Grammar Tip – Possession With Two names

BizWritingTip reader: “When vacationing in Mexico last week, I went to a restaurant called Carlos’n Charlie’s. Is the name grammatically correct? I don’t think you need two apostrophes.”

BizWritingTip response: An establishment has the right to call itself anything it wishes. However, you are right. Carlos and Charlie’s would be the grammatically correct way to name this well-known bar and restaurant.

When indicating joint ownership, you place the apostrophe only on the final name. If you wrote Carlos’ and Charlie’s, it would indicate that the gentlemen had separate establishments.

However, Carlos and Charlie’s looks rather staid and doesn’t reflect the informal atmosphere of the place. They, therefore, used an apostrophe to indicate a missing letter to abbreviate the word “and.” (’n is very casual short hand. Please don’t use it in business writing.)

Carlos ‘n Charlie’s

I then assume their designer got a little carried away and adjusted the spacing so the apostrophe looks like it belongs to Carlos rather than the “and.”

Carlos’n Charlie’s

Not grammatically correct. But it has zing.

By the way, when you are enjoying the warmth of Mexico, “let it go.” Have another margarita. Don’t worry about grammar. And invite me along next time.

 

Grammar Tip – Thanks or Thanks,

Kathleen’s question: “Recently, I have noticed replies to me with ‘Thanks, Kathleen.’ The comma annoys me and just looks and sounds wrong. Is this the correct way of writing this?”

BizWritingTip response: Grammatically, Thanks, Kathleen means Kathleen is thanking someone else.

Thanks, Kathleen is a shortened version of

Thanks,
Kathleen

On the other hand, Thanks Kathleen (no comma) means Kathleen is being thanked by the sender of the message.

Note: I suspect this grammar rule will change over time because of technology.  When you are trying to squeeze a message onto a small space, it makes sense to place Thanks, Kathleen on the same line.

However, because finding the comma can take more time on screen keyboards, I think senders will stop using it. Frankly, I don’t think it will cause any confusion.

Grammar Tip – Whose Versus Who’s

BizWritingTip reader: “I never know when it is correct to use the word ‘whose.’ Can you please clarify this word’s proper usage?”

BizWritingTip response: “Whose” is the possessive form for the word “who.” It will always be followed by a noun (person, place or thing).

Examples
Whose proposal was chosen?
Whose idea was it?

In addition, when combining thoughts, you would also use “whose” to replace a possessive noun or a possessive pronoun (his, her, your, its, their, etc.).

Examples
The vice president presented the plan to the board. His background is quite impressive.
The vice president, whose background is quite impressive, presented his plan to the board.

Note: I have noticed some writers confuse “whose” with “who’s.” “Who’s” is a contraction for “who is” or “who has.”

Examples
Who’s been hired? (Who has been hired?)
Who’s the most trained person? (Who is the most trained person?)

If you are ever confused as to whether to use “whose” or “who’s,” mentally insert the words “who is.” If you can, then you know to use the contraction “who’s.” If you can’t, then use “whose.”

I trust everyone, whose knowledge of this rule was limited, now understands its usage.

 

 

Worg Choice – i.e. versus e.g./ie versus eg

Pam’s question: “I am responsible for editing various financial documents. In the explanations provided, examples are often included. Can you please clarify the use of eg and ie and how to punctuate them?”

BizWritingTip response: The abbreviation i.e. stands for the Latin id est. Translated it means “that is.” Think of it as saying “in other words.”

Example
You will be tested on computer programs, i.e., Lotus Notes, Word and Excel. (You will be tested on all three programs.)

The abbreviation e.g. is from the Latin exempli gratia. It means for example.

Example
You will be tested on computer programs, e.g., Lotus Notes, Word and Excel. (You may be tested on some — if not all — of these programs and on others not listed.)

Note: Never use etc. after a list beginning with e.g. It would be redundant as e.g. indicates the list is not inclusive.

