Ever thought about why we put adjectives where we do? This creative post by Analytical Grammar explains it graphically. Now we know!
by Kathleen Watson
When I had boarded and settled in for a recent flight, I reached for the airline magazine in the back-of-the-seat pouch in front of me.
True to form for this ruthless editor, I selected articles for not only enjoyment but also for illumination, keeping my grammar radar on high alert. How do other writers use words and punctuation?
Two articles — one about Pioneertown, a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles, and one about Fishtown, a residential area not far from Philadelphia’s historic district — were packed with examples of well-crafted, rich descriptions of American burgs and the colorful locals who inhabit them.
Narrowing my focus, I became acutely aware of the number of compound modifiers used throughout. Because examples instruct so well, I’m listing several here.
Imagine these modifiers without the hyphen. Can you see how hyphens add clarity?
- a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles
- a cup of high-octane coffee
- a well-worn Formica counter
- a pair of steel-toed boots
- his working-class roots
- the top-floor music venue
- a whole-animal butchery
- the ever-present sound of the overhead train
- a tight-knit community
- a cash-only shot-and-beer joint
- a high-end Italian restaurant
- role-playing games
- long-term residents
- a down-to-earth approach
- largely blue-collar residential neighborhoods
- a settlement of fully functional Western-style buildings
Note in the last two examples that modifiers ending in ly don’t require a hyphen: largely blue-collar residents, fully functional buildings.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction or for business or pleasure, reading well-written pieces by others can inspire and instruct. How often do you approach reading through that lens?
Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence.
Compound modifiers streamline the writing and reading experience. Share your own examples here. Request a one-word-or-two reference sheet by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
by Les Taylor (used with permission)
Editor’s note: In my writing WordShops, I emphasize tapping into the power of 3. My colleague Les Taylor explains the research behind that power.
A few years ago I started looking into Minimalism. I have always been attracted to doing more with less – getting more with less – and just simplifying in general. It’s a pursuit of mine that continues today.
Along the way I looked into simplifying as a business model – especially as it relates to performance improvement and professional development. If you’ve read my book Stop Walking in Circles: Get Out of the Wilderness of the Status Quo, you’re familiar with my three-step process for creating an Outperformers Action Plan.
I’ve proven to myself and others the value of the long-standing theory of the “Power of Three.” This theory was espoused two hundred years ago by Thomas Jefferson (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) and has continued to be a formula for success to this day.
Steve Jobs was a true believer in the power of three. He used this model in every one of his famous product launch events. In 2010, Jobs introduced the first iPad as a “third device” between a smartphone and a laptop. The iPad, he told the audience, would also come in “three models”: 16, 32, and 64 GB of flash storage. In 2011, Jobs introduced the iPad 2 as “thinner, lighter, and faster” than the original.
So, what does the power of three have to do with you and why should you care about this phenomenal model? Research, going back to the mid-1950s at Bell Labs, has proven that limiting the number of things to remember enhances retention. This research resulted in the basic structure of phone numbers.
When someone leaves a phone number on a voice message, you’re more likely to recall the first three digits before having to listen to the message again for the remainder of the number.
I believe that limiting areas of focus to three (e.g., See Clearly – Focus Intently – Work Wisely) will greatly enhance your performance and productivity. The rule of three, like the 80/20 rule, is everywhere when you look for it. An effective presentation is divided into three parts. Looking for a new job? Give your prospective employer three reasons to hire you. Want to improve your golf game? Focus on driving, wedge play, and putting.
Spend some time this week considering how you can use the (incredible) power of three to enhance your performance, your productivity or your professional development. It will be time well spent indeed.
Les Taylor is a business owner, executive coach, award-winning author and professional speaker. He is the founder of Outperformers International, a professional development company committed to helping individuals and organizations radically increase their “performance capacity.” He can be reached at 602-478-4209 or email@example.com
How do you tap into the power of 3 in your world? Share your comments here.
Editor’s Note: This post is an excerpt from a new book published by Gail Woodard and Dudley Court Press. Titled Write the Book You’re Meant to Write: A Guide for First-Time Authors, it gets to the heart of the issues first-time authors face. I was honored to have been interviewed for this book as well as edit it.
by Gail Woodard
I asked my good friend and editor Barbara McNichol what advice she would give to a first-time author about the process of working with an editor. Here’s some of our exchange:
How can an editor help an author? Smart authors know the value of a good editor to improve the clarity of their ideas and conciseness of the words they use. A good editor makes the author’s prose more readable while preserving the person’s intended voice.
