Posts

Word Choice – My wife and I/My wife and me

I have been out of the country for the past month and am still working my way through my emails. However, I am surprised at the number of readers who commented on the BizWritingTip regarding “texted” becoming a verb.

They felt that the sentence “My daughter told my wife and me …” was grammatically incorrect. It should have been “My daughter told my wife and I.”

Sorry, dear readers, but in this case “my wife and me” is correct.
“I” and “me” are personal pronouns. “I” is used when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence. “Me” is used when the pronoun is the object.

Examples
My daughter told my wife and me. (The pronoun is the object in the sentence.)
My wife and I were told by my daughter. (Now the pronoun is the subject.)
The report was written by Sam and me. (The pronoun is the object.)
Sam and wrote the report. (Now the pronoun is the subject.)

Are you still confused? If so, here’s an easy way to sort it out. Part of the confusion comes from the compound (two) subjects and objects. Therefore, drop the first part of the compound, and you’ll automatically get the correct answer. Then you can put the sentence back together.

Examples
My daughter told I. (This is incorrect.)
My daughter told me. (This sounds better.)
The report was written by I. (This is not grammatically correct and sounds pretentious.)
The report was written by me. (This is correct.)
Me wrote the report. (I hope someone else proofed it.)
wrote the report. (Correct)

The rules for personal pronouns are not new. I think some people may just have misunderstood them.

Word Choice – Next and Last

Lesley’s question: “Please volunteer your opinion on next or last. For example, if in 2014, I said I saw her last Christmas, I take this to mean I saw her at Christmas 2012, not Christmas 2013.”

BizWritingTip response: When next or last are used to describe a time, things get complicated. They mean different things to different people – even dictionaries cannot agree. I was taught to mentally add an additional word, such as year or week, to determine the meaning.

Examples (North American)
I saw her last (year’s) Christmas. (This would make it 2013.)
Today is Monday. I want to meet next Wednesday. (Next week’s Wednesday would be nine days from now.)
Today is Monday. I want to meet this Wednesday. (This week’s Wednesday is two days from now.)

However, this seems to be a North American custom.

The Oxford Dictionary states that next relates to the nearest following day.

Example (British)
Today is Monday. I want to meet next Wednesday. (This would mean in two days.)

My advice: Don’t use this and next when referring to a certain day without clarifying the date.

Example
I want to meet next Tuesday (the 12th).

Or, only talk to people who think like you.

Word Choice – Although Versus Though

Irfan’s question: “Please help me understand the use of ‘though’ and ‘although’ and when to add a comma with these words. Here are two examples: 2) Although(,) I have finished your assignment, it was not difficult. 2) I have finished your assignment. It was not difficult though.”

BizWritingTip response:  “Although” and “though” when used as conjunctions are interchangeable. (Conjunctions are words that join two separate thoughts.) Although is generally considered more formal than though. (If you wanted to be emphatic, you could also say “even though.”)

The words indicate a condition with an unexpected outcome. One way to ensure you are using the words correctly is to try to replace them with the phrase “despite the fact that.”

Therefore, neither of these words works with your first example. It would be odd to say “Despite the fact that I finished your assignment, it was not difficult.” You would expect to be able to finish an assignment that was not difficult.

Examples (correct)
Despite the fact that I finished your assignment, it was difficult. (wordy but correct)
Although I finished your assignment, it was difficult. (formal)
Though I finished your assignment, it was not easy. (informal)

Note: The comma is inserted only after the “although” or “though” phrase. It is never placed directly after the word.

Though can also be used an adverb meaning however. (In this usage, though is not interchangeable with although.) Do not insert any commas with the word.

Examples
I finished your assignment. It was not difficult however.
I finished your assignment. It was not difficult though.

There is nothing wrong in using “though” as an adverb. Personally, I would have omitted the word as I believe it is not necessary: I finished your assignment. It was not difficult.

Word Choice – Spacecraft Versus Spacecrafts

Deane’s question: “I wonder if it’s acceptable to write spacecrafts (or aircrafts) instead of using the singular. I thought ‘craft’ was similar to the use of sheep – one word functions for both singular and plural.”

BizWritingTip response: Again, another example of our words changing. Most dictionaries, e.g., Oxford, Merriam-Webster, and Cambridge Dictionaries Online, agree with you. “Craft” refers to both singular or plural nouns – the same as the word “sheep.”

Example (most dictionaries)
The pilot turned the spacecraft toward earth.
The pilot has spent time on several spacecraft.

However, in researching this question, I found that Webster’s College Dictionary and Wiktionary accept both “spacecraft” and “spacecrafts” as the plural noun.

Example
Seven spacecrafts were successful in landing on Mars.

Therefore, in some situations you might get away with adding an “s” to spacecraft. However, if you stick with “spacecraft” regardless of whether it is singular or plural, you will always be correct.

Word Choice – Further Versus Farther

Sharon’s question: “I am always confused over the use of ‘farther’ vs. ‘further.’ Which would be correct in the following sentence? If these dates do not work, we can look further (or farther?) into the year.”

BizWritingTip response: This question is quite interesting. My initial response was to recommend the use of “further.” Further is used for an abstract distance and indicates “to a greater degree” or “to a greater extent.”

Examples

If these dates do not work, we can look further into the year.
I wish I was further along in writing the proposal.
What further proof do you need?

Farther refers to actual distance.

Examples
The new office location is farther from my home than I would like.
How much farther do we have to travel?

But, in doing an additional check with my dictionary and grammar books, I found that some reference books now consider these words interchangeable.

