A Very Common Redundancy

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“Where’s the shoe department at?”
“Did she tell you where the meeting is at?”
“How can I find where my evaluation is at?”

When you use “where” in a sentence, you are referring to location. Therefore, sticking an “at” into the sentence is redundant. All you need is:

“Where is the shoe department?”
“Did she tell you where the meeting is?”
“Where can I find my evaluation?”

I’m wishing for just one day when I hear the “at” tag fewer than 10 times. Is that asking too much?

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Another Email Suggestion

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Recently, I gave you some tips about writing emails and asked for your suggestions as well. Here is a valid one from Mark W. Consider this when you are addressing others:

Since email is so quick and easy vs. a well-written letter on Crane stationary w/ a Mont Blanc fountain pen, people tend to be very casual and, more often then not, never address the person they are writing to using Mr., Mrs. Ms., Dr. and so forth. I often see Dear John, Hey Jane, Hi You, Hey Becky. Fortunately, it is less common when you do not know the person you may be writing to, for instance on a job application.

In other words, I think when it is appropriate, email correspondence can be enhanced with some formality. Ultimately, demonstrating respect still has merit in a world of instant messaging. Social media doesn’t need to be absent of essential decorum. 

It’s also a good idea to sign your name after your message and include your contact information.

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What is a Run-On Sentence?

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Often when people write me a very long sentence, they apologize for having created a run-on. In fact, a run-on sentence can be very short: This is a run-on sentence I don’t think it’s grammatical. Here’s another: This is a run-on sentence, I don’t think it’s grammatical.

A sentence is a run-on if it meets one of two conditions:

1. It is two or more complete sentences (which means each one has a subject, a verb and complete meaning) joined together with no punctuation between them (example #1 above).

OR

2. It is those same sentences joined by only a comma (example #2 above).

What you need is either end punctuation between the sentences or else a conjunction after the comma: This is a run-on sentence, and I don’t think it’s grammatical. (Incidentally, it is grammatical.)

In theory, you could have an endless number of complete sentences strung together if they were punctuated correctly, and they would not constitute a run-on. It’s not the length of the sentences, it’s the punctuation that makes them either right or wrong.

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What Some People Do to the English Language!

In case you’ve been thinking you aren’t particularly eloquent, read the following quotations. You’ll recover your self-confidence immediately. Thanks to my friend Jill J. for sending me these howlers.
(On September 17, 1994, Alabama’s Heather Whitestone was selected as Miss America 1995.)Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?
Answer: “I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever.”
–Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss  USA contest.
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“Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can’t help but cry. I mean I’d love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.”
–Mariah Carey
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“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life,”
— Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for a Federal anti-smoking campaign
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“I’ve never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body.”
–Winston Bennett,  University   of  Kentucky   basketball forward.
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“Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”
–Mayor Marion Barry,  Washington, DC
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“That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I’m just the one to do it.”
–A Congressional candidate in  Texas
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“Half this game is ninety percent mental.”
–Philadelphia Phillies manager Danny Ozark
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“It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”
–Al Gore, Vice President
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“I love  California. I practically grew up in Phoenix.”
— Dan Quayle
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“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?”
–Lee Iacocca
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“The word “genius” isn’t applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”
–Joe Theisman, NFL football quarterback and sports analyst.
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“We don’t necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people.”
— Colonel Gerald Wellman, ROTC Instructor.
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“Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.”
–Department of Social Services, Greenville , South Carolina
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“Traditionally, most of Australia’s imports come from overseas.”
–Keppel Enderbery
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,”If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there’ll be a record.”
–Mark S. Fowler, FCC Chairman

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Some More Email Tips

UnknownRecently, I gave you some tips on writing emails and asked for your input. Here are some suggestions from Loren L., with some additions from me, that I think you’ll find helpful.

1. Prompt response—Promptly responding/replying to an email directed to YOU is the appropriate thing to do.Reply when asked.

 2. Greetings and salutations—Common courtesy implies a greeting and salutation in any communication or interaction.  Greetings and salutations are appropriate for many emails.

3. Use names—Address the person and sign your name.  This is basic common courtesy.

4. Subject line is a summary of the message.  Keep your messages short and focused.  BLUF=Bottom Line Up Front

5. Use appropriately the TO: CC: BCC: FW: Reply: Reply All

TO—Identify the person or people intended to receive and to reply to the email message.  A prompt reply shows respect.  A short “Thank you” shows class.  Courtesy means if someone sends you a note, a reply is appropriate.

CC—Don’t use CC to copy your message to everyone, only to those who need to receive the message.  A CC message does NOT require a reply.

BCC—Use for sending “bulk” email.  It keeps private people’s email addresses.  A BCC does NOT require a reply.

FW—Should be used sparingly, not just to pass emails along.

Reply—Include the original email sent to you in your reply.

Reply All—Avoid use of this option. Use Reply instead. Using Reply All often fills others’ email accounts with information they neither want nor need.

6. Emails are never private. Never be unkind or hurtful. If you’re not willing to see your message on the front page of tomorrow’s New York Times, don’t put it in an email; it can be forwarded to multitudes in a second.  As a general rule, never put unkind words in writing.  Don’t send emails when you are upset.  No flaming.

7. Upper case should be used to HIGHLIGHTimportant words or phrases only. In general, make your words give the emphasis. Any highlighting, such as upper case, bold, italics or underlining, should be used very sparingly. If you emphasize everything, you end up emphasizing nothing.

8. Avoid email abuse. Don’t send unnecessary or uninvited material.

9. Build relationships.Use the phone or make a personal visit.  Email is not a substitute for personal contact.

10. Use “Out-Of-Office” toolsor Auto Reply if you’re going to be absent for a while.

Finally, always re-read your email before sending it—slowly and audibly so you can hear what you actually wrote, not what you think you wrote.

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Some New Vocabulary for You

This Washington Post contest took place a few years ago; you may have seen this list in the past. I did, but it still makes me laugh. Some of the definitions are very clever. I like clever.

The Post published the winning submissions to its Neologism Contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

The winners were:

1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.

3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.

6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.

7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

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Common Sense Rules for Emails

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You have received enough emails in your time to make you aware of certain behaviors that annoy or even anger you. Here are a few reminders to keep your recipients happy:

1. DON’T WRITE IT ALL CAPS. They are hard to read and your readers will think you are shouting.

2. all lower case isn’t any better. it looks immature and is likewise annoying to read. I hope you enjoy e.e. cummings’  poetry, but please don’t emulate his style; it belongs to him.

3. Don’t leave the subject line blank. If you need to write only a few words, you can put the entire message in the subject line and, in parentheses afterward, add (end) or (EOM). For example, Meeting tomorrow at 10:00 (end).

4. If you’re sending the same email to several people, you’ll probably want to use Bcc: in the address line for each person. Otherwise, you are revealing everyone’s email address to everyone else on the list, and it might not be your place to do that. Use your discretion.

5. If you receive information from another person, do not copy all or part of that when you write to others—unless you have received permission from the original writer to do so.

6. Don’t use a background color or colored fonts in your emails. They make it harder to read, and if you are responding, those colors may go into your email. It’s annoying all around.

7. If you write an angry email, do not send it. At least don’t send it immediately. Sleep on it. You may decide not to send it at all, or you may want to tone it down. Don’t demean yourself.

If you have other suggestions, I’d love to see them. We can all learn from each other. Thanks!

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