Monthly Archives: June 2015

End Punctuation for “Wonder” and “Guess”

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More often that not, I see sentences like the following:

I wonder what time Mike will be arriving?

Guess who I met at the basketball game?

“Wonder” and “Guess” sentences are almost always punctuated (incorrectly) as if they were questions. In fact, they are declarative sentences.

In the first sentence, you are not sure what time Mike will arrive. You have a question in your mind: Will he be here at three o’clock? Four o’clock? You just don’t know. But your sentence is not a question. You are merely stating the fact that you’re unsure when to expect Mike.

In the second sentence, you are asking someone to guess whom you met at the game. That person doesn’t know. But you know and, in fact, you are ordering the other person to do something: to guess who the mystery person is. The sentence is a command, not a question.

I suggest that when you write a “wonder” or “guess” sentence, check specifically to make sure you’ve used the correct end punctuation.

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Clichés in the News (and Maybe in Your Own Writing)

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Patrick La Forge of the New York Times has written about clichés frequently found in spoken or written news reports. I’ve seen many of these sneak into business writing. Try to avoid them; find a fresh way to make your point.

Plans are often “afoot.” Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

If something is “on the brink,” it’s likely “teetering.”

Often, war veterans are “grizzled.”

Gambles? They are “high stake.”

Forays or incursions are all too often “ill fated.”

When you don’t want to publicize something, you are “tightlipped.”

Are you wasting time? You are likely “frittering away” the hours.

And finally, car chases are invariably “high speed,” (except for the one back in the mid-1990s when OJ Simpson made his leisurely way down the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles; now that was news).

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Simple or Simplistic?

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Too often I hear people use “simplistic” when they really mean “simple.” These two words are not synonyms; “simplistic” is not a fancy way of saying “simple.”

“Simple” means easy to understand, not overly complicated.(You knew that.)

“Simplistic” means overly simple, making a complicated situation seem easier than it actually is: “Alleviating the drought would be easy if people would just turn off the water when they brush their teeth.”

Simple, right? Einstein was saying, “Make it simple but not simplistic.”

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More Similar but Different Words

imagesDo any of these confuse you? I hope this list will help.

DEMURE—shy, reserved, modest: The young woman’s dress and demure behavior led one to think she might be a Quaker or Amish. (pronounced duhMYOOR)

DEMUR—the action of showing reluctance or doubts, hesitating or objecting: Francine thought she might accept her boss’ offer, but something about his attitude caused her to demur. (pronounced duhMUR)

PORE (v.)—to read or study carefully, to be absorbed in an activity: Benjamin, an avid golfer, pored over every golf magazine and article he could find.

POUR—what you do with a liquid and/or your feelings: Stephen poured a full glass of Burgundy and then poured out his feelings to his girlfriend.

PEAK—the pointed summit of a mountain; the point of highest activity; the pointed part of a shape, such as the peaks in beaten egg whites: In the baking competition at the top of Pike’s Peak, Sandra found herself in a peak of frenzy while beating 10 egg whites into stiff peaks for her famous French macarons.

PEEK—to look quickly or sneakily: Sandra’s competitors sneaked peeks at her while she whipped those egg whites.

PIQUE—to stimulate curiosity or interest: Sandra’s baking expertise piqued intense interest in all her competitors.

AISLE—a passageway between rows of seats or between shelves in supermarkets or other stores; what the wedding party walks down: A store the size of Costco contains dozens of aisles for food and dry goods. (Has anyone gotten married in an aisle at Costco? Probably.)

ISLE—an island. Robinson Crusoe lived on an isle; England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are called the British Isles.

Remember, all these are words; your spellchecker won’t know if you’ve used the wrong one by accident. It’s up to you to proofread carefully.

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Yet More Typos

All from Just My Typo, compiled by Drummond Moir.

From the Christian Science Monitor:
ONE CAN ARGUE THAT THE PRESIDENT IS USING THE SEPTEMBER 11 ATTACKS TO BOOST HIS PUBIC PROFILE.

From the Huffington Post:
OLDER ADULTS: You’re sick. If you feel cold, put on a sweater, crap yourself in a blanket or turn up the heat, recommend the physicians.

From the Mobile Press:
GERMANS ARE SO SMALL THAT THERE MAY BE AS MANY AS ONE BILLION, SEVEN HUNDRED MILLION OF THEM IN A DROP OF WATER.

On ABC’s World News Tonight:
On April 22, 2003 a closed caption informed viewers that Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Chairman, was “in the hospital for an enlarged prostitute.” Later that night viewers were advised that Mr. Greenspan was having prostate problems.

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Six Frequently Misused Words

See If you’ve been using any of these words incorrectly: 1. Peruse Incorrect: to skim over reading material Correct: to review carefully 2. Compelled Incorrect: to feel as if you need to do something Correct: to be forced to do something 3. Bemused Incorrect: amused Correct: confused 4. Travesty Incorrect: a tragedy or unfortunate event Correct: a parody or mockery 5. Ironic Incorrect: a funny coincidence Correct: not what you’d expect 6. Penultimate Incorrect: the last Correct: next to last

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Typos in Ads

I was recently sent this link to a typo in a prominent ad. How is it that no one in the product’s company or in the advertising agency caught this mistake before the ad appeared? Again I remind you: proofread everything you write. http://www.businessinsider.com/blackberry-grammar-fail-variety-one-won-2015-4

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