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Word Choice – Hanged Versus Hung

BizWritingTip reader: I was under the impression that the past tense of “to hang” was “hung,” but I often hear people saying “hanged.” It doesn’t sound right to me. Please help.

BizWritingTip response: Things are hung but people are hanged.

In other words, when you are using the word in the sense of “to suspend,” then hung is the correct past tense. This is the most probable form you will use in business writing.

Examples

All attendees hung their coats in the closet.?The chairman’s picture was hung in the boardroom.

When you are discussing how someone was put to death, hanged is the correct past tense.

Example

The criminal was hanged in 2010.

Note: Some reference books say “hung,” when referring to past executions, is not wrong. It is just less customary. Random House Unabridged Dictionary says “hung” is becoming more common; however, a majority of books agree the usual English word is “hanged” when talking about dangling people from a rope.

There, you now know more than some reporters!

Writing Style – The Rules for Numbers

Are you puzzled about the rules for numbers? If you are, you are not alone. People, organizations, and grammar and style books all seem to have their own preferences.

British English recommends writing out all numbers under 100, but, according to The Canadian Press Stylebook, you should use words for numbers between one and nine. Use the figures for 10 and up.

If you are presenting a string of numbers above and below 10, keep to the rules.

Example (Canadian style)

There will be 20 people attending the board meeting: 11 official members, three staff members, and six ex officio members.

The Chicago Manual of Style disagrees and says not to mix numerals and written numbers when referencing similar things.

Example (American style)

There will be 20 people attending the board meeting: 11 official members, 3 staff members, and 6 ex officio members.

Fortunately, both style books agree there are occasions when you should ignore the over-and-under-10 rule.

Use figures when mentioning:

A. Scores, percentages, votes, odds, dates, years, addresses, and in money amounts 
preceded by a symbol ($5) and in times (8 o’clock, 11:45 a.m.)
B. Use figures in lists of instructions and when trying to save space in a headline.
C. Use words when starting a sentence and when using numbers loosely.

Example

Fifty to 60 people attended the annual general meeting.
Thousands of people were left homeless after the earthquake and hundreds were injured.

In business writing, you would never present numbers both ways.
 Incorrect: He attended eight (8) meetings.

In North American emails, there is a trend to always use figures for numbers. Although it may be considered a substandard style by purists today, I believe it will become acceptable within the next few years.

Grammar Tip – Gerunds

You’re probably now asking yourself what a gerund is. A gerund is a word that ends in “ing.” It is normally a verb, but it is now being used as a noun.

For example, I like writing. (Writing is a gerund.)

The trick with a gerund is that if a noun or pronoun precedes it, it must be in the possessive form.

Incorrect

I appreciate you helping me.?(Helping is a gerund. The pronoun in front must be possessive.)

Correct

I appreciate your helping me. (Your is a possessive pronoun.)

Incorrect

The plane landing on time surprised us.?(Landing is a gerund. The noun in front must be possessive.)

Correct

The plane’s landing on time surprised us.

Possessive pronouns are my, your, his, her, our, and its.

 

 

Word Choice – More Versus Most

Jane’s comment: “In an earlier tip you said, ‘Which word is the most appropriate?’ Surely you meant to say, ‘Which is the more appropriate’ since you were comparing only two words (‘first’ versus ‘firstly’). Or, like so many other examples of misuse of the English language, has this too now entered into the growing list of what is considered acceptable?”

BizWritingTip response: I am now eating a large slice of humble pie. I am not sure what I was thinking. Yes, I should have absolutely used “more” in this case as I was discussing two words.

Example (correct)

Writers often use “first” or “firstly.” Which word is the more appropriate?

If I was discussing more than two items, then “most” would be correct.

Example

Writers often use “first,” “firstly” or “more important” at the beginning of a sentence? Which word is the most appropriate?

I will have to be more careful.

Thank you.

Word Choice – Their Versus There

Fans of the TV show Sex in the City may remember the episode when Carrie compares herself to her ex-boyfriend’s fiancé. The new woman is younger, prettier, richer, and better educated. Carrie is devastated until – she receives a thank-you note. The “better” woman does not know the difference between their and there. Obviously, Carrie is not a loser after all.Remember, it’s the little things that can spoil your professional image. You may have crafted a clear, concise message, but if it contains obvious grammar errors, you can be guaranteed that’s what your reader will remember.

