Write Like You Mean It: 5 Ways to Use Better Grammar

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By Hank Russell

It is obvious that, more often than not, we do not write the same way we talk. If we did, we would see how unintelligible we sound based on the amount of grammatical errors we make in our conversations. The words we use when we speak may be more suitable with our family and friends than with our clients or business associates.

Like spelling errors (please see “Words Mean Things: 5 Tips to Avoid Spelling Errors” for more information), grammatical errors will leave a bad impression on prospective employers (especially if it’s for a job for a proofreader or copy editor), clients and business managers. When writing copy, you should make sure it is fluid, concise and doesn’t confuse the reader. Here are five ways to improve your grammar:

Remember there is no reason to use “because.”
People feel the need to use the word because when explaining a reason. The word because should be used only when the question begins with “Why?” Think of it this way: If someone asked you what was the reason that something happened, you would not start your answer with “because”; it should be the explanation why something happened. If the question was, “What was the reason for canceling tonight’s game?”
Wrong: The reason the game was canceled was because it rained today.
Right: The reason the game was canceled was that it rained today.

Know the difference between an individual and a group setting.
When discussing quantities or groups, many people do not know when to use fewer and when to use less. Fewer refers to more than one object that can be set as one or in a group. Less is used with groups that count as one collective unit. Here is a perfect example: Joe sold fewer cars at the dealership this month; as a result, he will make less money than he did last month.

Just like fewer and less, much and many have their respective uses. Much is used for collective units, and many, like fewer, can be used for multiple individuals or entities. The following sentence shows proper usage of both words: There is too much work to do and not many hours in the day to do it.

Know when something is between or among friends.
These words are known to be used interchangeably, which is not a good thing. Between is used for only two people or concepts, and among is used when there are more than two people or entities. Lottery winnings are divided between a husband and wife, for example, but if a group of 10 co-workers hits the lottery, the winnings are split among them.

On another topic, if you use between when writing about a period of time, use and, not to. Use to when using from. Please note the differences:
The school year runs between September and June.
The distance from New York to Los Angeles is more than 2,400 miles.

Watch out for dangling modifiers.
When applying the modifier to the wrong subject, you cause confusion for the reader. Most dangling modifiers give inanimate objects or other nonhuman entities human qualities or actions that are not possible for them to possess or perform, respectively. An example of a dangling modifier and how to correct it is listed below.
Wrong: Looking at his watch, the train pulled into the station. (A train cannot look at his watch.)
Right: Looking at his watch, the passenger noticed that the train pulled into the station.
Right: As the passenger was looking at his watch, the train pulled into the station.

Don’t go on and on and on.
Run-on sentences are the written equivalent of blabbering — there is no coherence and no end to what is being said. Many people do not know when to stop (talking or writing) when trying to make a point. Run-on sentences overwhelm the reader as you try to include as much information as possible. Try to understand reading a sentence like this:
It will take about two weeks to deliver the materials to ABC Company and another three weeks before they can break ground on the building after that construction of the First Second Bank will begin the building is expected to be completed in 12 to 15 months and a grand opening ceremony is to be scheduled three months after the bank officially opens for business.

See how much easier it is to read this:
It will take about two weeks to deliver the materials to ABC Company and another three weeks before they can break ground on the building. After that, construction of the First Second Bank will begin. The building is expected to be completed in 12 to 15 months. A grand opening ceremony is to be scheduled three months after the bank officially opens for business.

These tips should help you improve your writing and produce more understandable copy. As always, be sure to proofread your copy before sending it to print or by mail (learn more at “Proofreading — The First in a Series of Three Articles”). Here are some other resources to help you with your grammar skills:

The Associated Press Style Manual (www.ap.org)
The American Library Association (www.ala.org)
The Bedford Handbook Seventh Edition (bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/bedhandbook7enew/Player/Pages/Frameset.aspx)
The Chicago Manual of Style (www.chicagomanualofstyle.org)
Grammar Girl (grammar.quickanddirtytips.com)
The Elements of Style by Strunk & White (www.bartleby.com/141)

For more information, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or johnzaher@theprmg.com.

