Suspended hyphens sound like troublemakers, don’t they? Before we accuse them of cutting class or being chronically late for work, let’s look at their less-than nefarious definition. We’ll follow up with five guidelines for how to use them in your writing (without getting into mischief). What Are Suspended Hyphens? Suspended hyphens, also called suspensive hyphens, replace … [Read more...] about How to Use Suspended Hyphens
Do you have a minute? The following three guidelines explain when to hyphenate numbers with units of time such as hours, days, months, years, and centuries. Before we begin, here are a couple of brief words on multi-word descriptions: multi-word descriptions, such as three-hour, that come before nouns are called compound adjectives, compound modifiers, and phrasal … [Read more...] about When to Hyphenate Numbers with Units of Time
The writing world is riddled with “rules” based on misunderstood guidelines. One such rule is that we should never start a sentence with a number. While this blanket ban is understandable—depending on the content, starting a sentence with a number can be confusing or disruptive for readers—doing so is generally grammatically acceptable if you follow the three guidelines … [Read more...] about Three Tips for Starting a Sentence with a Number
Recently, we looked at how to write run-in lists, which are lists that appear inside sentences. In this tutorial, we’ll explore guidelines for how to write vertical lists. Vertical lists are set apart from the surrounding text and are usually prefaced with bullets or sequential numbers or letters. Vertical lists can be ordered or unordered and can be introduced by complete … [Read more...] about How to Write Vertical Lists
Run-in lists are incorporated into sentences, as opposed to horizontal lists that stand apart from the surrounding sentences. Let’s look at four different ways to write run-in lists. Run-In Lists with Commas Commas can separate simple run-in list items.1 Three famous cartoon cats are Garfield, Sylvester, and Felix the Cat. The movie Homeward Bound featured three adventurous … [Read more...] about How to Write Run-In Lists
The following guidelines explain when to use italics or quotation marks with foreign words to set them apart from the surrounding English text. These guidelines are for general words in business documents, nonfiction, journalism, and academic writing but aren’t for proper nouns, such as people’s names or place names, which typically don’t require special formatting. But … [Read more...] about When to Use Italics or Quotation Marks with Foreign Words
My last post tackled the question of which style guide is best for you. Style guides work hand in hand with dictionaries, so the logical next question is, which dictionary is best for you? Just like style guides, certain dictionaries enjoy wider usage within specific writing categories, so we’ll look at three popular options and conclude with a brief discussion on pocket … [Read more...] about Which Dictionary Is Best for You?
Traditional authors, journalists, and those in academia usually follow their organization’s or publisher’s chosen style guide. But if you’re an independent author, blogger, or business owner, you can decide which style guide is best for your writing. Today’s post provides an overview of the “big four” style guides in American English: The Associated Press Stylebook (AP … [Read more...] about Which Style Guide Is Best for You?
Like the majority of Generation Xers, I was born in the decade of disco, leisure suits, and questionable mustaches. Does that mean I was born in the 1970s, the ’70s, or the seventies? Today’s post answers that question by analyzing how to write decades as complete numerals and words as well as abbreviated numerals. Should We Write Decades as Numerals or Words? As a general … [Read more...] about How to Write Decades as Words and Numerals
Are centuries spelled out or written as numerals? Are centuries hyphenated when used as adjectives? Writers and editors have been asking these questions for at least a hundred years. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!) So, this post is going to explore present-day recommendations for how to write centuries as words and numerals. Are Centuries Spelled Out or Written as … [Read more...] about How to Write Centuries as Words and Numerals
Today’s post answers seven technology-related spelling questions: (1) Is it e-mail or email? (2) Is Internet capitalized? (3) Is it Web site, web site, or website? (4) Is it Web page, web page, or webpage? (5) Is Web capitalized when abbreviating the World Wide Web? (6) Is it tweet or Tweet? and (7) Is it e-book or ebook? We’ll find the answers by examining four popular … [Read more...] about Is It E-Mail or Email? Seven Technology Spelling Questions Answered
