Sunday, December 22, 2019

Today's Writing Tip Is about Women Candidates

What's wrong with the term "women candidates"? We are using a noun instead of an adjective to modify the word candidates. What is the correct term? Female. Female candidates.

However, we don't want to talk about males and females at the dance. In this instance, we are using adjectives when we want nouns. What's the correct version? Men and women at the dance.
Be careful with this one because we can easily slip up. Or sometimes we can write something in a sexist way when we never intended to by saying something like "female judge" when the gender has no relevance to the narrative. It's almost as though we are thinking that most judges are male, so we want to clarify. Resist the urge!

It's like the old joke about an injured boy coming into the hospital with his father. He is greeted by a surgeon who says, "I can't operate. This boy is my son." Then everybody has to scratch their heads to figure out who the surgeon is. At least they used to years ago. Nowadays we have two answers — the boy could have two dads or the boy's mother could be the surgeon. When I was young, nobody ever figured out the latter. But those days are over, thankfully.

Happy writing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Today's Writing Tip Is about Redundancy

I'm a big fan of the software program Grammarly, and it has taught me a great deal about redundancy.

As writers, we tend to lose objectivity in our own work. The reason why is because we are too close to the material. It's hard for us to envision the end result and what a cleaner version of our writing could look like.

Okay, now I'm going to rewrite that paragraph above, which is full of redundancy. What's wrong with it?

1.       We don't need the reflexive pronoun "own."

2.       We don't need to say the reason why.

3.       We don't need to say end results. That's like saying close proximity — same thing.

Here's a clean version:

As writers, we tend to lose objectivity in our work. That's because we are too close to the material. It's hard for us to envision the results and what a cleaner version of our writing could look like.
Streamline, people! Get it down in your first draft, but when you revise, look for words you can chop out.

Happy writing.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Today's Writing Tip Is Kind of Sort of Worth Reading

When did the words "kind of," "sort of" and "slightly" creep into our vocabularies? These are meaningless terms and they detract from our writing. This also seems to be a class phenomenon in that the more educated someone is, the more likely they seem to be to put these disqualifying modifiers in front of their perfectly good nouns.

For example, I have noticed the "kind of/sort of" talk on CBC radio in Canada, BBC TV in Britain, NPR in the US, and on the podcast Pod Save America. These are otherwise well-spoken people who say things like, "I was slightly mortified" or "It was kind of wonderful." No, no, no. You are either mortified or you are not. Period; end of story. It was wonderful or it wasn't, and if it wasn't that great, then it was so-so.
Be aware of using these meaningless terms in your speech and in your writing. The latter will sound much more clear and concise without them.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Today's Writing Tip Is When to Use Affect or Effect

Generally speaking, affect is a verb and effect is a noun, but there are times when effect can be a noun. Here are some examples:

Affect – to change or alter something. Kamala Harris affected the results of the first Democratic debate when she went head-to-head with Joe Biden on busing. That medication affects Jim; he's going to go off it.

Effect – the end result or consequence. The side effect of that drug was miserable. The effect of all my studying was that I got an A- on my final.

So when is effect a verb? To effect means to make happen, but it is not used that often as a verb. By and large, you can consider affect to be a verb and effect to be a noun.

Happy writing.



Saturday, August 17, 2019

Today's Writing Tip Is When to Use Imply and Infer

These terms sometimes trip people up and there's no reason for it. The person who is talking implies and the person who is listening infers. Here are examples:

Imply – to insinuate. Helen implied that she was running out of money.

Infer – to speculate. From what Helen said, Dahlia inferred that Helen was running out of money.

Happy writing!


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Today's Writing Tip Is When to Use Number and When to Use Amount

If you read last week's tip on when to use less and when to use fewer, you are ahead of the game because the same principle applies to using the words number and amount. We use number for things that we can count or quantify and we use amount for things that we can't. Here are examples:

Number –- iPhones, paintings, glasses. There were a number of empty glasses on the table.

Amount –- food in the pantry, sleep, homework. What is the amount of caffeine in coffee? We bought a large amount of beer for the party. Now, technically, we could count those beers one by one, but the word amount refers to the sum total: the gestalt.

Happy writing.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Today's Writing Tip Is When to Use Less and When to Use Fewer

There is an easy rule to remember for when to use the word less and when to use the word fewer and that is that less applies to things that can't be counted whereas fewer applies to things that can be quantified. Here are examples:

Less—time, stress, pollution. San Francisco has less pollution than Beijing. I have less time now to write writing tips than I used to.

Fewerstudents, cars, obstacles. Argenis was happy to have fewer obstacles in his new job than the last job. Fewer students are studying Spanish this term than in the summer.

Happy writing!


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Today's Writing Tip Is about Punctuation: Does a Period Go before or after Quotation Marks?

Knowing how to punctuate properly can be confusing when we are dealing with quotation marks.

I use the Chicago Manual of Style and this is what they recommend:

Periods: put the period inside the quotation marks.

For example, Jim said that his mother was "out of breath."

Question Marks: this depends on whether the words in quotation form a question or not.

For example, Jim asked his mother, "Are you going out to play bridge?" Are you going out to play bridge is a question, so we want the question mark inside the quotations. But what if I rephrase the example as such? Is Jim's mother a real "whiz" at bridge? In this instance, the whole sentence is a question, so we put the question mark at the end of the sentence, not within the quotations.
Colons and Semicolons: these go outside the quotation marks.

For example, Jim told Andy that he "loved living in Florida"; summer was his favorite season. Or, Jim told Andy that he used to love "living in Ontario": too cold for him now though. Notice that the main difference between my using the semicolon and the colon was that the former separated two independent clauses that could stand alone, and the latter was followed by a dependent clause that could not stand alone.

Happy writing!