As for punctuation, the sources vary. The Oxford Canadian Dictionary, The Gregg Reference Manual, APA Publication Manual, and The Chicago Manual of Style all say to use periods with the abbreviation — e.g. or i.e.

However, the AMA Manual of Style recommends eg or ie — without the periods.

Regardless of whether you use periods or not, many sources recommend putting the phrase in parentheses when writing formally and adding a comma after the abbreviation.

Examples (correct for formal documents)
The researchers will include temporal characteristics (i.e., month and time of day) in their study.
The researchers will include temporal characteristics (ie, month and time of day) in their study.

When writing letters, emails and non-technical reports, omit the parentheses and place commas on both sides of the abbreviation.

Examples (correct for informal writing – letters, emails and non-technical reports)
My son claims some sports put him to sleep, e.g., curling.
She prefers a hot drink with breakfast, eg, coffee.
I can write effective business documents, i.e., letters, reports, emails and business cases.
I can write effective business documents, ie, letters, reports, emails and business cases.

Grammar Tip – Suspended Hyphen

When you are writing a sentence that contains hyphenated adjectives with the same last word, delete all the repeated words except for the last one; however, keep the hyphens to indicate a connection to the last word. This is the rule of the suspended hyphen.

Examples (incorrect)

Long-term or short-term loan
Open-door and closed-door policies
Two-door or four-door car
A one-week to two-week vacation

Examples (correct)

Long- or short-term loan
Open- and closed-door policies
Two- or four-door car
A one- to two-week vacation

Note: Use one space after a suspended hyphen unless a comma is needed.

Example (correct)

3-, 6-, and 9-month updates

The rule of the suspended hyphen also works with compound words with a common element, e.g., daytime and nighttime.

Example (correct)

Please provide your day- and nighttime phone numbers.

This rule is why in a previous post I answered a BizWritingTip reader’s question as follows:
“If the writer does not explain him – or herself clearly, readers will often get incorrect information.”

And, yes, I do agree that it is better to make the noun plural: “If writers do not explain themselves clearly, readers will often get incorrect information.”

However, writers do need to have options.

 

 

Grammar Tip – Noun and Pronoun Agreement

BizWritingTip reader: “Is the following sentence right? ‘If the writer does not explain him or herself clearly, readers will often get incorrect information.’ ”

BizWritingTip response: This question involves several grammar issues.
First, a pronoun must agree with its antecedent (the word it is replacing) in terms of number and gender.

Examples

Marie said she can make the meeting.
We worked hard on our submission.
The company should ensure its employees follow the procedures.

Second, when using a singular noun of unclear gender, e.g., writer, lawyer, actor, or doctor, it was common practice to use “he” or its variations as a generic pronoun.

Examples

A good supervisor should meet with his staff frequently (gender is not relevant).
writer must explain himself clearly (the gender is not known).

Third, there are some people who believe the pronoun “he” is not appropriate when applying equally to men and women. They feel you should also include the feminine pronoun “she” or its variations if you wish to be “politically correct.”

Examples

A good supervisor should meet with his or her staff frequently.
Let’s ask an investment councellor to give us his or her advice.

This works fine in certain circumstances, but it can be clumsy. When possible, make the noun plural so the following pronoun is not gender specific.

Examples

Good supervisors should meet with their staff frequently.
Writers should explain themselves clearly.

Do not use he/she constructions. They are awkward and difficult to read.

However, to answer the original question: If you are concerned about “political correctness,” then say “If the writer does not explain him- or herself clearly, readers will often get incorrect information.”

This is also an example of a suspended hyphen. (That’s why there is a hyphen after “him.”) We’ll talk about this rule in another post.

Grammar Tip – There: Singular or Plural Verb

Susan’s question: “I saw this recently on a television network’s van: Now there’s a million ways to connect. Is this correct?”

Bizwritingtip response: Good catch. This is not correct. The author elected a catchy slogan over a grammatically correct one.