Can you advise authors on how to streamline their writing so the editing process goes more smoothly and costs less money? Sure. Adopting these seven practices will make a huge difference in any manuscript:
Why should someone invest in hiring a professional editor? Editors are trained to be patient and thorough. They go through an author’s manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. That’s rarely the kind of diligence provided by friends or even critique-group members.
In addition to keeping the author’s voice, what else is a primary goal in the editing process? For nonfiction books especially, authors write them to support their business objectives. Their book forms the cornerstone of their company’s message and direction. Keeping that objective in sight during the editing process guides the editor throughout the multiple reviews. Does the book accomplish what it sets out to do for the benefit of the readership and the author, too?
What book editing questions do you have?
by Barbara McNichol
In many of the memos and manuscripts memos I read, writers take a convoluted approach to punctuation. Especially, too many semicolons show up in too many wrong ways. How can you remember what’s right?
Every time you’re tempted to use a semicolon, review these three brief rules.
e.g., I need to upgrade my writing skills; embarrassing mistakes have been creeping in.
Note: Do not use both a semicolon and a conjunction to join two clauses—pick one or the other. e.g., I need to upgrade my writing skills; but embarrassing mistakes have been creeping in.
e.g., The payment is overdue; therefore, we owe a penalty.
e.g., It’s been a long time since we met; however, it’s not too late.
Note: Use a comma after “therefore” and “however” in these cases.
e.g., She traveled to Beijing, China; Paris, France; and London, England.
e.g., He believes three things: that every situation, no matter how grim, can be resolved; that no one needs to suffer, especially Mother Earth; and that people are inherently good.
Note: This sentence could improve if it were broken into two or more sentences. Easier to follow!
Get clear on these rules; I guarantee knowing them will simplify your writing!
by Chris Stern (reprinted from SSA newsletter)
Mark Twain was considered one of the greatest American writers of his time. He was often asked about the craft of writing and gave quite a bit of advice about putting words on paper. Here are a few of my favorites.
Which of these are your favorites, either from a “funny” or a “serious” point of view?
by Abby Marks Beale
Summer reading lists have always raised a whine and a loud groan from my kids. “Why do I have to read THAT?! It’s not what I want to read!” It’s always a challenge to read something that is not of your choosing. But there is some value in actually doing the reading. And believe it or not, the books listed have been vetted carefully.
From prestigious prep schools like Deerfield Academy, to UC Berkeley, public school districts and mega bank JP Morgan Chase, educators, influencers, and employers have rolled out their summer reading lists for students and lifetime learners. Most likely your school district, college, and possibly an employer have recommended or required summer reading for your household.
Why the Push for Summer Reading?
Darin Oduyoye, Chief Communications Officer for J.P. Morgan Asset & Wealth Management says, “Business executives, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and all clients in between will discover creative and inspiring stories from our list. While summer is a time to relax, it is also a time to recharge and revitalize our thinking. Great books are the perfect fuel.”
Inc. magazine cited several studies that found reading both fiction and non-fiction stimulates our brain in ways that help us:
There is something to be said for thinking out of the box. We need more of that to solve our problems and live more positively.
If you don’t have your own reading list, check out these interesting ones:
What books would you add to these summer reading lists?
Abby Marks Beale is the founder of Rev It Up Reading. If you’re daunted by all you have to read, there’s still time to upgrade your reading skills. Do check out her complimentary One Day Pass and learn new strategies to get up to speed with what you read.
By Cathy Fyock
Why is it so hard to start a big project? Maybe it’s because it is so big that it seems daunting, or that it’s difficult to identify the best first step.
Starting your book can offer the same challenges: how do you get started in a productive and confident manner?
Here are six ideas about what NOT to do when tackling that first draft.
Starting a book or blog can be a huge task but can be made much easier when you avoid these major pitfalls!
Cathy Fyock, The Business Book Strategist, works with professionals and thought leaders who want to write their book as a business development strategy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perhaps you see your own actions in this six points. What would you suggest NOT doing based on your experience? Humor appreciated!
by Barbara McNichol
Ever heard someone say “his bucket is emptier (or more empty) than mine”? How can something be emptier than empty?
The same holds true for all “absolute” words. In grammar, “absolute” means it can’t be compared. That is, you would never use “less” or “more” in front of these absolute words:
Consider the word “destroyed.” If a hurricane sweeps through a small town, it’s tempting to say, “Our town was destroyed.” But be careful. Destroyed is an absolute that means totally, completely gone; it doesn’t exist anymore—no streets, no rubble, no fences standing. Chances are the more accurate word is “damage.” So watch out for absolutes, clarify their true meaning, and use them correctly.
Your challenge: What other absolute words would you add to this list? Write them here.
by Kathleen Watson According to merriam-webster.com, scientists in the mid-19th century needed a word to describe the … Read more »