Clear Communication Is the Key To Writing

Posted April 13, 2009 by Mark Kerrigan
Categories: grammar, personal branding, relationship economy, social networking, social web, The Communications Factors, Web2.0

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strunkwhiteIn my inbox today, I found a message from CopyBlogger on a subject which interests me: Three Grammar Rules You Can (And Should) Break. In an article by Michelle Pierce, she encourages writers to question the rules which we have had beaten into us by our teachers and others who happen to be well-versed in the written word and applicable grammar rules.

1. Ending a sentence with a preposition

I have no idea where this rule came from. What I do know is that many people, in an effort to keep from ticking off the Grammar Police, start twisting their sentences around so as not to end them with prepositions.

Unfortunately, more often than not, the new syntax is terribly awkward and painful to read. Take the first sentence of this section, for example. “From where this rule came” sounds like something Yoda would say, not me. A big part of blogging is showing your personality through words. How can you do that when you’re twisting your phrases to suit some archaic rule?

In the interest of clarity and readability, it’s quite all right to end a sentence with a preposition.

Did you get that? “In the interest of clarity and readability…” That means it’s okay to write (or say), “Where y’all from?” I remember a Designing Women episode in which MaryJo posed that question to a woman with whom she shared an elevator. The woman replied, “We are from somewhere where we know not to end a sentence with a preposition.”

Without missing a beat, MaryJo rephrased her question, “Where y’all from, bitch?”

Although I will usually let a preposition at the end of a sentence or question slide, my blood pressure and rockets skyward when I hear the preposition “at” as an ending: “Where you at?” or “Where do you work at?”

2. Beginning a sentence with “and” or “but”

Somebody, somewhere, once decided that you shouldn’t begin sentences with conjunctions. Maybe it was an overzealous teacher who thought her students were doing it too much. My guess is that it was frustrated mothers who got sick and tired of hearing their children start every single sentence with “But Mo-om!”

The rule even got screen time in the movie Finding Forrester, when Sean Connery and Rob Brown have an entire conversation about it (and deliberately start their sentences with the offending words in order to make their points).

Regardless of how it began, you don’t have to stick with it. It’s perfectly all right to start your sentences with “and” or “but.” It’s a great way to grab attention and emphasize a point. But, as in all things, take it in moderation.

I completely agree with the breaking of this rule. Both “But” and “And” are transitional words which form a bridge to thoughts conveyed in the previous paragraph. A journalism professor once explained to the class that it is acceptable to use transition words like these at the beginning of a paragraph. And that’s what I tend to do on a regular basis.

But that does not mean that the writer should begin an article or post using those words.

3. Splitting infinitives

How often have you heard that you’re not allowed to let another word come between “to” and its verb? Some people hold that construction with the same reverence as is typically given to marriage: that which the writer hath wrought together, let no man tear asunder.

Except that it’s really not that big of a deal. Come on: “to go boldly where no man has gone before” just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “to boldly go.” If it sounds better to split the infinitive, then take an axe to it!

Don’t cling to the ancient rules just because your high school English teacher told you to. Be a rebel and break free of these nonsensical shackles!

Though I usually try to adhere to the grammatical rules I have been taught while both speaking and writing, sometimes this rule is appropriate to break. “Boldly to go” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “to boldly go…”

Though our English teachers would like us to think that all these rules were handed down to Moses like The Ten Commandments, they were not. And except for a few self-important grammarians, most people understand that sometimes rules can be broken…or at least bent!

The important thing is for what you have written to convey the intended message with as little chance of misinterpretation as possible.

How ’bout it?

Okay, You’re Alive! Now What?

Posted February 20, 2011 by Mark Kerrigan
Categories: head injury, personal branding, relationship economy, social networking, social web, twitter

Okay, You’re Alive! Now What?. Please click the image above to read  this insightful post about life after sustaining a brain injury.

How do you feel about digital memories?

Posted September 14, 2009 by Mark Kerrigan
Categories: networking, personal branding, relationship economy, social networking, social web, The Communications Factors, twitter, Web2.0

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digital ageListening the OnPoint, the topic is whether it is possible to create a “total recall” for all our memories of our lives. With all the social networks like Twitter and Facebook–not to mention the plethora of others–should we as human beings be recording all the minutiae of our lives to be retrieved at a later time?

Should we supplement our memory with the digital gadgets like cell phones, iPods, social networks or other aids?

Is there anything to the argument that the more you memorize, the more ability you have to memorize other things in the future? With children, it’s clear that the more you stress their brain with input of classical music or shapes/colors, the smarter the child will become and the faster her brain will be able to process new input.

What do you think? Should we record things that we don’t “need” to remember in our lives?

Let me hear your four seconds!

Posted September 2, 2009 by Mark Kerrigan
Categories: networking, personal branding, relationship economy, social networking, social web, The Communications Factors, twitter, Web2.0

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How many times have you answered the phone and some telemarketer spends the first 30 seconds not taking a breath or allowing you to get a word in edgewise? Chances are, more often than not.