Reach East-End Holiday Shoppers with the Sag Harbor Express Annual Holiday Book

The Sag Harbor Express’ annual Holiday Book is a unique issue that celebrates tradition, families, festivities and the joys of the holiday season. Coming out a week before Thanksgiving, The Holiday Book also features a four-page calendar of Long Island holiday events. 15,000 magazines will be distributed from Montauk to Southampton, at over 150 locations, including restaurants, banks, real estate offices, museums, theatres, hotels, events and more. Ads for this November 17 issue are inexpensive and, for a small investment, you will receive an amazing amount of exposure on the South Fork. Placing an advertisement with The Holiday Book from the Sag Harbor Express is a perfect way to reach East End Holiday shoppers.

If you are interested in placing an ad with The Sag Harbor Express Holiday Book, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or info@theprmg.com .

Advertise this Fall with South Shore Parents Today

The Herald Advertising Network is offering advertisers the opportunity to position their business where South Shore parents are sure to see it. Their bi-annual special section, “South Shore Parents Today,” is dedicated to timely family issues that Long Island parents want to read about. This advertising opportunity is perfect for day camps, nursery schools, pediatricians, tutors, children party venues and any other organization that is looking to target Long Island parents and families. This newspaper offers full-sized, half horizontal, half vertical, eighth and quarter-sized advertisements.

This issue is scheduled for November 3rd. If you are interested in placing an advertisement, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group as soon as possible at (631) 207-1057 or johnzaher@theprmg.com.

Words Mean Things: 5 Tips to Avoid Spelling Errors

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By Hank Russell

It is said that people judge you by the words you use — whether they be spoken or written. How you write is an indicator of the quality of your work and your communication skills. Spelling errors in your document may show that you are unfit for a potential job (if they appear on your résumé), you are not an effective communicator (if they appear in a presentation) or you do not have a grasp of the written word (if they appear in your article).

Using the wrong word or not spelling it correctly prevents you from getting across the message you want to send to your clients or associates. (To learn more about this, please see “Proofreading — The First in a Series of Three Articles“). In the case of the former, your message takes on a new (and unintended) meaning. For the latter, the only message you will convey is how lousy a speller you are. Here are some tips to prevent these errors from appearing in your document:

Watch out for words with double letters.
Take extra special care when using these words. You should know whether to use one “l” or two in parallel and how many “c”s or “r”s there are in occurrence. Although spell check might do the trick, it is better to do the job yourself and look it up in a dictionary for the proper spelling. If you let a misspelling go through, it may result in another double-letter word: embarrassment.

Know which word you want to use and make sure it’s the right one.
Do you know the difference between compliment and complement? What about there, their and they’re? Then there is the difference among insure, ensure and assure, and advice and advise. These words — known as homonyms — sound alike, so it is easy to misuse them. Unlike a patently misspelled word, spell check will not identify the mistake if the wrong word was spelled right. If you are unsure about which word to use, use a dictionary or thesaurus and check the definition to make sure it is the right one.

Watch where you place the apostrophe.
The apostrophe is probably the most misused punctuation mark in the English language. Like using the wrong word, misplacing an apostrophe alters the meaning of a word and the sentence. Probably the most common mistake is the use of the word it’s when the writer means its. It’s is a contraction of the phrase it is, whereas its is a possessive. Also remember that there is no apostrophe at the end of its (another spelling error that is also commonly made).

Avoid spelling words phonetically.
In the age of texting, people write words phonetically rather than correctly for the sake of brevity and due to the restrictions on character count; for example, they will write “ur” instead of “your” or “l8r” rather than “later.” Such communication is fine with family and friends, but it will not work with business associates. It is easy to write skool instead of school, dum instead of dumb or criticly instead of critically. Many words have letters that sound differently or, when joined by another letter, make the same sound; other letters are silent and are not pronounced. Once again, if you are unsure how a word is spelled, look it up.

Do not write in the Queen’s English.
Unless you are writing for a Canadian or British audience, avoid writing in the Queen’s English — that is, writing theatre rather than theater, centre instead of center or manoeuvre instead of maneuver. However, there are exceptions: when the spelling is used in a proper name such as Rockville Centre or NYCB Theatre at Westbury. Otherwise, it will not meet domestic standards. Think locally, write locally.

As always, be sure to proofread your document before sending it to print or to a client or business associate. Here are some resources you can use to help improve your spelling:

• The Associated Press Style Manual (www.ap.org)
• Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary (www.merriam-webster.com)
• The Bedford Handbook Seventh Edition (bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/bedhandbook7enew/Player/Pages/Frameset.aspx)
• Thesaurus.com (www.thesaurus.com)

If you would like further information, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or info@theprmg.com .

