More on why we need a style guide

Check out this post from Iva Cheung for more on the critical need to have a well-thought-out style guide for your organization’s communications.

House style and the zombie apocalypse: How a poorly thought-out style guide can cost you

See my post on this topic

For help in creating your house style guide, go to send me an e-mail.

Visit editsbymarks.com for more information.

 

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Punctuation for lists (Part 2)

Display lists are ideal when you want to list three or more items in your document. It is easier for your readers to follow, since they are visually itemized and easier to remember and make reference to the issues being addressed.

There are two ways to create a display list. Either introduce the list with a complete sentence (this is the ideal way) or introduce the list with a phrase or word. Punctuation plays a major role either way.

In Part 1, we examined the list introduced by a complete sentence.  Here is an example the other way to write a display list. Pay particular attention to the use of punctuation in each case.

Example of list introduced by an incomplete sentence

Seven things to include when you pack for your vacation are—

  • a tube of toothpaste, because most hotels never have toothpaste available;
  • a phone charger and cord (buying a new one may be expensive);
  • sunscreen products, for protection from head to toe;
  • an umbrella, because weather happens;
  • enough of your medication, to avoid the inconvenience of getting them refilled;
  • your favorite snacks—cheaper than buying them in a store on site; and
  • a box of large plastic baggies, for shells and trinkets you may pick up and for clothes you don’t get to wash.

Notice the punctuation in the list. The introduction is a phrase, followed by a long (em) dash. Using no punctuation here is also acceptable.

Each bulleted item ends with a semicolon and not a comma because some of the bulleted items contain punctuation (commas). The penultimate bulleted is followed by the word “and.” The last item ends with a period end with a period.

What if all the items were short phrases?

Seven things to include when you pack for your vacation are—

  • a tube of toothpaste,
  • a phone charger and cord,
  • sunscreen products,
  • an umbrella,
  • enough of your medication,
  • your favorite snacks, and
  • a box of large plastic baggies.

Notice that none of the bulleted items has any punctuation. Each one is a short phrase (not a complete sentence). Therefore, you can use a comma after each bulleted item, and use a period at the end of the last bulleted item. Note: This list also might be numbered, since a number (7) is mentioned in the introductory sentence.

Go to editsbymarks.com for help with all your writing and editing needs.

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Punctuation for lists (Part 1)

DISPLAY LISTS ARE IDEAL when you want to list three or more items in your document. birdsIt is easier for your readers to follow, since they are visually itemized and easier to remember and make reference to the issues being addressed.

There are two ways to create a display list. Either introduce the list with a complete sentence (this is the ideal way) or introduce the list with a phrase or word. Punctuation plays a major role either way.

Here is an example for you to refer to. Pay particular attention to the use of punctuation in each case.

Example of list introduced by a complete sentence

Here are seven things to include when you pack for your vacation:

  • A tube of toothpaste, because most hotels never have toothpaste available.
  • A phone charger and cord (buying a new one may be expensive).
  • Sunscreen products, for protection from head to toe.
  • An umbrella, because weather happens.
  • Enough of your medication, to avoid the inconvenience of getting them refilled.
  • Your favorite snacks, cheaper than buying them in a store on site.
  • A box of large plastic baggies, for shells and trinkets you may pick up and for clothes you don’t get to wash.

Notice the punctuation in the list. The introduction is a complete sentence, followed by a colon.

Each bulleted item ends with a period, even though they are phrases and not complete sentences.

The period is used at the end of each item because some of the bulleted items contain punctuation (commas). Therefore, all should end with a period.

What if all the items were short phrases?

Here are seven things to include when you pack for your vacation:

  • A tube of toothpaste
  • A phone charger and cord
  • Sunscreen products
  • An umbrella
  • Enough of your medication
  • Your favorite snacks
  • A box of large plastic baggies

Notice that none of the bulleted items has any punctuation. Each one is a short phrase (not a complete sentence). Therefore, there is no need to have any punctuation within this list.

Note: This list might also be numbered, since a number (7) is mentioned in the introductory sentence.

 In my next post, I will talk about a display list that is introduced by a phrase or a word.

 

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Question: That or which?

Which word is better to use? That depends on whether your meaning is restrictive or nonrestrictive.

 

If the information in your sentence applies to something specific in the sentence, then it is restrictive (it applies to one thing or one group of things). In that case, use “that.”