Experts say that we, the business professionals of the world, have a total of four–count ’em–four seconds to entice someone into doing business with you or buying whatever product you happen to be hawking.

Did you get that? You have to say something in the first four seconds of your conversation which will make someone decide if they are going to work with you. If you haven’t got them in four seconds, it’s time to move on to someone else.

I know I need to work on my pitch, and I’m having a hard time finding others who really know how to effectively pitch to prospects. If you’ve got a good pitch, let me hear it. If your pitch needs a little work, let me hear that, too, and we can offer hints or ways to improve.

Remember, YOU only have FOUR free seconds before someone tunes you out and starts playing computer games, so make ’em good.

How ’bout it?

Apostrophes and Possessives Made Clear

Posted July 15, 2009 by Mark Kerrigan
Categories: grammar, The Communications Factors, Web2.0

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newsletterI got this newsletter from Jane Straus this morning in my inbox. Most of the time, I don’t forward these missives on to my blog, but this proves extremely helpful for people who have questions.

Plural and Possessive Forms with Names Ending in y

How do you form the plural of a proper noun that ends in y such as Murphy? Should you change the name to Murphies? Given how other English words ending in y form their plurals, you would think so.

Examples:

puppy / puppies

army / armies

supply / supplies

However, proper nouns are not made plural in the same way common nouns are.

Rule: Do not change the spelling of a name to make it plural. Instead, just add s.

Examples:

I visited the Murphys last weekend.

We have two Zacharys in our office.

What if you want to show possession with a name that ends in y?

Rule: To show singular possession, use the apostrophe and then the s.

Example: I petted Mrs. Murphy’s cat.

Rule: To show plural possession, make the proper noun plural first, then use the apostrophe.

Examples:

I petted the Murphys’ cat.

I visited the Murphys’ store on Main Street.

Rule: To show the plural of a name that ends in s, ch, or z, add es.

Examples:

The Sanchezes will be over soon.

The Thomases moved away.

A New Angle of Attack

Posted June 30, 2009 by Mark Kerrigan
Categories: The Communications Factors

Friends, members of the blogosphere, and others for whom I fail to name, I want to touch base with you all at this point in my journey.

I had decided that the best plan for me was to Chronicle Change in my life. I was tired of being like the hound dog whimpering because of the nail under him, but wouldn’t move because, “It just don’t hurt bad enough.”

So there I was, ready to get off that lousy nail and stop whimpering when I started posting actions I was in the midst of taking to achieve my goals.

But there has been a minor change in my plans–I’ve decided to offer condolences, advice, and just be a source of strength for people who have sustained brain injuries. For those of you who don’t know, I have been living with a brain injury now for more than  20 years, and I feel a bit of a calling to be a source of strength for people whose loved ones have either recently incurred head trauma or are well into their recovery.

Just this week, I started a new blog called “Hope! Life after Traumatic Brain Injury.” Please come visit and let me know what you think about it.

While I plan to be more active on that blog, I shall try to remain active here, but I know one of my early goals since I began to chronicle change was to become active in the blogosphere, and I truly feel a passion for talking about my brain injury, the challenges, the triumphs and the ongoing battles I face.

How ’bout it?

It’s Summertime! Less Time Than Before.

Posted June 8, 2009 by Mark Kerrigan
Categories: grammar, relationship economy, social networking, social web, The Communications Factors

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tre-coverFor the past couple of weeks and probably for the next couple, we have been out-of-pocket–traveling to graduations and other family-related events. For this reason (and others we will keep to ourselves) I have failed to post frequently to this blog. (That’s my confession.)

However, I have been quite busy out in the real world and on LinkedIn making connections to people who can potentially provide me business. So I’ve been active.

Feel free to contact us at On the Mark Writing if you or your company need a well-written press release, a carefully-crafted press kit, marketing collateral, or editing services.

In this down economy, if you are unsure of the process of writing news releases or marketing collateral (i.e. sales letters) why not get a professional writer to create them for you? News releases are an excellent way to get people to talk about your business and subsequently driving traffic to your website. The key is conversations. If you create a dialogue between your business and your customers or clients, ultimate those conversations will create revenue in your pocket.

How ’bout it?

Readjusting My Goals…

Posted May 28, 2009 by Mark Kerrigan
Categories: networking, personal branding, relationship economy, social networking, social web, The Communications Factors, twitter, Web2.0

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linkedin1If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you may have noticed that I have made the statement that I will begin affecting change in my life by becoming accountable to YOU, the blogosphere.

Well, I started out pretty well, but then it sort of lost the appeal as I was a bit uncertain as to the actual number of people who were reading my posts. Hmm….

However, I have found renewed inspiration and am working now on some new goals which I will share with you as I become comfortable with the idea of letting the world (or the couple dozen people who click on my posts) know what my plans are.

But what I do want to tell you is this: I’m trying to become more active on LinkedIn and am always looking to make new connections. If you are interested in connecting with me, my email address is in the “ABOUT” page on my blog. However, if it appears that I’m getting tremendous amounts of spam to my inbox, I will then take action and remove it.

Are you trying out new things in your business? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

How ’bout it?


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