammar.)

These lovely sentences are from Grammarly.com. It really jerks my chain to see  such SLOPPY writing on Grammarly.com, and to watch as it spews forth information that is wrong, wrong, wrong is OUTRAGEOUS.

6) Conjunctive adverbs are adverbs which join two clauses; some examples of are also, besides, accordingly, finally, subsequently, therefore, thus, meanwhile, moreover, nonetheless, instead, however, indeed, hence, consequently, similarly and still.

7) Conjunctive adverbs frequently (but not necessarily) have a semi-colon before them.

8) As they’re conjunctions (i.e. words that join two thoughts or ideas), it’s best not to use them at the beginning of a sentence.

9) If we replace the Marks with I, and a couple of the potatoes with them, things sound much more natural.

10) When reading aloud, the reader will naturally lower their voice and tilt their head a little, showing that this parenthetical information is a comment being made to the side.

12) The trick with hyphens is to use them sparingly. If you find yourself creating words every sentence or two, your reader might find that a little much to deal with as hyphens slow the reader down a little and make them pay attention to the new word.

13) When you’re quoting someone and you need to put in some sort of explanation (e.g. clarify a pronoun or use sic to show an error), you put it in square brackets.

14) According to all the music magazines, “it’s the new up-and-coming band”.

15) Double and single quotation marks are pretty much interchangeable; check the conventions for any specific format you might be using.

16) Quotation marks always come in pairs; we say the first set “opens” the quote, and the second set “closes” the quote.

17) These are commonly used in British English, but they’re interchangeable with double quotation marks.

18) If you are using double quotation marks for the “outside quote”, then use single quotation marks for the “inside quote”; if you’re using single quotes on the outside, use doubles on the inside.

19) Annie said, I’ve gone through this whole essay, and I can’t find what your professor means by that other issue”’.

20) My favourite song is Free To Be You And Me.

21) If you end a sentence with a quote that contains end-of-sentence punctuation (period, exclamation mark or question mark), there’s no need for anymore punctuation at the end of the sentence: just let the quote’s punctuation do all the work.

22) They said that the British were coming.

Oh, just one more! Grammarly.com has so many!

23) The neighbour popped in to say hi.

EditNATION.com punctuation and grammar Quiz #5 Questions and Answers

Last week, I started off with this gem:

“I keep reading about the importance of storytelling and addressing real human emotions, but I am having a hard time incorporating those principals writing about content marketing.  Any advice for me?”

And I said: Yeah, learn to spell.

Who sees the homonym in that sentence? This kind of thing is unacceptable, especially in a professional forum.

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1. Again, the Marketo folks totally grok their audience.

Rule: No made-up words. What (the hell) is “grok”? This is juvenile.

2.  eToro use the CTA to provide readers with a $20 gift card for trading on their platform.

Rule: Subject agrees with verb agrees with pronoun. Also, while I happen to know what the acronym CTA means, others might not be so lucky. Never assume.

Corrected: eToro uses the CTA to provide readers with a $20 gift card for trading on its platform.

3.  Payoneer is a pre-paid cards company. They use the CTA button to encourage people to load money on their card.

Rule: A company is singular; a company is an it. And then there’s that pronoun confusion at the end of the second sentence: does the writer mean “their card” as in “the people’s card” or “their card” as in “Payoneer’s card”? We will never know.

Corrected: Payoneer is a pre-paid cards company. It uses the CTA button to encourage people to load money on their card.

4. With our company’s smart lead generation forms you can collect your readers information as they read through your content.

Rule: Use an apostrophe when you need to indicate possessive. And this looks like a plural possessive (because of the “they”).

Rule: Dependent clause + comma + independent clause.

Corrected: With our company’s smart lead generation forms, you can collect your readers’ information as they read through your content.

5. See the example below- this was one of our most successful newsletters with an open rate of almost 30% and Click-through rate of over 25%.

Rule: “Click-through” is not a proper noun. It’s “click-through.”

Rule: that business about the open rate and click-through looks parenthetical to me, so I’d do a comma before “with.”