Example: The umbrellas that are on sale have red tags.

This implies that not all the umbrellas are on sale, only those with the red tags.

 

If the information in your sentence applies to all things defined in the sentence, then it is nonrestrictive (there are no limits or specifications). In that case, use “which.”

Example: The umbrellas, which are on sale, have red tags.

This implies that all the umbrellas have red tags.

 

What message are you trying to convey? Are you talking about everything or specific things? Using the right word will send the message you want to send.

Contact editsbymarks.com for help in putting your best word forward from a professional editor.

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Ode to a childhood dresser: If this dresser could talk

IMG_0416

This beloved dresser started its tenure with us around 1962. It was “cris” in my parents’ bedroom, where it served until it was handed down to me and my sister when we got our own room a few years later.

The dresser served as an alter, and was adorned with stylishly placed treasures including lotions, l’eaux de toilette, jewelry boxes and a small basket of dusty silk flowers, all placed on sundry eggshell doilies with pride. 

The dresser was shared. My little sister was relegated to the two right drawers and I got the three on the left. As we reminisced this morning, she reminded me that I used to “force her” to keep the drawers closed and the dresser tidy. Of course! I was the lord of the alter. 

My smaller dolls had the privilege of sitting pretty under the glass top from time to time, coiffed and dressed for show, at my pleasure. Later on, my school books were housed there for easy access. 

The dresser oversaw the various posters of Michael Jackson that dressed the sea foam green walls and it was a Viewmaster for my practiced performances of selects from Dionne Warwick and Nancy Wilson (complete with air mic). It watched as I danced dreamily to the Stylistics and Blue Magic, and as I inspected many outfits for adjustment. It knows when I picked my Afro to death and tried the latest lipsticks. It told me if I looked good enough to leave the house and if I need to change my ensemble. 

This dresser saw everything, from the benign to the ridiculous.  It was there when I was too-often confined to my room because of illness, causing my father to dub me “sick fowl.”

It witnessed my first time making out, including all the wonders and the awkwardness of the moment; and it saw a few of my friends who I maladroitly allowed to use the room for their own dalliances (my sister raises her eyebrows, “What! I never knew you did that!”).

It held various treasures that changed through the years, from embroidered handkerchiefs for church to secret notes and trinkets from boyfriends to the contraband contents of gold boxes of Benson and Hedges to journals chocked full of entries about love and envy and heartbreak and change.

But, it wasn’t able to warn me one cool night as the opened top windows near my bed let in a soft lullaby breeze and a gray cat, who climbed through and walked on my bed and hovered at my neck. It couldn’t warn me before the animal scratched my face after I woke up and screamed, causing a kerfluffel, which summoned my mother (we mothers always sleep lightly when our loved ones are near, either physically or in the heart), who got the gray monster to flee.

Oh what stories this dresser could tell. Many I will never remember and many I could never know, because they belong to my sister alone.  Here it stands and continues to serve those sundry visitors who stay for a time in my mother’s house. They, too, lay their jewels and lotions on the stylish runner that has replaced the antique doilies.  We all believe no one is watching us; however, the dresser is there. I hope this classic brown alter will be around for another 60 years. 

 

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Breaking News: It’s Okay To Use They Instead of He/She and Him/Her

Writers may now feel at ease with their instinctive desire to use they as a singular pronoun. It’s fine in casual writing and dialogue, but should be used as a last resort in formal writing.

Read a sneak peak at the justification in the The Chicago Manual of Style’s upcoming 17th edition on the matter: Chicago Style for the Singular They .

 

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Dairy company could pay $10 million for want of a comma and a misused gerund…

A recent lawsuit ruling [https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/us/oxford-comma-lawsuit.html]  cost a Maine dairy company millions, and granted company truck drivers payment due for overtime work, because of negligence in using a comma and a gerund. This is a current example of the importance of going through the motions to make sure your work reads exactly as you meant. Mind your commas, gerunds,  (and all punctuation), and use a style guide. This case screams–

  • The power of writing correct grammar
  • The importance of proofreading
  • The importance of  writing and revisiting your work after a time, with fresh eyes
  • The value of having an editor to review your work
  • The significance of having a colleague or other person read after you

It takes collaboration to put your best word forward and give accurate, clear instructions to your readers.

Let me collaborate with you as you work to put your best word forward. E-mail editsbymarks@gmail.com or go to editsbymarks.com.

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