Archive | July, 2013

Self-Editing Tip #10

31 Jul

The Apostrophe: Ownership versus Plurals—Today’s tip covers a topic which has numerous examples both of what to do and what not to do.

Look at the graphic. Can you spot the apostrophe catastrophe? It reads, “Parent’s please do not let your kid’s stand or play with the chair’s. Thank you.”

There are actually three, and let’s not even get started with the strange parentheses or half-quotation marks going on there, or even how every “T” is capitalized regardless of its placement in the word.

All three apostrophes are placed incorrectly. In this example, they aren’t needed at all. Placing an apostrophe in such a way does not make a plural noun as the writer of this sign seems to think. It means those nouns are showing ownership of something.

Ex. Ellen’s TV show is very funny.

To make a word plural, simply add an “s.” The sign should read, “Parents, Please do not let your kids stand or play with the chairs. Thank you.” I would also argue that it should say, “stand on or play with the chairs,” but semantics is not our topic.

The only instance where an apostrophe is ever needed for a plural word is when the plural noun is also showing ownership over a plural object. In cases such as these, the apostrophe belongs after the “s.”

Ex. The butterflies’ cocoons were nearly ready to hatch.

Not shown in the image, but equally important and misused, are apostrophes for contractions. These are words like, “it’s,” “aren’t,” “can’t,” “we’re,” and so on, where two words have been merged for convenience and less formal usage. It is especially important to remember the apostrophe for, “it’s,” and “we’re,” as removing it still leaves us with valid words, but drastically different implications on the same sentence.

Ex. We’re going to lunch.=We are going to lunch.

Were going to lunch.=incomplete sentence

OR We were going to lunch.

Ex. It’s time to go.=It is time to go.

Its time to go.= incomplete sentence

OR Its time to go drew near.

For more grammar information, come back regularly for new tips. Also check out Martha Kolln and Loretta Gray’s book Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects (6th or 7th edition). I’ve mentioned it before and will continue to do so. It’s really vital for anyone looking to learn the nuances of Standard Written American English (SWAE) or refresh what they already know.

Self-Editing Tip #9

30 Jul

Commonly Misused/Misspelled Words

Today’s tip is more of a reference which will continue to grow over time.

Look at this list of words. Do you know the proper usages?

  • Choose-present tense verb/Chose-past tense verb
  • Loose-adjective/Lose-verb
  • They’re-contraction for “They are”/Their-shows possession of something for more than one person simultaneously/There-points out a place
  • You’re-contraction for “You are”/Your-shows possession
  • To-preposition/Too-adjective/Two-noun, the number
  • Effect-noun/Affect-verb
  • Dessert-what you eat/Desert-where there’s sand
  • Edition-one of a series/Addition-the result of increasing amount or quantity
  • Setup-noun, “The whole thing was a setup, a scam!”/Set Up-verb, “Please set up those folding chairs.”
  • Backup-noun, “Do a full backup of the computer just in case.”/Back Up-verb, “Back up the computer just in case.”
  • Ad-advertisement/Add-addition
  • A lot-This is two words. Always.

This list could go on forever. Additions are imminent.

What do YOU want to learn?

29 Jul

By taking this poll, you can help me make each Self-Editing Tip relevant to the type of writing you’re doing right now! My goal is to be of use to you. So, what do you want to know?

Shorts Project Update

23 Jul

Since I’m behind in the Shorts Project anyway (due to my vacation) I’ve decided that now is the best time to put that endeavor aside and finally finish editing my manuscript. Expect to see snippets of chapters posted in place of shorts until the project is complete or Fall classes start back up at the end of September, whichever comes first.

Self-Editing Tip #8

23 Jul

Business Letter Format—For this one, it’s easier to show and tell simultaneously. Below you’ll find a mock business letter with instructions in bold print.


Your Address (You don’t need your name here because it is in your closing) Press Enter/Return once

Your Address Cont.  Press Enter/Return twice


Date- Press Enter/Return twice


Contact Name- Press Enter/Return once

Contact Address- Press Enter/Return once

Contact Address Cont. – Press Enter/Return 4 times




Salutation: (“Dear Sir or Madam” is considered outdated and in many instances, “To whom it may concern,” is seen as too formal, sterile, or general. Whenever possible, use the Ms., Mr., Dr., or whatever other title the person may have and the full name of the contact in your salutation. “Dear Mr…” or “Dear Ms…” is ok. When gender cannot be ascertained by the name, use the name only. It is better to leave it off completely than to offend in error. Also, this name has to be the same name you addressed the letter to above your salutation. Make note of the colon, NOT A COMMA, after your salutation.)Press Enter/Return 2 times


Body of Letter (Single-spaced and left justified) Press Enter/Return 2 times


Second Paragraph if needed


Third Paragraph if needed and so on (Notice that these paragraphs have one space between each and are not indented at the beginning. In many types of letters, especially query letters, cover letters, and other correspondence where you’re asking for something, it’s nice to include something like “Thank you for your time and consideration,” at the end of your last paragraph, right before your salutation.) Press Enter/Return 4 times  




Closing, (A COMMA follows the closing when a colon follows the salutation. The salutation needs to fit purpose of letter in terms of formality, goal for your letter, status of your contact vs. your status. Some examples include: Sincerely, With gratitude, Graciously, Respectfully. When the closing is more than one word, only the first word is capitalized like, “With gratitude.”) Press Enter/Return 4 times




Name (4 spaces left between closing and typed name is for you to sign your name by hand when you print it before mailing. For electronic letters, the four spaces are only necessary if you have scanned in your by-hand signature for placement there.)Press Enter/Return 2 times


Enclosures (This is an optional and sometimes not-needed space in a business letter. If you are sending additional documents in the same envelope with this letter, like a resume or transcripts, you would write the word Enclosures one line below your typed name. If there are many enclosures, you may type the names of those documents under the word “Enclosures.” It helps to ensure that all necessary documents are noticed.)


This is the end of the mock business letter. For even more detail on business letters and formatting of many other documents, I highly recommend the Purdue OWL website.

I’m Back

23 Jul

Well, it’s been almost two weeks, but I’m finally getting myself back to routine. Vacation really spoiled me. I ate what I wanted, slept when I wanted, and most importantly, I worked when I wanted (which was not at all). I’m back, now, with shorts and tips as usual.

How has your summer been?


12 Jul

Taking a much-anticipated week off. Check back next Friday for more tips and stories!

Have a great week  🙂

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