Rule: That hyphen is absolutely a mistake. I would take out the “See the example below” and leave the rest. Add a colon at the end, like so

This was one of our most successful newsletters, with an open rate of almost 30% and click-through rate of over 25%:

6. My website is designed as an online service comparison engine, providing online expert reviews, side-by side comparison tables and advanced comparison features.

Where’s that second hyphen in side-by-side?

And I do like a serial comma! There are three items in this list, and each should be separated from the others.

Corrected: My website is designed as an online service comparison engine, providing online expert reviews, side-by side comparison tables, and advanced comparison features.

7. By sharing interesting, stimulating content on this site , including content originally posted by yours truly on my site, my website posts gain exposure and every visitor who views any of my site’s pages on XYZ is counted by Google as a site visitor, thus bolstering traffic volume to my website, as well as brand awareness.

Whoops, what happened to that comma after “site”? Plus, in my opinion, that sentence is a bit too long. The “yours truly” makes it sound pretentious.

I’m not a fan of the common practice of larding up content with a bunch of synonyms, and—in my opinion—interesting and stimulating are just too close in meaning to be helpful. I’d use one word, but not both.

8. Here, Cloudyn posted one of their webpages to increase their blog’s exposure on facebook.

Same problem as before: a company is singular and is an it.

Facebook is a proper noun, and so must be capitalized.

Corrected: Here, Cloudyn posted one of its webpages to increase its blog’s exposure on Facebook.

And then, more content from my absolutely favorite can’t-edit-its-way-out-of-a-paper-sack content company:

9. To sell something, you have to convince a buyer that they not only want your offering, they need it.

Wow! A buyer is singular. You can say “buyers” and “they,” but if you say “a buyer” then you must say “he or she” or “his or her.” Plus, “that they not only” is kind of awkward. Let’s try this instead:

To sell something, you have to convince buyers that not only do they want your offering, they need it.

EditNATION.com punctuation and grammar Quiz #6

Hang on to your hats, ladies and gents! Here are some hair raising, spine tingling, big-time punctuation and grammar mistakes, yanked—no, ripped—from the pages of the internet. Make me blush!

1) He relies on more than 16 years of public relations experience to provide strategic communications council that drives business impact.

2) We’ve helped hundred of tech companies build market awareness and establish their leadership across a range of sectors, including cloud computing, defense, IT security, mobile, healthcare, manufacturing and more.

3) If you live and breathe social media and the news, like working as a team member, enjoy multi-tasking as a core personality trait, take pride in every word you write, and have mastered the use of the semi-colon, we want to hear from you.

4) This person should have a strong media and blogger relations background in business-to-business and consumer technology public relations, including traditional and social media. They should have excellent writing skills, and clients communication and presentation skills are critical.

5) Steered by our Editorial Guidebook, we outline your strategy – define your target audiences, set the editorial direction set, and crystallize the calendar.

6) In his previous life, he honed his PR skills at the XYZGROUP, working with emerging growth and publicly-traded companies across enterprise technology and cleantech markets.

7) He has provided communications guidance to help clients navigate events of all sizes, including products launches, leadership changes, initial public offerings and acquisitions.

8) Whether working in high school for her brother’s company selling motor oil and antifreeze over the phone or organizing fundraisers and getting her brother in law’s band on local radio stations, she thrived at the art of persuasion.

9) A mother of two young children,  she’s extremely busy and can be found drinking a lot of coffee and listening to music.

10) With no background, training or experience he volunteered to spec and build the first Web site for the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.

11) He supported several client’s social media efforts, including General Motors, Sokolove Law, the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum and Honeywell’s Nobel Initiative.

12) A 15+ year PR veteran, she has used her communication powers for good on behalf of NASA, as well as leading technology brands such as HP, QUALCOMM, Microsoft, etc. and top consumer companies like BJ’s Wholesale Club, Nabisco and P&G.

13) When not working, she keeps her plants alive (mostly); volunteers for a local animal shelter and refinishes furniture.

14) Meanwhile, our website design and interactive media bring your story to life through visual dialogue and user experience.