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary states that “farther” is a variant of “further.”

Frankly, I intend to stick with the traditional way of writing farther and further. However, if you can’t keep them straight, I don’t imagine many readers will call you on it.

Word Choice – On Line, Online, or On-Line

Matt’s question: “I have a question on the use of ‘on line’ vs. ‘online.’ In a recent blog post you spelled it ‘on line.’ Was this correct?”

BizWritingTip response: You got me. Thank you. I learn a lot from my readers. Although you often see the two spellings interchanged, I should have written it as one word in the example. British English inserts a hyphen; American English does not.

Examples
Politicians should post their expenses on line. (incorrect)
Politicians should post their expenses on-line. (British)
Politicians should post their expenses online. (American)
Do you enjoy on-line shopping? (British)
Do you enjoy online shopping? (American)

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary defines “on-line” as an adjective or adverb meaning “controlled by or connected to a central processing unit.”

“On line” is defined in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as “in or into operation.”

Example
The new production system will come on line next week.

I will now remember to use “online” or “on-line” if there is a connection to computers. Anything else will be “on line.”

Word Choice – Whoever Versus Whomever

Evelyn’s question: “Can you please describe when to use ‘whomever’ and when to use ‘whoever’?”

BizWritingTip response: If I said whoever is a pronoun in the nominative form and whomever is a pronoun in the objective form would it help?  I thought not. But let me show you a trick to help you easily determine the right word.

Mentally rearrange the part of the sentence containing the problem and try substituting the words he/she or him/her.

If he or she sounds right, then use “whoever.”
If him or her sounds better, then use “whomever.”

In the following examples, I have put the parts of the sentence you are working with in italics.

Example (whoever = he or she)

Whoever or whomever can play well in these conditions will win the golf tournament. (He can play well in these conditions; therefore, use whoever.)
Correct: Whoever can play well in these conditions will win the golf tournament.

We will give the job to whoever or whomever you think is the most qualified. (You think she is the most qualified; therefore, use whoever.)
Correct:  We will give the job to whoever you think is the most qualified.

Example (whomever = him or her)

Please call whoever or whomever you think can fix the problem.  (Please call her; therefore, use whomever.)
Correct: Please call whomever you think can fix the problem.

We will give the job to whoever or whomever submits the lowest bid.  (We will give the job to him; therefore, use whomever.)
Correct: We will give the job to whomever submits the lowest bid.

I trust this simple trick will help you get it right every time.

Word Choice – Come Versus Go

Roger’s question: “I hear and see people misusing ‘come’ and ‘go.’ Can you please explain the differences?”

BizWritingTip response: When choosing between these words, you must consider your location and your receiver’s location. Come means move toward. Go means away from.

Examples (when communicating with someone at your location)
I hope the server comes soon. (The destination is toward you.)
I will go to the airport to pick her up. (The destination is away from your location.)
I would have gone to their open house if I had known about it. (The destination was away from your location.)

Exception: If you are communicating with someone who is at your destination — not your location — use their location to choose the word. Therefore, the word would be come.

Examples (when someone is at your destination)
I will come to your office tomorrow. (The receiver is at your destination.)
I should have come to your open house. (The destination would have been at the receiver’s location.)

Word Choice – On-site Versus Onsite

Pamela’s question: “I often see ‘onsite’ used as one word. Shouldn’t ‘on site’ be two words with the hyphen inserted if you are using the word as an adjective, such as on-site meeting? Is ‘onsite’ ever one word?”

BizWritingTip response: There is a tendency now to drop hyphens from words. But according to the Merriam Webster and Oxford dictionaries and The Chicago Manual of Style, the correct spelling — no matter how you use it in a sentence — is on-site.
Examples (correct)
We are waiting for the on-site inspection.
The meeting will be held on-site.

It is interesting that the spell check on my computer accepts both onsite and on-site. I am going to stick with on-site, but I can see how onsite will become accepted usage.

Word Choice – If Versus Whether

Pam’s question: “Please do a future issue on ‘if’ versus ‘whether.’  When asked to review documents, I often see my associates using ‘if’’ incorrectly. I would like to be able to give them a simple explanation.”

BizWritingTip response: There are several rules regarding “if” and “whether.” I have tried to simplify them as much as possible. The first rule is the easiest.

1.   If you are expressing a simple condition, use “if.” (This is a good example.)
Examples
If you can’t attend, please let us know.  (Contact us only if you can’t attend.)
If you are going to attend, do you want to carpool? (We won’t expect to carpool, if you are not going.)

2.   Use “whether” if there are two alternatives – even if the alternative is only implied.
Examples
Please let us know whether you can attend. (You should let us know your plans either way.)
Let’s discuss whether this is the right thing to do – or not.

3.   Use “whether” after the infinitive form of a verb. (These are the verbs beginning with “to.”)
Examples
I am trying to decide whether I should work overtime.
I need to know whether we can hire a part-time person for the summer.

4.   “Whether” and “if” are interchangeable if the answer would be yes or no.
Examples (correct)
She tried to remember whether she had replied to his email. (Yes, she did.)
She tried to remember if she had replied to his email. (Yes, she did.)

5.   “Whether” and “if” are interchangeable in whether/or or if/or constructions.
Examples
I would like to know if the figures are accurate or they are estimates.
I would like to know whether the figures are accurate or they are estimates.

Note: “Whether” is considered the more formal word. If you are writing a report or a formal letter and have the option of using “whether” or “if” (rules 4 and 5), I would use “whether.” If you are writing an email or an informal letter and have the option, then use “if.”