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Twenty-first Century Grammar and the Serial Comma Grant Writers' Network of Greater Houston Brownbag Meeting April 14, 2010 Ann B. May Hewlett –Packard.

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Presentation on theme: "Twenty-first Century Grammar and the Serial Comma Grant Writers' Network of Greater Houston Brownbag Meeting April 14, 2010 Ann B. May Hewlett –Packard."— Presentation transcript:

1 Twenty-first Century Grammar and the Serial Comma Grant Writers' Network of Greater Houston Brownbag Meeting April 14, 2010 Ann B. May Hewlett –Packard Company Houston, Texas

2 What hasn’t changed Punctuation Grammar Spelling 214 April 2010

3 What has changed and why? Influence of the Internet & social media Bad Explosion of fonts, colors, and formatting Skimming Searching Linking and jumping around Texting and Slashes and dashes Good Shorter sentences More labels and headings 314 April 2010

4 Other trends Gender-neutral Acronyms that use s (not ‘s) for plural forms Compounds moving from hyphenated compound to a closed compound (online, onsite) Less punctuation in general New words 414 April 2010

5 Three grammar rules that can now be broken Never end a sentence with a proposition. Never split an infinive. Never begin a sentence with a conjunction. Words such as and, but, or, nor, if, because, since, however, yet 514 April 2010

6 Apostrophes Use an apostrophe for three reasons: To show possession To indicate a contraction (don’t, the ‘80s) To prevent misreading in plurals of letters or some words (p’s and q’s and do’s and don’t’s) Usage change: Do not use apostrophes to make words or acronyms or decades plural. If in doubt, leave it out. 614 April 2010

7 Possessive pronouns do not need apostrophes Possession its your his hers Contraction it’s (it is) you’re (you are) 714 April 2010

8 Quotation marks When used with other punctuation: Periods and commas (the little things) go inside quotation marks Colons and semicolons go outside Question marks and Exclamation marks (the tall marks): it depends Creative punctuation [Not “Creative” punctuation] 814 April 2010

9 Comma errors Rule: use a comma and a conjunction to join two independent clauses in compound sentences. Don’t use a comma if you have a compound verb. −We will send the package by FedEx, and follow up with a phone call. (incorrect) −We will send the package by FedEx and follow up with a phone call. (correct) Don’t use a comma by itself −We will send the package by FedEx, later we will follow up with a phone call. (incorrect) −We will send the package by FedEx, and later we will follow up with a phone call. (correct) 914 April 2010

10 Commas, continued Commas in a series of items (the serial comma) −Most style guides (and English teachers) say to use it consistently to prevent misunderstanding. − Technical editors say to use it consistently. −Journalism teachers say to leave it out. Commas to set off nonessential information. −If you use a comma to set off a parenthetical phrase, an unessential phrase, use two commas. If the phrase is at the beginning or end of the sentence you only need one comma April 2010

11 Common grammar problems Subject-verb agreement: look for the subject Don’t be tricked by words in between the subject and the verb. An important function of the managers are delegating responsibility. (incorrect) An important function of the managers is delegating responsibility. (correct) 1114 April 2010

12 Modifiers that are unclear or are too far from the word they modify Dangling participles 1.While reading the report, the conclusion became clear. (incorrect) 2.While reading the report, I quickly reached a conclusion. (correct) −http://www.infoplease.com/cig/grammar-style/dangling- modifiers-counterintelligence.html has good examples of dangling modifiers.http://www.infoplease.com/cig/grammar-style/dangling- modifiers-counterintelligence.html 1214 April 2010

13 Misplaced modifiers Make sure you get the modifier close to the word it modifies. 1. She borrowed a computer from a coworker with insufficient memory. 2. She borrowed a computer from a coworker, but it had insufficient memory. 3. The computer that she borrowed from a coworker had insufficient memory. #1 may be true, but it is probably not the intended meaning. Rewrite the sentence April 2010