15) [these are stubs]

100% Employer Paid Long and Short-Term Disability

Paid volunteer time at your favorite non-profit every quarter

 

The “About Us” Page: Avoiding the Pitfalls, Part I

When I want to evaluate the overall “style” on a website, the best place to start is the “About Us” page, which typically includes biographical information about the principals: CEO, president, CFO, COO, founder, provost, and so on. The “About Us” page is a place to really shine, to present you and your company or organization in the very best light possible. If the content writer has hit the mark in that material, I’m fairly sanguine about the rest of the website. Alas, most of the time, the “About Us” page looks like it was written by an 11-year-old.

The main issue is continuity, and the first issue is what to say. Material has to be presented identically, bio after bio after bio. The same general outline should be followed for each person.

Here’s how to organize an effective biography. There are basically three required steps and an optional fourth and fifth.
1. Specify the person’s current title.
2. Tell where he or she came from, business-wise, with special emphasis on where that person was (professionally) before joining the company. This is the place to list the person’s accomplishments: the books, articles, speeches, and so on, that pre-date him or her taking this particular position.
3. Describe what he or she does at the company.                                                             And, optional:
4. Give a one-sentence description of two or three hobbies and interests.
5. Give a one-sentence description of that person’s family life.

If you have several biographies to write, vary the order of the information up a bit. For example, you could rotate with this order:
1. A description of current position and responsibilities.
2. Professional background.
3. Educational background.
4. Hobbies.
5. Family.

Once the material has been written, go back over it and look for typos. Take a look at this biographical material:

He runs Product Strategy and Corporate Development at XYZ, a marketing software company based in Cambridge, MA. At XYZ Brad is responsibile for strategic planning, pricing & packaging and corporate development. Additionally, Brad focuses on the design of XYZ’s business processes and operational metrics.
Prior to joining XYZ Brad was a consultant concentrating on operational innovation at PRM.
Brad holds an MBA from MIT Sloan where he is an occassional guest lecturer as part of the new enterprises curriculum. He also holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Amherst College.

When a biography has typos in it—and this one has two—people look stupid. Let’s face it: “two typos” and “Amherst” are words that should never be in the same sentence.

[Full disclosure: when I contacted this guy, the content was corrected. (But, you could ask, why were there two typos in it in the first place?)]

If you do “go there” with hobbies and personal information, please be careful what you say. If you have an aversion to hangnails (yes, I actually saw this on a bio), please don’t share that on your bio page. Sure, it’s absolutely hilarious, a real yuk-fest (not to mention yuck-fest), but do you really want people to think “there’s that idiot who hates hangnails!” every time they see your photo? Using trendy words, sounding like you are about 16—these are things to avoid in a professional, business-oriented, last-forever setting.

Once continuity of overall content has been established as far as the information that is displayed, it’s time to look at continuity within the material—academic degrees, lists of accomplishments, capitalization, punctuation—which I will talk about in Parts II and III.

 

 

EditNATION.com Punctuation and Grammar Quiz #5

From content writers who say they are “professionals” come these wonderful sentences.

I have to lead off this this gem:

“I keep reading about the importance of storytelling and addressing real human emotions, but I am having a hard time incorporating those principals writing about content marketing.  Any advice for me?”

Yeah, learn to spell.

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What’s wrong with these sentences? I got this from one site….

1. Again, the Marketo folks totally grok their audience.

And that site led me to this site, which is what we call in the trade a “hot mess.”

2.  eToro use the CTA to provide readers with a $20 gift card for trading on their platform.

3.  Payoneer is a pre-paid cards company. They use the CTA button to encourage people to load money on their card.

4. With our company’s smart lead generation forms you can collect your readers information as they read through your content.

5. See the example below- this was one of our most successful newsletters with an open rate of almost 30% and Click-through rate of over 25%.

6. My website is designed as an online service comparison engine, providing online expert reviews, side-by side comparison tables and advanced comparison features.

7. By sharing interesting, stimulating content on this site , including content originally posted by yours truly on my site, my website posts gain exposure and every visitor who views any of my site’s pages on XYZ is counted by Google as a site visitor, thus bolstering traffic volume to my website, as well as brand awareness.

8. Here, Cloudyn posted one of their webpages to increase their blog’s exposure on facebook.

And then, more content from my absolutely favorite can’t-edit-its-way-out-of-a-paper-sack content company:

9. To sell something, you have to convince a buyer that they not only want your offering, they need it.

Answers will be along next week!