I previously published a post called "Five Helpful Writing and Editing Websites and Blogs." A five-item list is a measly attempt for such a large topic, so today’s post expands that original list to ten writing websites and blogs. These resources cover a wide variety of subjects, so I’m confident that you’ll find something here that you can apply to your business or nonfiction … [Read more...] about Ten Helpful Writing Websites and Blogs
Today’s post shares guidelines for putting ellipsis points in brackets when they are added to quotations that already include ellipses for dialogue disruptions or text omissions. Bracketed ellipses are a rather rare occurrence; so, review the first three parts of this series if you need broader information about ellipses: How to Use Ellipses, Part 1: Ellipses within and … [Read more...] about How to Use Ellipses, Part 4: Ellipses in Brackets
The ellipsis point series just keeps rollin' along! Today’s post demonstrates how to use ellipses at the beginning and end of quoted sentences. This post was preceded by “How to Use Ellipses, Part 1: Ellipses within and between Quoted Sentences” and “How to Use Ellipses, Part 2: Ellipses between Quoted Paragraphs.” How to Use Ellipses at the Beginning of Quoted … [Read more...] about How to Use Ellipses, Part 3: Ellipses at the Beginning and End of Quoted Sentences
“How to Use Ellipses, Part 1” reviewed the purpose of ellipsis points and demonstrated how to use them within and between quoted sentences. Today’s post explains how to use ellipses between quoted paragraphs. Part 3 will cover ellipses at the beginning and at the end of a quoted sentence. Part 4 will outline ellipsis usage in brackets. And, Part 5 will close the series by … [Read more...] about How to Use Ellipses, Part 2: Ellipses between Quoted Paragraphs
Ellipses, which are also called ellipsis points and ellipsis dots, represent omissions in quotations and interruptions in dialogue. That seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But, that’s where the simplicity ends because several of our most well-respected style and usage guides disagree on how ellipses should be formatted. Let’s unravel these conflicting recommendations point by … [Read more...] about How to Use Ellipses, Part 1: Ellipses within and between Quoted Sentences
Contractions are unavoidable. They appear in everything from songs and articles to product packaging. (Even the tiger on my box of breakfast flakes is telling me that “They’re great!”) But are contractions okay in business writing? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s frustrating, I know! Here are three questions to ponder as you decide if you should use contractions in your own … [Read more...] about Are Contractions Okay in Business Writing?
At the end of my last post, “Block Quotations, Part 3—Block Quotation Issues and Concerns,” I mentioned that my next post would outline valid reasons to (gasp!) ignore your style guide. However, I have decided to put that topic on hold until next week in order to offer a brief primer on the definition and purpose of style guides. What Is a Style Guide? Writing style guides … [Read more...] about What Is a Style Guide?
My last post, “Block Quotations, Part 1: How to Introduce Block Quotations,” discussed the purpose of block quotations, how long they should be, and how to introduce them in your content. Today’s follow-up explains how to format block quotations: How much should they be indented? How should you handle quotations within block quotations? Does the format change for … [Read more...] about Block Quotations, Part 2: How to Format Block Quotations
Block quotations, also called block quotes, are long quotations that are indented from the surrounding text. In the first part of this three-part series, I’ll explain how to introduce block quotations in your content. But first, let's take a look at the purpose of block quotations and how long they should be. The Purpose of Block Quotations Although block quotations were … [Read more...] about Block Quotations, Part 1: How to Introduce Block Quotations
My previous post titled “How to Use Colons” explains how colons can be used to preface run-in and vertical lists, introduce quotations, conclude salutations, and link titles with subtitles. Colons can also connect tightly coupled sentences, such as those with a cause-and-effect or problem–solution relationship. Today’s post tackles the question of whether you should capitalize … [Read more...] about Should You Capitalize the First Word of a Sentence After a Colon?
The abbreviations i.e. and e.g. can streamline examples and specific information in your sentences; however, they aren’t interchangeable, and their placement within parentheses depends upon the type of content you’re writing. Here is a quick look at how they differ and how to use them. Understanding the Difference between i.e. and e.g. The abbreviation i.e. stands for id est, … [Read more...] about How to Use i.e. and e.g.
