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
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
Headings are usually just a few words each, but they can play a vital role in your document’s success. Their most important function is helping readers navigate your content. (No one benefits when readers are cast adrift!) And when headings are constructed with parallel structure, they also enforce consistency throughout your content and demonstrate attention to good writing … [Read more...] about Polish Your Headings with Parallel Structure
Parallel structure, also called parallel construction and parallelism, is a method of formatting written elements so that they correspond to each other structurally. Parallel structure can be applied to any closely related elements; however, it is most often applied to headings, bulleted lists, numbered lists, lists in sentences, and tightly coupled phrases or … [Read more...] about What Is Parallel Structure?
At long last, this five-part ellipses series is coming to a close with a discussion on how to use ellipsis points to create pauses and disruptions in dialogue. Use Ellipses to Indicate a Pause in the Middle of a Line of Dialogue General Rule: Ellipses in the middle of a line of dialogue indicate that the speaker stopped talking momentarily.1 “Do you know of any good places … [Read more...] about How to Use Ellipses, Part 5: Ellipses in Dialogue
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
Here are five tips for using contractions in business writing and other semi-formal material. If you’re unsure if contractions are appropriate for your content, please review “Are Contractions Okay in Business Writing?” before utilizing these tips. 1. Aim for natural-sounding contraction usage rather than consistency. Unlike most writing usage issues, contractions don’t have … [Read more...] about Five Tips for Using Contractions in Business Writing
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?
All good things must end—even this exciting block quotation series, which I’m going to close by discussing copyright concerns, reader expectations, and alternative options to block quotations. (What’s that? Block quotations aren’t exciting? How about relatively riveting? Mildly motivating? Slightly stirring?) Here is a brief summary for those who missed the first two parts … [Read more...] about Block Quotations, Part 3: Block Quotation Issues and Concerns
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
Whether you are writing an article, a blog post, or a report, quotations can add depth and authenticity to your content. (And, you can quote me on that!) Here is a quick overview on how to introduce run-in quotations, which are short quotations integrated into sentences. Please note that the information below is only intended for quotations within nonfiction works, articles, … [Read more...] about How to Introduce Run-in 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
The forward slash (/) appears in everything from number fractions and calendar dates to poetry and URLs.* Despite this multifunctional usage, the forward slash is frequently mishandled when used as a shortcut for joining words and creating and–or situations. Here are three guidelines on how to use forward slashes in general writing that will help you avoid your own slash … [Read more...] about How to Use Forward Slashes
Nearly every business wants to promote its products with bold, exciting copywriting. And that’s a good thing! However, that exuberance sometimes leads to inconsistent or unnecessary capitalization of general product nouns. (“Our new Sandwich is the best!”) Here are four tips to help you decide when to capitalize product names in your own copywriting. (Please note that these … [Read more...] about When to Capitalize Product Names
Everyone handles money differently: Some people budget it down to the last cent. Some people spend it as if they’ve never seen a rainy day. And, some people bury it in the backyard. Just as everyone handles money differently, you can format money differently depending on the amount and the nature of your text. Here are some basic guidelines for writing about money in general … [Read more...] about How to Format Money in General Writing
Errant apostrophe s’s can infiltrate anything—even game shows. In fact, a recent episode of Wheel of Fortune featured the questionable phrase “Someone’s knocking at the door.”1 While the phrase obviously means that someone is knocking at the door, this apostrophe s actually makes the pronoun someone possessive, as in “Someone’s car is blocking the driveway” or “I just found … [Read more...] about Apostrophe S Rules for Possession, Contractions, and Plurals
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”?
