Friday, September 27, 2013

You might be a grammarian.

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy . . .

If, when you talk about "The Good Book," you mean the dictionary, you might be a grammarian.

If your car has a bumper sticker that reads "split atoms, not infinitives," you might be a grammarian.

If you write letters to your local newspaper about spelling errors in headlines, you may indeed be a grammarian.

If you've ever said the words aloud, "You can't be 'very unique,' something is either unique or not!" Then you are probably a grammarian.

If you find yourself editing shopping lists, you might be a grammarian.

If you stop your car on highways and curse grammatical errors on billboards, you might be a grammarian.

If you've ever taken out a Sharpie at a diner and crossed out those apostrophes around "Tips Welcome," you're probably a grammarian.

If you've ever corrected a letter from your company CEO in revisions mode and sent it back, then you might be a full-time grammarian.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Invigorate your prose -- find hidden verbs

From "A Plain English Handbook," put out by the Securities and Exchange Commission to encourage Wall Street denizens to make their stock and bond offerings halfway intelligible to the public:

Find Hidden Verbs
Does a sentence use any form of the verbs "to be," "to have," or another weak verb, with a noun that could be turned into a strong verb? In the sentences below, the strong verb lies hidden in a nominalization, a noun derived from a verb that usually ends in -tion. As you change nouns to verbs, your writing becomes more vigorous and less abstract.

before ................................ after
We made an application... . . . . . . We applied...
We made a determination... . . . . . We determined...
We will make a distribution... .. . . . We will distribute...

We will provide appropriate information to shareholders concerning ....

We will inform shareholders about ...

We will have no stock ownership of the company.

We will own no company stock.

There is the possibility of prior Board approval of these investments.

The Board might approve these investments in advance.