Take Advantage of Cablevision Advertising Sales

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This season, Cablevision is offering a wide selection of advertising opportunities for your organization to best reach its target audience. Your business can advertise with premiere sporting events during NHL and NFL games, during popular television shows such as Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” or USA’s “Burn Notice,” or take advantage of the 2011 Holiday Programming Package. With the holiday season right around the corner, Cablevision advertising sales is offering you one stop shopping for all of your holiday programming. This package will include your ad in over 40 holiday specials and movies this holiday season, from traditional classics to network originals. Advertising with Cablevision delivers a high profile audience and offers a high frequency of exposure to a specific target audience. For example, restaurants can have their advertisement air during the Food Network’s program, “The Next Iron Chef.”

If you would like more information, or if you’re organization is interesting in placing an ad, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or info@theprmg.com.

Proofreading — The First in a Series of Three Articles

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Steps to Better Proofreading, Grammar and Spelling

As a society, we are heavily reliant on the written word. No matter what profession or industry you belong to, strong written communication skills are vital to your organization’s reputation and success. From lengthy articles to quick emails to customers or clients, proofreading every piece of writing you create is essential. Substandard and poorly written brochures, newsletters and website content can seriously hinder your organization. Even the smallest error can distract someone from the message you are trying to communicate to them, whether it be through a blog post, social media update or press release. This article will provide you with five steps to strengthening your organization’s written communication skills through effective proofreading.

1. Don’t Rely on Spell Check — There is no doubt that computers can do wonders when it comes to catching repeated words, reversed letters or common spelling errors. However, this should never be your only method of proofreading. Your computer’s spell check tool can only do so much. For example, certain misspellings can form other legitimate words, and so spell check is unable to detect the errors. Also, spell check is unable to catch mistakes with homonyms, such as whether you meant to write “they’re,” “there” and “their” or “your” and “you’re.” While it is still beneficial to use spell check, it is important that this tool is only one part of your overall proofreading approach.

2. Read Aloud — Reading your copy aloud, even if it is only in a whisper, can help you pick up on mistakes that you might not have noticed through silent reading. Reading out loud at a slower pace is helpful for spotting run-on sentences, jumbled phrases and missing words. You will be able to hear your mistakes and recognize if a sentence doesn’t flow or sounds too wordy. We would also recommend printing out the pages for one final read-through, especially if your writing is going to be published in a print or online medium. It is much easier to proofread from a hard copy rather than just a computer screen.

3. Double-Check All Facts — If you have included any statistics or hard facts in your article, they must be verified. An article or press release that contains factual errors can not only be misleading, but it can cause your audience to lose trust in your writing and professional expertise. For example, if someone spots an inaccurate statistic or numerical figure in your article, they may refrain from reading your future pieces and instead turn to a new, more reliable source. When proofreading, it is essential to check that all of your URLs and hyperlinks are valid, as well as any phone numbers, email addresses or other contact information. You must also ensure that people’s names are spelled correctly and that all numbers or figures are accurate. One of the most common mistakes you hear or see is confusion over whether a “million” was supposed to be used instead of a “billion.” That’s a 1,000 times difference!

4. Don’t Be Redundant — While proofreading your copy, look out for repetition. You should avoid using the same words or phrases over and over to make sure you aren’t constantly repeating yourself. You also don’t want to make the same point twice because all professional writing should be clear, concise and to the point. Although there are times when repetition may be necessary to prove a point, you don’t want to bore your readers. A tip here is to use a thesaurus to spice up your vocabulary and make your writing more interesting.

5. Have Someone Else Read Your Writing — No matter how many times you proofread your writing, it is essential to have at least one other person read it before it is published. It is almost impossible to spot every error yourself because sentences that may flow fluidly in your head may not make as much sense to others. Because you wrote the material, your mind often plugs in the missing words. You may also overlook spelling, grammar or capitalization mistakes. Having a second set of eyes proofread your work is necessary to help catch what you might have missed.

In following these steps, it is important to devote an ample amount of time to your proofreading session. Put your cell phone aside, close out of your email and really take the time to concentrate on your writing. Sometimes it helps to proofread away from your desk on an empty surface. Remember: it takes a devotion of concentration and time to write clear, concise and error-free copy.

If you would like further information, please contact The Public Relations and Marketing Group at (631) 207-1057 or info@theprmg.com .