Last week we covered subject-verb agreement for sports teams with singular names such as the Chicago Fire and the Colorado Avalanche. This week we'll tackle a more complicated subject: subject-verb agreement for bands. While two of our primary reference materials, The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style, offer relatively clear guidance for sports … [Read more...] about Subject-Verb Agreement for Bands
Keep your eyes on the ball because figuring out subject-verb agreement for sports teams with singular names isn't always an easy win. (Sorry, I promise not to overdo the sports clichés.) Take this sentence, for example: The Chicago Fire are playing the Houston Dynamo next weekend. You may have noticed that the sentence above says Fire are instead of Fire is even though … [Read more...] about Subject-Verb Agreement for Sports Teams
Just a bit of fun this week... Last month, satirical musician "Weird Al" Yankovic shook up the usually sedate writing community with his song "Word Crimes." Some writers and editors felt the song promoted grammar shaming, while others accepted it as parody—not as a legitimate teaching tool. In fact, a few of the issues "Weird Al" criminalized aren't really grammar offenses … [Read more...] about Gloriously Grammatically Incorrect Song Titles: Classic Rock Edition
The individual cities, counties, and states within the United States have very 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
Show Me the Plural or Singular Verbs with Money! Some people really like to talk about money. Other people put money in the do-not-discuss category alongside root canals, Brussels sprouts, and giant spiders. But even those who don't enjoy talking about money occasionally have to write about it. Here is a brief primer on when to use plural or singular verbs with money. 1. Use … [Read more...] about Should We Use Plural or Singular Verbs with Money?
Spring is finally starting to sprout here in Chicago! Let's commemorate the occasion by reviewing the guidelines for how to capitalize seasons, solstices, and equinoxes. Guideline 1: Lowercase general references to seasons, solstices, and equinoxes unless they start a sentence.1 Tomorrow we'll start the spring cleaning. Let's go hiking in celebration of the autumn … [Read more...] about How to Capitalize Seasons, Solstices, and Equinoxes
] 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?
Here is a sentence in the active voice: many writers and editors dislike the passive voice. Before we discuss the reasons behind this aversion, let’s define active and passive voice. In the active voice, the subject does something. In the passive voice, the subject has something done to it. Here are a few examples: Active: Mr. Heckle is sleeping on the blanket. (Mr. … [Read more...] about Active Voice versus Passive Voice
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
Last week we talked about the five primary uses for colons. Today we'll look at how to use semicolons to connect related sentences and separate run-in list items.1 1. Connect Closely Related Sentences Strengthen or highlight the relationship between two closely related sentences by connecting them with a semicolon rather than dividing them with a period: The kitten and the … [Read more...] about How to Use Semicolons
Regular visitors to my blog may have noticed that I love colons, semicolons, and dashes. I sneak them in wherever and whenever possible. And no, I'm not ready to attend Punctuators Anonymous meetings. Instead, I am going to celebrate my adoration with a brief how-to series. We'll kick things off with an explanation of how to use colons in six ways: (1) introduce run-in lists, … [Read more...] about How to Use Colons
The ampersand (&) may not be the most commonly used symbol in the English language, but it is certainly one of the most beloved. A hotel in London bears the moniker The Ampersand. Several retailers across the United States are named Ampersand, including the Ampersand housewares store in Texas and the Ampersand Boutique in California. In addition, both a creek and a mountain … [Read more...] about How to Use an Ampersand—The Coolest Symbol in the English Language
In the last post, we discussed compound pronoun strings, such as you and I and you and me. Today we are going to throw possession and nouns into the mix in order to explore compound possessive pronouns. For example, is Windy Doug and my dog, Doug's and my dog, or Doug and I's dog? Before we investigate this intriguing question of canine custody, let's review the general … [Read more...] about Compound Possessive Pronouns, or Who Owns that Dog, Anyway?
My good friend Lisa challenged me to tackle the conflict between first person pronouns within compound subject and object strings such as you and I versus you and me. Because I hate to see strife between perfectly decent pronouns, I gladly accept this challenge! Technically, correct usage is determined by the pronoun's position as a subject (I) or object (me) in the … [Read more...] about You and I versus You and Me: Can’t We All Just Get Along?