The their and there problem is easy.

Their is a personal pronoun. A noun will follow: their offices, their skills, their clients

Correct

Their offices are on the 2nd floor.
Their skills must be updated.
Their clients appreciate the change.

There, when it is used to indicate a fact or existence of something, is usually followed by a verb, such as is or are.

Correct

There are too many editors and not enough writers.
There was a grammar error in her thank-you note.

There is no reason for people to make this mistake in their documents.

Writing Style – let’s get rid of clichés

A cliché is a phrase or expression that has been overused to the point of losing its intended force or purpose. The word originates from the era of block printing, when lazy printers would cut out frequently-used pieces of type, store them in a drawer, and bring them out again when the phrase reappeared.Initially refreshing, these phrases are now considered by many readers to lack creativity, innovation or sincerity. For example, think about the phrase “If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.” How often have you seen or written this?

When you read it are you impressed with the writer’s manners? Or do you pretty much ignore the thought? When you write it, do you really believe the reader would be afraid to call you unless told otherwise? Do you think that readers today would hesitate to call or e-mail you if they were confused or wanted to complain?

I believe many writers still use clichés because they are lazy and writing in a robotic mode. If you want to look like an energetic professional, write in a warm, friendly fashion using words you would use in a face-to-face conversation.

Take a look at the following phrases. If you can immediately supply the next word, you know the phrase is overworked.

It has come to my ___________.

Please find __________.

________your request,

If you have any questions, please feel ____________________.

 

Grammar Tip – Me, Myself, or I

One of the most common grammar errors you see and hear today is the me, myself and I problem. If you know the correct way of using these words, it is irritating to find them used incorrectly. One of my workshop participants said that the misuse is like having someone scrape their fingernails on a blackboard.

At my local gym, one of the managers – a well-groomed young man – often says “Come see myself.” His verbal image does not support his outward appearance. However, bad grammar is like having bad breath. Many notice and are bothered, but few will point it out.

The concept is quite simple. is always the subject of the sentence. Example: I finished the project.

Me is always used as the object. (The object always follows a verb or a preposition, e.g., in, on, of, by, into, between, with or by.) Example: Please contact me. (The object follows a verb.) Example: The report was written by me. (The object follows a preposition.)

Myself is a reflexive pronoun. It can only be used after a subject or object pronoun. Example: I taught myself how to use the program.

Here’s a quick way to determine the correct pronoun when you have more than one subject or object.

Example: Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and ___________ presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and ___________.

1. Mentally delete the first part of the subject and object.?___________ presented the proposal that was prepared by ___________.

2. Enter the correct pronouns.?I presented the proposal that was prepared by me.

3. Replace the deleted material.?Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and I presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and me.

4. You could also insert the reflexive pronoun for emphasis. It would be redundant, but it would be grammatically correct.?Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and I myself presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and me myself.

One of the most common grammar errors you see and hear today is the me, myselfand I problem. If you know the correct way of using these words, it is irritating to find them used incorrectly. One of my workshop participants said that the misuse is like having someone scrape their fingernails on a blackboard.At my local gym, one of the managers – a well-groomed young man – often says “Come see myself.” His verbal image does not support his outward appearance. However, bad grammar is like having bad breath. Many notice and are bothered, but few will point it out.The concept is quite simple. is always the subject of the sentence. Example: I finished the project.Me is always used as the object. (The object always follows a verb or a preposition, e.g., in, on, of, by, into, between, with or by.) Example: Please contact me. (The object follows a verb.) Example: The report was written by me. (The object follows a preposition.)

Myself is a reflexive pronoun. It can only be used after a subject or object pronoun. Example: I taught myself how to use the program.

Here’s a quick way to determine the correct pronoun when you have more than one subject or object.

Example: Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and ___________ presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and ___________.

1. Mentally delete the first part of the subject and object.
___________ presented the proposal that was prepared by ___________.

2. Enter the correct pronouns.
I presented the proposal that was prepared by me.

3. Replace the deleted material.
Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and I presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and me.

4. You could also insert the reflexive pronoun for emphasis. It would be redundant, but it would be grammatically correct.
Paul Becevello, Greg Firth and I myself presented the proposal that was prepared by Tim Paul, Linda Mackay and me myself.