Whenever you start a sentence with “there” or “here” the verb agrees with the closest noun that follows. In this case, the closest noun is “ways.” (Million is an adjective.) The verb has to be plural.

However, “there’s” is the contraction for “there is” or “there has.” Both are singular. They cannot be followed by a plural noun.

Examples (when the noun is plural)

There are a million ways to connect.
There are fifty ways to leave your lover.
Here are the reports you requested.

Examples (when the noun is singular)

There’s something about Mary.
There’s got to be a solution to the problem.

And they say no one pays attention to grammar anymore! I am impressed, dear reader.

Word Choice – Data: Singular or Plural

BizWritingTip reader: “What is the rule for ‘data’? Some of our consultants use singular, and some use plural verbs with it. I use the singular verb myself!”

BizWritingTip response: “Data” is the plural of the Latin word “datum,” meaning “given.”

You would think then that “data” would fall into the standard rule for subject and verb agreement. (If the subject is plural, use a plural verb. If the subject is singular, use a singular verb.)

But …
In general usage, “data” when used in the sense of “information” is followed by a singular verb.

Example

The data is analyzed by our staff. (information)

But …
When you are using “data” in the sense of “separate bits of information,” use a plural verb.

Example

The data collected at several sites are now being compared with our earlier findings. (Several pieces of information)

But …
In scientific and technical usage, the noun “data” is commonly followed by a plural verb.

Therefore, to answer your question, you both may be right.

Grammar Tip – Exclamation Marks Versus Question Marks

BizWritingTip reader: “In a previous BizWritingTip, you ended it with ‘Having fun yet!’ Shouldn’t this have a question mark at the end rather than an exclamation mark?”

BizWritingTip response: This is a great question! Question marks are used for questions – real and rhetorical. (A rhetorical question does not require an answer.)

Examples

Can you please send me the figures by Friday?
Can you believe this weather?
Wouldn’t you like to be in her shoes?

Note: If the first part of the sentence is a rhetorical question and the last part is a statement, use a period at the end.

Example

Would you please review the findings, so we can discuss them at the next meeting.

An exclamation mark indicates excitement, surprise, disbelief, or astonishment.

Examples

What a great presentation!
Congratulations!

In addition, you may use an exclamation mark instead of a question mark when you want to express a strong feeling.

Examples

Why did you do that!
Can you believe that ad!

I use “Having fun yet!” whenever I think my readers or workshop participants may be feeling overwhelmed. I am trying to lighten a frustrating time with a little “shock therapy,” and I don’t really expect an answer.

Grammar Tip – Hyphens – Part II

In a previous post, we discussed some of the rules surrounding hyphens, and I promised to provide more guidelines in this BizWritingTip.

I did say not to put a hyphen between a compound adjective (two adjectives) when the first word ends in “ly.”

Examples (correct)

Environmentally friendly packaging
Poorly written report

There is, however, an exception: When the compound adjective before the noun consists of a word ending in “ly” and is followed by a participle (a word ending in “ing”), then you do add the hyphen.

Examples (correct)

A highly-ranking officer
A friendly-looking attendant

Note: Never use a hyphen with the words more, most, less and least.

Examples (correct)

More experienced salesperson
Least costly suggestion

A quiz based on Hyphens — Parts 1 and 2

1. He delivered an oddly-shaped/oddly shaped package.

2. We need to order water repellent/water-repellent fabrics.

3. We need to meet face to face/face-to-face.

4. I have a toll free/toll-free number.

5. With regard to the above-mentioned/above mentioned/abovementioned project …

6. She is the most likely/most-likely candidate for the position.

7. I would like to thank you/thank-you for the strongly worded/strongly-worded reference.

8. The visit included a quickly-moving/quickly moving tour of the site.

Answers

1. oddly shaped, 2. water-repellent, 3. face to face, 4. toll-free, 5. above-mentioned, 6. most likely, 7. thank you, strongly worded, 8. quickly-moving

Having fun yet!