Commonly Used (and Misused) Latinate Abbreviations in American English

Have you mastered these everyday abbreviations?

Latinate abbreviations (i.e., abbreviations of Latin expressions used in English) can serve as useful tools to enhance our writing. Or, if improperly used, they can detract from our writing—and reflect poorly on the writer. Here are some of the most common Latinate abbreviations, their meanings, and notes on their usage. Notice in particular the placement of the periods.

etc_word-art
et cetera

Et cetera, abbreviated etc., means “and so forth” (literally, “and others of the same kind”). Note three things about this abbreviation: (1) It is etc., not ect., and it is not pronounced eck-cetera; (2) It is not “and etc.,” (which would literally be “and and so forth”—that’s redundant); and (3) etc. should be used sparingly in formal writing because it’s a vague term that can make the writer seem lazy—it places the burden on the reader to imagine what specifically the writer is referring to.

e.g._word-art
exempli grata

Exempli grata, abbreviated e.g., means “for example.” Note three things about its use: (1) it is always followed by a comma[1]: The vendor on the corner is selling flowers for Mother’s Day (e.g., red and yellow roses and white and pink carnations); (2) in formal writing, it should be used in parenthetical statements (as in the previous sentence). In the main text it is better to use words like “such as” or “for example”; (3) be careful not to confuse it with i.e., which means something quite different. Continue reading “Commonly Used (and Misused) Latinate Abbreviations in American English”

The Lowly Comma: Eight Ways to Fix Its Misuse and Abuse

The way we use commas either helps or hinders our writing.

What punctuation mark has caused more problems than the comma? Rhetorical question, you say? What’s rhetorical? you ask. I’d tell you if I knew. But today I’d like to discuss the most abused, misused, overused, and misunderstood punctuation mark of them all: the comma.

Author Amy Einshon calls commas the “copyeditor’s nemesis”[1] because comma misuse is one of the toughest grammar nuts to crack. Yes, commas can be difficult, but with a little effort, we can master them (or die trying). Continue reading “The Lowly Comma: Eight Ways to Fix Its Misuse and Abuse”

Spelling Problem: To Double or Not to Double?

Here’s an easy-to-memorize rule to make you a better speller.

Have you ever handwritten a note and wondered if the past tense of a verb like total should have one l (totaled) or two (totalled)? Or if the verb benefit should have one t (benefited) or two (benefitted)? I consider myself a good speller, but words like that have always given me pause, and I will often consult a dictionary to check myself. However, a dictionary isn’t always handy—and even using an app on my phone eats up precious time if I’m in a hurry. Isn’t there a simple spelling rule to memorize that covers situations like these? Continue reading “Spelling Problem: To Double or Not to Double?”

Five Common Punctuation Errors to Avoid

Do you struggle with any of these?

exclamation point

Whether you’re an employee writing a business letter, report, or memo; a job seeker crafting a cover letter to submit with an application; a student working on a dreaded writing assignment for class; or a social-media poster, you’ll want to avoid these common punctuation errors.

1. Quotation marks inside of punctuation. Ninety-nine percent of quotation marks in American English go outside of adjacent punctuation*—specifically, commas, periods, question marks, and exclamation points. For example, Continue reading “Five Common Punctuation Errors to Avoid”

Punctuation Problem: Apostrophe Use and Misuse

Avoid apostrophe abuse!

Today’s featured “punctuation problem” is apostrophe use and misuse.

Let’s review the main uses of the apostrophe:

Possessives

  • Singular nouns are made possessive with an apostrophe-s, even if the noun ends in -s: (ex. the blog’s writer; my boss’s office).
  • Plural nouns ending in -s are made possessive with an apostrophe alone (ex. the students’ papers).
  • Plural nouns ending in another letter are made possessive with an apostrophe-s (ex. the children’s toys).

Contractions

Use an apostrophe to form contractions. The apostrophe represents a missing letter or letters and connects (or contracts) two words together into one new word. The first sentence of this article has three contractions:

  • it’s (for it is) 
  • you’d (for you would)
  • haven’t (for have not)

Missing Letters or Numbers

Apostrophes may be used to represent or “stand in for” letters or numbers, similar to their use in contractions:

  • I love rock ‘n’ roll (note the two apostrophes: one for the a and one for the d).
  • I’m dancinand singin in the rain (the apostrophes “stand in” for the missing g’s).
  • I graduated from high school in the 70s (note: the apostrophe represents the 19, and there is no apostrophe following the number. This is written wrong frequently).

Some Plurals

Use an apostrophe, rarely, when needed to avoid confusion:  

  • Be sure to mind your p’s and q’s.

But Not Most Plurals

Use only an -s (with no apostrophe) to form the plurals of dates, acronyms, and family surnames:

  • The Great Depression occurred in the 1930s [not the 1930’s].
  • The high school students took their SATs [not SAT’s] on Saturday.
  • The Garcias [not the Garcia’s] invited everyone to their home for Thanksgiving.

Avoid Apostrophe Misuse and AbuseIMG_1818

  • Do NOT use apostrophe’s to make word’s plural (as in this sentence). We see this form of apostrophe abuse so often at the market that it has its own label: the green grocer’s apostrophe.
  • Do NOT use an apostrophe in the pronoun its:

Wrong: The dog is chasing it’s tail.
Correct: The dog is chasing its tail.

Please share your examples of apostrophe misuse and abuse. And feel free to share this article on your social media sites.

© 2017 by Dean Christensen.

Short and Sweet

What is your typical communication style?

Groucho Marx 01Effective communication is a major challenge for most of us. I’m not talking about simple willingness to speak or write, nor merely to be a good listener, both of which are important aspects of effective communication. As for being willing to speak, we all know people who can talk our ears off—usually about themselves—no matter what the original topic was, at the slightest provocation. They seem neither to notice nor care if we’re tracking with them. There’s a word for this clueless babbling: logorrhea (law-ga-REE-a).[1] Informally, I call it the yada-yadas or the blah-blah-blahs. But logorrhea is descriptive and has a certain ick factor because of the –rrhea suffix it shares with another well-known word. I don’t know of anybody yet who’s called in sick to work because they were up all night with a bad case of logorrhea, but it could happen. Continue reading “Short and Sweet”

From the Wacky-News Desk

RE: Robert Lee, Confederates, and Related Nonsense

Robert Lee

ESPN announced yesterday (or the day before—it doesn’t matter) that one of their broadcasters, an Asian American by the name of Robert Lee, who was scheduled to cover a football game in Virginia this weekend, was pulled from the assignment because (are you ready for it?) someone might be offended by the similarity of the man’s name to that of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who, as we all know, is offending plenty of folks lately with his frightening statues. What in the world is going on with these pantywaist ESPN execs?

So my question is, where will the insanity end? What’s next in Zanyville, USA? Continue reading “From the Wacky-News Desk”