14 Ambiguous antecedents It’s better to repeat the word itself than use a pronoun. 1. If the computer prints an extra page, throw it away. (This could be interpreted as throw away the printer.) 2. If the computer prints an extra page, throw the page away April 2010

15 Latin abbreviations Avoid them. It’s better to stick to English, so everyone understands what you mean. A common error is to use both e.g. and etc. in the same phrase. e.g. means for example; “this is only a sample” etc. means “and there are more like it; this is only a sample.” 1514 April 2010

16 Words that are often confused or misused Check the dictionary to be sure. −principle/principal −complement/compliment; −cite/site; −all right/alright −comprise/compose For examples, see April 2010

17 Editing your own work When you are the writer, proofreading your own work, it’s easy to miss something. Try to get somebody else to read it over. When editing your own work: −First work on the content and the organization. Then look at what you have written. −It may help to work on a printed copy, rather than on the computer. −Work at the sentence level. −Make one pass for each item in the checklist April 2010

18 The favorite places for errors On the title page In a heading In a caption, in the first line, first paragraph, or first page of copy Close to another error (Errors frequently cluster. When you find one, look for others nearby.) 1814 April 2010

19 More places to look for errors The 5 most common problems that are discovered at the last minute, even after everyone has checked everything ( Error-Free Writing, by Robin Cormier) 1. Incorrect pagination 2. Table of contents that does not match the text 3. Incorrectly numbered graphs or tables 4. A typo in a running head 5. A typo on the cover or the title page 1914 April 2010

20 Editing checklist  Spelling  Grammar  Punctuation  Numbered sequences such as lists, figures, tables, sections  Alphabetical order  Cross-references or links point to the correct locations  Table of contents matches the final pagination  Check and double- check numbers, in words or figures, such as prices, rates, dates, percentages April 2010

21 Spelling and grammar checkers Do they work? Yes, but…they miss a lot. For example: They’re, their, there Principle/principal Loose/lose Due/do Fewer than/less than 2114 April 2010

22 Tips for using spelling and grammar checking software Customize the spelling checker dictionary with names and organizations that you use frequently. Delete from the dictionary words that you commonly misspell. Search for your common typos, such as sever (for server) and manger (for manager). Run the spelling checker twice on material that has a lot of names of people or organizations. It is easy to accidentally press ok if you are moving rapidly through the material. Remember to resave the file after you run the spell check April 2010

23 References −The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition. You can even subscribe to the online version at −Merriam-Webster Online References, supplemental −A Concise Guide for Grammar and Style - −For words that are often confused: −Eleven rules of writing April 2010

24 References, supplemental United States Government Printing Office Style Manual Top Ten Grammar Problems, Rutgers University −http://wire.rutgers.edu/p_grammar_top10.htmlhttp://wire.rutgers.edu/p_grammar_top10.html Apostrophe Protection Society has an online test for practicing good examples of dangling modifiers counterintelligence.html counterintelligence.html University of Colorado April 2010

25 Style and Grammar Reference Books The old standards: The Elements of Style (Original Edition) by William Strunk The Elements of Style (Original Edition)William Strunk The Chicago Manual of Style by University of Chicago Press Staff The Chicago Manual of Style Journalism style The Associated Press Stylebook 2009 (Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law) by Associated Press The Associated Press Stylebook 2009 (Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law) Action Grammar: Fast, No-Hassle Answers on Everyday Usage and Punctuation by Joanne Feierman Action Grammar: Fast, No-Hassle Answers on Everyday Usage and PunctuationJoanne Feierman Technical Writing Handbook of Technical Writing, Ninth Edition by Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu Handbook of Technical Writing, Ninth Edition For government documents, detailed examples, suggestions for presenting information in tables United States Government Printing Office Style Manual GPO offers an online bookstore at Also available through Fondren library at Rice For fun Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to PunctuationLynn Truss 2514 April 2010


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