Archive for the ‘grammar’ category

Apostrophes and Possessives Made Clear

July 15, 2009

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.

It’s Summertime! Less Time Than Before.

June 8, 2009

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?

Keeping Me Accountable

April 30, 2009

One of my latest posts stated that I was going to chronicle change in my life. And to do this, I thought I could use some accountability partners — some people to say, what happened? Why didn’t you post? Why didn’t you do what you said you would.

Well, more than a week has gone by, and I’m just now making the first of my accountability posts. Truth be told, I’ve kind of been neglecting my blog because I fell a little short when reaching the goals I set last week.

As a reminder, here are the goals I made:

  1. I intend to begin to chronicle change.
  2. I intend to establish more connections on social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn) with people who are involved in media.
  3. I intend to become more active in activities which will prove to be effective in my goal to show people the benefits of social networks for business.

Time to face the music.

  • With these posts, I did, in fact, begin to chronicle change. I had initially hoped I would make more frequent posts than once or twice a week, but unfortunately, I was either too busy or distracted to make more posts happen. Maybe next week.
  • My second goal from last week was to make connections with other people who are in traditional media. I failed to do this at all. I don’t know what happened to me, but I just felt like I lacked the energy to connect with others who could help me either bring business or other connections to people who are in the positions which could establish me as a prominent businessman. So that one will be on the list again.
  • The third and final goal I made last week was to become more active in activities which proved beneficial to my ultimate goal of showing the world how advantageous social networks were for business. For this one, I did fairly well, but I still found myself going to applications in Facebook which devoured HOURS of my time and energy. However, I have made a point to make calls to business people who are in positions to hire me.

How do you think I did? I can go through my lists and give myself a point value, but I realize that what I’m asking for is for  contributions! On a scale of 0 – 10, with 0 being not at all and 10 being remarkable work, how do you think I did?

I intend to make more goals and post them on Monday, May 4.

How ’bout it?

Clear Communication Is the Key To Writing

April 13, 2009

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?

How Wide Is Your Audience?

March 26, 2009

handwriting075Have you ever noticed how people don’t write letters anymore? I remember having to write thank you notes after everybirthday and Christmas. And what made that so distasteful was that I have horrible handwriting and have difficulty spelling words correctly. Before the invent of the personal computer, people had to write everything either on a typewriter (Do you remember what that is? A large 25 lb. piece of machinery that worked pretty well until you had to correct a mistake.) or by hand.

And my handwriting sucks. With the invent of the personal computer, and the internet, people moved away from writing anything by hand. I know when I need to leave my wife a note, I usually type something on Word or even TextEditor (I’m a Mac) and print it out. But most of the time, now that I think of it, I’ll send her an email.

With internet and all the social networking websites — which go on ad nauseam — there is a plethora of ways to communicate with others.

Social networking strategist Jay Deragon said in his blog that email is really an ineffective way to communicate with a large audience. Though it’s faster than say snail-mail, more memorable (with repetition) than a simple phone call, and much less costly than advertising on traditional media (think over-the-air radio and television), email is inefficient when conversing with dozens or hundreds, nay millions of people.

But there are ways that we can increase the size of our audience — without even creating a Twitter account. With Blog Talk Radio, you are able to speak to more people than you care to count. And you can do so without having to invest millions in building/maintaining a radio tower or a station.

BTR has over 33 Million listeners, and with Find Your Traffic, the PR firm with which I work, you can have access to them all!  A 30-minute BTR interview starts at $150, so if your business is online and needs a more customers or clients, please contact us and let us know what we can do for you.

Is Twitter Subjugating Social Networking

March 13, 2009

twitter_logoFor quite some time, people have been all a-twitter about twitter. I think  I read that somewhere but don’t remember where. At a men’s retreat with my church, someone named Bob asked me what Twitter was all about. As I searched my mind for a clearly-defined advantaage provided by Twitter and NOT by other social networks, it kind of got me thinking Bob’s question.

What is it REALLY?

Bob said that he heard Twitter is “sort of the younger generation’s Facebook.” Well, in a sense, it is true that fewer retirement-age people are on Twitter. However, as Paull Young said in his Fox Business interview at Happy Hour, the social networks transcend all generational barriers. What is really key to the social networks is what it is that compels people to be there in the first place.

On Facebook, there are groups for members to join and causes which can be championed. And the common thread between all the social networks is the common interest held by the members. For instance, MySpace is typically thought to be used by not only the younger crowd, but by people who have an interest in music. MySpace is supposed to have a better interface with which musicians can showcase their work. I’m not a musician, and I have not experience with placing my songs (or anyone else’s) on a social network.

Based on that school of thought, one can assume that the common interest among members of MySpace is music. For the members of Facebook, interests are range widely. From countries, to cities, to places of work, the list of common interests continues to grow as people find their own areas of expertise. Why is this such a big deal? Because it is the common interests of members from all over the world.

Does Twitter Really Compete?

With the “micro-blogs” of 140 characters on Twitter, can we really get to know one another well enough to develop a relationship? Or even to begin to build a reputation or earn trust? Twitter allows the posting of “Tinyurls” which provide links to posts, sites or articles of interest to us. By clicking the tinyurl, we can go immediately to the page which may or may not be written by the person whom we “follow.”

Ben Yoskovitz, of Instigator Blog, breaks down the pluses and minuses of Twitter, but he comes back to the importance of having a blog in which one can showcase his/her expertise and develop more thought than he can in Twitter.

So what are your thoughts about the importance of Blogging as opposed to Tweeting? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How ’bout it?

Problems with Prepositions

August 13, 2008

I hate, hate, HATE it when someone says “Where do you work at?” or “We’ll meet you where you are at!” Ending a sentence with a preposition, I have always thought, is a big no-no. However, it sounds rather strange when I ask my dog, “At what are you barking?”

I have been getting Jane Straus’s (I’m not completely sure about the apostrophe placement, here) e-newsletter about grammar and punctuation for quite some time, but today’s tip is truly a nugget of wisdom:

Prepositions are words that often show direction: below, above, over, under, around, through, in, out, between, among, to, toward(s). Other common prepositions include of, for (also sometimes a conjunction), from, with, like (also sometimes a verb).

Rule: You shouldn’t use or end a sentence with an unnecessary preposition, i.e., when the meaning is clear without it. Sentences may end with necessary prepositions.

Correct: That is something I cannot agree with.
With is a necessary preposition.

Correct: How many of you can I count on?
On is necessary.

Incorrect: Where did he go to?

Correct: Where did he go?
To is unnecessary because the meaning is clear without it.

Rule: Don’t follow like with a subject and verb because prepositions are followed only by nouns that act as the object of the preposition. Use as or as if or as though instead of like when a subject and verb follow.

Correct: I wish I could be more like her.

Incorrect: It doesn’t look like she will show up for dinner.

Correct: It doesn’t look as if (or as though) she will show up for dinner.

So, please, don’t end your sentences or questions with a preposition — but if you do, make sure it is NECESSARY.

How ’bout it?