Posts Tagged ‘wordiness’

ALTOGETHER or ALL TOGETHER? There is a difference.

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Yesterday's The Birmingham News carried Christie Dedman's "Birmingham Bargain Mom" column, as it does every Sunday.  I like her tips for saving on purchases of meat and produce as prices continue to rise. 

However, I had two Glitch problems with this week's column.  Here is the first:

     If purchasing organic produce is getting too costly, don't skip purchasing fruit and veggies    all   together.

I agree with The Chicago Manual of Style on this one. (Check the "Links" at the right side of my home page for this manual.) It points out that ALL TOGETHER (written as two separate words) means "unity of time or place" as in something like–We were ALL TOGETHER at John's house when he got the phone call OR, Those records are ALL TOGETHER in the bottom file drawer.

The word needed in Dedman's column is ALTOGETHER (written as one word with only one L).  It means "wholly" or "entirely," as in something like–The rumor going around the neighborhood is ALTOGETHER false. OR, I have stopped listening to political talk shows ALTOGETHER.

Dedman's sentence does not refer to the organic fruit and veggies being ALL TOGETHER in the produce department.  It refers to skipping the purchase of them entirely.  The sentence should read this way:

If organic produce is getting too costly, don't skip purchasing fruit and veggies    al  together.

 PleasePleaseNotice that I omitted the word PURCHASING from the introductory clause of this sentence.  It is not necessary and does not contribute to the meaning.

I should mention that Dedman suggests buying non-organic produce and taking time to clean it thoroughly.  She notes that the Federal Drug Administration (I believe she means the Food and Drug Administration.) has guidelines for doing this properly.  You will find those guidelines at www.fda.gov.

Stay tuned.  Tomorrow I'll post the second Glitch problem with this column.


Use the THAT pasture to improve writing style.

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

When I teach workshops on business writing, I often suggest the use of what I call the THAT pasture.  As a writer myself, one of the first things I do when I edit copy–mine or someone else's–is to look for all the uses of THAT.  Many of them are not necessary, and that is where the THAT  pasture comes in.

Here is a sentence from an article by Birmingham News staff writer William Thornton about possible solutions for the clogged Highway 280 traffic conditions.  It illustrates exactly what I mean:

Mountain Brook Mayor Terry Oden said he hopes that once the Bentley administration gets going in Montgomery, that it will take a look at the 280 project.

This is a frequent grammar swamp–using THAT twice when once will do.  There is also a problem here with commas.  What should be set off by commas (on both ends) is the inserted clause ONCE THE BENTLEY ADMINISTRATION GETS GOING IN MONTGOMERY.  The writer puts a comma at the end of this inserted clause but not at the beginning.  Here is how I think the sentence should read–with the second THAT put out to pasture:

 Mountain Brook Mayor Terry Oden said he hopes that, once the Bentley administration gets going in Montgomery, it will take a look at the 280 project. 


Proofread to Wipe Out Wordiness

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

 

All of us write wordy.  Our brains want to help us get the point across by bopping things twice or even three times when once will do.  The best way to eliminate wordiness is to do a good job with Step 2, which is proofreading.

Here is an example sentence from a newsletter I received this week:

It also works the other way around as well.

ALSO is a good word, and AS WELL is a good phrase, but they do not need to be used together.  One or the other will do.  When you proofread, spot all the places where you have bopped your idea more than once.  Then choose which "bop" you want to keep and eliminate the others. 

With this example sentence, either "bop" will work, so it could read either way:

It also works the other way around.

It works the other way around as well


Newsletter Punctuation (and Wording) Problems–Part III

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Here is another post based on the newsletter I received recently.  The following paragraph would have benefited from a good proofread before publishing:

Sue gave two examples the first was from an existing client that was ecstatic because they were able to increase top line revenue by reducing manufactured returns by 15%. The next example had to deal manufactures that were angry that their line continued to go down in the middle of a production run.

1. The paragraph begins with a run-on sentence.  There should be a period after EXAMPLES.  Or, using a different style, a colon would be acceptable.

2. It is preferable to use WHO rather than THAT when referring to a person.

2. PERCENT should be written out (as one word) when it appears in a sentence.

3. Why say NEXT?  SECOND is a better and more specific choice.

4. I couldn't make any sense of HAD TO DEAL MANUFACTURES THAT…but I suspect the writer meant that it had to DO with MANUFACTURERS WHO were angry.

Here are two suggested solutions for improving this paragraph:

Sue gave two examples. The first involved an existing client who was ecstatic because his company had increased top line revenue by reducing manufactured returns fifteen percent. The second had to do with manufacturers who were angry because their line continued to go down in the middle of a production run.

Sue gave two examples: the first of an existing client who was ecstatic because his company had increased top line revenue by reducing manufactured returns fifteen percent, and the second dealing with manufacturers who were angry because their line continued to go down in the middle of a production run.

There are two good steps to good writing–the draft and the proofreading.  Most of us spend far too much time struggling with the initial draft and not enough time proofreading.  I suggest that you spill your thoughts and words out onto the screen quickly, then use the bulk of your time for editing and polishing.  The final result will be much better–I guarantee it!


Punctuation–Too much? Too little? Misplaced?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

I received a newsletter this morning from a business strategy company that could use a refresher course on where and where not to sprinkle punctuation marks.  Here is one paragraph from an example discussion in that newsletter:

Bill was frustrated, as he talked to Sue, his Sales Leader.  Bill had been; "smiling and dialing for dollars", for hours with no tangible results to show for his efforts.

Punctuation is supposed to help the reader wade through the writer's thoughts in an efficient manner.  However, in this paragraph, the punctuation hinders the reader.

1. There is no need for a comma after FRUSTRATED because the dependent clause (AS HE TALKED TO SUE) comes after the main clause (BILL WAS FRUSTRATED).

2. I agree with the comma after SUE because HIS SALES LEADER renames Sue (appositive).

3. I can think of no plausible reason for the semicolon after BEEN.  It just does not need to be there.

4. The quotation marks around SMILING AND DIALING FOR DOLLARS are correct because this is a common "sales speak" expression, but the comma should be inside the quotation marks, right after DOLLARS–if the comma is needed.  The absolute rule (at least for now) is that commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks.  However, in this sentence, I see no good reason for the comma.

5. Finally, I think WITH NO TANGIBLE RESULTS can stand on its own without adding TO SHOW FOR HIS EFFORTS–that is implied.

I would edit this paragraph this way:

Bill was frustrated as he talked to Sue, his Sales Leader.  Bill had been "smiling and dialing for dollars" for hours with no tangible results.

 

I would hope my readers agree that this paragraph is now much cleaner and clearer.  Stay tuned.  In the coming days, I will add several more comments about wording and punctuation in this newsletter.