In the editorial world, things tend to come in waves. I don't know why it is, exactly, but over a certain period you tend to see the same mistakes made across the board by a bunch of different clients. One month you'll see everyone misspelling "believe" and the next month everyone will be using "between" instead of "among." And then suddenly everyone will forget which punctuation goes inside the quotation marks and which goes outside. It's all pretty weird, when you really think about it.The most recent trend is the disappearance of contractions. I had no legitimate theory as to why people were using "do not" instead of "don't" or "cannot" instead of "can't," but then a colleague of mine tipped me off to the fact that voice recognition software will often spell out contractions whether you want it to or not. I personally don't use the stuff so I can't speak to this point, but if it's true, investors take note -- it would seem that the use of voice recognition software is on the rise.The result, though, while proper English, comes across very stilted and a little too proper for my tastes. I understand that if you're the President and you're making a speech you're probably not going to employ a whole lot of contractions, but if you're writing a blog post or copy for your website, that little apostrophe can do a whole hell of a lot toward making you or your company sound much more conversational. And therefore much more approachable.So unless you specify to me that you want to avoid contractions, expect me to load you up with would've, should've, could've, might've, must've, isn't, aren't, wasn't, weren't, haven't, hasn't, hadn't, won't, wouldn't, don't, doesn't, didn't, can't, couldn't, shouldn't, mightn't, mustn't, and if I'm really rolling, a she'd've and maybe a 'twas.
By that point I'll have used up my allotment of apostrophes for the month. But it'll all be worth it.
By Steve Boudreault
It’s funny that most people consider proofreading to be nothing more or less than a quest for typos. Not saying that finding typos isn’t important, of course, but what about that perennial bugbear, punctuation?
It’s easy to find a misplaced apostrophe or a question mark placed outside quotation marks when it belongs within. The real challenge is in finding punctuation that changes the meaning of a sentence entirely.
Consider “It’s raining cats and dogs!” versus “It’s raining, cats and dogs!” Or how about “What are we having for dinner, grandma?” as opposed to “What are we having for dinner? Grandma?”
There are a lot of other great examples:
Quality, service, and attention to detail.
Quality service and attention to detail.
A woman without her man is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.
The man dropped the bullet in his mouth.
The man dropped, the bullet in his mouth.
When I sing well, ladies feel sick.
When I sing, well ladies feel sick.
If you’re still not convinced, remember that the next time your work schedule comes out, you could be working twenty-four-hour shifts instead of twenty four-hour shifts. But then you won’t have time to worry about punctuation, will you?
By Steve Boudreault
This week I discovered there are two types of people when it comes to our little friend, the humble hyphen: hyphenators, and hyphen-haters.
Hyphenators are those folks who love to go on-line to a web-site and have a look-around to see if there are any hyphen-less spaces they can fill-in. These people are very annoying. Not as annoying as commanators, but we’ll discuss them, at another, time.
Hyphen-haters don’t even like the hyphen in hyphen-haters. These folks would live in a hyphen free world, with nothing separating bluish green or twenty three or unAmerican.
But what hyphen-haters don’t realize is how useful the hyphen can be, if used correctly and in moderation. For example, a man-eating shark is a shark that eats humans; a man eating shark is a man who is eating shark meat.
And wrap your brain around this one, if you dare: Three-hundred-year-old trees are an indeterminate number of trees that are 300 years old. Three hundred-year-old trees are three trees that are 100 years old. Three hundred year-old trees are 300 trees that are 1 year old.
See that, hyphen-haters?
By Steve Boudreault