En dashes, which are shorter than em dashes but longer than hyphens, have two primary uses: (1) create number ranges and intervals and (2) establish equality between compound adjectives. Use En Dashes in Number Ranges and Intervals En dashes can be used in number ranges and time intervals as replacements for the words to and through.1 Apartments 1–15 will be fumigated on … [Read more...] about How to Use En Dashes
In a recent post, I explained that footnotes provide supplementary information such as commentary, quotations, and suggestions for further research. Footnotes can also document the sources cited in your text; however, that job frequently falls to bibliographies and reference pages rather than footnotes. While bibliographies and reference pages are very similar, they do serve … [Read more...] about The Difference between Bibliographies and Reference Pages
If the word footnote ignites memories of coffee-fueled all-night writing sessions in cramped dorm rooms, never fear, we're not going to talk about college term papers today. Instead, we're going to explore the following three questions from the perspectives of formal (nonacademic) documents and business writing: What are footnotes? Where should footnotes appear in formal … [Read more...] about What Are Footnotes and How to Use Them
In a past post, I explored various guidelines for referring to an animal by the gendered pronouns he and she rather than the neutral pronoun it. But what about the relative pronoun who, which generally applies to people? Can you write “The cat who sits on the porch every morning has bright, green eyes”? Or do you need to write “The cat that sits on the porch every morning has … [Read more...] about Relative Pronouns for Animals: Are Animals “Who” or “That”?
Copyeditor or Copy editor? That is the million-dollar question! (Okay, maybe the thousand-dollar question.) I have been a proud member of the writing and editing community for over a decade. That’s long enough to have witnessed epic battles over the serial comma and near fisticuffs over hyphenation. (Believe me, no one wants to witness actual grammar-induced fisticuffs. That … [Read more...] about Am I a Copyeditor or a Copy Editor?
The individual cities, counties, and states within the United States have definite borders. We also have relatively firm definitions of our geographic regions, such as the Midwest and the Northeast. Unfortunately, we don't have such fixed boundaries for how to abbreviate United States. In fact, the sheer number of conflicting guidelines can make you feel like you've driven … [Read more...] about How to Abbreviate United States
I am owned by two feline brothers officially named Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle. I have several additional monikers for each of them, including Big Guy, Little Guy, Tuffy, and Flying J., just to name a few. One thing I never call them is it. And I know that I'm not alone: most animal lovers use gendered pronouns (e.g., he and she) when referring to pets. But are we just … [Read more...] about Gendered Pronouns for Animals
In the world of nonfiction writing, there are four primary style guides that explain everything from proper abbreviation usage to number formatting. However, we're not limited to those guides; in fact, there are many alternative style guides that may meet your needs as standalone resources or as complements to your chosen primary guide. Primary Style Guides First, let’s look … [Read more...] about Alternative Style Guides
We face many difficult questions every day: Why do cats go crazy right before bedtime? Do aliens exist? Who will triumph on Game of Thrones? (No spoilers, please!) And of course, should we use digits or spell out numbers online? Although I’ve yet to see an alien—and I only pretend to understand my cats—I was confident in my grasp of numbers until I read Hoa Loranger’s blog … [Read more...] about Should We Spell Out Numbers Online?
Em dashes, which are commonly just called dashes, have four primary functions: emphasize important or essential information, enclose additional information, connect lists with sentences, and create pauses or disruptions in dialogue. Visit “How to Insert Special Characters in Microsoft Word” and “How to Find and Replace Special Characters in Microsoft Word” for information on … [Read more...] about How to Use Em Dashes
A trip through almost any home decor store proves that the ampersand (&) is one of the most beloved symbols in the English language. After all, not too many people decorate their living rooms with wooden semicolons. Although ampersands make excellent art, they are also still useful in writing. This post shares six guidelines for how to use ampersands in business, academic, … [Read more...] about How to Use Ampersands
My last post showed how to create effective bullet points using parallel construction. But, when should you actually use bullet points in business writing? Bullet points frequently appear in resumes, brochures, and on websites. These are all good locations; however, bullets tend to be underutilized in longer documents, such as case studies, white papers, and proposals. I … [Read more...] about When to Use Bullet Points in Business Writing